Friday, 16 August 2013

Choosing your play...

Written by Anthony Banks, Associate Director, NT Learning

Welcome to the wonderful world of NT Connections! Over the summer, you’ll be making your way through ten new playscripts, deciding which is the best choice for your company to perform next year. As well as being quite a stack of A4 for your eyes and imaginations to get through, choosing the script is a decision you’ll have to reach by thinking through several considerations. You might choose a play which has a theme that you know will land really well with your audience, or a play which you particularly want to have the challenge of directing. On the other hand, you may have a group of actors who have been together for a while, and you might therefore be looking for something which has the right sort of cast size and make-up to fit them. Whether the reason is political, practical or purely artistic – but hopefully a combination of all three! – choosing the right play for your company is absolutely crucial to having a successful and enjoyable time next year.

As you read the plays, I thought it might be interesting and helpful for you to find out about how I commission them. We know that the ideals and circumstances for each Connections Company are very different and unique and that is why we always try to make the portfolio of plays as wide and varied as possible. If there is one play in the pile that suits your company, then we’re winning. 

The Connections Writers are chosen after lengthy research and many discussions with people at the National, our partner theatres and literary agents. Connections is a national programme and it’s therefore crucial that the line-up of writers and the places the scripts are developed reflect the nation. Over the next few weeks I will be taking you through how each script was developed to give you a better understanding of where the ideas came from, starting with details of Matt Hartley and Catherine Johnson's plays.

Ludovic Des Cognets ©
Writer Matt Hartley is from just outside Sheffield, and he wanted to write a plucky drama about youth unemployment that took place during one afternoon in a shopping centre. So Matt and I set off to Newcastle upon Tyne to meet a hundred young people and explore the shopping centres where they hang out. We spent a few days at Live Theatre, Northern Stage and The People’s Theatre Newcastle workshopping ideas for Matt’s story, and then returned to The People’s six months later to hear the young actors read his script.

Catherine Johnson wanted to write a play about partner abuse so she came up with a story and wrote it in the form of a letter which became the centre of a schools project which Myrtle Theatre company ran in Catherine’s home town of Bristol last year. Catherine observed feedback sessions with the young people who heard the story and then set about writing the full stage version, which included her writing all the lyrics for the songs. Catherine and I then travelled to Winstanley College in Wigan where the brilliant drama teacher Jayne Courtney prepared a reading of it with her students and also set the lyrics to backing tracks they created and sang along to. 

Check back soon to read about the other eight scripts, and to see video clips from some of the workshops.

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