BUW founder member Roy Chatfield finalist in inaugural Terrence Rattigan Society award.

Roy Chatfield

Roy Chatfield

Andover Playwright Roy Chatfield is one of the seventeen writers shortlisted for the inaugural Terrence Rattigan Society award. His play Going Back is an updating of Ulysses return to modern-day Central Africa.
The judges – writer Julian Fellowes, actor David Suchet, director Thea Sharrock and academic Dan Rebellato – are now reading the shortlisted entries and will announce their decision at an awards ceremony at Harrow School on 26 September 2017.
The winner receives a cash prize and a guaranteed production of at least six nights at the Sara Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs, with a rehearsed reading on offer to the runner-up.
Roy said ‘I’m delighted to be shortlisted. As the closing date for entries was last August, I’d assumed I hadn’t made it. They obviously read all the scripts thoroughly.’
The competition received 197 entries, of which seven were ineligible – always read the rules! Competitions such as this are a good way of promoting your work as they aim to discover unknown writers.

Pop up play writing courses in your own home, village hall or care home

POP UP PLAYWRITING with Angela Street

Angela Street contacted Big Up Words with an idea to help writers in rural areas. This is a pilot scheme and could be a feature if there is enough uptake. Anglea runs many successful playwriting groups in Salisbury and her pupils are having plays produced in London and closer to home. Her new venture brings the writing closer to your home.

Angela Street

Angela Street

POP UP PLAYWRITING

Popping up anywhere in the South West. Providing affordable writing workshops. The workshop comes to you, saving you travel costs and time.

Days available from 5 May: Mondays, Tuesdays, some Saturdays, Sundays

Half days:  10:00 – 1:00   Whole days:  10:00 – 4:00    Evenings:  any 3 hours.

If you’d like to host a workshop in your house or on your premises, and you have space suitable for at least 7 writers, maximum 15 writers, please contact me to arrange a time and date.

As the host, you will get the workshop free and can choose the topic or general theme most suitable for your group if you wish. You must agree on this with the tutor 6 weeks before the date of the workshop so that the tutor can prepare relevant material and advertising copy.

Topics may include: creating characters, dialogue, structure, conflict, stage directions, subtext, unblocking, comedy, voice, the absurd. Writing monologues, writing for radio, writing comedy sketches, generating new ideas

Workshops can cover basic techniques for writers new to playwriting through to advanced editing skills, or take the form of a tutored writing retreat.

The tutor will advertise the workshop locally in consultation with the host and will provide flyers for the host to hand out or distribute locally.

The host is asked to provide teas/coffees and in the case of full days either an undramatic lunch or advise participants to bring their own packed lunch.

The host must inform the tutor if they have dogs, cats or other livestock on the premises and agree with appropriate health and safety measures with the tutor.

All workshops are smoke-free, including vapes, and mobile free zones. There will be scheduled breaks.

Access and Parking: the host will be asked to provide information, for example, whether there is wheelchair access or steps into the premises.

Workshops require a minimum of 7 writers to run.  If fewer than 7 people have signed up and paid, the workshop will be cancelled.

Costs: Half day/Evening £25 (15 concs)    Full day £40 (£25 concs)

Please let me know any reasons people have for not attending, such as cost, travel, childcare, access, time, topics covered.

This is a pilot scheme to find out if there is an appetite for affordable writing workshops in rural areas.  If successful, I will apply to the Arts Council for funding to assist writers needing financial help with fees or childcare, to provide rural workshops in wheelchair accessible venues, such as village halls, and also for smaller group sizes, with only 4 or 5 writers.  

 Contact: angelastreet@tiscali.co.uk  01722 322143

If you’d like to know more go over to her website https://angelastreetwriter.wordpress.com/

Unity Theatre show “Oh Noah you don’t” The Lights Friday January 22nd

Best one yet…

I love community theatre. Done well it’s a pleasure for audience and actors.  Tonight the audience got to see an ensemble community theatre show at its best. They loved it.

From the start of the show, the theatregoers heard toe tapping popular, sing-a-long songs, well sung. I was curious to see how the change of musical director effected the group, however the cast is confident in its delivery and we heard 4 part harmony clearly. There was one wobble at the opening song of the second act however the audience knew the song so well, we sang along in harmony with gusto so I doubt anyone actually noticed.

I am biased because I staged managed for two of Unity’s shows, to introduce my son to live theatre. Thinking about what could be improved I realised the whole show was excellent and any improvements are just little picky things that most audience members wouldn’t bother with because they had a great time.

The show was well written for family entertainment with the right balance of slapstick, tap dance, song and dance routines, jokes for the kids and jokes for the mums and dads. It was English pantomime at its best with a big hearted dame, a comedy side kick, a zoo load of things to do for all the actors and lots and lots and lots of puns.

Special mention to John Seculina, as Noah, who is a humble actor who can hold an audience enthralled. When John scolded God because Noah thought it was a cold call the audience were in stitches. We enjoyed Noah’s family mopping the arc and Yvonne West as the Raven.

What we loved most of all was the children. Unity’s strength is the cast’s ability to let anyone have a go. Two of my special needs actors from The Brilliant Drama group are regular members. Unity have a strong children’s section and this year the children enchanted the audience.

There is an element of “Oh they are so adorable,” and “Look that’s my son/daughter,”. It’s that wonderful pride you feel at the school play.  However this year the children scenes were competing with the adult’s scenes for professionalism and polish.  The doves modern dance scene took our breath away, the children’s singing was fab and the dialogue made us laugh.

I just wish The Lights surround sound and hand help mic’s had a better range. We strained to hear the softer spoken children at the back. It was a shame because they were fantastic actors and special mention to the chickens. My other picky point was mid point there was a long  dance number where the foxes chased the chickens. The stage was very full and there was so much to look at, a lot of people missed the foxes stage action with the chickens, which was a pity because it was very funny.

It helped the script was balanced and clipped along at a rate. The audience felt so at home, the children in the audience became funny hecklers. Sharon O’Leary worked hard in her slapstick scenes with Jez Jameson. I could hear the children giggling away, just waiting to see what mischief the actors would get up to next.

It was a pleasure to watch a cross section of Andover’s community enjoying their friends and family having fun on stage. This year Unity’s Oh Noah you don’t was the best pantomime show they’ve done. They will have to work very hard to top this one next year.

Poster for the show

Poster for the show

Andover comes alive at The Lights

Come along to The Lights 10 February 2016 to see five professional actors bring alive Andover in the

1960’s, a decade that changed the town for ever.

Based on the memories of local people, And Now We Tell Our Tale was originally written by Roy

Chatfield as a youth theatre piece for fifty-four children and young adults successfully staged last

February. Roy has now rewritten it for five professional actors, and includes additional stories from

the interviews.

The five actors selected are

Nick Bull

Charlotte Ellis

Verity Hewlett

Sharon O’Leary

Fraser Wilson

Director John Baxter is looking forward to working with this enthusiastic and experienced team of

actors. ‘It is an event in itself that we’re bringing professional actors into local schools. That it’s a piece

of theatre about Andover and created wholly in Andover makes it unique.’

In addition to the public performance, the cast will be giving performances and workshops in local

schools.

The Performance begins at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £5 (concessions £3), obtainable from The Lights.

There will also be a Q & A session with the cast and team after the performance.

The project is supported by HCC, TVBC, Test Valley Arts Foundation and The Lights.

Review of Metamorphosis by Ben Johnson.

Ben reading to us from his show

Ben reading to us from his show

 

Ben Johnson’s first poetry show is a philosophical dialogue on creation and robotic life. We meet Herbert who’s life has such an impact on a curious boy, it inspires him to create intelligent robotic life. Johnson’s narrative is personable and gripping as we follow our young boys Shelly like journey on the death of his uncle and his thwarted desire to said uncle back to life. We move into a brief history of robotics and  on to a personal views for and against robots.

Johnson’s show is engaging and full of multi-layered interlinked images. His delivery wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 4, Click or as a television documentary for Sky Arts. The set has functioning robot Ozymandias, a robot Johnson build himself over the time he created the show itself. The body parts were printed out on a 3 D printer and Ozymandias brings the future world and its robotic challenges to life. Johnson shows us singularity in an operating robot when Ozymandias speaks in the show.

His poems range from straight forward free verse narrative to biting satirical ballads which chilling list poems about the rights or lack of rights of robots. The show is interspersed with video clips that juxtapose or support his narrative.

His dry humour also subjects T.S Elliot to the Turing test. The conclusion is hilarious. His tackling of human morals and how they apply to robots via Christian creation myth is a fascinating display of Chinese whispers on an ethical level.

Johnson’s future after he educates us about the uncanny valley, is to show us a world that first embraces then rejects robots. There are fascinating parallels to human rights history such as the robot taking the bus and the bigoted results. ‘No Robot’ remains my favourite piece listing everything a robot cannot do such as own a cat. Johnson pushes us to think beyond our limited view of machines.

I was interested to see how Johnson was going to present his show. He isn’t a theatrical performer and reads his poetry. His clever work around, reading from a book, which just happens to be a bible, works very well because he works hard to maintain his eye contact and engagement with the audience.

Johnson’s show is so rich, I would be happy to see this show several times, to fully absorb and appreciate all the varied views and points he puts across. My only challenges were he needed to slow down and leave gaps between his links and the actual poems to give the audience time to digest the rich tapestry of ideas and images he presents. We also needed the robots voice to be louder, the venue competed

On a personal level as a poet Johnson’s poetry is so finely crafted it makes me want to be a better poet.  Two of us have decided to write or finish writing our shows and have a live reading in April. This is the effect a good work of art can have. y I have a deep interest in robots and robotics and Johnson’s offering is an excellent interesting humane addition to the debate.

Cat Randle, Ben Johnson and Ozymandias the robot

Cat Randle, Ben Johnson and Ozymandias the robot

The Right Direction

I’ve posted about stage directions that are best cut. What should be left?

Whatever is necessary. This will vary from play to play. Some are more visual than others – indeed, that’s true of moments within a play. The important thing is they earn their keep. Basic directions clearly, but anything more needs to serve a purpose.

Some examples:-

  • Tells the part of the story that can’t be put into words. At the end of the first scene of Christopher Hampton’s The Philanthropist  a disappointed writer puts a gun to his mouth, presses the trigger and shoots himself. At the end of the play the disappointed puts a gun to his mouth, presses the trigger and…lights a cigarette. Read the second the second act of Noises Off to see this done for a whole act.
  • Replaces words. Theatre is a visual medium so actions are often more effective than words. Imagine X handing Y a document. Y reads it through and looks at X. A long pause. X proffers a pen. Y doesn’t take it at first. Eventually he snatches, signs and tosses it to X . You could have a dialogue along the lines of  – ‘I don’t want to sign this’ –  ‘Tough, you have to.’ – but silence conveys more menace.
  • Has a subtext. The character means something by his action which he isn’t saying. Here’s Harold Pinter in The  Caretaker. Ashton has invited Davies, a tramp, back to his brother’s room.Ashton: Sit down.
    (He has to find a chair as there isn’t one)
    Davies: Sit down? … I haven’t had a good sit down…
    I haven’t had a proper sit down…
    (He doesn’t sit down)

    The stage direction indicates that Davies doesn’t want to accept that he is the inferior in the relationship

  • Shows character. In the cherry Orchard one character has squeaky shoes. Why? So you’ll remember who he is  when he reappears after his first brief appearance.

Far Away

London theatre isn’t all £50+ tickets. One of the cheaper venues is the Young Vic, which this November is reviving Caryl Churchill’s Far Away with tickets at £10  and £15.

Churchill is a prolific writer and to me this results in some of her work coming across as staged ideas. At her best, though, she is one of our finest playwrights and Far Away shows her in top form.

So why should a writer make time to see it?  Entries to our Play-in-a-day competition showed many writers attracted to the surreal. The problem was tying their world to the one we know. The characters in Far Away behave naturalistically in non-naturalistic circumstances.

The structure is well worth studying. Three scenes, with a common character, Joan. First she’s a questioning child, second a milliner, third a soldier. We aren’t told what happened in between. Nor do we need to, as Churchill’s theme carries it through.

Finally the writing. Again three contrasts. An adult explaining away something a child shouldn’t have seen; Two workers banter as they design the most ridiculous hat; A family taking a break from a war. Each scene entices you in by hinting at what is happening. (How to solve the problem of writing exposition –  don’t write it). What we finally learn in Joan’s final speech describing her journey to safety that the world has gone mad.

Or is it just us?   The final lesson is how to how to end in ambiguity.