Tag Archives: competition

The Interview Challenge

When I previously mentioned being interviewed by Rah Petherbridge after the 2014 Cambridge Theatre Challenge, I forgot one of the most embarrassing things about the interview.  It’s now up on-line to remind me…

The question that ambushed me was the one about publishing the previous winning scripts.  The only one I could remember was Brief Encounters by Mark Robberts from the 2012 challenge – and even then I couldn’t remember the title or the author’s first name (though I could have described the plot in some detail).  To add to the ignominy, between the recording and the posting on-line, Mark’s script has been withdrawn.  I hasten to add that this was without complaint on either part; Mark’s other works are published elsewhere and he felt (correctly) that it was better to have all his works in one place as it makes him appear a more complete writer.

The reason I couldn’t remember the scripts we had published from amongst the 2013 winners was that I didn’t get to see the 2013 finalists in performance – and a show always sticks in the memory better than a reading copy.  So, for completeness, herewith a list of the scripts we have published from the competition:-

 2013 Finalists

For The Greater Good by Aviva Phillip-Muller
Missing by Sue Bevan
Daily Habits Mask Pain by Mildred Inez Lewis
Niagara 1952 by Alan Barkley

2014 Finalists

That’s Amore by Arnold Kane
The Proposition by Brian Coyle
Nightwalking by Frank Canino
Baking Bread by Ashley Harris
Politically Correct by Jennifer Marie Sancho
A Darker Shade Of Closure by Richard Charles
Up In The Air by Catherine Comfort
In a League of His Own by Mark Griffin

You can read them all in full on the Lazy Bee Scripts web site (that’s where the links go) and videos of the winning performances can be found via YouTube or the website of the competition which has now been renamed The British Theatre Challenge (even though it is open to entrants from outside the United Kingdom – as witness the previous winners).

While you’re on that site, you might also consider putting your own script forward for the 2015 competition; open for entries until the end of March.

New Isn’t Always Better – But It’s Crucial

Sky Blue Theatre - Cambridge theatre challengeI recently went to see RAODS production of When We are Married.  I went slightly grudgingly, not expecting to enjoy it, but actually I was thoroughly entertained.  The characterisation and comic timing were spot on.

To understand my apprehension, you need to know something about the play.  Time for a spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know the plot, look away now!

When We Are Married was written in 1938 and set in Yorkshire some years earlier.  Three couples, married on the same day, are celebrating their silver wedding anniversary when they discover that the clergyman who married them was not actually licensed to take weddings, so that technically they are not married.  This is a huge embarrassment to them.  How can they hold their heads up in their community?  It also leads to an examination of the couples’ relationships and to some of them wondering whether or not they want to stay married.  J.B. Priestley’s handling of the situation is textbook stuff – it’s cleverly plotted, the characters are well-differentiated and each gets a turn in the spotlight – and the opportunity to see themselves in the mirror.  The sharp writing brings out the jokes and particularly the pomposity of the self-made men at the heart of the story.

However, if you consider trying to write that as a modern play: it no longer works.  Imagine that three couples find that they’ve spent 25 years together not being married.  What are they going to do?  If they were going to split up, they’d have done it already – sad but no social stigma.  Instead they say “Brilliant!  Let’s get married properly and have a knees-up.”  And suddenly all the dramatic tension has gone.  Even the characters would no longer work – yes, plenty of people are still pompous, but they are pompous in different ways.  Staging it now, you have to play it as a period piece.

The same company put on the stage version of ’Allo, ’Allo.  Again, I probably need to say something about the show, but listen carefully; I shall say this only once.  It’s a French Farce with a set of characters who are all familiar to the audience from the television show: the way they sound, the way they look, the way they behave.  Essentially the stage show is trying to recreate something well-known to the audience.

Both those shows drew-in big audiences – because people go to see things they know they’ll like; because audiences look for the safe and the familiar.

The great thing about RAODS is that those shows are only a part of their output.  They also put on plenty of shows that are considerably less safe and much less familiar.  (From their recent output, I’d single-out The Collector and most recently Ella Hickson’s Precious Little Talent.)  Putting on shows that few in the audience have heard of is hugely important – because otherwise live theatre is reduced to museum pieces and impersonation competitions.

Theatre needs to encourage new writing, otherwise it atrophies.  But it’s difficult; putting on a show is expensive (for anyone, professional or amateur) – it’s easy to lose a lot of money.  Performing to an empty theatre is dispiriting.  Furthermore, not all new shows are good.  Not all experimental theatre will be enjoyable – that’s the nature of experimentation: a lot of experiments fail – but some will be brilliant and mould-breaking.

All of which brings me on to Sky Blue Theatre in Cambridge whose Cambridge Theatre Challenge has become an annual event.  It’s a competition – an international competition – for new writing for the stage.  (The main rules are that submissions must be in English, unpublished and with a duration of ten to thirty minutes.)  The shortlisted plays are all performed as part of the competition.  Entries for the 2014 competition close at the end of March.  See their web site for all the rest of the information you need.

Get involved!  Write something; go to see the final performances; seek out new material to perform or to watch.  The future of an art-form depends on you!