Audience members don’t often realise how long it takes for a production to reach the stage before them. Sometimes it takes only a matter of months, but in many cases a playwright may have to wait years to see their creation live on a stage in a watchable, finished form. Thomas Ingham, the writer of ‘VIP‘, was one of the latter cases – we spent a mere eight months working with his script, but for Thomas it was a much longer process.
Thomas first started writing VIP whilst studying Acting at university in 2011 and even went on to produce an early draft of the play on campus. It wasn’t until November 2012 when the script first landed in my email inbox as an entry for the Manchester Theatre Showcase 2013. I loved the script and its ethereal appeal and so added it to my shortlist which was eventually sent on to our 4 directors for the 2013 event. At this early point I had no idea which script the Directors would decide to work with and could not allow myself to get too attached to any entries. It wasn’t until 20th January 2013 when we finally informed Thomas that we wanted to showcase his script at our event in April. Although only running for a number of days, our showcase has a very lengthy and thorough process, which reflected in the quality of writing and acting displayed at the showcase this year. A ballot vote declared VIP the favourite script at the event and it was then another 3 months before work began on the show’s premiere. The majority of writers prefer to stay in the background – they do not have a great amount of input into the production process, casting, rehearsals or directing of their play. As a Producer who also writes, I know how much it takes to trust someone else with your vision and I find it very admirable when someone is able to cope with this level of detachment. Last week VIP had its premiere on the outskirts of Manchester and I was very pleased to hear that Thomas was happy with what we had done with his play. We had a great time producing the show, working with the cast and the sell-out audience on the final night was a nice cherry on the top.
However, our next production has been with us and the writers a little longer. Women’s Voices was first submitted to me in October 2012. I had been directing a one-man play (A Parson’s Tale) written by one of the co-writers, Christopher Owen, and was very flattered to receive a script directly from such an experienced and successfully published Writer. Working with Christopher Owen’s previous play was a little different as I was approached by the Actor (Bob Young, who I had previously directed) for that. When I read the script I immediately thought of Clare Barry. Although I loved the script, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable directing the play myself knowing that there was someone out there, who I knew, who fitted the production like a glove. I just had to get her on board. I approached Clare to direct Women’s Voices even before she was confirmed for the showcase, and I’m very pleased that I did. Clare’s level of dedication, understanding of the subject matter and direction has been amazing and I cannot wait for the premiere next month. But back on the subject of the Writer’s (or in this case WriterS’) Waiting Game – Women’s Voices has had an even longer journey to the stage which pre-dates New Live Theatre. Not your average Manchester Fringe production, Women’s Voices was first given a rehearsed reading at the Actor’s Centre in London (where the writers reside, although Susan K Monson originally hails from New York) in June 2012 – the cast consisted of Eve Polycarpou, Alwyne Taylor, Eva Traynor, Joanna Foster, Kate Crutchley, Clare Oberman and Bob Putt (recognise any of those names?). It’s an honour to be able to present the premiere of this production in Manchester next month and also to be able to attach it to the inaugural Women In Comedy UK Festival, run by the founder of ‘Laughing Cows Comedy’, who are an amazing platform for female stand up comediennes throughout the UK – they’ve worked with acts such as Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Barbara Nice, Ava Vidal, Sarah Millican and Kerry Leigh (who plays our ‘Anthea’ in Women’s Voices). I couldn’t think of a better association for a funny play about female empowerment and equality.
Basically, writers need to have patience in bucket loads. Unless you’re one to write, produce and direct a play yourself (which, believe you me, is a huge task if you’re going to do it well, and should never be left until last minute or rushed) you’re probably in for a little wait before you see your play live on a stage that isn’t in your head. But if you’re going to attempt to produce your script yourself then plan, plan and plan ahead and then just get on with it. Producing a play is a huge learning curve which never really stops curving.
You can catch Women’s Voices 16-17th October at Jabez Clegg (just off Oxford Rd) and 18-19th October at The John Cooper-Clarke Theatre (above the Black Lion on Chapel St, Salford). It’s a fantastic play, and I hope the men can man up and come along to have a laugh, too. Click Here to Book Online.
Until the next blog,
Paul – Artistic Director