…and the nominees are…

20 May

There is a bustling new writing scene in London theatre at the moment. It’s great to be part of, albeit sporadically. After having a short play performed as part of Equal Writes in March, I have another play, Cross County, currently shortlisted for Little Pieces of Gold. This is particularly exciting because I had a play performed before as part of LPoG in late 2011, which looked at the London riots soon after the disturbances occurred. It was a great experience and shortly after I finally got an agent and have had other short plays performed since.

Being on a shortlist is agonising in certain respects. Having been in the writing game for a few years I am used to rejections, most commonly in the form of simply never hearing back. But in the last couple of years there has been a tendency to publicise longlists and shortlists.  In 2011 I made the longlist of Papatango, basically being one of the final 25 plays out of around 600 entries (if memory serves). But I didn’t make the final eight, never mind going on to win it. That was achieved by Dawn King, who by coincidence was on my Royal Court Young Writers Programme many moons ago.

Shortlists undoubtedly ratchet up the excitement and it’s nice to know that you have escaped the slush pile. But having been involved in these things before I am aware that, ultimately, there is no substitute for being one of those chosen for performance. When writing for theatre you need to see your work performed because you can learn so much. Yet shortlists can make failure so much harder – so near yet so far. I remember entering the National Student Drama Festival back in the day. A kindly professor sent a very encouraging handwritten letter, stating how my play was on the longlist for the time being whilst he sorted through the other entries. Alas it didn’t come to anything. I occasionally wonder what would have happened if I had progressed. As it happened I took a long sabbatical from writing. Not meant to be obviously…

It’s not just London that has a vibrant new writing scene of course. I am having a rehearsed reading of an excerpt of my play Waiting for My Man this week as part of Script This in Lincoln. There will be five pieces performed and the audience will chose which one will receive further development. This is a great idea because commonly writers on the fringe have no sustained relationship with theatre companies. If you have a short play on you have an intense period of involvement, then it’s all over. But that’s theatre all over, isn’t it?

I was lucky enough to ‘win’ such an event some years ago run by Ten in a Bed, a guerrilla theatre company then operating out of Clerkenwell Theatre. My play won the audience voting by a single vote, and it wasn’t like I brought loads of people along to swing it (honest), it was just my partner and I. Well, it will be just me on Wednesday in Lincoln. I am looking forward to the event and working with people I haven’t met before. If anything comes from it, well, that would be fantastic.

Yet all this can distract from the main job in hand; the all important next full-length play. I am struggling to get the first draft completed, too many distractions. After Wednesday I will focus on completing it. As satisfying as shorts are there’s no feeling like finishing a first draft of a full-length play…

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