WHEN IT COMES to high-quality theatre, Aberystwyth’s Arad Goch has already had a fantastic 2017, with all kinds of exciting productions on display. However, even amongst such an exciting line-up, Golf Course War Machine – a one-woman show about a girl protesting outside the Celtic Manor on the eve of a NATO summit – stands out. In the first of two interviews with No Boundaries, the company behind the piece, we talk to them about emerging voices, politics and the importance of protest.
I’m stowed away in the Joy-Welch room in the Hugh Owen Library on a wet, Wednesday night when I speak to Chris Harris (writer), Luke Hereford (director) and Melanie Stevens (actor) via Skype and a somewhat questionable Eduroam wifi connection. Quite quickly, though, this slightly drab setting is brightened by my trio of interviewees, who radiate an amicable chemistry no doubt sparked in the rehearsals for Golf Course War Machine.
I ask how the three of them worked together to create the piece.
“Well, I fucking hate Chris” opens Luke.
“It’s like an old Jewish family!” Chris adds.
“I think we’re very measured and liberal,” says Luke, more seriously, “There are difficulties when all three of you aren’t in one place at the same time. But because there’s the understanding that we all want the show to be the best show it can be, it always works out, there’s always a conversation.”
“We know each other so well that Luke’s comfortable enough to say ‘hey, that doesn’t work’. We’ve had discussions and debates but that’s healthy and what makes it exciting,” says Chris.
Luke jumps in, “This makes it sound like we argue a lot, we really don’t. We just want the play to be really fucking good.”
No Boundaries as a theatre company focused, in Luke’s words, on “platforms for emerging artists – from actors to writers to designers”. I ask the company whether there are enough opportunities for new theatrical talent in the industry.
“There is, and it’s growing, but I think if you didn’t know where to look, you would be stuck,” says Melanie. “This company were fantastic. They responded to me straight away, they put me in contact with other people.”
“This is an opportunity for actors to invite agents to shows they’re in,” agrees Luke.
I ask if performing in playhouses like the Arad Goch helps, in that respect.
“They’re a lot more community orientated while producing high-quality content, that helps those kinds of bridges get crossed,” says Luke.
“It’s important to us that we branch out as much as possible so that as many people can see us, so that we can feed in to what they do and they can feed into what we’re doing as well,” adds Chris.
We move on to talking about the play itself. It may be set in the comparatively tranquil 2014, but it clearly resonates with the current, turbulent political scene.
“We found out that when we did the first version of it, it was on the day of the Brexit vote. Then, we did our last performance in Cardiff on the day that Trump was elected. So we’re hoping we’ll arrive in London or Edinburgh when he is here,” says Chris, “it’s about how Wales fits on the global map… at the same time I think it’s unfair to call it a completely political piece.”
“It’s a play of hope,’ Mel adds, “Anyone, any voice – small or big – can make a difference in their own way. I think since Brexit, since Trump, our generation has become more engaged in politics and how our world is changing and I think that’s a massive stamp on this play.”
“When we did it in Cardiff, there was a bit of a feeling of melancholy by the end. But now, since all the turbulence of politics recently, we realised that we needed the audience to leave with their fists in the air. It doesn’t have to be Trump or NATO, it could be anything,” says Luke.
With the play’s advocacy of action over complacency combined with No Boundaries’ goal to help emerging artists, the decision to produce a one-woman show seems interesting. I ask Mel what it was like to be the only actor on stage for such an intense piece.
“I’d never done it before and it was definitely a challenge,” she says, “there’s something scary about doing it on your own because there’s no one else to pull you up if you make a mistake. But it’s also exhilarating to go through an hour-long piece without taking a breath, especially in a piece like this where it’s up one minute, down another. And having a small team doing it has been great.”
Golf Course War Machine will be performed in the Arad Goch at 3pm and 8pm on the 14th of March. Make sure you check it out!