notes to future producers of The Mare’s Tale

From the outset it had been decided The Mare’s Tale should be a versatile chamber-work that might be presented either simply as a reading by a narrator at a lectern next to the musicians, or fully-staged, as it was for its 2013 preview performance to an invited audience. The story-arc is carried in a lean poetic text, employing multiple changes of scene and character. The performer must conjure six characters, frequently with swift transitions between them, and as two are men and four are women, a mercurial talent is required. Our narrator Eric Roberts, an opera singer and skilled actor, had the necessary musicianship to place Damian Walford Davies’ words with the precision demanded by Mark Bowden’s score. (I believe an actor who couldn’t read the score would be all at sea regarding the placement of the text.) Eric’s baritone too was put to good use, in Mark’s haunting arrangement of the traditional Welsh song that closes the work.


At Theatr Brycheiniog The Mare’s Tale was presented using multiple techniques. A skewed and multi-level tower some twenty feet high, suggested in abstract the various locations indicated by the libretto. Jane Seyes was represented by a puppet, and her two puppeteers additionally operated various manifestations of the ‘night mare’ at the heart of the narrative. A wandering two-person video crew captured the puppets and actor, with the images streamed to a projection-screen above the playing area. The screen also showed pre-filmed sequences of an ‘Expressionist’ model village designed to help create a sense of time passing, and stop-motion animations suggested the apparition rising from Morgan Seye’s buried memories.


Composer and librettist have created a dense music-theatre piece that though technically challenging, is a gift to any director and designer. While I chose to use techniques that most suited me and the team I gathered around me, there are clearly many ways to present The Mare’s Tale, as yet unexplored.


Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Ty Isaf, 2013.

7 thoughts on “notes to future producers of The Mare’s Tale

  1. I would also love to have a copy of the documentary too. I am a PhD student at Swansea University. Through my research into the dramatic work Ballad of the Mari Lwyd I have become interested in contemprorary appropriations of the tradition. I use your collaboration with Catriona Urquart as an example of this along with the work of the animator Sean Vicary. I would love to see this production taken up by another venue/company. Until such time I would find the documentary very useful to my research. I admire your work very much and your artwork is deeply moving and striking and in the future I hope to explore it in greater depth. If there is any possibility of having a copy of the film then I would be very grateful. It looks like such an exciting event. I could email you directly if you would prefer.

    • The documentary was commissioned by Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra to record the process of creation and help promote the project. The best thing would be for you to contact Catrin Slater at MWCO to ask about acquiring a copy of the film. (See HERE for contact details.) I’m pretty sure she’ll be able to help you.

      I’m pleased to hear that you find my work on the subject to be moving. I greatly enjoyed collaborating with the composer and librettist on this ‘chamber-work with narration’. I’d thought my work on the Mari Lwyd was over long ago, and so it was intriguing to pick up the theme again and to explore it through a performance medium. I made masses of new material for the piece: drawings, maquettes, puppets and models. I’m sure it’ll be exhibited at some point, but if you’d like to see any of it to discuss, then contact me HERE and we’ll make arrangements for you to visit.

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