Extinction Rebellion made an impact on Cardiff last week after setting camp outside City Hall and taking over Castle Street to raise awareness of  the climate crisis. We caught up with a Cardiff creative who was involved to talk about being an artist, activist and theatremaker in Cardiff. Jac Ifan Moore is a Cardiff-born theatre director who was involved in City of the Unexpected and whose theatre company, Powder House, has a residency at The Sherman Theatre. Currently he's directing Alan Harris' one woman show, For All I Care, starring Hannah Daniel. We spoke to him between rehearsals in Chapter last week. 

Can you tell us what you do?

I'm a Cardiff-based theatre director. I grew up in Cardiff then went to college in Exeter. After graduating I set up a theatre company who worked out of a theatre called The Bikeshed in Exeter, then worked in Bristol for a while. I came back to Cardiff for a job assistant directing for The Other Room's first season. After that I was offered a job with National Theatre Wales. I was living with my parents and still had a room in Bristol but when I realised I’d probably be staying for a bit I decided to get my own place in Cardiff. 

Five years on and I'm still here! I've been very lucky as a young director - you try for everything and face plenty of rejection, but I’ve had a lot of experience here. Nobody sees the rejection, of course, but I don’t think a week goes by where I’m not filling an application form for something or other. 

I’ve recently set up a theatre company called Powder House with another Cardiff-based theatre director, Chelsey Gillard. We’re currently the company in residence at the Sherman Theatre and have just finished our latest show – Saethu Cwningod / Shooting Rabbits. We’re preparing for our next production at the moment. We’ve done a lot of research and development on it and soon we’ll find out if we can fund it!

What inspires you about being in Cardiff? 

I never thought I’d be back in Cardiff and to some extent my furniture lives here whereas I live on the train. As a freelancer I follow the work. I’ll be in Edinburgh in August and I spend half my time in London but always like coming back to Cardiff.  

I’d rather be poor and retain the ability to be creative without constantly worrying about money. The cost of living in Cardiff is low so I have the freedom to be creative without worrying about money. If I lived in London I’d be worrying about tomorrow all the time. In Cardiff I can relax a little and think about my long-term goals. 

I came back at a time when there was a lot happening in the theatre sector in Cardiff… The Other Room had just been established and Rachel O’Riordan had just taken over the Sherman Theatre. She transformed the place and gave me many opportunities. I started working as her assistant and now I’m back at the Sherman directing productions. It also happened to be a very busy time for National Theatre Wales – they were creating new work. So, I had many opportunities to get my foot in the door with established theatre companies, and I’ve been able to build on those links.  

What challenges have you found while working in Cardiff? 

Well, it's not easy being an artist and you have to deal with rejection and justify your work and ideas. As artists we have to be entrepreneurial, although we don't always like to think of ourselves in that way. 

But I also recognise my privilege as a straight white man who speaks Welsh - there isn’t much standing in my way, apart from myself.

Another thing that can be frustrating is that the funding pot in Wales is very small. There’s a lively theatre sector and plenty of quality material being produced here but not enough money to support it. The extra £10,000 - £15,000 that you’d get in England would make a substantial difference with regards to the scale and ambition of a production. Due to the lack of funding you’ll rarely see a theatre production in Cardiff with more than four actors in it. 

In your opinion, what needs to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city? 

Overall, I’d say Cardiff already has the feel of a very creative city. Despite the fact that there’s less and less funding for theatre, it’s still a privilege to be able to make a career in art here. So, I’d say we’re doing quite well. 

I will say that we need more diverse voices and opinions in the creative sector, especially in the Welsh language. The majority of voices are mostly white and middle class so there’s definitely a lack of diversity. 

Can you pick one creative person in Cardiff we should go and find out more about? 

The director, Mathilde Lopez. I worked with her on a production called Highway One last year. Mathilde's work is always interesting, always different and funny. It's also very accessible! It lies somewhere between high art and accessible entertainment. We need more directors and theatre practitioners trying to do things differently in Cardiff. You never know what you’ll get from seeing a show directed by Mathilde – we’re very lucky to have her here. 

You were a part of the Extinction Rebellion protests this week, what inspired you to get involved with it?

I’ve been involved and interested in the Extinction Rebellion since the first action in London in April. There are so many ways you can get involved. I wasn’t able to commit full-time to the protest in Cardiff as I was working but I did what I could. I’d go in the morning before rehearsals then a do a stewarding shift in the evening. 

The thing is, it affects us all! I think, as the capital of Wales, it’s important that we contribute to the conversation. Since The Welsh Language Society started mobilizing protests in the 60s there has been little to no campaign of civil disobedience in Wales. We’ve forgotten how to use civil disobedience to protest. Extinction Rebellion provide training for anyone who may not know how to protest in this way – how to behave, the relationship with the public and the police. I think that’s important. 

Nobody wants to disrupt people's lives but I sometimes think that’s the only way to wake people up. It's as if we're all watching a film at the cinema. Nobody wants to be that person who stands up to shout in the middle of the film that there’s a panic outside. No one is going to like that person, but if it’s to warn people of a fire threatening their lives then everyone will be grateful in the end. 

Extinction Rebellion are trying to raise awareness among politicians about the state of climate emergency, what role does creativity have in raising awareness for this cause? 

I’m very interested in the connection between artist and activist. In terms of the theatre, we have to think about how much waste we create - on a practical level - recycling set materials and the way in which we use electricity. 

In terms of a production’s content, statistics don’t inspire people to take action. Stories are needed to drive change. Watching Attenborough giving a rousing speech about the environment is more likely to leave an impression on the public than facts and figures in an official report. It makes a difference when there’s an emotional story to engage the audience. 

I think artists have the impetus to get the message across in a way that would affect an audience on an emotional level. Empathy needs to steer content. Watching one theatre show about the environment will not change people's views but it can create an impact. Hopefully it may be part of a bigger picture and a cultural change.

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

Loads! I have some projects bubbling away but nothing I can share yet because they haven't been announced by the companies. I’m fortunate that I can continue to be creative as a collaborative part of these companies’ projects and I hope to innovate ideas with new companies in the future.

I would like to direct a Lorca play because I read a lot of his work during preparation for my last project. House of Bernarda Alba, Blood Wedding, Yerma ... they're all great! But that’s for the future. 

I am currently directing a show called For All I Care - a great drama by Alan Harris celebrating 70 years of the NHS. We’re currently rehearsing at Chapter with previews on the 24 and 25 July and are looking forward to taking it to Edinburgh in August. 

For All I Care previews at Chapter this week (the 24 and 25 of July).