Back in 2016 two members of the Writing for Performance Group, Roger Boyle and Tom O’Malley said they wanted to have a go at writing a full-length play. The various scratch events we held like Crash Test had left them fairly confident with short pieces but the task of competing a full length play still felt a little too big for them without help. So we created Playpen Beginnings so that we could allow as many writers as possible a chance to take part. We placed a call for submissions of the first twenty minutes of a full-length play and devised a series of three day long workshops covering all the basics needed to write a full length play including character development, style, structure. We held a two-day event to present the selected eight beginnings of plays and opened them to an audience in March. We planned to select one piece to be presented a full length rehearsed reading but during those two nights we discovered that we had eight plays with amazing potential. Also that everyone involved in presenting the pieces; actors and some directors trying their hand at directing for the first time had enjoyed the project so much it seemed that we had only one choice.
PlayPen Get to the End was the result – the mammoth task of presenting seven plays as full length rehearsed readings over the next eight months – presenting one a month more or less. The range of styles and subjects in the plays is quite breath taking and we are very proud of many things in this project. Each writer involved in the project has been a huge journey of learning and challenged themselves at every step of writing. Katrina Hone began the project as a complete beginner to scriptwriting and now has a full length play with huge potential Space Oddity which explores mental health, humanity and space exploration. James Baker an experienced performance artist/stand-up comedian who regularly writes one-man shows created a challenging work about mental health which smashes through styles and theatre. Rachel McAdam a very experienced screen writer created a theatre piece in which she has pushed herself to explore theatrical conventions and created two amazing roles for actors. Roger Boyle has created a beautiful play which presents the challenge of two timelines working seamlessly to explore a daughter’s grief, Caroline Clark created a lovely piece of theatre which delves into family secrets and Tom O’Malley has met the huge challenge he set himself of writing a murder mystery which 13 characters with the mastery of a far more experienced writer. Last but not least Catrin Fflur Huws, the writer of To Kill a Machine has achieved something which has alluded her for many years now – she has finished her second full length play and it is an astonishing piece of writing. We are very proud that this “small” project has achieved so much.
But that’s not all – as we began the project we asked if anyone wanted to try their hand at directing. One of those who came forward was Denise Williams who has in the space of a year made the journey from a very nervous director to directing In Mother’s Footsteps. Watching rehearsals the nerves of her first attempt were nowhere to be seen and she handled a rehearsal room with the skills of an extremely confident and experienced director. Catrin Fflur Huws decided to try her hand at directing too and worked with James Baker’s play in a way which has challenged and pushed him as a writer and there is no doubt that the play has been fundamentally impacted by her directorial ideas.
We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of talented community actors who are willing to help us present these readings. But they too have enjoyed the experience, have enjoyed bringing characters to life for the first time. They have embraced and explored the journey with the writers of being there at the very beginning of the creation of a play and helping the writers Get to the End. They have been an integral part of this incredible achievement of getting seven new full-length plays written.
We look forward to launching PlayPen 2018 very soon – if you are interested in being involved as a writer, director, assistant director, performer or producer get in contact firstname.lastname@example.org