Godfrey Evans (1941 - 2023)
Today we said goodbye to Mr. Godfrey Evans.
Godfrey was our founder. Appointed County Advisor in Drama in 1974 by the newly formed West Glamorgan Education Authority, Godfrey coordinated and facilitated a comprehensive programme of arts activities for young people. This included school-based support, weekly classes and a residential rehearsal and performance course. Auditions for the County Youth Theatre Company were held in September 1975. Rehearsals began in October on Tuesday evenings in September 1975 and with a two week residential course at Danycoed House during the Christmas holiday; the Company’s inaugural performance (Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale) took place in January 1976.
Godfrey was a visionary. Alongside the Director of Education, Clayton Haycock he created a vision for education that was ambitious. The stated aim of the Youth Theatre was “to give young people of ability and enthusiasm in all aspects of theatre arts the opportunity of working together, under the guidance of specialist tutors, in the rehearsal and performance of the best world drama”. Note the use of the phrase “ambition and enthusiasm”, it wasn’t enough just to be talented. Note the use of the phrase “all aspects of theatre”, it was always about the production side of things too with equal emphasis on all disciplines. Note, and smile, at the phrase “the best world drama”. This was a company rooted in ambition, driven to broaden the horizons of the young people involved.
Godfrey never made excuses. The Youth Theatre has never apologised for being a ‘youth company’. The canon of work speaks for itself, and would provide ample challenge for any professional group. The rehearsal process echoes that of a professional company with the same expectations and standards required. The key to the Company’s success is setting the bar as high as possible and believing everyone will achieve. No excuses.
Godfrey was clear. He knew what he wanted, he knew what excellence looked like, he knew what young people needed, and, he never shifted from his position. In his early career, this made him a formidable figure. Mr. Evans ran his ship with a firm and decisive hand until his retirement in 1992.
Godfrey was a progressive. Whilst the blueprint of Youth Theatre courses has never changed (breakfast is still at eight fifteen with assembly at ten to nine) the financial support and infrastructure provided by the Local Authority certainly has. That legacy has disappeared completely. Some changes needed to be made, the current Artistic Directorate had no bigger supporter than Godfrey, who was always there to listen, offer advice and guidance but never judgement. Only support and admiration for the fact that not only do we keep going, but standards remain high and the work continues to challenge the expectations and perceptions people have of young people today.
Godfrey was naughty. What a joy it was when he returned to work with the Company in the early 2000s. Not just because more generations of young people had the privilege of working in a room with him, experiencing that attention to detail and achieving the technical accuracy he required. More because as a staff team we got to spend time with the funny, witty, mischievous man he was. In recent years, visits from Mr. Evans were hotly anticipated, each member of staff keen for him to sit in a rehearsal room, eagerly anticipating the nod of approval, a simple gesture that made every late night, every difficult decision and every bit of energy worth it. He never left without looking at costumes. He never left without speaking to all of the students and he always brought the best quality chocolate biscuits money could buy.
Godfrey loved tea. Earl Grey. In a china cup. Preferably at a table with a tablecloth!
Godfrey was a teacher. First, last and everything in between was underlined by an unerring conviction that education was the cornerstone of everything. He could spot a talented teacher across a crowded room, and he supported them, encouraged them and also had no issue with saying if things weren’t good enough. You can’t have an ego in West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, it is about the work, not the individual.
Godfrey understood legacy. His is huge. We are all a product of his vision, creativity and purpose. More than anyone else he understood that we need to evolve, but everything the Company does will forever be created in his image and with his sense of ambition, quality and unwavering belief of the power the arts have to help young people achieve their potential.
How lucky we were to know him.
How lucky we are to be the custodians of the precious, wonderful thing that West Glamorgan Youth Theatre is.
The Artistic Director and Trustees
October 20th 2023