Guest blog: Briony

Ever wondered what on earth a day in the life of StageWrite looks like?  Check out this post from our guest blogger, Briony Green!

As an aspiring writer and theatre maker, I was thrilled when Cally, Harri and Phil  – in their warm, generous, and open-handed way – allowed me to spend a day with them and their team at StageWrite. Thus it was that at 7am on Friday 10thMay I found myself, somewhat bleary eyed and coffee in hand, travelling to sunny Bedford (and sunny it was!).

The morning was committed to working on ‘The Murder of The Servants’, a new play by Martin Keady, based on two characters from ‘Macbeth’ who fail in their task of protecting King Duncan and are framed for his murder.  The piece is pacy and filled with humour and high drama.  My first impressions were of both the professionalism and laid back nature of the rehearsal room. Actors and director treated each other with respect and an easy trust. The pace was fast, there was little time for breaks, but the camaraderie and ready laughter made StageWrite a fun place to be.  Excitement rose during the final run through. I was struck again by the power of stage lighting and the magic created by that collaboration of script, space, actors and tech.

The afternoon’s piece was totally different – ‘Play Lady K’ by Anne Atkins, loosely in the genre of farce, with quick dialogue, a cast of lively characters, romance, pathos, a touch of cross dressing – and even a butler in the buff!  Unlike the morning’s play, the script relies on a large number of exits, and was dependent on these for comic effect.  StageWrite technician Simon, in an unassuming stroke of genius, solved a particular absent-door problem with lighting and a sound effect.  I loved the way that overcoming an obstacle led to such creativity.  Observing Cally directing was also a privilege. I noted how little she intervened in the action, trusting in the skill and instinct of her cast, and remaining a calm and grounding influence in the process.

As curtain up approached, the atmosphere in the green room began to change. The relaxed banter stopped  and a nervous energy filled the room.  Some talked more, some talked less. Costumes were changed into, props located, make up applied. I left five minutes before curtain up to go and sit out front.

The pieces played to a full and appreciative audience. Writers joined the cast on stage for a short Q & A, gave the context to the genesis of their pieces and asked for audience feedback.  They were given useful insights and ideas for development.  Once the applause and the congratulations finished, it was back to the hard work of clearing stage and set.

With much gratitude to all for allowing me to spend a day with them, and be part of the thrilling rollercoaster that is StageWrite, I said my thanks and farewells.  I felt proud to have been part of the StageWrite family for a day.

 

 

 

SW: now and beyond

We’re back from a brilliant weekend of StageWrite London, having spent Friday and Saturday rehearsing and performing at Stanley Halls in North Norwood.  Our theatre space was the Assembly Room, a small but perfectly formed 40 seater studio into which the four selected pieces transferred beautifully, having been staged at The Place in Bedford last week.

Thanks to our incredible, good-humoured and hard-working ensemble, our technician Simon (who is an actual wizard of theatre tech and made it all look and sound great), the writers themselves for submitting their plays in the first place, the staff at the venues, who were wonderfully supportive, and of course the essential ingredient – our smashing audiences.

Now what??  In short, we can let you into a not-very-well-kept secret: there’s going to be more StageWrite this year.  That’s not only because we were able to take the shows to London as well as starting in Bedford, but also because the lovely people at Bedfringe have programmed us as part of the festival on 22nd and 23rd July.  AND, on 24th and 25th July, one of the plays from SW 2018, Little Shining Eyes, is being staged as a fully developed production.  For information and tickets, click the link: http://www.bedfringe.com

 

Programming info

Here’s all the info you need to plan your StageWrite 2019 experience…

Thursday 9th May Bedford/Saturday 18thMay London

A.D.A.M. by Lewis Wood  Victor is brilliant.  He’s successfully building artificial intelligence.  But his mental health affects both his ability to cope, and his key relationships with friends Elizabeth and Henry.  A.D.A.M. is a modern adaptation of the Frankenstein story, where Victor has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

We Are Stronger Together by Matthew Fisher  The British Government has failed to keep its citizens safe. The terrorist group, Unity, has invaded the country. Letum and Sancus, formally just ‘numbers’, are now two of the group’s elite, and Letum is starting to question the morals of Unity and its Commander.  Along their way they meet Sarah, Jeff and Peter.  Do they pose a threat, or are they just trying to survive?

Friday 10thMay Bedford/Friday 17thMay London

The Murder of the Servants by Martin Keady   Lomax and Hendry serve the King.  Their job is to keep him safe and watch over his bed chamber. Lomax is committed to diligence and reputation, while Hendry is, well, a little more laid back.  But both know that all hell will break loose if either of them is caught with blood on their hands…  ‘The Murder of the Servants’ is the story of Duncan’s servants in ‘Macbeth’, framed for the murder of the King.

Play Lady K by Anne Atkins  The Withers are a clergy family living in a vicarage.  It’s the weekend of Kate’s hen party and her girlfriends will be staying overnight, as well as one close male friend from university, James, who is required to wear drag for the weekend to pass as a hen. Meanwhile, Kate’s ultra-respectable fiancé, Robert, has been set up to arrive at the vicarage as the buff butler, from an entirely spurious company called Butlers in Balaclavas – so that he won’t be recognised, of course.  What could possibly go wrong..?!

 

Ticket prices: £8 (£6 concessions). Book online:

http://www.theplacebedford.org.uk/

https://www.stanleyhalls.org.uk/

Tickets not yet on sale on Stanley Halls web site at time of posting.  Please keep checking!

Writers announced!

Congratulations to our four successful writers for StageWrite 2019!  Here they are, in alphabetical order – followed by the title of their play:

Anne Atkins (‘Play Lady K’). The Withers are a clergy family living in a Victorian working vicarage.  It’s the weekend of Kate’s hen party and her girlfriends will all be staying overnight, as well as one very close male friend from university, James, who is required to wear drag for the weekend to pass as a hen. Meanwhile, Kate’s ultra-respectable fiancé, Robert, is having his stag party elsewhere… and has been set up by both his friends and Kate’s sister to turn up at the vicarage as the buff butler, from an entirely spurious company called Butlers in Balaclavas – so that he won’t be recognised, of course.  What could possibly go wrong..?!

Matthew Fisher (‘We Are Stronger Together’). The British Government has failed to keep its citizens safe. The terrorist group, Unity, has invaded the country. Letum and Sancus used to just be numbers, but now they’re two of the group’s elite, and Letum is starting to question the morals of Unity and its Commander.  Along their way they meet Sarah, Jeff and Peter.  Do they pose a threat, or are they just trying to survive?

Martin Keady (‘The Murder of the Servants’). Lomax and Hendry serve the King.  Their job is to keep him safe and watch over his bed chamber. Lomax is committed to diligence and reputation, while Hendry is, well, a little more laid back.  But both know that all hell will break loose if the King is harmed, and if either of them is caught with blood on their hands…  ‘The Murder of the Servants’ is the story of Duncan’s servants in ‘Macbeth’, whom Macbeth and Lady Macbeth try to frame for the murder of the King.

 

Lewis Wood (‘A.D.A.M.’). A.D.A.M is a modern adaptation of the Frankenstein story, where Victor has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The story focuses around his struggle with building artificial intelligence, and is woven together with looking at the way his mental health affects both his ability to cope, and his key relationships with friends Elizabeth and Henry.

 

All four plays will be performed once at both venues, The Place Theatre in Bedford (9th and 10th May) and Stanley Halls in South London (17th and 18th May).  Programming information to follow.

 

SW 2019: dates and venues

Well, this is joyous – being able to let you know the dates and venues for SW 2019!  And, hang on…did I say venues, PLURAL??  Well yes I did, because this year, for the first time, we have the opportunity to take our selected StageWrite pieces to a venue in London.  This happy venture has come about through a collaboration between us at StageWrite and our friends at Good Wolf http://goodwolfpeople.co.uk/

You may have noticed on a previous blog post that one of Good Wolf’s founders, John, has been involved in StageWrite in the past as a performer and director.  He directed Serafina Cusack’s brilliant piece Failing At Failing for SW 2017, and Serafina is now Associate Artist at Good Wolf.  The company has a base at Stanley Halls in South London, where there is a theatre space, and this is to be our second venue!

More soon – including details of Good Wolf’s two shows for Edinburgh, which will be previewed as script in hand performances as part of SW London – but here for now are the dates:

Thursday 9th and Friday 10th May at The Place, Bedford http://www.theplacebedford.org.uk/

Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May at Stanley Halls, London https://www.stanleyhalls.org.uk/

Information about the selected plays and their writers to follow..!

Planning for growth

The approach of spring is encouraging us to be thinking about growth!  Plenty of plans and conversations are on the go for StageWrite 2019, and this year we’re hoping that, for the first time, it will take place not only in Bedford but also – in collaboration with good friends of ours – at a performance space in London.

We’d always hoped that SW would grow and flourish, and although its home is The Place in Bedford, a beautiful studio venue that has given us tremendous support over the years, we are starting to see where it may be able to go further afield.

Watch this space for news of the pieces selected for this year (the process is underway) and for dates of performances in early May.

Looking ahead

We’re pretty excited at StageWrite HQ, because we are now in a position to announce that the festival is going to continue in 2019!  We will be opening for submissions in September – which allows you plenty of time to get writing.  We are especially welcoming scripts by female writers, and casts that are female-heavy, but anyone can submit as long as their work fits the brief.

Another reason we’re feeling buoyant is that one of our 2018 pieces, Forty-Two Times Around The Sun by Chris Pike, has been selected for Dispatches at OSO Arts Centre in London.  Find out more here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/oso-arts-centre/oso-art-centre/dispatches-the-angel-rails

It’s a tremendous, intriguing, darkly funny play that was a huge hit with our SW audience, and we’re delighted that it’s gaining further profile.

 

Another year older, and we still love SW

Goodness me, it’s all over for 2018!  In a whirlwind week at The Place, with fantastic audiences on both nights and fabulous writers to work with, our four plays for this year were a definite hit and provoked some great discussion.  There are already potential developments underway with some of the work.

Huge thanks go to everyone involved – our brilliant company of actors, directors and technicians, the writers and all who came to support us.  StageWrite is an event after our own hearts, allowing new work to be seen and increasing the provision of theatre in the region.  We hope it will continue and have begun to discuss the potential of keeping it alive for next year!  We’ll bring you updates right here as things progress.

 

What’s It All About?

And that’s a fair question, when you’re thinking of seeing a play.  So here forthwith are the synopses of our four brand new plays for this year.  Congratulations to the writers on having their work selected (especially when you consider the fact that we had 63 plays submitted in all!)

Thursday 3rd May

Little Shining Eyes by Poppy Hollman: “We’re killers, Manny. And the thing I can’t get over is the arrogance. We think we can shape things as we want them. We wipe out whole families, colonies, species. The arrogance of humanity – it’s staggering.” Nathan has been a pest control officer for over 30 years. But now he’s had an epiphany, and he’s secretly harbouring a colony of rats in the loft.

Twistfinger by David Howgego: It’s psychic night at the Dog and Duck, “The Great Mary Smith”, a famous medium, is appearing. Things are not what they seem… a much darker side to these popular events is revealed as the audience is confronted by Twistfinger, an evil demon posing as her spirit guide.

 

Friday 4th May

Keeping by Simon Marshall: In sleepy Derbyshire divorced hairdresser, Suzanne, has decided to take it upon herself to cater for her ex-husband’s mum’s funeral. Her son, Jason, is back from university and isn’t sure what to make of it all…

Forty-Two Times Around the Sun by C. Pike: Samuel is in his late forties and has been imprisoned in the home of his Aunt Ena since birth. The outside world, according to Aunt Ena, is overpopulated to the point where there is no square inch of land that does not have a human standing on it.

 

 

StageWrite 2018 has landed

Oh yes indeed!!  This has to be our favourite week of the year…StageWrite week, where the theatre feels like home and we eat, sleep and breathe the new scripts that have been selected.  We have four cracking pieces that are being performed on Thursday and Friday evening, 3rd and 4th May.  Rehearsals kicked off this morning for ‘Forty Two Times Around The Sun’… I captured a few moments to give you a glimpse!