Marc Rees’ immersive theatrical experience took visitors on a journey through three intertwining narratives of war: from Celtic history, the First World War and today’s conflicts. Drawing on an epic poem, a series of rejected paintings and an intimate portrait of a serving soldier, Nawr yr Arwr / Now the Hero counterpoints tragedy with hope.
Nawr yr Arwr / Now the Hero had as its starting point the little-known British Empire Panels, painted by Frank Brangwyn. Originally commissioned by the House of Lords to commemorate the First World War, the paintings were rejected by Parliament as ‘too lively’ and have been displayed in Swansea since 1934. Brangwyn’s idyllic, fantastical landscapes, which depict hidden historical tragedy, are a poignant and significant memorial to the war, and inspired Rees to create an ambitious multimedia spectacle linking past and present conflicts with the search for peace.
At the heart of Nawr yr Arwr / Now the Hero is a requiem composed by Owen Morgan Roberts and realised from an original collaboration by composers Jóhann Jóhannsson and Owen Morgan Roberts, featuring a libretto by Owen Sheers sung by Stephen Layton’s world-famous choir Polyphony. The performance moved through scenes reflecting on war, peacetime unity and harmony via a battle, a wedding party, a protest dance and a wake. It culminated with a Harvest Gathering, curated by Owen Griffiths, to include soup made with local ingredients as featured in Brangwyn’s paintings.
Commissioned by 14-18 NOW. Produced by Taliesin Arts Centre/Swansea University in partnership with the City & County of Swansea and Swansea International Festival and with the generous support of Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government, the City & County of Swansea, the Colwinston Charitable Trust, Swansea University and Heritage Lottery Fund – Awards for All