Lighthouse Theatre Ltd

Brief Encounters in South America

In October 2015, WAI supported the Lighthouse Theatre company on a trip to Chile, Uruguay and Patagonia – where they delivered workshops and trilingual performances with schools and community groups. We asked Adrian Metcalfe and Llinos Daniel to tell us more about the visit:

Adrian Metcalfe:

This autumn, we made our third visit to South America. In 2011 and 2013 we had travelled to Chile, Uruguay and Patagonia and developed a relationship with arts organisations there.

What was clear from our previous trips was the appetite that exists in Latin America not just for theatre in the English language, but for a multi-lingual, multi-cultural exchange, and for a sharing of ideas and theatre practice. Delivering high quality workshops to a wide range of participants has always been an important part of our visits. This year we toured Brief Encounters – a double bill of two Noel Coward plays adapted for three actors - which had toured extensively in Wales in the preceding weeks. Our itinerary was to take in Montevideo, Santiago de Chile and then a return trip to Patagonia.

The logistical headache of touring 8000 miles from base on a limited budget can never be underestimated. How to guarantee a set and the necessary personnel will be waiting when we arrive? Will the promised pianist be able to play Rachmaninov? We needn’t have worried – Elena in Montevideo and Luke in Santiago did us proud with next to no rehearsal and were wonderful additions to our team. Montevideo is the most friendly and elegant of cities, full of gentle charm but every bit as interesting and creative as its more ‘showy’ neighbour, Buenos Aires. We performed to packed theatres of adult and student audiences and facilitated an adult Shakespeare theatre workshop.

Moving on to Chile we finally got out of the spring freeze of Uruguay and had a wonderful few days in this buzzing city of contrasts. Chaotic and organised, edgy and highly polished with clear German and British influences, it’s a really interesting place to stay. It was here we came across the first problem of touring without our own Spanish speaking stage manager. Hilarious scenes ensued at the Catholic University Theatre as we negotiated a tech with the lighting and sound technicians called Pablo Uno and Pablo Dos (just to add to the confusion). From the stage we managed to translate the script and cue the show in Spanish. Luckily the team were consummate professionals and the show was packed and well received by all – we even enlisted the help of Prince Michael of Liechtenstein for the get-out. A wine tour by bike, the incredible markets, some delightful secondary school visits and Chile beating Brazil at football for the first time in 16 years made it a very festive stay.

From Santiago we travelled to the Chile/Argentina border where we met our host in Patagonia – the indefatigable Jeremy Wood. This time we stayed in the Andean side of the Chubut valley in Esquel, thanks to a Canadian fisherman who leant us his house for the week. Patagonia is slightly reeling from a year of celebrations marking the 150 years since the arrival of the Mimosa. There is always something moving and astonishing about hearing Welsh spoken in thick Spanish or mestizo accents, and the Welsh and Argentinian flags flying side by side on every corner.

We visited a number of schools – primary and secondary and delivered drama workshops in Spanish and Welsh. Each school was different and we had a warm welcome in each one. Children from very different backgrounds seem to have a real curiosity about Welsh and an interest in their shared history, plus an eagerness to learn and practice their English. For us it was a very welcome opportunity to practice and develop our own language skills. A particular highlight was a couple of days at Ysgol y Cwm where we played Beth yw’r amser, Mr Blaidd? next to the chapel, and Llinos gave the 4 year olds (as well as adult learners) their first harp workshops! Our time came to a close with a Noson Lawen organised by the wonderful Iwan Madoc Jones. Both Spanish and Welsh speakers came together to share some traditional folk dancing, Tango Violin, choral speaking and gossip. We in turn presented some trilingual extracts from Under Milk Wood and some harp solos.

Time to leave Patagonia – but keen to cut down the air travel we took the scenic route by boat and bus! A well travelled border crossing via the lakes and mountain passes is a unique experience and took us back to Chile and from there, home.

So finished an extraordinary 3 weeks. For those who like their statistics, we have worked out that we covered 18,150 miles; sold 990 theatre tickets over 8 shows; met 200 workshop attendees in 9 workshops, delivered 2 harp sessions, 1 concert, and between us eaten 8 lbs of beef and drunk 20 (ish) bottles of wine!! We can’t thank enough those who hosted us along the way, helped our show come to life in a strange and wonderful format, and above all made this trip to Y Wladfa possible in the anniversary year.

Diolch i bawb!

Llinos Daniel

Very few people get the opportunity to go back to South America to perform for a third time. I've been extremely fortunate, through my work with the Lighthouse Theatre Team, to have worked abroad on several occasions. On my most recent trip I had the chance to visit South America.

The name of the show that time was Brief Encounters – a show which consisted of two short plays by Noël Coward. All the parts were played by just three of us! Following a short tour around Wales, our next stop was Montvideo in Uruguay. The show was a great success. As well as the performances in the evening, the company would hold drama workshops for adults and students during the day.

After spending some time in the old part of the city, enjoying a taste of the delicious food in the harbour market and sipping mate (a herbal drink), it was time for us to fly back to Santiago in Chile. We had a busy time of things there too, performing in adorable theatres and holding workshops. We were thrilled to learn from the organizers that they had enjoyed entertaining us as a theatre company, and that the response had been fantastic. In our spare time we visited the Bells of Santiago, and we cycled through some enchanting valleys on a special wine tasting tour – not to mention an unforgettable journey across the Andes before journeying on to Patagonia.

It was once again a pleasure to spend time in Esquel and Trevelin this year. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to get the chance to travel across the prairie to Gaiman and Trelew. We had decided as a company to work with pupils in the Welsh speaking communities. This work consisted of holding drama and music workshops through the medium of Welsh, English and Spanish. The three of us took part in a Noson Lawen (a night of musical entertainment), sharing pieces of famous Welsh plays – with me singing and accompanying myself on the harp. It was a pleasure meeting the sweet children at Ysgol y Cwm (a Welsh school in the Andes), and to teach Welsh folk songs to them, as well as giving harp lessons to a group of enthusiastic students.

The next thing we were enjoying the luxury of a bus, not to mention sunshine, on our way to Fariloche to prepare for our journey across the Andes by bus and catamaran. We visited several restful lakes and passed a number of volcanoes, before once again arriving in Chile.

Patagonia is an incredible place. This is the place to come to spend time in thought and meditation. The country does have a wild side – but there is plenty room for places of natural peace and quiet, in such a vast landscape. There are plenty of colourful characters there; it can be familiar – but at the same time unfamiliar.

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