Mark Jermin Stage School criticised over Aberfan play
COMPLAINTS have led to a Swansea-based stage school holding its latest production — about the Aberfan disaster — behind closed doors.
There are reportedly calls for the production of Aberfan — The Friday Before Half Term — to be cancelled.
Instead, the performance in the Urdd Studio in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay today was said to be being staged before families of the 25 teenage cast members only.
A further performance at Swansea Metropolitan University Theatre on Sunday, the day of the anniversary of the tragedy, was also expected to be staged for families only.
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On October 21, 1966, 144 people, including 116 children, died when a coal waste tip slid down a mountain and engulfed a school and houses.
But some residents of the village were reported to have been upset by a quote from the play printed on leaflets advertising the production, which read: "No-one knew if it was God's anger or the tons of newly unsettled coal dust but that day the sky over Aberfan turned black."
The stage school has said the performance was meant to be a tribute.
But Gareth Jones, who survived the tragedy, was reported to be among those calling for the production to be cancelled.
"They say they've consulted with people, but everyone I've spoken to says they've heard nothing. I've been round knocking doors and nobody's heard anything about it," he is reported as saying.
"People I've spoken to say the same, they haven't been consulted and the wording about God's anger was quite offensive.
"I don't object to the play as such - I want the story of Aberfan to continue to be told for hundreds of years. But it's the way they've gone about it.''
A Facebook page promoting the play has been taken down after a series of negative comments were posted.
Mark Jermin Stage School said in a statement: "The subject matter is naturally very sensitive and the children have spoken to many residents of Aberfan and also took part in a site visit.
"This performance piece is based on facts that the children have researched, but we want to make it clear that the characters are fictional and this is in no way a re-enactment, but an artistic interpretation of the disaster."
The stage school also said residents from Aberfan had been invited to watch some of the rehearsal process to ensure the play was accurate.
"The aim of the production is not to offend or cause upset and we hope it will be a tribute to the memory of what is a truly devastating part of Aberfan's history."