There’s nowhere to hide (apart from in a cupboard!)

From Represents…. to The Pleasance: playwright Sarah Davies on how her short, Grit, has been developed into a full lengh play.

‘She deals with the world now with a grimace that to her looks cheerful, and to everyone else, looks like the final stages of rigor mortis setting in. She puts it on as she reaches the school gates and leaves it in her lap-top case at weekends. Pupils go out of their way to let her pass now in corridors, heads respectfully bent to the floor. Because she never checks her reflection she can’t see their view; that carnival mask grin and her eyes like dead things that float in ponds. Belly-up and sweetly rotting she goes about her day, the coffee-prep-register-teach-coffee-prep-teach-mark-coffee-mark-never-finish-coffee-mark day that stretches into months’.

Colleen Daley as Val

Colleen Daley as Val

I love the fact that I live in a world where I can say ‘Ok, I’ve written this play about a school teacher who has a breakdown and decides to secretly live in a cupboard’ and there are people who will help to develop it! My play Grit centres on long-time teacher Val. She can’t remember yet what she has done, but she knows it is bad. Bad enough to lose her job, and bad enough to reduce her world to the size of the school stationery cupboard that she decides to hide in whilst she tries to work it out.

Originally written as a novel, I adapted a section of Grit for Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…. (April 2015) and having seen it successfully up on its feet, was convinced that it could be developed further.

Simply, I LOVED director Marc Kelly’s take on my play. Usually in the process, the playwright will have the chance to attend rehearsals, but at the time, being based in deepest Kent under a pile of marking and only surfacing for occasional caffeine shots made this impossible. So I turned up slightly nervously on show night and downed a glass of wine so quickly that I fell up the stairs of the auditorium into the lap of a random man in a stunning display of clumsiness wholly unfitting to a night of feminist theatre!

BUT my nerves were unfounded; Marc and his cast fully captured my concept for the piece; hanging as it does on a Brechtian style including narration, freezes and multi-rolling , making me certain that there was scope for much more.

Rachael Olivant, Ian Curran, Miranda Dawe and Colleen Daley in Grit by Sarah Davies

Rachal Olivant, Ian Curran, Miranda Dawe and Colleen Daley in Grit by Sarah Davies, directed by Marc Kelly

Excitingly, Grit was seen by a producer from The Pleasance Islington, who was open to discussing possible avenues for development. With her encouragement, I began the process of developing the play in to a full length piece for a rehearsed reading with them. I decided early on that I wanted to retain the style, and I had a good idea of the overall narrative having already written most of it in novel form. There was simply the small matter of changing the protagonist from a 6ft 4 man into a middle aged woman, adapting the novel in to script form and cutting about 70% of the description. Easy!

Actually, despite these challenges, the task was incredibly enjoyable! Writing with a specific remit, cast and director in mind, using material that you have already created in another form, is a very different experience. On the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme, playwright Simon Stephens would often refer to the concept of ‘killing your babies’, getting rid of those lines that you love but that just don’t work. This resonated with me particularly as  I went on to perform a metaphorical infant massacre just to get an outline for this script! I couldn’t afford to be precious if I was going to even approach the idea of ‘showing not telling’, and so vast swathes of description were replaced with action and sub-text.

I also had to tread what sometimes felt a fine line in using my own experience as a teacher. It goes without saying that this is a work of fiction, exaggerated for theatrical effect, yet I still feel a strong moral impetus to make that clear. After twelve years and at times LOTS of pressure, I still genuinely love teaching. I relish the fact that every day I get to explore theatre and plays with enthusiastic students (and sometimes as a bonus canter around a room under the guise of a ‘warm up!’). But as in any job, I see the flip-side too, particularly having worked in a school environment, which was a markedly different experience for me. In the process of developing my play, I’ve discovered the reality of something that I’ve long advocated to my own script-writing students; the importance of real truth in writing. Here I am now, a female teacher, writing a play about….a female teacher. There’s nowhere to hide (apart from in a cupboard!) and that’s scary. And exciting!

So, I dashed off a first draft to Marc and the cast, roughly 45 pages long (I generally go by a minute a page for timings) and….found out that I needed to cut roughly a quarter of the play or the audience would need to bring thermos flasks and sleeping bags! That in itself was a challenge, but I enjoyed having to be ruthless, and I think that the script is stronger as a result. Now, we are at a more manageable length, and I have very high hopes of developing this play; simply, there is so much that I want to say through it.

Writing for theatre is like nothing else; you have a live audience right there, with the opportunity to create a specific atmosphere solely through action and words. There’s an element of risk that appeals hugely to me, and the director has patiently responded to me enthusing that ‘in my head…the whole stage is a giant cupboard, right, with different compartments that ping out at key points’. To be fair, he didn’t even blink an eyelid about the scene where Val is force to defecate in a box file……! Of course, his task now is to bring all this to life within the confines of an empty stage, and I have every faith that this will be achieved brilliantly! I WILL get that cupboard eventually though!

So, next week it is! The purpose of the rehearsed reading is to share the work, invite feedback and to secure a producer.  It takes place at 3pm on Thursday 29th October at The Pleasance Islington in London. If you’d like to come along, or are interested in hearing more, please email me to be put on the guest list – I’d love to see you there! : sjd_@hotmail.com

Sarah Davies is a drama lecturer, playwright, director, and reviewer for Total Theatre – follow her on twitter @TallTalesSarah

My worst nightmare!

Preparing to go on stage as Katie in Madjesty for Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday, I put the finishing touches to my make up. Lipstick on and dabbed, I stood by the wings and waited for my cue. The opening music, The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, fired up and on stage I went.

As the lights went up there was a howl of laughter, screams and wolf whistles from a packed house. What was so funny? We hadn’t even started yet. Why were people laughing?

And as I stood there, bemused, I felt an uncomfortable draft. With horror, and hardly daring to look, I went to place my hands on my stomach, now sick with nerves. My hands were met not with the soft cotton of my blue wrap around dress but the synthetic polyester and elastane silkiness of my big black ‘Bridget Jones’ pants. I stood there, the bright stage lights staring into my blinking eyes, heart pounding and sweat slowly inching down my back.

Taking a deep breath to calm my thumping chest, I slowly opened my eyes. I found myself, rigid and slightly sticky, looking at the streams of bright sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. It was Monday morning and I was due at the theatre for the tech rehearsal. With a huge dose of relief, I chastised myself for not managing a more original anxiety dream. I am a playwright after all!

Madjesty 11

Ali Kemp, Ian Crump & Tom Neill in Madjesty by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman

Thankfully Represents…Mayday went without a hitch. We had packed, appreciative audiences on both nights; six, fantastically interesting plays, all including fully rounded female characters; wonderful performances, beautifully directed;  and although I did flash my big, black ‘Bridget Jones’ pants from under my cobalt blue kimono, it was rehearsed and a part of my character choice!

Debs and I would like to extend our thanks to: Writers Brian Redmond, Paul Howard, Sarah Davies, William Patterson and Lizzie Bourne; Directors Georgie Weedon, Alice Bonifacio, Marc Kelly, Janet Palmer, James Callas Ball and Paul Kevin-Taylor; Actors Sharon Maughan, Amy Cooke Hodgson, Jonah Fazel, Chinwe A Nwokolo, Bronte Tadman, Coleen Daley, Miranda Dawe, Ian Curran, Rachal Olivant, Laura Garnier, Anna Brooks-Beckman, Roberta Morris, Sophie Mackenzie, Lydia Huhne, Gerri Farrell, Tom Neill and Ian Crump; Technical support Tom Neill, Paul Kevin-Taylor, Eirik Bar and Gareth Radcliffe; Photography George Riddell; Graphic design Stewart Calladine @arty_stew; Waterloo East Theatre Gerald Armin and staff; and Sam Hall with 17percent for continued support.

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Here it is: The line-up for the third Represents… showcase!

Mayday - Banner

We wish to extend our thanks to all the writers from across the UK who have sent us their work in response to the theme of Mayday. It has truly been a pleasure to read such a broad range of plays, all of which include significant female characters and in doing so bring theatre in the UK closer to achieving realistic gender representation.

We are excited to be able to announce the line up for the third Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… returning to Waterloo East Theatre on 27th & 28th April 2015:

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday

The Clearing by Paul Howard, directed by Alice Bonifacio

The Shipping Forecast by Lizzie Bourne, directed by James Callas Ball

The M Word by Brian Redmond, directed by Georgie Weedon

Madjesty by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman, directed by Paul Taylor

Resting by William Patterson, directed by Janet L Palmer

Grit by Sarah Davies, directed by Marc Kelly

Congratulations to all the successful playwrights, and we look forward to seeing your work on stage at the end of April!

We are welcoming Lizzie Bourne back to Represents… as she has performed in the previous two showcases and is now sharing her talent as a writer. Alice Bonifacio and Paul Taylor are also returning as directors for Team Represents…; and we are delighted that James Callas Ball, Georgie Weedon, Janet L Palmer and Marc Kelly will be joining them for the first time.

Our playwrights have been put in touch with their directors and casting is well underway.

All there is to do now is for you to book your tickets! Remember there is a £2 discount if you book in advance – plus you don’t want to be one of those people who we’ve had to turn away when the performances have sold out!

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday
Waterloo East Theatre, London, SE1 8TG
Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th April 2015, 7.30pm
Tickets on sale now: £10 in advance (£12 on the door)
Box office: 020 7928 0060 / www.waterlooeast.co.uk

Approximate running time: 2 hours 15 including interval.

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COMING SOON: The writers’ submission brief for the next Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…

Here at Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ we are taking one last look back at Represents…Desire with a very big thank you to all the fabulously creative people who came together to make it all happen.

“A celebration of feminist theatre that explodes any notions that it’s predictable or restrictive.”

James Waygood, Grumpy Gay Critic

We would like to give particular thanks to the writers, and not just those whose work was included, but all those who took the time to create and submit their work for consideration. With submissions from across the globe and three US writers included in the lineup, it has truly been an international adventure and look forward to seeing the relationships that have been forged flourish into the future.

Here are some pictorial reminders of the pieces, courtesy of George Riddell to whom we are very grateful – the quotes are taken from the review written by James Waygood and published on grumpygaycritic.co.uk.


 

Heart’s Desire by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman, directed by Emily Bush

“Kemp and Klayman do a wonderful job of using game rounds to establish the main characters backgrounds and intentions…the twist is quite a surprising one and is worth the pay off.”

Heart's Desire

(L-R) Caroline Loncq, Georgina Panton, Isobel Wolff, Jonathan Akingba


The Hidden Room by Patricia Reynoso, directed by Norman Murray

“An absolutely blistering and affecting piece, and possibly my favourite for the evening.”

Hidden Room 2

Radhika Aggarwal & Ariadne Barnes


Three AM by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, directed by Dan Horrigan

“Acted superbly by Klayman and Charlotte Couture as the two women on the edge, it’s a snappy little piece of bite and humour.”

ThreeAM

Deborah Klayman & Charlotte Couture


Nice Jumper by Daniel Page, directed by Alice Bonifacio

“Page’s characters have a wonderful little repartee going on throughout, and a slow reveal that has you wondering what on earth is going on right up to the last minute.”

Nice Jumper 2

(L-R) Anyebe Godwin, Dani Moseley & Lizzie Bourne


Would You Let Me Finish by Leon Kaye, directed by Sarah Davies

“Kaye’s lambaste of the TV psychic circuit is bang on form and incredibly witty.”

WYLMF 3

Nichola Rivers & Laura Garnier


The Work-Love Balance by Tom Jensen, directed by Tom Neill

“certainly the boldest and most experimental piece of the evening,which it pulls off marvellously well.”

WLB

(L-R) Emily Stride, Lee White & Rachel Dobell


COMING SOON:

The writers’ submission brief for the next Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…

The denouement of Desire.

Represents…Desire couldn’t have gone better. What a fantastic team of writers, directors, actors and technicians we had. And of course, all coming together at Waterloo East Theatre with the wonderful support of Gerald Armin. And then there were the audiences – the place was packed on both nights with friends and family; WET regulars and people who just wanted to know what Represents…Desire was all about.

As Debs was performing in Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich’s Three a.m., I took on the stage management duties. During Friday’s technical rehearsal, amongst welcoming a succession of directors with their casts; keeping a sharp eye on timings, making sure that everyone kept to schedule; running for teas and coffees; setting up the props table; and of course, feeding everyone Caramac cookies, I had a moment.

I suddenly became acutely aware of myself, where I was and what I was doing. Sitting in the auditorium, the tech for The Hidden Room by Californian based writer Patricia Reynoso was underway. I looked back to see director Norman Murray discussing lighting states with Paul Kevin-Taylor and Tom Neill – three men, who I originally know from completely different places. Looking to the stage, I saw two actors, Radhika Aggarwal and Ariane Barnes, who I had never met before, both were friendly and professional and as it turns out, sensitive and powerful performers.

Radhika Aggarwal & Ariane Barnes in The Hidden Room by Patricia Reynoso

Radhika Aggarwal & Ariane Barnes in The Hidden Room by Patricia Reynoso

And as I was sitting there in the auditorium, I felt such an enormous sense of pride. Little old me and Debs (actually it’s me that’s old, not so much Debs) had done this. We had brought all this creative energy into one room and everyone was so focused on the same aim  – a right good show, which it was.

But there is no time for all this self indulgent reflection. Represents…Desire has come to an end, today is Sunday and I for one can safely say I’m still in my pyjamas.

Tomorrow, however, is a new week and preparations will begin for the next Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents….

WATCH THIS SPACE

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What a dazzling display of dashingly desirable directors!

We are very proud to be able to announce our wonderful team of delightfully desirable directors:

Alice Bonifacio is directing Nice Jumper by Dan Page
Norman Murray will direct The Hidden Room by Patricia Reynoso
Tom Neill directs The Work-Love Balance by Tom Jensen
Dan Horrigan will direct Three AM by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich
Sarah Davies is working on Would You Let Me Finish? by Leon Kaye and
Emily Bush has taken the helm on Heart’s Desire by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman.

Having introduced our directors to the writers, it transpired that (director) Tom and (writer) Tom are almost neighbours, which we hadn’t realised and is quite incredible really given the international nature of this showcase.

All are working hard together, casting is close to complete and rehearsals are underway. It is now time to reflect on what it’s like doing this a second time around.

What we realise as we work towards Represents…Desire is the importance of a thorough debrief.

Bringing together …The Launch in November was very much a learning process for us – with six plays, six directors and six casts – so after the event, we sat down and discussed every element of the production, from securing our venue to curtain up, and figured out what worked and what didn’t work. We looked at how certain things could have been done differently and acknowledged what really went well.

From these discussions we were able to start planning for …Desire and, so far, so good – a much more relaxed experience. However there is still much to do, so it’s time to go and get on with it.

Don’t forget, get your ticket in advance for only £10. …The Launch was a sell-out so don’t delay! Tickets are on sale here .

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Desire
Waterloo East Theatre, London, SE1 8TG
Friday 6th & Saturday 7th February 2015, 7.30pm
Tickets on sale now: £10 in advance (£12 on the door)
Box office: 020 7928 0060 / http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk

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Let’s do it all again!

Waterloo east

It’s not easy producing a show that consists of 6 plays by 6 different writers, 6 directors and 6 casts but last Monday’s Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents..The Launch was testimony to the talent and professionalism of those involved in this project. The technical rehearsal, led by the wonderful Tom Neill went seamlessly and even ran ahead of schedule at one point – for those of you in the business, you’ll know that this is almost unheard of – and the show itself, to a lovely audience, was a great success. We are looking forward to seeing the cast and crew again tomorrow (24th Nov) to do it all over again. It will be great to see you there too! Join:

the cast of The Final Frontier by Sam Hall, Victoria Denard, Gavin Dobson, Tatjana Sendzimir, Debbie Christie and director John Mitton; the cast of Three Women in a Music Box by Dan Horrigan, Lizzie Bourne, Thea Beyleveld and Dani Moseley and director Alice Bonifacio; and the cast of Cause for Alarm by Deborah Klayman, Michael Walsh, Anto Cossu, Ali Kemp and director Emily Bush.

not to mention

the cast of On the Horizon by Adam Hughes, Amanda Croft, Amy Flight and director Sarah Davies; the cast of Dust by Sarah Davies, Suzie Preece, Beth-Louise Priestley and director Norman Murray; and the cast of My Bloody Laundrette by Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman, Gerri Farrell, Georgina Periam, Deborah Klayman and director Paul Kevin-Taylor.

It’s going to be another great show and come for a drink afterwards, just around the corner, in the Kings Arms. http://thekingsarmslondon.co.uk/

Get your tickets here: http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents..The Launch

Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London, SE1 8TN

Monday 24th November 7.30pm

Playwrights in Represents