On Sunday 3rd July at 1pm, storyteller Michael Harvey, singer Lynne Denman and musician/composer Stacey Blythe take to the Big Top at Beyond the Border Festival for their first public telling of Adverse Camber’s latest new commission, the Fourth Branch of Y Mabinogi!
This new show is a tale of kingship and magicians, storytelling and transformation. It features some of Welsh mythology’s most enduring characters, Gwydion, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd and Lleu Llaw Gyffes and has inspired countless other creations, perhaps most famously Alan Garner’s 1967 classic The Owl Service. It is based on one of Wales’ most longstanding legends – and is set mainly in the North but includes confrontations with the king in South Wales, Pryderi.
Michael, Lynne and Stacey are well known to Adverse Camber followers, as the artists behind Hunting the Giant’s Daughter, the King Arthur story which we have been touring since 2008 and originally commissioned in 2003 by Beyond the Border Festival. We are grateful for the Festival’s support of this new piece, including the chance to present its first public showing there, in less than a week’s time.
Adverse Camber’s Marketing Associate Jenny Babenko checked in with rehearsals a few weeks ago at the Samaj Centre in Cardiff. Here’s her report:
Although I have been working with Adverse Camber for over 18 months now, I hadn’t caught the artistic team behind Hunting the Giant’s Daughter in action up to now… So I was especially keen to head to Cardiff to see Michael, Lynne and Stacey working on the new show. They’ve been developing ideas since an initial R&D week in North Wales last year, but this was the first session to include the full creative team, including director Paula Crutchlow, producer Naomi Wilds and a designer with a background in sculpture, Sophia Clist.
We met at the Samaj Centre in Grangetown, in a large hall attached to the Hindu temple, while huge bowls of vegetables and chillies were being prepared next door for a wedding feast, with fantastic aromatic flavours swirling all around us. This story is a similarly heady mix of futile wars, violence, retribution, deceit, disguise and magic along with the most intoxicating and powerful displays of love. As the artists told it, through music, songs and storytelling, I was completely drawn into the unfolding adventures. The music was stunningly beautiful as well as intense and exhilarating – heightening the moments of drama in the story. The story itself, despite its complexities of plot and characters, was told in such an animated and charismatic style that the first 50 minutes simply swept over me, taking me to the very locations within the Welsh landscape in which these myths have grown.
I’m really looking forward to hearing it again, with Beyond the Border’s audience in the Big Top next Sunday (3rd July) and to be back at St Donats, which was my first storytelling festival experience in 2014, when we brought the premiere of Fire in the North Sky: Epic Tales of Finland. If you haven’t already got your Festival tickets, there’s still time – you can book them here – and look forward to sharing some pictures of the event after we’re back.
The Fourth Branch is co-commissioned by Adverse Camber with Felin Uchaf, a visionary arts and social enterprise on the Llyn peninsula in Gwynedd, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, where a fully developed version will be presented in March 2017 and Cardiff University School of Welsh, which is also commissioning a Welsh language version.