Script This…

November 30, 2009

Talent can often be found in the strangest of people or places. If the current trend of TV reality shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor are anything to go by, offering everyone and anyone the chance to showcase their talent, there are talented individuals waiting to hit the limelight. Oh and of course let’s not forget the multiple Andrew Llyod Webber exploits into finding the next Joseph, Maria and Nancy talent contests, so it’s about time that we saw a little of this talent searching in other aspects of theatre.

Enter stage left Script This… brought to you by the Broadway Theatre Barking team.

Even in the depths of Barking at the Broadway Theatre, a place I had never experienced but completely fell for its charm on Thursday night, is showing that talent is everywhere and needs to have a platform. Their ongoing programme of Script This… invites new and unpublished budding playwrights from any background to submit their scripts to the Broadway Theatre where they are all read, returned with feedback but the most important part, given the chance to appear in their monthly Script This… event.

Four scripts are selected by the Script This team to appear in a short 10 pages, script-in-hand performance, directed by The Broadway Theatres artistic director, Karena Johnson, and professional actors. They are all rehearsed, and presented in the same day, which makes the process even more exciting.

Then in front of a small audience the plays are presented. Yet what makes this event different is after every short extract the audience discuss their thoughts and feelings on the piece. Did they enjoy it? What worked, what was lost? The feedback is valuable as hidden amongst the audience are the playwrights themselves, but are only revealed at the end.  After the discussions the audience then vote by manner of a card system, green for you liked it and want more, yellow for it was good, and red for you never want to see it again. The cards are totted up and the extract that gets the highest mark moves onto the next round where they can produce another extract at the next event.

The reason that I’m very taken with Script This… comes from the experience which I had at the event. There is something edgy and fresh about the night, where I find myself sitting next to two complete strangers but bonding over our opinions on the scripts being presented.

It was clear that not everyone within the audience were from theatre backgrounds or in the industry themselves, but this made the whole experience even more exciting. By discussing the scripts openly amongst a collection of mixed individuals and groups was rewarding to say the least.

I’ve often found that criticism from those within the industry to at times be too bogged down with the ‘know-it-all’ approach to theatre, so why not have someone who is completely fresh and new to plays and writing discussing their honest, open views? Encouraging discussion about the plays means that the playwrights gain an insight into what a whole collection of people thought about their work. At times the views are conflicting but this makes for interesting debates around the work.

Whilst I will openly admit that I am far from a critic or expert of plays and playwriting – my views were justly heard and discussed by the audience. Script This… really works in two ways; by engaging the audience with new writing work never seen before, and equally of the writers gaining feedback and an opportunity to showcase their work.

The Broadway Theatre in Barking really has taken up a challenge to broaden their work, and one which I fully support. If talent is to be found anywhere, then why not in Barking? Script This… will be returning to The Broadway Theatre in January and is highly recommended for a creative and inspiring night out at the theatre (with a difference).

See The Broadway Theatre website for details on Script This… and future events.

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The Live Spectacle

September 17, 2009

If there is one thing that I have learnt in the past few weeks is just how live theatre actually is. We often forget that the very nature of theatre is the live spectacle. Often with this spectacle we get completely engrossed in the theatre, the magic happening before our eyes that we forget altogether that there are a crew of people, ensuring that everything is running smoothly.

It might seem obvious to some of us theatre folk, but the very nature of theatre itself is extremely live and exciting. We forget that there is someone controlling the lights, someone pushing a ‘go’ button, people whispering cues to each other, and a whole host of activity that we don’t see. Theatre is quote frankly a well oiled machine that functions without anyone actually realising anything is happening at all (of course other than the acting on stage).

Yet with most machines there comes a time where things don’t always go right, the machine breaks, has a bad moment, and causes genuine chaos.

Whilst I will not disclose my place of work readily on here, this has most certainly been true the past week. With electrical issues spanning nearly a week, shows being disrupted by power cuts, lighting boards breaking and a whole host of other activities, it is no wonder that my thoughts turn to how the very nature of theatre is that of “THIS IS LIVE”.

Looking elsewhere it would appear that this reminder was equally echoed in a whole host of theatres in the past two weeks. The Arcola theatre suffered technical difficulties making the Shady Dolls performance of The Spoils during the Grimebourne Festival where they had to do the performance by the House Lights. Alas as they “the show must go on” rings rather true here.

Even more spectacular perhaps is how The National Theatre manage to be behind on their technical schedule, so much so that the first preview of the highly anticipated Mother Courage was left without a second half due to the lack of a technical run through. The difficulties meant that the press night for the show has been put back by a whole week, whilst they attempt to tweak and alter the technical aspects of the show in preparation.

Whilst time is something which plays against all theatre performances, and where there never seems to be enough time, it is quite surprising that a place such as the National Theatre can suffer from from time running out.

But there we have it. No matter what sort of theatre establishment you are, no matter how professional a show is, nor how much money a show might have behind it, theatre is a truly live event, and things most certainly don’t always go to plan.

Theatre, therefore, is live through and through (and we love it for this reason!).