Alun Saunders is a playwright and actor who is also well known for his larger-than-life drag persona, Connie Orff. A resident writer and co-founder of bilingual theatre company, Neontopia, he’s created work alongside theatre director Mared Swain. Alun's first bilingual drama, A Good Clean Heart, was produced by The Other Room as their first piece of new writing and last year he created the drama Tuck which was performed on Wales Millennium Centre’s ffresh stage. He’s also written for Theatr na n'Og, Sherman Theatre and Dirty Protest Theatre. He also writes for television and film and is currently writing for the popular S4C television show, Gwaith Cartref (Homework). Here, the multi-talented actor shares his thoughts on working in Cardiff and throwing himself into the world of Welsh drag.

Why have you chosen to work in Cardiff?

After training as an actor and graduating from Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2002, I met my husband and stayed here. London would have been an option, but I was really happy with Cardiff at the time…and I haven’t changed my mind. There are so many brilliant opportunities to work bilingually as an actor, writer and drag performer. Since then, my husband has established Parc Deli by Victoria Park, and although running your own business can be an enormous challenge, he’s doing well so far. Cardiff has shaped us both over the last 18 years that we’ve lived here, and now it’s shaping our children too. I’ve seen so many people coming here to visit and falling in love with the city. It’s special.

What inspires you about being here?

I have an absolutely wonderful and positive network of friends as well as co-workers here. As a freelancer, it feels strange to describe them as co-workers (as many of them are friends as well), but they’re more than just colleagues. As in any city, you have to go out and knock on doors, ask for opportunities (ask and ask again!), but there are opportunities. I feel that Cardiff is open and friendly enough to ask people for those opportunities.

What challenges have you found in working in Cardiff?

The only thing I’d say is that people outside of Cardiff need to trust the talent that is here. There are so many talented individuals, theatre companies and television production companies here, but we are still behind the game – in my opinion – with regards to how much drama and comedy content there is celebrating the city on national and international television (that is, not using the city as a location and disguising it as another major city, like London, Bristol etc.). I want to see production companies and major broadcasters creating content here and investing in the talent that exists here.

How successful do you think Cardiff has been at making itself a creative capital, particularly in your area of work? 

When I was studying in the Royal College of Music and Drama there were some classes held in the Bay, and that was when Wales Millennium Centre (and the rest of the Bay) was still in development. Seeing that development has been incredible, and my partnership with Wales Millennium Centre has grown to be so valuable for my career. Wales Millennium Centre is leading the way with regards to including people, offering opportunities, and offering so much more than just the ‘bums-on-seats’ theatre where money is the only important thing. 

In your opinion, which three things need to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city? 

Confidence. We need the confidence to create and to continue to be innovative. I believe in Welsh culture (although it can be quite insular at times), I would really like to see Cardiff’s (and Wales’) artistic product being shared with the world. With confidence in our language, our culture and our artistic product, we should be able to unapologetically shout about our uniqueness.

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve? 

There’s a brilliant community of artists here in Cardiff and on the peripheries… especially those creating theatre with a focus on daring, interesting and engaging stories. It would be great to bring those people together and introduce them to the wider creative community for knowledge sharing and mentoring.

Describe your favourite creative space to work in Cardiff.  

I’m totally biased but Parc Deli has the best coffee, breakfast and burritos in the city. Apparently, some of the customers just know me as ‘Laptop Man’… sitting in the corner working (and emailing) on the laptop and drinking coffee! It’s by the park so I can go and stretch my legs and, for us, it’s close to the kids’ school so we can collect them at the end of the day.

Choose a creative individual in Cardiff that we should know more about.

Elise Davidson. Elise is an Artistic Director for the company Taking Flight, that creates a-m-a-z-i-n-g work that often places disabled performers centre stage.

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon? What new ideas are you working on?

An array of Connie Orff gigs continue to go from strength to strength… from supper clubs to comedy festivals across the country. I’ve been curating and introducing a number of Drag Supper Clubs at Wales Millennium Centre during the summer and that’s been lush. Then, I’ve got a really fun Christmas gig in December. I’m working as writer for a really exciting project in three languages at the moment… Welsh, English and BSL (British Sign Language). This is a really exciting project, working with an actress called Stephanie Back, and I’m learning a lot!

Connie Orff’s next drag performance will be scarily good as Alun gets dressed up for a spooky edition of Wales Millennium Centre’s Supper Club over the Halloween weekend. Want to slay?

 

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