London Playwright Blog and Workshops: A Resource For Emerging Playwrights

London Playwrights’ Blog was started in 2013 as a resource for emerging playwrights.  They aim to bring together the latest opportunities, best resources, and good advice in one place.​ ​In 2015, the team formed London Playwrights’ Workshop Ltd as a non-profit company to help expand this support for writers through workshops, events, and expanded online resources.
​​Are you interested in using lyrics in your plays or even writing for musical theatre? Learn how to channel your playwriting skills in a new direction to open new doors. Coming up in November a half-day intensive encourages participants to open their imaginations and work with language in a new way as they explore the intricacies of lyric writing.

Playwrights generally have a good instinct for compelling turns of phrase, but turning these into songs requires a different skillset. Powerful dialogue, or even beautiful poetry, do not necessarily translate into effective song lyrics.​ ​Whether you want to write for a band or a West End stage, there are certain patterns and tricks that songwriters use to make their lyrics compelling and exciting.

This workshop will cover​ ​inspiration – finding and nurturing song ideas​, ​structure – finding the right frame for your idea​, r​hyme – when to use it, when not to, and the wisdom to know the difference​, f​eel & ​f​low – how to judge the ‘singability’ of your lyrics​, t​he basic ‘rules’ of lyric writing – and also how and when to break them. Where to go next – ideas for continuing to develop your skills as a songwriter

This workshop is primarily targeted at people who want to write songs for characters (building on their skills as playwrights), but that doesn’t mean you need to be interested in writing for musical theatre.​ ​Each participant will complete a series of writing exercises during the workshop, that will see them leave with lyric ideas and a clear plan for how to take these forward and continue to develop them into complete songs.

Acting out in People, Places and Things, a play by Duncan Macmillan

Duncan Macmillan’s play is a brilliant evocation of addiction and what happens to performers when they can’t not perform. Dramas about addiction can be exciting to watch. And then dispiriting. Exciting because degradation is fascinating to follow from the relative safety and smugness of an “appropriate” life, and dispiriting because if all that sad mayhem can happen to this or that character what’s to keep it from happening to me or you?

Emma, the protagonist in Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things, created at the National Theatre in London in 2015, suffers greatly, but she is also interested in how far and fast she can fall and still pull back before landing permanently in the gutter: she’s the star of her own tinsel tragedy. Like many junkies, Emma is a brutalizing sentimentalist chasing the dragon while also chasing some idea of love, which involves regret as well. She would “only connect” if she could, or if that kind of connection held her interest for long enough.

Emma’s an actress, a sloppily confrontational, drug-addled mess in a business populated by handlers who applaud inflated self-regard. She likes to be watched—she demands it—but in her state she demeans the honor of drawing the audience’s attention. Onstage, she jerks and twists her way through a scene about failed dreams and unrequited love. What play is this, though? Some of the lines are familiar. Ah, that sad, tall guy is Treplev, from Chekhov’s Seagull, so Emma, in a long black dress, must be Nina, Treplev’s childhood friend and an aspiring actress, Nina, with her dreams and her hysteria. As the scene disintegrates and dance music is piped in and, leaving her costume behind, she goes off to a rave in a world far from Chekhov’s, a club populated by party people who don’t want the night to end, if it is, in fact, night.

The next day—or some other day, who can say—Emma sits, stoned while trying not to be, in the lobby of a rehab facility in London. By seeking help, Emma puts us on her side: who doesn’t identify with the desire to be better, to be transformed, rehabilitated? We all need “work.” And Emma needs to get through rehab if she’s ever going to be hired as an actress again. Indeed, the desire to act is never far from her heart or her way of being: she signs into rehab as “Nina,” a distressing and distressed character who both is and is not herself.

Throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour play, Macmillan and make the point that drugs both allow Emma to compartmentalize her various selves in her real life and encourage her not to have a real life at all. Group therapy is useless to Emma until she tells her life story—except that it’s not her life story. Another recovering addict, Mark, recognizes it as the plot of Hedda Gabler. Who is Emma without a script? A broken girl who was close to her brother, who died young—and she couldn’t grieve with her parents, no way. Besides, if she stood up to the agony of her loss who would stand up for her? Macmillan has written a brilliant evocation of what happens to performers when they can’t not perform, when they live lives in which the curtain never seems to come down, ever.

Last chance to see Barber Shop Chronicles at the National Theatre London

Following critically acclaimed seasons at the National Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Barber Shop Chronicles is back at the National Theatre until January 2018.

This dynamic new play leaps from a barber shop in Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. Newsroom, political platform, local hot spot, confession box, preacher-pulpit and football stadium. For generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.

Inua Ellams born in Nigeria in 1984 is a UK-based poet, playwright and performer. Ellams has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre and the BBC. His one-man show The 14th Tale was the awarded an Edinburgh Fringe First at the Edinburg International Festival in 2009 and later transferred to the Royal National Theatre. Barber Shop Chronicles was longlisted the Alfred Fagon Award in 2017.

Ellams has an instinctive feel for the polyphonous rhythms of dialogue, and the way his characters use language is both a texture and a theme of this play, which threads in debates on Nigerian Pidgin and the use of the N word with casual ease. He skilfully maintains control of his sprawling cast, although only slowly do individual relationships become distinct and characters gain depth and pathos.

Bijan Sheibani stages the piece with an exhilarating dynamism in this brilliantly acted co-production between the National Theatre, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Fuel. The audience sits round the perimeter and the changes of scene have a beauty and wit of their own – sometimes fully choreographed as a formation dance (barbers flapping out their capes like toreadors, etc) or in a soft chant of place names, the country indicated by the lit-up area on the great wire globe that hangs above Rae Smith's set.  


Playwright Thomas Eccleshare’s Heather at the Bush Theatre London

The Bush Theatre is a world-famous home for new plays and an internationally renowned champion of playwrights. They discover, nurture and produce the best new playwrights from the widest range of backgrounds, and present their work to the highest possible standards. They look for exciting new dramatic voices that tell contemporary stories with wit, style and passion and they champion work that is both provocative and entertaining.

Brilliantly imaginative and theatrically original, Heather is a short, sharp play about language, prejudice and the power of stories. The cast includes actors Ashley Gerlach and Charlotte Melia. The production runs 6-18 November 2017.

A reclusive children’s writer becomes wildly successful. Her books are treasured across the country. But when a troubling narrative starts to unfold, we find ourselves asking: what matters more, the storyteller or the story?

Thomas Eccleshare is the Verity Bargate Award-winning writer of Pastoral and the co-artistic director of Arches Brick Award winning company Dancing Brick. Heather will be directed by Valentina Ceschi and designed by Lily Arnold.

Watch the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwU9it9ZkbI
Book tickets https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/heather/

Playwright Jim Cartwright Drama Studio's Quiet Revolution

Cartwright, whose plays include The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Road, holds three drama classes every Sunday. He started the classes in 2015 after reading comments from Dame who said she would not be able to afford to become an actress if she was starting out again."It made me really cross because I'm from a working class background," he says.

Reading articles about shrinking opportunities made him "like a bull with a sore head", he says. So his wife told him: "Don't get angry. Do something." He took her advice and set up the drama studio with the aim of bringing through more working class talent, advertising his services in his local fish and chip shop."I got a little card saying 'drama studio' and stuck it on a chippy wall. And I waited. And they came, and they came, and they keep coming."

Two years later, he has five classes in the two locations and has set up a talent agency to represent the budding stars. There is also a youth group. The adult class members range from people who have never set foot on stage to jobbing actors who are honing their skills. There are students, retired people, a few teachers, a former policeman, a fireplace salesman.

Cartwright's efforts come as privately educated actors like Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis seem to have taken over the TV, film and theatre landscape. Last year, The Sutton Trust found that 42% of the winners in three main Bafta award categories had gone to people from private schools, while Sky News recently calculated that 45% of the BBC’s best-paid stars were also privately educated. Also in 2016, researchers found that 16% of actors came from working class backgrounds - half the level of the population as a whole - and that the British acting profession was "heavily skewed towards the privileged."

Cartwright has turned drama teacher after more than 30 years as one of the most vital voices in British theatre. His debut play Road is currently back at the Royal Court in London, where it launched his career in 1986. He has also acted in TV shows like The Village, From Darkness and Coronation Street. With the Cartwright Drama Studio, he hopes to replicate the "explosion of energy and talent" that came with the Kitchen Sink movement of the 1950s. That was fading by the 1980s, he says, when he noticed "the floppy fringe coming back".

His students come from all sections of society. Some would identify as working class, some wouldn't. But he believes the mindset is what sets his studio apart. Cartwright brings casting directors and agents to see his students perform at regular showcases. Some have won small film and TV roles and are working on their own theatre shows and short films. There are no stars yet - but he is sure some have the talent to go all the way.

At the age of 19, Emma Heyes has studied acting at college and is attending the classes in preparation for auditioning for drama school. In the meantime, she's working on the checkouts at Tesco. She has already had enough acting experience to know her accent puts her at a disadvantage.

As part of the training, Cartwright tasks the group members with writing and performing monologues. He recommends one by 38-year-old Scott Brerton. Brerton reads it and it is a bittersweet tale of trying to remember what happened on a big night out. It is exactly the sharp, funny, full-of-life voice that Cartwright is trying to encourage. Brerton had not acted before he started coming to the classes six months ago. He has now been for his first audition and won his first role, performing in a three-night play in Liverpool last month.

It is early days for all concerned, and the "quiet revolution" may end with a whimper or a roar. But at any rate, Cartwright is on a mission to make it happen.


New Drama From Shore to Shore tells the stories of UK Chinese communities

Three stories, three lives, three journeys to find a place to call home. Cheung Wing is escaping from war, Mei Lan's had enough of the potato peeler and Yi Di wants the impossible: her parent's approval.

Taking place in Chinese restaurants across UK, Piao Yang Guo Hai From Shore to Shore, blends English, Mandarin and Cantonese to tell the stories of Chinese communities living in the UK today. 

Award-winning author Mary Cooper, with multi-lingual collaborator M.W. Sun, draws on real life stories from Chinese interviewees to create a powerful new drama of love and loss, struggle and survival, performed along side live music and great food.

More than a play, From Shore to Shore is described as a theatre event. Poems and stories, personal perspectives on chinese identity created during the workshop program are shared online. From Shore to Shore will be touring nationally from 16 May to 10 June 2017 to Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Oxford.


English Playwright Philip Ridley's The Beast of Blue Wonder at ArtsEd

Philipe Ridley is an English storyteller working in a wide range of artistic media. As a playwright, he has been cited as a pioneer of 'In-yer-face theatre' with his debut play The Pitchfork Disney, considered by many to be a seminal work in the development of the style, with one critic even dubbing it the 'key play' of the 1990's.

A great number of his plays for adults have been perceived as controversial, met with both condemnation and high acclaimed upon their initial reception. As a writer for the stage, he's also recognised for creating a ongoing series of plays for young people (The Storyteller Sequence) and has written theatrical work for children and family audiences.

In the world of cinema, Ridley is perhaps best known for his award winning screenplay for the 1990 film The Krays, a biopic about the Kray twins which was directed by Peter Medak. As a film maker in his own right he created a loose trilogy of horror films for which he has acquired a cult following. 

This month, his latest play, The Beast of Blue Wonder, commissioned by ArtsEd, will be directed by Russell Bolam and performed by this year's graduating BA acting students. The play presents three different stories from three different times, all hurtling towards the same thing. The thing everyone fears the most.. The Beast of Blue Wonder! To book your tickets https://artsed.co.uk/whats-on/the-beast-of-blue-yonder

Emphasis on New Writing at The Bridge Theatre London

London Theatre Company was founded by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr on leaving the National Theatre after 12 years. It will focus on the commissioning and production of new shows, as well as staging the occasion classic.

The Bridge is its home, a new 900-seat adaptable auditorium designed to answer the needs of contemporary audiences and theatre makers that it capable of responding to shows with different formats (end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade). It is the first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London's commercial theatre sector in 80 years. 

What is immediately striking about the first season announced this month is the emphasis on new writing. Of the first eight productions, all but Julius Caesar are new works. Equally noticeable is that four of the premieres are by women and that there is a nod to gender-fluid casting by having Cassius played by Michelle Fairley.

Balancing Act, Hytner's memoirs out this week, reminds the reader of the astonishing success the National Theatre enjoyed during the period he ran it. Hytner transformed its box-office, he oversaw the staging of hit after hit, productions such as War Horse.. The book reveals that we the audience take for magic is often technical expertise, and that nevertheless it is impossible to guarantee a success. 

However, at a time when the West End is increasingly a Broadway like shop window for musicals and spectacular diversions, the existence of a new independent theatre devoted to plays is to be welcome.

Playwright Screenwriter and Film Director Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh is a playwright, screenwriter and film director born and brought up in London to Irish parents. He has been described as one of the most influential living playwrights in Ireland.

Separated into two trilogies, McDonagh first six plays are located in and around the county of Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. McDonagh first non-Irish play The Pillowman is set in a fictitious totalitarian state and premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London in 2003.

A Behanding in Spokane is his first play set the United States and it premiered on Broadway in March 2010. Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth.

McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Woolf and the Woodcutter. In February 2010, an announcement revealed that McDonagh was working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.

Mc Donagh has stated that he prefers writing films to plays. In 2006, McDonagh won an Academy Award for his short film Six Shooters (2005), which is the playwright's first film. Six Shooters is a black comedy that features Brendan Gleeson, Ruaidhri Conroy, David Wilmot and Aisling O'Sullivan, and was shot on location in Wicklow, Waterford and Rosslare. In the short film, Gleeson's character encounters a strange and possibly psychotic young man during a homeward train journey following the death of his wife.

McDonagh then went on directing In Bruges, a feature-length film based on his own screenplay, in which two irish hit men hide in the Flemish town of Bruges after a problematic job. Released in the USA in 2008, the film features Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. In 2012, Seven psychopaths was released in North America.