Theatr Taliesin

Theatr Taliesin

Theatr Taliesin is a theatre company founded in in 1982 in Cardiff, Wales, by actors Stuart Cox and Nigel Watson. At the 1984 Edinburgh Festival it premiered a one-man play, A Word in the Stargazer's Eye by Ramsay Wood, based on telling a series of ancient fables. The Scotsman approved of Watson's starring role:

Evolving style of performance storytelling takes to the road

For the next two years this production toured many countries, from Iceland to India. Reference to this period of cross-cultural creativity is found in 2nd and 3rd questions of Farley Richmond's 2003 interview with Stuart Cox entitled 'Cultural Ecology in India', published inTeaching South Asia — An Internet Journal of Pedagogy, Volume II, No. 1, Spring 2003 [find link below].

FR: What inspired you to become involved with India and Indian theatre?

SC: It was essentially a series of natural progressions, but it all began with one of those conversations which, at the time, seem to be of no great importance but, in retrospect, you recognize as a turning point in your life. In 1982, another British actor/director, Nigel Watson, asked me to direct him in a solo performance and we were thinking about suitable material to work with. Around that time I was acting in London in a British pantomime–playing the cat in Puss In Boots. In a telephone conversation with Nigel I said that I was fascinated by the audience reactions during the pantomime. Attention was always highest when the narrative was being driven along. They seemed to take great pleasure in watching this fairy story of a talking cat unfold in a way that was like a return to childhood and the bedtime story. Nigel then mentioned that he had just read a modern retelling by Ramsay Wood of The Panchatantra stories from India, a cycle of stories within stories which are probably the oldest to have been recorded in writing.

We decided to work on rehearsing these stories as a solo performance and from the very first rehearsal it was clear we'd stumbled upon something special.

This material was ideal for both of us as we had first worked together in a very physical experimental theatre company in the early '70s and shared a fascination with theatre and performance from around the world, especially non-Western and particularly from India. Together we created the more than thirty characters for Nigel to play in telling the stories, including animals, and suddenly we had the perfect vehicle for being physically expressive in finding different ways to dramatize the stories. We were able to use our own backgrounds in non-naturalistic performance techniques and also to incorporate mudras [stylized hand gestures], movements from Indian dance, and aspects of what little Indian folk theatre we had seen from the few productions that had come to Britain. In many ways we were guessing and the surprise is that we guessed so much of it correctly.

FR: Where was this?

SC: Our company was based in Cardiff. We called it Theatr Taliesin Wales after Taliesin, the first known Welsh bard, magician, and shape changer as a metaphor for the style of performance we were pursuing. The show had the title A Word in the Stargazer's Eye and was so well received by every kind of audience that we toured with it on and off for two years ending up with a music theatre version, collaborating with musicians from Calcutta who played sitar, tabla, and tambura integral to the performance.


Teaching South Asia — An Internet Journal of Pedagogy, Volume II, No. 1, Spring 2003
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