Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The importance of a first reading...

Sebastian Born, Associate Director (Literary), National Theatre gives his thoughts and  advice about when you read a script for the first time. 
"Approach the play expecting it to engage and entertain you. Try and clear away any preconceptions about what you might be looking for and respond to the play for what it is and not what you hope it might be. 

Remember that a play is a blueprint for a performance, not a description of a performance – so allow yourself to visualize the play in your own way (no two readers will have the same image of any character). Try and allow the play to come off the page and into your own unique three-dimensional imaginative space. 

Try and experience the play as you read it, try and let it happen to you. Interrogating your responses as you go along risks erecting an obstruction between you and the feelings which the play can generate. Read key stage directions, but don’t get bogged down in too much extraneous detail - a sense of where and when the action is occurring is all you need. Read the character descriptions, but again don’t get distracted by too much detail – who the characters are should be revealed (or not) as you read. 

Try and read the play at more or less the speed it will be performed. This will give you a sense of how the action of the play unfolds in real time and whether it holds your attention or not. Don’t expect to understand and appreciate everything about a play from your first reading. Great plays never stop revealing new insights every time they are read or performed.

The importance of your first reading is to discover whether the play keeps you turning the pages until the end (does the story grip you?); and whether it engages your emotions (do you care about the characters and their predicaments?)"

Sebastian Born
After gaining a degree in philosophy from Cambridge University Sebastian worked in theatre as a stage manager, then director. He became the Literary Manager at the Bush Theatre from 1981 to 1985, before becoming a literary agent. He worked as an agent for 18 years, latterly founding The Agency in 1995. He lived abroad for 2 years, before joining the NT at the beginning of 2007 as Associate Director (Literary). His  principal job at The National Theatre is to identify and develop work that can be considered for inclusion in the NT repertoire.

For more information about the National Theatre's Literary Department please click here

Friday, 17 August 2012

Advice on selecting your Connections play

So you have downloaded all of this years Connections plays; now what?

With ten different plays from ten different playwrights, there’s a lot of choice. While the age range and number of characters may eliminate some texts, it’s up to you to select a play that best suits and most appeals to your company.

No one is better placed to make this choice than you and your company, but we have a couple of tips for you to consider when it comes to making your decision:

Read all the plays

We try to provide as much time as possible between making the plays available and asking you to submit your choices. Some plays may immediately leap out at you from the
synopsis, while others might not seem quite right.

We encourage you to read all the scripts; this could simply confirm your initial intentions, or perhaps uncover a hidden gem you might have otherwise overlooked. Having an awareness of all the plays will give you a better feel for what Connections 2012 will be like.

Casting & Read-through

Once you’ve read all of the available texts, you might choose a couple of your favourites and perhaps even one ‘wild card’ to read through with your company; gauging their reactions.
We discourage you from casting your production prior to receiving confirmation of which play you will be performing. However, it is important to consider how your potential cast might suit the different plays.

We encourage an open approach to casting. Many of this year’s plays involve a mix of nationalities and genders, so work with your cast. Use the opportunity to research and develop an understanding of characters drawn from all over the world. Casting decisions do need to be thoroughly thought through, ensuring they maintain the integrity of the play.


It is important to consider any practical constraints there may be, such as your Home Performance venue and the amount of rehearsal time available to you. Choose a play that you can realize to its full potential.

Your choices:

This year we've added a new front cover to each play, which gives you some “at-a-glance” information about each play. This information is only intended as a guide and not explicit rules.

The deadline for choosing your top two choices of play is FRIDAY 21st SEPTEMBER. Once you have decided on your two options you must fill in the Play Choice Form which was emailed to you with your password.

Failure to fill in this form by 21st September will result a delay in the confirmation of your play and may limit the plays available to you.

We will let you know which play your company will be performing by MONDAY 15th OCTOBER.

Next week the National Theatre's Associate Director and Head of Literary, Sebastian Born, will give his thoughts and advice about choosing the right play.