Welsh language comedy from playwright Gary Owen

Pen-blwydd Poenus Pete in rehearsals. Image by Kirsten McTernan
Pen-blwydd Poenus Pete in rehearsals. Image by Kirsten McTernan

As Britain becomes a nation to enjoy multi-lingual arts there comes a new production in the Welsh language.

Author and playwright Gary Owen has written Pen-blwydd Poenus Pete after failing to come up with the goods for his partner’s birthday earlier this year.

Gary had been busily planning his son’s first birthday and his partner’s birthday, a day earlier, slipped by without much fanfare.

She took it in good humour, but it got Gary thinking. What if you had to share your birthday with another close family member but secretly you weren’t happy about it?

Pen-blwydd Poenus Pete, written by Gary, is a Welsh language comedy production aimed at families.

It is a touring first for Theatr Iolo in its 25-year history.

The play, which starts a month-long tour on Friday, tells the story of a father who has his birthday the day after his two children, but gets annoyed when nobody pays him much attention on his special day.

The production, directed by Kevin Lewis features the tribulations of a family – Mum (Jenny Livsey), Dad (Richard Nichols), two children (Sion Alun Davies and Ceri Lloyd) and Cadi the cat (Meilir Rhys Williams).

Dad says he doesn’t want any fuss at all made for his birthday. So Mum takes him at his word. But he’s furious when she and the children fail to do anything for Dad’s birthday.

And when Dad’s frustrations combine with the cat’s mischievous power, chaos comes to the family gathering.

Theatr Iolo is an award-winning theatre company, based in Cardiff which has nine productions under way in this year alone.

It has performed all over Wales and the UK, and internationally across Europe, Russia and Korea. Its roots lie in theatre for children and young people but its work is relevant to all ages.

Gary Owen is currently working on new dramas for National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, and The Royal Court in London.

He said: “Writing a play for children is something new for me. I always try to write dramas I’d like to see myself, but since becoming a father I wanted to write something my own children would enjoy seeing.

“My initial inspiration for the play started with the Greek classic, The Bacchae.

“The rather bloody nature of the writing was not suitable for children but I was determined to find a hook that would in some way make a play relevant to a modern Wales.

“The Bacchae explores the story of a man who does not respect emotions and feelings. It was this element that I ‘borrowed’ and brought to the fore in Pen-blwydd Poenus Pete.

“Once I had decided on the family birthday theme, a lot of the material came from my own experiences but I also spent some time, along with the director Kevin, speaking with pupils at Ysgol Pwll Coch, in Cardiff, talking to them about family life and birthday celebrations.

“I learnt Welsh over 20 years ago and I wanted to add the additional element to the family dynamic in the play by making the father figure a learner.

“There was quite a bit of comedy value in this situation and again a lot of this was from my own experiences.

“Many Welsh speaking children in Wales have parents who do not necessarily speak the language themselves or are learning and I hope they will also come to the play and see something of themselves on stage!”

There are a number of family performances during the tour including the Riverfront Theatre, Newport (13 June 6,30pm); St Fagans National History Museum (21 June 11.30am & 2.30pm); Pontardawe Arts Centre (26 June 7pm); Chapter, Cardiff (10, 11 & 12 July 6.30pm) and The National Eisteddfod of Wales, Carmarthenshire (4 & 5 August 12pm Theatr y Maes).

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