Father knows Lloyd George. Now so do thousands of others: expanding theatre audiences and enriching history in post-devolution Wales
Submitting InstitutionSwansea University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
D.J. Britton's play about Lloyd George, aimed at post-devolution Wales,
created a bottom-up artistic and commercial model that involved potential
audiences in the creative process. The play toured remote rural locations
as well as towns, achieving unusually high audiences for a drama of this
kind. Its reach was further extended through a BBC broadcast on the 150th
anniversary of Lloyd George's birth. The play stimulated considerable
public discussion of national history. A direct impact was a £20,000 grant
from the Arts Council of Wales to pursue the creative and audience
development processes with another play. The innovative methodologies also
attracted international attention at Singapore Management University's
Arts/Business Conference for practitioners, arts organisations and
The Wizard, the Goat and the Man Who Won the War involved a collaboration
between D.J. Britton (Associate Professor, Swansea since 2006) and
BAFTA-winning actor Richard Elfyn. The project's aims were twofold: a) to
investigate the practicalities of small-scale independent touring theatre
in Wales without the large establishment costs associated with major
theatre institutions, and b) to engage a post-devolution Welsh public in
the political, cultural and philosophical issues raised by the Lloyd
George legacy. The resulting mono-drama was short-listed for three
categories in the Wales Theatre Awards 2013 (best script, best
performance, best production), which is remarkable given the scale and
budget of the project. Critics were united in their acclaim for the
production, noting its performative strengths and its historical
engagement. They remarked on the use of dramatic technique to dig deep,
writing that the script "does what theatre can do and journalism
cannot. That is to depict complexity and paradox". Another critic
highlighted its use of "beautiful and succinct metaphors and allegories"
in achieving this. A third remarked: "It doesn't whitewash the faults,
it simply lets us see them through the eyes of the man who doesn't
himself see them as failings" (for references see `Sample Reviews'
in section 3 below).
The play's compositional methodology dramatised historical biography
using concepts from Australian `total theatre'. The development process
tested moments and incidents selected from literature-based research
against various performance techniques, including song, dance, courtroom
drama, stand-up comedy, the Music Hall, and political oratory. Over time,
these were shaped into a coherent psychological analysis of an outstanding
but flawed political figure. The completed production saw Lloyd George on
the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary, escaping to the
beach at Antibes for an hour of `real time', while a past of triumphs and
disasters, and the prospect of future delights, flood his memories.
Progressive live audience trials were a crucial part of Britton's
"ground-up" approach, to encourage public involvement and cultural
ownership while the project was still in development, so that by the time
it reached fruition there would be a pre-seeded community expectation.
This aspect of audience development has created considerable interest
among arts funders and other theatre practitioners (see section 4). The
project began with exploratory research at Lloyd George's former home in
Llanystumdwy (now the National Writers' Centre for Wales), from which a
prototype performance was crafted. A preliminary reading was given at the
Lloyd George Museum, Llanystumdwy, in 2008, to an audience including
residents of Lloyd George's home village, members of his family and those
with a close interest in his life (e.g. the current and former directors
of the museum). Public discussion which followed the reading provided
personal, factual and interpretative insights, giving impetus to changes
of direction in the developing dramatisation. A pilot full performance was
given at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea in 2010. Again, discussion
followed and the audience filled in feedback sheets expressing views on
both the artistic and practical/marketing aspects of the work. The play
attracted Arts Council of Wales project funding of £4,600 towards the
first of two national tours, which began in November 2011 at Swansea
University's Taliesin Arts Centre. Wales Arts International provided
£1,495 part-funding of the Singapore performance. Singapore Management
University contributed match-funding.
Collaborating organisations included the National Writers' Centre, Ty
Newydd, Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd (Literature Wales); the Lloyd George Museum,
Llanystumdwy, (Gwynedd County Council); Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea;
National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; and Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea.
References to the research
The research is a piece of creative writing / drama production, therefore
the standard research reference format has been adapted. Swansea
researchers in bold.
• Britton, D J (2011) The Wizard, the Goat and the Man Who
Won the War. 65 minute drama.
• Public performance record:
1) Trial reading, Lloyd George Museum, Llanystumdwy November 2008.
2) Prototype performance, Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea November 2010.
3) First national tour, November 2011 - March 2012. Premiere performance
at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, then venues throughout Wales concluding
at the Richard Burton Theatre, Cardiff.
4) Second tour, starting at the Mochta Riady Auditorium Singapore and
including return performances at Theatr Clywd (one week); Galeri Bangor
and Taliesin Swansea.
5) BBC Wales broadcast, 5pm January 12 2013.
• Lottery Grant (2/11/2011), Arts Council of Wales, recipients D J
Britton and Richard Elfyn £4,600 http://www.lottery.culture.gov.uk/GrantDetails.aspx?ID=20100814&DBID=AW
•Britton, D J, Wales Arts International Grant No: 20120526 - The
Wizard in Singapore (£1495) November 2012.
• Sample reviews at Morris K, ed., Theatre Wales website
archive 2011/2012, including performances at the Richard Burton Theatre,
Cardiff, reviewed by Chelsey Gillard, 6/3 2012; at Clwyd Theatr Cymru,
reviewed by Victor Hallett, 24/11/2011; at Taliesin Theatre, Swansea,
reviewed by Michael Kelligan, 11/11/2011; at Aberystwyth Arts
Centre, reviewed by Adam Somerset, 18/11/2011. http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk/reviews/index.asp.
Also in Theatre Wales: `Acclaimed Lloyd George play to
get national tour' www.theatre-
Details of the impact
[References in square brackets refer to corroborating references given in
Beneficiaries of this research are:
- The creative industries and arts practitioners in Wales. They have
used the play to reach new audiences and/or used the methodology in
considering new creative and business models for theatre.
- The Welsh communities who helped develop the play and those who
watched it. They have been stimulated and moved by powerful theatre into
discussion of a major national figure and his legacy.
- The National Library of Wales and the Lloyd George museum, which have
included material from the project in their archives, further enhancing
Creative industries and business: The project has changed
attitudes among theatre practitioners and arts funders by conclusively
demonstrating that small-scale touring theatre can succeed commercially as
well as artistically, provided the integrity of the product is linked
throughout its development to an understanding of its potential audience.
A direct impact is the founding of a new theatre company, Theatr Cadair,
which was invited to apply for, and was awarded, an Arts Council of Wales
Theatre Production Development Grant of £20,000, to pursue Britton's
methodology and to research material for a new drama, Windsongs of the
Blessed Bay, to be drawn from the international Welsh diaspora [C1].
Such grants are awarded only to a small number of projects, for activities
that are genuinely exploratory and innovative, and which provide a clearly
focussed explanation as to how the work will be developed with its
potential audience in mind. Theatr Cadair takes its name from Cader Idris,
the mountain above the Tal-y-Llyn valley, where The Wizard played
in a remote former chapel to an audience of over 50 (the first theatrical
event there in living memory). The company has also been commissioned (May
2013) by the Rhys Davies Trust, with support from National Theatre Wales,
to develop a biographical play about Rhys Davies and Anna Kavan. The
Manager for Performing Arts at the Arts Council of Wales comments: "I
have followed the progress of this creative project from experimentation
through to production. Its high level of artistic achievement has been
recognised both by critics and by fellow professionals. As an example of
well-researched small-scale theatre with big ambitions, the theatre
industry can learn much from it. This progressive and collaborative
research-into-performance experimentation has considerable possibilities
for future theatre developments. Similarly, Britton's achievement ... in
taking difficult subject matter and marketing it effectively to a broad
audience across the nation is something of a breakthrough in itself; the
techniques used ... could well open doors for other ventures which set
out to ... bring serious research-based material to a popular audience."
[C2] Another respected industry figure, Head of Creative Learning at
Sherman Cymru Theatre, Cardiff, comments: "Britton's play impressed me
artistically because of its unusual and innovative synthesis of
theatrical approaches. This apparently free-wheeling but in fact
highly-focussed style was much-discussed by practitioners and may prove
highly influential on those attempting to create richly imagistic
theatre on a small scale". [C3]
Public Engagement - reaching new audiences: Box-office returns
show around 4,500 theatre- goers have paid to see the play in Wales, both
in districts where live theatre performances are rare or virtually
unknown, and in major urban venues where it played to effectively full
houses. This figure is two to three times the norm, and should be
understood in the context of the geographically dispersed Welsh population
and the wider cultural market: sales of English-language literary fiction
published in Wales do not often exceed 1,200. For comparison, a play
reaching a similar proportion of the population in England would have been
seen by some 74,000 people. The Welsh live audience may be multiplied many
times over by the numbers tuning in to the BBC broadcast of the play (June
2013 RAJAR figures give BBC Wales audience reach as 499,000) [C4]. The
play has also been performed in Singapore, and has been invited (Sept
2013) to the Vieille Theatre in Antibes, where the action is set. It will
tour again in 2014 to mark the anniversary of the Great War and BBC Wales
plans to re-broadcast the play in 2016 to mark the centenary of Lloyd
George becoming Prime Minister. The production was widely covered in the
Press, on television and radio, and was extensively reviewed. Reviews on
the Theatre Wales website alone have attracted well over 4,000
hits, and interviews and clips on the internet continue to be viewed. The
play was praised by renowned Singapore playwright Robert Yeo: "During
the Q-and-A a young Singaporean woman said ... what impressed her most
was the moving portrait of a very human figure attempting to justify his
actions ... She spoke for most in the audience ...This production
reminds us of the value of the solo drama form, just how good it can be."
Influencing community memory/enriching Welsh cultural life: As
shown by the testimony of those who have been affected, the play has
enhanced understanding and stimulated debate in a variety of Welsh
communities, and has spanned the traditional divide between north and
south Wales and between Welsh-speaking and English-speaking audiences. The
Head of International Development for Literature Wales comments as
follows: "In Gwynedd, there are strong feelings among older people
about Lloyd George, both for and against. By focussing on the whole man
(his excesses and frailties as well as his achievements), the play
helped people to re-examine their feelings about him and to talk about
what they felt. For younger audiences, it opened doors to the
complexities of combining living both a public and a private life. These
effects became apparent in the post-show discussions, and in the
conversations in the community at large after the performances"
[C6]. The play had a comparable effect when performed in Merthyr Tydfil. A
viewer comments: "Merthyr, like the other mid Glamorgan valleys, is
historically a Labour stronghold and not best-disposed towards Lloyd
George whose contentious attitude to the miners, and to the
English-speaking culture of the coalfield, overshadowed his contribution
to the development of social welfare. The play, superbly performed by
Richard Elfyn, was followed by a discussion which demonstrated how
powerfully this dramatic treatment had challenged the audience's
opinions about the man and his contribution to Welsh and British life.
The play itself was very well received and the issues it presented both
engaged the audience and stimulated strong debate."
Further audience feedback corroborates this. One drama teacher remarked:
"Our students were thoroughly engaged with the narrative and style ...
A valuable theatre experience, it without doubt informed their approach
to their own work back at school ... The play changed the way our
students related to Lloyd George, a figure they barely knew before
attending the performance. By seeing him played as a real human being,
and by seeing the political and personal challenges he had to face, they
were better able to understand his role as man and statesman." National
Theatre Wales's young critics' on-line forum called the play "truly
inspirational" [C7]. In North Wales, one member of the audience
commented: "You bring in so much historical fact in a fascinating way.
I am delighted your play will spread the word about Lloyd George".
Another viewer was moved to reveal a previously unrecorded biographical
fact, and a powerful family memory: "I've just returned home from your
play at Theatre Clwyd ... My father knew Lloyd George, I can sing the
song. He grew up in a cottage in the grounds of Bryn Awelon, Criccieth
... When my Taid was seriously ill in the early 1930s, Lloyd George paid
to take him to London and for the King's physician to operate on him.
Unfortunately my Taid died on Xmas eve. Lloyd George went to tell my
Nain the news. He then went into Criccieth and bought my dad a Meccano
set and my two aunts a doll each. My surviving aunt still has the dolls
... I won't have a word said against him. For all his faults I think he
was a man who cared. I think that came across." [C8]
The National Library of Wales has placed materials from the play in its
Lloyd George collection. The Head of the Political Archive at the National
Library described the play as "an outstandingly brilliant piece of
work, with amazing historical accuracy", and requested permission on
behalf of the National Library to use the play's title for the NLW's major
Lloyd George exhibition, opening in October 2013 to coincide with the 150th
anniversary of Lloyd George's birth. [C9]
Sources to corroborate the impact
[C1] Arts Council of Wales - March 2013, Theatre Production Development
Grant of £20,000 (Application Decision 20120867 `Windsongs of the Blessed
[C2] Manager for Performing Arts, Arts Council of Wales
[C3] Head of Creative Learning, Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
[C4] BBC listing http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pw4bt.
[C5] Adjunct Professor in Theatre at Singapore Management University.
[C6] Head of International Development, Literature Wales www.literaturewales.org
[C7] Young Critics, National Theatre of Wales: http://www.theatre-
[C8] Audience feedback given to Britton. On the wide community impact of
the play, see e.g. Western Mail (11/11/11): `New Lloyd George
drama tours Wales, by Karen Price: Charismatic war-time politician David
Lloyd George is put in the spotlight in a new touring drama'. www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/showbiz/2011/11/11/new-lloyd-george-drama-tours-
wales-91466-29756277/; South Wales Evening Post November 12,
2011: `Absorbing Tale of Statesman' www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Absorbing-tale-statesman/story-13828657-
detail/story.html; BBC Radio Wales Arts Show, Wednesday November 9,
2011 (7pm); BBC Radio Wales Roy Noble Show, November 8 (2pm); BBC Wales
Arts Online, `The Wizard the Goat and the Man Who Won the War' November 8
On the Singapore response see the BBC Blog http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/posts/lloyd-
[C9] Head of the Political Archive, National Library of Wales,