Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Case Study No. 0562: "A choir of librarians to guide you through Swansea Old Library"

Shelf Life Launch
Joining forces with Volcano Theatre and Welsh National Opera, we take over the evocative domed reading room of Swanseas old library. Follow a choir of librarians through the abandoned book stacks on a journey to whisper about for a very long time.

In partnership with
Directed by PAUL DAVIES,

For more information and booking details: whatson/performance/ntw02

For discussion, meeting cast, creatives, locals and everyone interested, read blogs and see related photos and videos:
http:// community.nationaltheatrewales. org/group/ntw2

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[scene opens with John McGrath (artistic director of National Theatre Wales) on stage speaking with the audience]
JOHN MCGRATH: One of the things that we're really looking forward to at National Theatre Wales is bringing companies together to work with us and to work with each other. And in April 2010 we have an extraordinary collaboration between Swansea's Volcano Theatre and the Welsh National Opera.
[cut to a still image on the projection screen behind him]
JOHN MCGRATH: [from off camera] We're gonna be taking you on one of the most beautiful journeys of the year into Swansea Old Library.
[cut to some footage of inside the library]
JOHN MCGRATH: [from off camera] We're gonna see some footage of the library now, and I'd like you to imagine the Volcano and the Welsh National Opera have recruited a choir of librarians to guide you through Swansea Old Library, through the stacks where the books are stored, into a building that actually the public doesn't go into anymore because a new library's been built, as happens.
[cut to more footage inside the library, as the sounds of an orchestra begin to play]
JOHN MCGRATH: [from off camera] But this library is one of the old domed libraries, it's got a beautiful extraordinary reading room. You'll be taken on a private secret journey through the book storage, through the stacks, and into the reading room where your choir of librarians and a group of dancers and performers will bring that reading room to life and give you a night to whisper about ... shh! For a long time.



In partnership with Volcano Theatre and Welsh National Opera
Directed by Paul Davies and Catherine Bennett
Designed by Paul Clay
Music by Peter Swaffer Reynolds
7 – 25 April 2010, Press Night 8th April
Old Library, Swansea

Three of Wales' most exciting companies and a team of internationally acclaimed artists join forces for a unique multi-sensory experience.

Following the success of their sell-out, critically-acclaimed opening show A Good Night Out in the Valleys, the second show of National Theatre Wales' inaugural season, Shelf Life, will see them combine with Volcano Theatre Company and Welsh National Opera (WNO) as singers, dancers and a cast of remarkable characters take over a Victorian former library in Swansea.

Shelf Life is an extraordinary theatrical adventure exploring a magical building at the heart of Swansea's history.

Enter the outer courtyard, labyrinthine stacks and circular reading room of the Old Library in Alexandra Road. The last books were cleared out and the doors closed to the public at the end of 2007. Now, like ghosts, we can browse the shelves once more, and even poke our noses in to places where once only librarians could be found.

Brace yourself for surprises and strange occurrences, singing librarians, extraordinary dancers, and for a little more noise and disruption than is usually allowed.

Shelf Life is a National Theatre Wales / Volcano Theatre Company / Welsh National Opera co-production featuring a specially-formed community choir. It is produced in partnership with Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea Metropolitan University and Grwp Gwalia Cyf.

Full cast: Nigel Barrett, Gerard Bell, Lindsey Butcher, Theo Clinkard, Jane Guernier and Anna Bjerre Larsen (full biogs below).

Volcano is an internationally renowned touring company based in Swansea which has produced over 25 shows, using a powerful physical style coupled with visual impact and innovative use of text.

WNO MAX is a community initiative from Welsh National Opera. Unique to WNO, this new initiative takes a diverse and integrated programme of performances and projects beyond the main stage. Through its education and outreach work, MAX aims to maximise the company's resources and create new opportunities for the ensemble and for the communities it reaches.

Paul Davies is artistic director of Volcano, and one of the founding members. He has performed in many of their shows, written three plays and directed a number of others. He has also directed work in Montreal and Croatia and taught in numerous academies around the world.

Nigel Barrett is a Cardiff-born actor who works regularly at the National Theatre in London and is an Associate Artist with Shunt. With George Tomlinson and Louise Mari he has been creating arresting performances which take place, unannounced, amongst people drinking late at night in the Shunt lounge and in other unsuspecting crowds.

Gerard Bell has a range of work with such innovative companies as Pina Bausch, Stan's Café, PunchDrunk and David Gale to his credit, and has recently appeared in Chris Goode's acclaimed King Pelican at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Catherine Bennett is a Volcano Associate Artist. She trained at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and has worked with Matthew Hawkins Fresh Dances Group, Random Dance Company, Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera, Siobhan Davies, Carol Brown Dances and Walker Dance Park Music. She recently directed her first short film, Witness, and has devised and performed in three Volcano shows.

Paul Clay is a visual artist whose work spans many different fields and an award-winning theatre designer whose projects include the set for the Pulitzer prize-winning Broadway Musical Rent, 1997.

Peter Swaffer Reynolds is a multi-instrumental composer who has worked with circus, silent movies, theatre, dance, and site-specific events since the mid-1980s. In 1995 he collaborated for the first time with NoFit State Circus, and has been their composer-in-residence ever since. He has worked with WNO on various projects, the most recent being Boxing Beats.

Lindsey Butcher has worked with many dance companies and choreographers as both an independent dancer and aerialist, including Extemporary Dance Theatre, Darshan Singh Bhuller, Siobhan Davies (Bank project) and The Royal, Royal Danish and English National Operas. Lindsey also regularly choreographs for The Dream Engine, most recently for the FA Cup Final and Muse's tour.

Theo Clinkard is a Brighton-based dance artist. As well as working with many of the UK's leading choreographers, including Siobhan Davies, Matthew Bourne, and Wayne McGregor, he has also choreographed for Kylie Minogue and danced in pop promos for Lily Allen, The Kills, and Lulu. He is a founding member of Probe dance company,

Jane Guernier has worked extensively with Told By An Idiot theatre company, in such productions as Beauty and the Beast, A Little Fantasy and An Evening With the Bondress, while her other credits include Senora Carrar's Rifles (Young Vic) and The Unconquered (Traverse, Scarborough, London).

Anna Bjerre Larsen has worked with choreographers and companies including Arts Alliance, Aletta Collins, Gary Clarke's Pit Fleur Company, State of Flux, Tom Roden, Jan De Schynkel and Cher Geurtze. She has recently been working as assistant choreographer and
dancer for Malmo Opera.


In partnership with Volcano Theatre and Welsh National Opera
Directed by Paul Davies and Catherine Bennett
Designed by Paul Clay
Music by Peter Swaffer Reynolds

7 – 25 April (Wed-Sun) 2010
Wed, 7pm
Thur – Sat, 7pm & 8.30pm
Sun, 3pm & 4.30pm

Press Night 8 April

Old Library
Alexandra Road
Swansea, SA1 5DU

Tickets from 7.00
Taliesin Arts Centre
Tel. 01792 602 060

Please note the library interior is not wheelchair accessible.

Editors' Notes

National Theatre Wales was launched in November 2009, and creates invigorating theatre in the English language, rooted in Wales, with an international reach.

The establishment of an English language national theatre for Wales was a commitment in the Welsh Assembly Government's One Wales programme for government. The Welsh Assembly Government and The Arts Council of Wales are supporting National Theatre Wales with funding of £3 million over three years.



Shelf Life

Director: Paul Davies

Music: Peter Swaffer Reynolds

What: Swansea-based Volcano Theatre and Welsh National Opera have recruited a choir of librarians to take over the reading room of Swansea's Old Library. They will guide audiences on a journey through the abandoned book stacks and bring to life the memories, stories and spaces in a promenade piece fusing song, movement and space.

John E McGrath says: "We wanted to make a piece for the library and this all came together. I had been talking to both Volcano Theatre and WNO and thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for them to work together."

Details: Old Library, Alexandra Road, Swansea (Wales), from April 6 to 25, 2010. Booking opens today. Call 01792 602060.



Ardent Dr Who fans may well be tempted to rush post-haste to Shelf Life, the second offering in National Theatre Wales's inaugural season. This promenade production roams around and about the beautiful domed reading room of Old Swansea Central Library, which was apparently used as a location for Steven Moffat's unforgettable 2008 episode Silence in the Library, set in a futuristic deserted library infested with carnivorous shadows.

Nothing nearly as exciting as that, alas, is on the cards in this bizarre, curiosity-stirring but frustratingly desultory affair - co-presented with Volcano Theatre Company and Welsh National Opera.

Opened by William Gladstone in 1887, the library was closed in 2007, leaving this temple of learning in a state of dusty disuse. An example of civic philistinism? Well, the town does actually boast a swanky new central library. And although the onward march of digital technology together with the worship of the image in our culture crops up as a theme, co-directors Paul Davies and Catherine Bennett fight shy of making the occasion too much of a reactionary requiem for bygone glories.

Instead the emphasis is on the obscure, the elliptical, the fragmentary. The wonder of the printed word and the eccentricity of librarians are encapsulated in the opening - and best - section, outside: beside arty mounds of second-hand books, a genially scatty middle-aged lady tenderly washes the pages of one tome over a basin - confiding scattershot quotations from Dylan Thomas, Hamlet and Spike Milligan. She's joined by a ruddy-faced master of revels and a 30-strong, fustily dressed choir - some masked, others garlanded.

They treat us to a 10-minute cantata (composed by Peter Swaffer Reynolds), in which snappy, cryptic phrases are offered up in a mixture of deadpan ecstasy and robotic efficiency.

Then it's down into the gloom among the empty stacks and up into the musty reading room we go, with small-to-middling surprises en route and gratuitous flashes of nudity from two of the principal cast, who ruminate and digress over a communal farewell feast.

The sexual content may be true to the lurking erotic possibilities of library life, but it puts the show out of the range of children - a shame not just because of the Doctor Who trail, but because this could have been an ideal way to get youngsters to engage with the past, brush up against site-specific theatre and discover their inner bookworm. Put-downable.

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