Three International Design Exhibitions Showcasing Production Arts in Wales
Sean Crowley, RWCMD Director of Drama, has played a leading role in three international exhibitions that showcased aspects of production arts in Wales. Through their pioneering volunteer and internship schemes, these exhibitions have had a major impact on the careers of students and young practitioners.
Crowley curated and organised World Stage Design 2013, which was held at RWCMD. The exhibition was visited by over 10,000 international attendees and included a volunteer programme that focused on the development of artists in the early stages of their careers.
In 2018, RWCMD hosted OISTAT50, the 50th anniversary exhibition of the Organisation of International Scenographers, Architects and Theatre Technicians, which Crowley again curated and organised, and for which he contributed a personal exhibit of the contents of the late Paul Brown’s design studio. Paul Brown was born in Glamorgan and trained in Wales before becoming one of the most celebrated designers for opera, theatre, and film in the world. He left his studio to RWCMD, where Crowley built an ‘exploded studio’ that allowed viewers to experience the feeling of being with the artist at work. The contents of the studio remain at RWCMD, where students frequently take inspiration as they work on their own visions.
Following the success of OISTAT50, Crowley was invited to exhibit part of Paul Brown’s studio at the Prague Quadrennial Fragments exhibition in June 2019. Previous exhibitors at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space have included Salvador Dalí, Josef Svoboda, Oscar Niemeyer, Tadeusz Kantor and Renzo Piano. Significantly, in 2019 Wales was for the first time invited to exhibit in its own right and not as part of the UK. At PQ2019, Crowley was asked to lead a flagship internship programme, building on the work of the volunteer programmes at WSD2013 and OISTAT50. These internship programmes have played an essential part in supporting early career development within a global industry and have now become an embedded feature of these flagship industry events.
Real-time Composition in Support of the Welsh Film and TV Industry
Image © Fiction Factory / S4C / All3Media / Tinopolis
The music of RWCMD Head of Composition John Hardy has played an integral role in several film and TV productions that have helped to place Wales on the cinematic map.
Hardy’s group, John Hardy Music (JHM), which offers disciplinary opportunities to staff and students of RWCMD, was commissioned to write, perform, and record the soundtrack for two bilingual TV series: Y Gwyll (‘Hinterland’ – first broadcast in Welsh on S4C in October 2013; in English on BBC Wales and BBC Four in 2014) and Craith (‘Hidden’ – S4C 2018; in English, BBC Wales and BBC Four also in 2018). Y Gwyll was produced by the Fiction Factory with major funding from BBC Cymru Wales and S4C, and global distribution from All3Media. Craith was produced by Severn Screen with financial support and co-production involvement from BBC Cymru Wales, S4C, BBC 4 and All3Media. JHM’s innovative, improvisatory approach to composition contributed significantly to the world-wide success of both series, which won between them 9 Welsh BAFTAs.
Y Gwyll is set in west Wales – a hinterland rich in history and myth. The music underpins a quasi-mythical treatment of the Welsh landscape – timeless, misty, cold, and overcast – and at the same time conveys the cutting edge of a contemporary police procedural. Each episode has its own texture within an overall unified musical language.
Hardy worked with two recent graduates of RWCMD, Victoria (‘Tic’) Ashfield and Benjamin Talbott. Hardy’s approach was to dispense with the conventional written score and re-engage on 21st-century terms with two techniques drawn from earlier treatments of music drama: real-time improvisation, characteristic of the silent film; and the leitmotif, here extended to include location, situation, and mood as well as character. Through using the historically grounded method of improvising to the moving image, and encouraging each member of the team to contribute to every part of the process, Hardy found a scheme that allowed not only for invigorating artistry, but also speed and efficiency. Upon completion of Y Gwyll, JHM was commissioned by BBC Wales and S4C to provide the soundtrack for Craith, which is set in north Wales.
Reviews of the music for Y Gwyll include: “a haunting soundtrack” (The Guardian), and “surely one of the loveliest soundtracks to grace a crime drama” (Radio Times). The music for Craith has been described as “an ominous, skin-prickling soundtrack skilfully employed to heighten the sense of dread” (The Guardian).