Sunday, 23 June 2013

Theatre Centre, Skylines Showcase and Conference on Writing for Young Audiences

Theatre Centre, Skylines Showcase and Conference on Writing for Young Audiences

Ha, my blog posts have been restored! I'm so pleased about it that I'll write another one.

I want to write about the Theatre Centre London conference on new writing for young adults, which I went to last week. It started at 10 in the morning, so I had to stay in London the night before. I decided to try St Paul's Youth Hostel, which is just opposite St Paul's Cathedral. It sounded lovely, and I was quite excited, and looking forward to popping into St Paul's cathedral. Well... things didn't work out quite as planned. The day before I left I was expecting my removal men to bring me three or four boxes out of storage, and they turned up with about fifteen (all to be fitted in one room, which was pretty full already). I unpacked what I could, and shifted boxes around, and, of course, this meant that I was thoroughly exhausted when I started out for London on Wednesday. By the time I arrived at St Paul's I felt quite ill with exhaustion, and decided to skip the visit to the cathedral, and go to bed straight after dinner. There was a really lovely woman who was a teacher sharing my dorm, and she felt the same, so we settled down, hoping no one else would come in.

Hmmm. There were people coming and going all night, and the huge fire doors made a lot of noise. Not only that, but there was the sound of glass being smashed outside through most of the night. The only thing I could think it might be was a collection for recycling, but I could swear it went on for hours. Then, just to cap it all it was suffocatingly hot. I think I slept perhaps half an hour all night.

Thursday started at 6.30. I'd booked breakfast, so I had that, but I still felt unbearably hot, and uncomfortable. I'd forgotten to take soap, so I had a soapless shower, and had to manage without cleaning my teeth because I'd have woken people up. I collected all my stuff in the dark, as the curtains were still drawn for sleepers, put on my clothes from the day before because that was all I'd taken - never dreaming it would be so hot. I have rarely felt such a complete sight. Then I made my way to the Canada Water Library, where Theatre Centre had organised the conference on writing TYA. After cleaning my teeth in the ladies I felt slightly better, but not much. I went to pick up a coffee, and to my relief, was greeted by Jude, who is a member of Cheltenham Everyman Actors' Lab, and is also a gifted writer. Of course... many of you will know... I have prosopagnosia, as a result of head injuries many years ago. I had no idea who she was, but when I admitted it she was most understanding, and she helped me by spotting people I should know, and pointing them out. This was a huge relief. She kept finding me too, which I really appreciated. Although my visual recognition is improved, according to cognitive tests done at the hospital, I can only recognise people now if they look straight at me. If they turn their heads to the side I am lost. Also, I do find that, with exhaustion, I can't recognise anyone at all. Anyway... the day began with a brief address from Natalie Wilson, artistic director at Theatre Centre, followed by a speech from playwright, Bryony Laverty. This was warm, humorous, and interesting, and it was inspiring to me to see a woman who had successfully built a career for herself in writing for theatre.

After this we had a couple of workshops - both with well known playwrights: the first with Rob Evans, who got us building models of places we'd been happy in childhood, and the second with Philip Osment, who worked with us to identify the problems of creating verbatim theatre from interviews with young people. This last was very interesting, and useful, and many people liked the first, though I don't find that sort of thing very helpful (probably because I'm not much good at it. :D). I tried to create a scene from holidays in Llanstephan, when I used to try and hide in the reed beds to do my writing. The only thing vaguely resembling reeds were bamboo sticks, so I took a piece of yellow card and sat on it, holding up a few sticks and peeping through them. Rob told me I should create something to represent what was happening nearby, so I made a very messy thing, with ripped up bin bags, held together with pegs. (Don't ask. It was meant to represent my family's difficulties, with my sister in hospital in Carmarthen!) It was so horrible it spoilt my lovely, happy scene. Rob thought that was good because it had made me more conscious, but I feel I'm conscious enough, and... um... I need my springs of joy to be unsullied. Usually I make things up when asked to produce memories to work with, because I've had bad experiences like this before, but in this case I forgot. I was the only one not to like it, as far as I know. Some people built wigwams with the bamboo sticks, and the person I was paired with tried to make a path, which I thought was a boat, when asked to guess. Ah well... He thought I was in a cage! :D

In the afternoon we watched the winning entries from the Skylines competition. Skylines writers were asked to put in a 15 minute script... in two parts. For the first part writers had to put in just the first ten minutes, and the second part - the last five minutes, was to be written after receiving feedback from the judges. I have to admit that I entered this, and wasn't even highly commended. The judges praised it very highly, and said they loved my humour and wit in the first ten minutes, but I must have let myself down in the last five minutes. Mind you, I was in the middle of moving house,for the second time this year, and fighting floods of tears, when I wrote that last five minutes, so I'm not really surprised.

I really enjoyed the plays, and they were excellent. Suhayla El Bushra wrote a very moving piece, (Sehr Cool),about two teenagers, who both had huge emotional defences, being lost in a wood at night, and slowly discovering who each other really were. The teenage boy reminded me totally of my second boyfriend, who never stopped talking in funny accents, or scraps of different languages. I thought it was very authentic and really loved it.

Kellie Smith's play was about a gremlin who kept stealing a child's toys. The actress who played the gremlin (Naomi Ackie) was absolutely superb, and the whole piece was fun.

Jane Wainwright wrote 'Life Mould' about a girl running a 24 hour web stream from her bedroom.

All three plays were well worth seeing, and I was relieved to discover that I'd been beaten by such good writers. I have the scripts of the highly commended ones to read, and am looking forward to reading them in bed when I've finished this. :)

This is turning into an incredibly long blog, so I'm going to hurry a bit. The plays were followed by a debate between several eminent people in theatre... Anthony Banks, Associate Director of National Theatre Learning; Jonathan Lloyd, Artistic Director of Polka Theatre; Purni Morrell, AD of Unicorn Theatre, and Natalie Wilson, AD of Theatre Centre. After this we all, supposedly chilled over a glass of wine, and chatted to each other. My visual sense had 100% gone. Jude had to leave early for a bus, and I spent most of my time standing on the edge, staring into the crowd and trying desperately to pick out people I knew. Once I went up to someone and then thought I'd got the wrong person, and turned my back on them, just as, I think, they started to speak to me. I then went into intense worry mode, and started thinking I was offending someone I really like and admire. I left, as I left the hostel, feeling like a seed spat out by a fruit that couldn't hold me, caught a bus to Victoria, and then walked about for a while before getting the megabus home. I'm glad I went, even though it was difficult. I'm absolutely determined to learn anything I can that will make my work suitable, not just for school halls, but for big theatres. From the point of view of networking I probably offended people, and created a bad impression, but I hope that what I learned will outweigh that.

Better go,

Pippa x

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