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‘A Vital part of the Theatre Industry Ecology:’ NEW Season 2020

20 February 2020

NEW 2020: 17-19 March, RWCMD, Cardiff/ 31 March- 3 April, Gate Theatre, London

“A uniquely symbiotic relationship between the professional and educational sectors”

Vicky Featherstone Royal Court Theatre Artistic Director

Since its launch seven years ago the Royal Welsh College’s pioneering NEW writing season has produced 28 new challenging and ambitious plays.

New Writing has always been a vital part of the College’s drama training ethos, and alongside the College’s many other premieres and adaptations, it aims to diversify the canon and empower the next generation of actors as creatives, as well as the writers and directors.

‘Kasimir and Karoline’, NEW:2019, written by Abigail Browde & Michael Silverstone, in collaboration with Saša Čeleski, directed by Fumi Gomez, in partnership with Gate Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet

One of the key aspects of NEW’s success has been the pairing of some of the most exciting established and emerging playwrights and brilliant young directors; working with long-term partners and collaborators, Paines Plough, Royal Court Theatre, Sherman Theatre, and the Gate Theatre;

and benefitting from experienced directors as dramaturg’s such as Adele Thomas (Globe/Royal Opera House) and Jude Christian (Gate Theatre/Royal Court/Lyric Hammersmith).

“The NEW season has become woven into the fabric of what we strive to be as a College,” explains Director of Performance Dave Bond.

“It empowers our student actors, technicians and designers as creatives, nurturing their agency for their future careers.

The College has also been a creative force, commissioning new work in both English and Welsh for the last 15 years, and we’re proud of making such an important contribution to the industry the students are about to enter.”

“The NEW project is a uniquely symbiotic relationship between the professional and educational sectors which for us the Royal Court has been invaluable,” said Vicky Featherstone Royal Court Theatre Artistic Director.

“The opportunity to offer commissions to write for big casts for our writers and partner them with our trainee directors to develop and create the work is exceptional and to work with the students whose ability and creativity is thrilling is a precious gem.”

”Working in co-production with the Royal Welsh College on the NEW project was one of the great delights of my time as Artistic Director of the Sherman,” said Rachel O’Riordan, Artistic Director of The Lyric, Hammersmith.

“Not only did it give us an opportunity to showcase new Welsh writers, over time it allowed us to partner those writers with members of our Sherman Directors’ Group. The opportunity for emerging artists to work with playwrights at the early stage of a play’s development is vital.

I am so happy the partnership has continued, and that audiences will continue to benefit, for years to come, from the investment made by everyone in this idea.”

‘Albatross’, NEW:2018, written by Isley Lynn, directed by Anna Himali Howard,  in partnership with Paines Plough. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

“The NEW Seasons at RWCMD are a vital part of the theatre industry ecology,” said Ned Bennett, who directed plays in the first and second NEW seasons, in collaboration with the Royal Court.

Isley Lynn, writer of NEW’s Albatross, working with Paines Plough, said,

“The College has a radical approach to its training. They don’t just employ individual professionals to give their students these essential experiences, but they outsource the commissioning to important industry players, who manage these relationships in the real world.

I don’t know anyone else who is partnering with advocates for artists in this way.”

‘Conspiracy,’ NEW:2016,  is written by Ali Taylor, directed by Debbie Hannan, in partnership with Royal Court

This unique fully paid partnership gives the writers and directors proper development time, a design budget, space, and in-house expertise and support, as well as the opportunity to work with the next generation of actors.

‘The Last Ambulance’, NEW:2017, written by The Last Ambulance, written by Conor Mitchell, directed by Gethin Evans (Sherman) Photo: Kirsten McTernan

The featured image show Thalissa Theixeira in Pomona, written by Alistair McDowall, directed by Ned Bennett, in partnership with Royal Court, which transferred to the Orange Tree before heading to the Royal Exchange and the National Theatre. Photo Kirsten McTernan

‘Loam,’ NEW:2019, by Bea Roberts, directed by Donnacadh O’Briain, in partnership with Royal Court. Photo Kirsten McTernan

Quotes from our Partners

“This year will be our fifth year of working with the RWCMD NEW project. It marries our commitment to new writing with our passion for artist development.

Not only is NEW a great platform for the writers and directors of the pieces, but it is an especially important opportunity for the actors, designers and stage management teams, to work with a variety of professional companies across the UK and to be able to showcase their talents.

Many of the students who we have met through NEW have subsequently worked with us at the Sherman in the early stages of their professional career.” Julia Barry, Executive Director Sherman Theatre

‘Growth,’ NEW:2015, Growth, written by Luke Norris, directed by Sean Linnen, in partnership with Paines Plough. Photo: Robert Workman

“NEW is a cornerstone in the Gate’s programme – welcoming the hugely talented companies of performers and designers fits perfectly with our mission to showcase the most exciting new talent in our theatre.

In addition, the opportunity to work with some of the UK’s most exciting writers and directors is thrilling – the legacy of new plays, and the extraordinary artists who have been involved in it are a testament to how significant and unique this collaboration is.” Ellen McDougall, Gate Theatre , artistic director


17-19 March, RWCMD, Cardiff/31 March – 3 April, Gate Theatre, London

Matthew Holmquist directs Tracy Harris’ Ripples, in collaboration with Sherman Theatre

Yasmin Joseph’s play Half Full, working with Royal Court Theatre, will be directed by Milli Bhatia.

After Rhinoceros: The Red Pill by Nessah Muthy, adapted from Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, will be directed by Debbie Hannan for The Gate Theatre

Moon Licks by Charlotte Josephine will be directed by Hannah Hauer-King for Paines Plough

The New season is supported by Sean Mathias and the Spielman Charitable Trust.

Other New Writing

The College has always been an active producer and supporter of new writing for performance by its final year acting students. Commissions have included work by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Charley Miles, Gary Owen, Brad Birch, Daf James and Elinor Cooke

“It’s about ‘making art for today’. That’s what the College does in terms of training and experience for the students:

It’s a place where art is made, and this becomes an integral part of their careers,” said Andrew Whyment, who directed Brad Birch’s College-commissioned En Folkefiende, here before taking it to Edinburgh (it was then directed by Lindsey Turner at the Guthrie Theatre in the US, and is at Sherman in May as Enemy of the People, directed by Joe Murphy).

The College also actively searches out new adaptations and premieres of exciting work, recent examples include, Stupid F**king Bird, Aaron Posner, and a new version of Lope De Vega’s The Sicilian Courtesan.

Many writers, often with their directors, read and workshop early drafts of their plays with RWCMD acting students, for example Tim Price with Royal Court and Rory Mullarky with The Globe.

Hodge International Chair Simon Stephens is a regular visitor, and the College regularly performs his work, producing the UK premiere of Rage in 2018, originally workshopped at the College with Royal Court Theatre Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone.

New Writing – Students and Graduates

The College also actively supports new writing in its students with the End of Year Assessments, where the acting students create, direct and produce their own 30 minute performance, working with student stage managers, technicians and designers.

Both inaugural Wales Writer in Residence Rhiannon Boyle and actor and writer Clare Dunne, who wrote and stars in Herself which just premiered at Sundance Film Festival, credit these with ‘opening their writing brains’ during their training.

A long list of alumni creating new work includes Lewis Reeves (who wrote the short film Lola, directed by fellow grad Alex Vlahos), Remy Beasley, Jimmy Fairhurst, artistic director of Not Too Tame theatre, Tom Cullen, recently nominated for a Bafta Cymru for his writing and directorial debut Pink Wall, Katy Wix, as well as of course Ruth Jones.

The College has been ranked the leading drama school in the UK in the Guardian University Guide league tables four times since 2013.

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