Theatre Writing by Matthew G. Rees
As well as writing prose fiction, Matthew G. Rees writes for the stage. To date, two of his plays have been performed professionally - Dragonfly (2018) and Sand Dancer (2019). More are planned.
Returning to the UK after time teaching abroad, Rees undertook a master's degree in Creative Writing at the University of Swansea, where, in addition to other literary forms, he studied stage writing and writing for radio, under playwright D.J. Britton. Rees graduated with a distinction, and went on to undertake a PhD.
As with his prose fiction, his drama to date has tended to the offbeat. The maxim that a play should wrestle with an issue and have that as its starting point and lodestar isn't one that convinces him.
Rees says, 'I think it's fine if an argument develops organically within the writing of the piece, or if one can even be seen with hindsight (and perhaps then be built upon). But to plot a play in terms of one position or outlook against another, good versus evil, seems to me artificial and unimaginative and a pathway to something that will end up sounding mechanical. The kick-starts for my own writing tend to come from something else.'
Rees wrote the first draft of Dragonfly while studying at Swansea. It's a comedy-fantasy based on the little-known "fact" that the world's first aeroplane was built by a Welsh hill-farmer in co-operation with the country's dragons.
He says, 'My starting point, if you like, was an inversion - turning on its head the idea that a mere shepherd would have been incapable of a fantastic feat of engineering. Writing this in Wales, the involvement of dragons seemed entirely natural.
'The involvement of wicked weapons manufacturers - and, therein, the argument or contest - came when the story was already 'in play', so to speak.
'I was also much fixed on an image in my mind of 'my' farmer Idris Morgan and his sheepdog Archie-Medes flying in their rather Heath Robinson machine over lakes and mountains on their Sunday afternoons off . . . to call on local dragons, and so forth.'
Fluellen Theatre Company staged Dragonfly in three playhouses in Wales in 2018.
In 2019, in another collaboration with Fluellen, the company performed Rees's second play Sand Dancer in the arts wing theatre at The Grand, Swansea.
Rees wrote the play as an adaptation from a story in his collection Keyhole.
It centres on the discovery of a war-time German submarine buried beneath a Welsh beach for more than seventy years.
After the success of Dragonfly, with an imagined aeroplane at its heart, Rees saw Sand Dancer (and its submarine) as a natural second step. On reading his script, Fluellen's director Peter Richards responded: 'A barmy idea beautifully realised. I would love to stage it.'
Rees says, 'I generally write (hopefully) lively plays for casts of no more than eight actors, with fairly minimal props / scenery. A benefit to smaller companies is that this helps keep costs down.
'Dragonfly - because of some of the themes that unwind in it - might be a great play for St David's Day. Both it and Sand Dancer I think would work particularly well in smaller, intimate venues, such as pub theatres. If a theatre company or the BBC should ever be interested, they're more than welcome to drop me a line. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
'I have a third play in mind to, eventually, round off what I suppose might be called a thematic trilogy. As they say, "Watch this space!"'