Theatre company thank care home residents for inspiring record-breaking success of moving play about dementia

Pendine Park, Bryn Seiont Newydd, Caernarfon; Pictured are Olwen Williams and Carl Owen from Fran Wen With Gwynfor Jones and Nia Davies Williams.

More than 5,000 people saw a moving play about dementia inspired by residents of a care home in Gwynedd.

The nationwide tour of Ŵy, Chips a Nain

Pendine Park, Bryn Seiont Newydd, Caernarfon; Pictured are Olwen Williams and Carl Owen from Fran Wen With Gwynfor Jones and Nia Davies Williams.

(Egg, Chips and Grandma) by the Frȃn Wen theatre company  was the most successful large-scale production in their history.

The play shines a light on the effects of the cruel condition as seen through the eyes of a young grandson.

It was written by Welsh language poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn who visited Bryn Seiont Newydd in Caernarfon to speak to the residents and staff as part of her research.

The play was a co-production between the Menai Bridge-based theatre company and Galeri Caernarfon where it was premiered in February.

Appropriately, the ensuing tour was sponsored by the award-winning Pendine Park care organisation who own Bryn Seiont Newydd.

To show their appreciation for the help and guidance they received, Frân Wen theatre company staff presented Bryn Seiont Newydd with a framed photograph of the production’s two main characters.

Thanks to additional support from Arts & Business Cymru’s Culture Step programme, Frân Wen also hosted Ŵy, Chips a Nain theatre workshop sessions with Bryn Seiont Newydd residents and their families.

According to Carl Owen, Frȃn Wen’s marketing manager, Pendine Park was involved in Ŵy, Chips a Nain from the outset.

He said: “We saw Pendine Park Care Organisation not just as a sponsor but as a partner. The help we received ahead of and during the production was amazing.

“Our artistic team were able to come into Bryn Seiont Newydd and observe what living with dementia was really like.

“We were able to speak to staff, residents and relatives and that gave us a real insight into dementia and meant we could better portray what the condition was and how people live with it.

“The fact Ŵy, Chips a Nain, a Welsh language play, turned into our most successful large scale production to date has a great deal to do with our work alongside Nia Davies Williams and the rest of the wonderful Bryn Seiont Newydd team.”

He added: “Having premiered the play at Galeri Caernarfon, who were also our partners, we played 33 performances right across Wales at venues including Mold, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Cardiff.

“In fact we played in 16 theatres. We targeted an audience of families and tried to depict how dementia affects everyone in one way or another whether they are six or 96. We had a large number of schools involved too.

“The fact that many of the venues including the final shows at Cardiff’s Chapter theatre were sold out shows how popular the show was. However, much of the success was down to our collaboration with Pendine Park.

“And that’s why we wanted to present a framed photograph showing the two main characters of Ŵy, Chips a Nain to Pendine Park Care Organisation to show how much we appreciated the help we were given.”

The sponsorship for the production came via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which was set up by Pendine Park proprietors, Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, to support arts and community initiatives.

Mario said: “The arts, community and education are central to everything we do at Pendine Park as a way of enriching lives across the generations so this particular production and its theme was a perfect fit.

“We saw this as a tremendous opportunity to contribute in terms of knowledge and good practice and being an integral part of the production not merely sponsors of the play.

“The fact that the play was in the Welsh language was also important because we have seen the difference it makes when care is provided in a person’s mother tongue, particularly when they have dementia, and it has always been important to us that Bryn Seiont Newydd.

“The importance of the Welsh language and culture is reflected in our enrichment progamme which is a key component of our work in terms of staff development.

“Gwyneth Glyn’s superb script and some wonderful acting really drew in audiences and helped show what it is like to not only live with dementia, but to see the condition through the eyes of a young boy.”

Ŵy, Chips a Nain is an inspirational play and we are really delighted to have been involved from the outset. The framed photograph presented to us by Frȃn Wen will take pride of place in Bryn Seiont Newydd.”

Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, says it was vital Frȃn Wen artistic team were able to visit and observe how dementia affects people and families.

She said: “Mainly it was a case of observing, watching mannerisms and listening to conversations. Of course we ensured residents and their relatives were aware of what we and the Frȃn Wen team were doing.

“I found the play charming, funny yet often emotional. I saw it several times in rehearsals and in fact took along one of our residents, who is living with dementia, as well as her daughter and grandson to see what they thought.

“That particular resident reminds me so much of the main character of Ŵy, Chips a Nain and it was interesting to see how they reacted to the story.

“It was clear the grandson could relate to the play and although he clearly enjoyed it he was also quite moved by it too. There were parts we all laughed at and equally parts we all found moving.”

She added: “I’m really thrilled and touched by the gesture of presenting Pendine Park with the framed photograph. It’s a beautiful image and a great reminder of what was a magical, heart-warming and emotional play.”