The first images from National Theatre Wales and Royal Court Theatre’s production of On Bear Ridge have been released. National Theatre Wales and Royal Court Theatre have today also announced that a site-specific installation will be created in the upper Swansea Valley bringing to life the world of the new play. Audiences at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff and the Royal Court London will also be able to experience this through a VR film that will be available to watch at both theatres making the landscape of On Bear Ridge accessible in the centre of these busy cities.
Written by Ed Thomas (Hinterland/Y Gwyll BBC/S4C/Netflix) On Bear Ridge is a semi-autobiographical story about the places we leave behind, the indelible marks they make on us, and the unreliable memories we hold onto. It will be co-directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone and Ed Thomas. The cast is Rakie Ayola (Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre), Jason Hughes (Violence and Son, Royal Court), Rhys Ifans (Exit the King, National Theatre) and Sion Daniel Young (Mametz, NTW and Jellyfish, NT).
NTW and the Royal Court Theatre are working with Ed Thomas and the On Bear Ridge creative team to create the outdoor, site-specific installations that will coincide with the opening of the play in Cardiff. The installations will be constructed on Penwyllt in the upper Swansea Valley, close to Thomas’ childhood home. They can be experienced in person by visiting the site in Wales or through a VR experience created in collaboration with Film and VR production company Cuckoo Nest.
The installations will temporarily exist in the landscape as fragmented remains of what was once there – a collection of lost things, half-forgotten sounds and memories, slowly sinking back into earth and rock. They will offer visitors glimpses of a vanished world, allowing them to digitally listen at a door and hear whispered voices, half-truths and unfinished stories from a way of life grown silent. A story that was never told. An act of remembering the forgotten.
“One minute we had customers, the next minute there was no-one.”
In a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders, hidden under a crumb on the map, Bear Ridge Stores still stands.
After a hundred years, the family butchers and grocers – a place for odds and ends, contraband goods, and the last petrol pump for 30 miles – is now silent.
But owners John Daniel and Noni are not leaving.
They are defiantly drinking the remaining whiskey and remembering good times, when everyone was on the same side and the old language shone.
Outside in the dark, a figure is making their way towards them.
On Bear Ridge will be directed by Vicky Featherstone and Ed Thomas, designed by Cai Dyfan, composed by John Hardy Music with sound design by Mike Beer and lighting design by Elliott Griggs. Edie Morris is Assistant Designer and Izzy Rabey is Emerging Director.
On Bear Ridge will run at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff (20 September – 5 October) followed by the Royal Court in London (24 October – 23 November).
Photo credit: Johan Persson