A new writing season aims to find the best new talent in Yorkshire. Arts Correspondent Nick Ahad talks to the people behind the scenes.
What does an ideal new writing season look like?
That was the starting point for West Yorkshire Playhouse’s associate literary director Alex Chisholm when she was programming the theatre’s strand of new writing work for 2012.
The result is a ten-day celebration featuring performances of work that has never been seen before, discussions, debates, readings and workshops.
Working for the first time in collaboration with Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill, the Playhouse has expanded its new writing season to programme a collection of new writing performances and has commissioned two playwrights to work as writers in residence at the theatre during the season.
Chisholm says: “This season evolved in response to writers requests – there are multiple opportunities for artists at all levels to meet, mingle and work together, formally and informally. There is a terrific variety of work shown, and many chances to get involved through masterclasses, theatrical ‘date nights’ and open platforms. It is going to be an exciting ten days when we can explore a lot of questions around what theatre we want to make, how and for whom, as well as seeing, making and sharing the best work here in Yorkshire.”
Bingley based playwright Emma Adams is going to be at the theatre for the first week of the season, working on a piece called 360 Degrees of Hope and mentoring a young writer. Adams, whose work includes the Red Ladder produced plays Forgotten Things and Ugly, says being invited into the Playhouse is a significant step in her career and says much about the theatre.
“It’s an incedible opportunity and what’s great is that the Playhouse has said that I can work on whatever I like during the week’s residency,” says Adams.
“Even though it’s quite a short period of time, the hope is that this will be the start of a relationship and it says to me that the Playhouse is looking at how it can work with writers in a different way.”
Fin Kennedy is a London based playwright whose play How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found won the UK’s 2006 John Whiting Award. He will spend the week at the Playhouse, talking to people in the city and writing a performance piece for the first Friday of the season.
“I’ll be spending a week in Leeds talking to various people like journalists, artists, architects and local councillors who are in touch with the city, trying to find out as an outsider – I’m a Southerner – just what makes our greatest northern city tick,” says Kennedy.
“My approach as a writer is quite like an investigative journalist (I even sometimes call it ‘investigative playwriting’) and I have experience of getting to grips with many types of people and worlds beyond my own – from social workers to disapearees to Bengali girls in East London – and weaving their real-life experiences into drama. Leeds will be the latest in this list, and I will be presenting an initial creative response at the end of the week – which I hope will eventually be developed by the Playhouse into a full-length play for and about the city.”
Adams and Kennedy’s work are just a part of the season, which runs May 24 to June 2.
Flying Cloud theatre company will also be bringing its production of Napoli to the theatre and there will also be a new play called The Rain King by Sarah Wallis about an Elvis impersonator, Rabbitskin by Dominic Grace and a newly commissioned play in progress Refugee Boy, adapted by award-winning poet and playwright Lemn Sissay from Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel.
There will also be an industry day and a panel discussion with the subject “Is it time to get rid of new writing?” up for debate on May 30.
New writing highlights
Napoli by Flying Cloud Theatre: May 24-26.
The Rain King by Sarah Wallis, and Rabbitskin by Dominic Grace, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, May 19 to June 2.
So You Want to be a Writer? A series of short plays developed with the Playhouse, June 1.
Industry Day: chance to get advice from industry professionals from theatre and television: May 26.
A full programme of events at www.wyp.org.uk. To book tickets call Box Office 0113 213 7700 or visit www.wyp.org.uk