”Healing is messy. And illness is strangely tidy.”
For the past seven years, theatre audiences across Wales have been given a glimpse into the life, times and struggles of Glenda – a bank clerk who spent time at the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh after being diagnosed with severe depression.
Anweledig, starring Ffion Dafis, is a powerful and harrowing drama about one woman’s harrowing, often disturbing, confrontations with her illness, as she seeks a full recovery.
Now, the Bangor-born actress is preparing to step into the role of Glenda once more, as one of the most successful Welsh language theatre productions of the last decade goes on a nationwide tour.
Ffion said: ”This is the first time I’ve performed on my own on a main-stage production so I’m really excited – and nervous.”
”Having been six years in the making, developing the show has been a natural evolution. We started off with work-in-progress performances in small intimate venues but as Aled developed the script further, it became clear that Glenda’s story needed the main stage setting.”
The story behind Anweledig began in 2012, when psychiatric doctors in Bangor requested medical records from the former Victorian psychiatric unit.
Aled Jones Williams began using the records as inspiration for a live theatre production by Cwmni Frân Wen. Anweledig first appeared in raw, work-in-progress form at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh the following year.
For the playwright, creating the one-woman play meant drawing on his own experiences: ”When I was ill there were lots of people who would help me, but as I got better people found it more difficult.”
”I was easier to treat when I was ill, but then people would expect me to jump up and say “Right, I’m fine now” – but I wasn’t. The other thing is the relapse. It will happen. Everybody slips but you don’t go back to the same place.”
”Getting better is a process, not a one day event.”
Despite the dark nature of the play, director Sara Lloyd, born and raised in Menai Bridge, says Aled’s work entertains ”because his natural humour always shines through”.
”Aled is an honour and a delight to work with because he is such a generous author, always ready to discuss all aspects of his work.”
”There is always a deeper meaning to his work, always multi-layered and his scripts are like pieces of music, his rhythm is a delight to listen to and that’s what carries the audience through the story.”
Anweledig has continuously evolved and developed since its Eisteddfod debut – such was its success that Cwmni Frân Wen commissioned a second Act of the monologue in 2015.
Now, the definitive version of Glenda’s story is setting out on tour across Wales, starting at Pontio in Bangor, before moving onto Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Llanelli and Rhosllanerchrugog.
A special exhibition will also run alongside the Final Chapter tour. Specially commissioned from artist Mirain Fflur, it draws on the narrative of the show and stories from ‘Dinbych Saith’ as inspiration.
Sara Lloyd says she’s convinced everyone in the audience will relate to it in one way or another: ”Depression and mental health are issues that have touched us all….I want them to walk out thinking a bit differently about the illness.”
”Hopefully they will be entertained, they will laugh and cry, but they will feel more positive about depression.”
For anyone who has already followed Glenda’s story, this latest production of Anweledig is set to offer the complete experience.
Ffion Dafis adds: ”We’re going to use the large space to our advantage – yes, I’m out there on my own, but you won’t be disappointed when you see how the whole set, projections and music have been designed around my character.”
”We can’t wait to share the whole story for the first and last time.”
Anweledig: The Final Chapter begins its Welsh tour at Pontio, Bangor from Tuesday 19th to Friday 22nd February – including a pre-show talk for Welsh language learners and a BSL performance. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.franwen.com