Following the success of the best-selling novel Pigeon by Welsh author Alys Conran, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Theatr Iolo are thrilled to be presenting Pijin | Pigeon, a Welsh stage adaptation by playwright Bethan Marlow and directed by Theatr Iolo’s Artistic Director, Lee Lyford. The play, which is in association with Pontio, will tour to venues across Wales in spring 2023.
Set in the shadow of the north Wales slate quarries in the early ’90s, Pijin | Pigeon follows a boy who is desperate to escape life at home. Using his imagination, stories and words he fights for survival but, one day, words are no longer enough; his walls come crashing down and life changes forever.
Pijin | Pigeon is a gripping story about growing up and just how far people will go for love. The powerful and clever use of language inspired the play’s Director, Lee Lyford:
“When I first read ‘Pigeon’ I was transported by the poetry of the language and moved by the complexity and heart of the characters. I knew it would make a moving and powerful play. Bethan has captured the essence of the novel in her script and has beautifully woven Welsh and English together to reflect the relationship and significance of both languages in the story. Her clever adaptation offers so much scope for creative exploration, and I can’t wait to bring her script and Alys’s characters to life on stage.” Lee Lyford, Director
Although the original novel is written mostly in English, Alys Conran depicts a community with Welsh language at its very heart. The language is such an important element to the story that the Welsh- language adaptation, Pijin, by Sian Northey, was published on the same day in 2016. Pigeon, published by Parthian Books, went on to win the Wales Book of the Year Award 2017 and was shortlisted for the acclaimed International Dylan Thomas Prize.
Alys Conran is extremely excited to see her work adapted for the stage for the first time;
“Pigeon, the main character of my novel, has always lived beyond the page for me. And though this is the first time for my work to be adapted for the stage, it somehow feels natural – a medium with creative space for his wings to really stretch, especially under the care of the exciting creative team who have come together to turn Pigeon’s story into a cracking contemporary drama; a play which, like the boy, will stand firmly on its own two feet.”
Alys wrote Pigeon whilst living in north Wales, immersed in a community similar to where the novel is set. Embarking on the project, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Theatr Iolo were keen to work with a playwright who also had a link with the area – and Bethan Marlow was the perfect choice! She has previously worked with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and has written two highly celebrated plays for the company, Nyrsys and Sgint. This was her first experience of adapting a novel for stage and she was thrilled to be given the opportunity:
“Reading Alys’s novel sucked me back to my teenage years at home in the ’90s, having a laugh in the quarries, chatting and snogging, trying to find my place and make sense of the world. I think everyone grew up with a ‘Pigeon’ down the road; I did,and writing this play has given me the opportunity to consider how everybody’s childhoods can be so different, even when you live in the same extraordinary and wild landscape. This is my first time adapting a novel for the stage and it feels an honour to have such an amazing story and clever words to play with.”
Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Theatr Iolo are no strangers to working together, having enchanted under 5s across Wales with their sell-out winter co-production Llygoden yr Eira in 2018 and again in 2021. Their partnership continues with Pijin | Pigeon, their latest co-production for teenage audiences 13+ as well as adults, in association with Pontio.
Having just started in his post as Artistic Director of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Steffan Donnelly is excited about this collaboration and believes that maintaining and nurturing artistic relationships between theatre companies in Wales is essential.
“Audiences will be moved by this powerful coming-of-age story brought to the stage by an excellent creative team. The team at Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru are passionate about developing artistic relationships, and sharing ideas and resources, to tour high-quality and accessible work across Wales; and I'm delighted that we’re building on the success of previous collaborations with both Theatr Iolo and Bethan Marlow.”
Ensuring that high-quality theatre is accessible to all is at the heart of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Theatr Iolo’s missions. The bilingual script serves not only to reflect the development of the languages and their relation to each other, but also ensures that everyone can enjoy the performances. Integrated bilingual captions will be displayed on stage for every performance, and there will be a number of accessible performances during the tour with BSL interpretation and bilingual audio description. There will also be pre-show talks for Welsh learners before certain performances and workshops with Alys Conran and Bethan Marlow will be on offer for schools and other groups.
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