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Tag Archive | "Mottled Lines"

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Britain was broken: writing the riots

Posted on 01 July 2012 by A Younger Theatre

Last summer, Archie W. Maddocks was inspired: inspired by the city he lived in, the things he witnessed and the people he saw. In this special guest blog, he tells us more.

Smoke spiralled out of a charred shell of a car while hoards of hooded figures regrouped around it, flames and bats in hands, ready to go to war with the police, the politicians, the system. Certain streets descended into chaos while others were left unsurprisingly unblemished by the hurricane taking over the country. The youth were to blame. Britain was broken. Right?

To me, the riots represented the same enigma as a well-crafted novel or slowly floating iceberg: those unwilling to acknowledge what lies beneath the surface will only see what is right in front of them. I felt that people would never truly look at the reasons for the riots happening. Being an angry, reactionary species, people would quickly point the finger of blame to those who they felt were at fault. It was always going to be the fault of someone else, someone removed from themselves, someone alien to their world. In reality, the August riots of 2011 were the fault of everyone. But, I felt, no-one was ever going to acknowledge that idea. So I decided to explore it in Mottled Lines.

I wrote Mottled Lines because I felt that people needed to look at the culmination of the summer’s discontent from different viewpoints. The riots were not caused by one group of people. They were not caused by thugs wanting to make a mess. They were caused by a country-wide disenfranchisement. People sought to improve their lives in some way, and what other opportunity would they have? Let’s not forget, there were teachers rioting, office assistants, artists, university students. This was not caused by a singular group of people, this was diverse. People were unified despite their divisions by their similar feelings in the situation; they weren’t happy and they wanted to make some kind of statement. But, again, unless people were willing to look beneath the surface of things, they would only see what was right in front of them.

I can remember reading people blaming other factions of society for why the riots occurred and thinking, “So, what, you didn’t have any impact on the lives of other people?” Whenever a substantial and varied group of people move and react in the same way to something, there has to be more than one source. There couldn’t just have been a sole reason that people got up and took to the streets. The issue was complicated, yet people tried to make it simpler by suggesting that it was the fault of someone else. The ever-elusive ‘other’.

I wanted to take a look at different archetypes in society and try and think about what they thought about the riots. Why they thought that these “incidents” occurred. It led me to the conclusion that everyone has this idea that their word is gospel, while the voices of others are misinformed. Each character in Mottled Lines presents a different viewpoint about why the riots happened. Each character also makes it clear what they think about the other members of society. Looking at it from different angles brought a fuller picture of how the riots may have occurred.

It’s always a good idea to look at things through the eyes of others, to try and see something from another person’s viewpoint, no matter how alien that may seem. Not only does that make you understand them a little bit better, it makes you more aware of yourself and how you may be perceived. This was essential to the thinking behind Mottled Lines; I wanted to explore the real thoughts and opinions of those who don’t usually get heard. Some of the characters in the play are listened to, but none of them are truly heard.

Society would work if people took the time to hear other people. Real talk, how is some rich Bullingdon-boy nob-end going to even try and relate to a road man that has to do x y and z to survive? How is someone in a perfect little bubble going to understand the problems that policemen have to go through on a day-to-day basis? How is anyone going to understand anyone but themselves and the people like themselves unless they hear the others? And how will people ever get heard without communication? This play investigates the idea of communication and suggests that there is a lack of it in our society due to the prevalence of fear.

Mottled lines is fundamentally a play about fear. How fear can run the lives of people and motivate them to do things they would never usually do. And that’s what I think happened with the riots. During the years before that fateful summer, there was a distinctive atmosphere in the air. My friends and I all felt it. Other people must have as well. Whether that was fear or foreboding I can’t say, but there was something out of the ordinary there.

What caught my eye in regards to the riots was that I saw people were united by their divisions. They were united in their fight against something. Or, their fight for something. But they were united. And they were all most definitely fighting. I wanted to capture that essence in the play, and although there characters are juxtaposed against each other, and alienated from one another, they are all essentially united by their division. A division that has been born from fear.

“When there’s a gap left in understanding, that’s when people let the fear breed”. And where else are we left to go if people are afraid of one another? The most common reaction to something we don’t understand or something we fear is to try and kill it, to destroy. If people fear other people in their society, will that not eventually culminate into some kind of event that resembles a riot?

Come and see Mottled Lines and find out what happens when you let the fear breed…

Mottled Lines plays at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, from 10 to 14 July. For tickets and more information, visit the theatre’s website here. You can follow Archie on twitter @AWMDX.

Image credit: Archie W Maddocks

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Writing for the round: Orange Tree Theatre’s newest writer

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Marése O'Sullivan

23-year-old Archie W. Maddocks’s first professional play, Mottled Lines, is about to take to the stage at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. After months of writing, casting and rehearsals, he sat down with the play’s director, Henry Bell to talk about the production, his previous writing experience and why the play will take everyone by surprise.

First of all, could you tell us about your writing background and what sparked your passion for words?

Archie Maddocks: Well, I came from a family of actors. I’ve always been very interested in stories. They take you into a completely different world, which I’m fascinated by, and I love to entertain. I guess that’s why I got into writing… I can take over the world! Originally, I wanted to be a wrestler – that didn’t go well, as you can see!

Your play is based on the August 2011 London riots. It’s been described on the Orange Tree Theatre’s website as “the reasons behind the carnage”. So where did your initial idea come from?

AM: It’s about the riots, but it’s fundamentally about fear. The reason behind the riots, in my mind, was a breakdown in communication between different people in society. I think unless they’re cut from the same cloth, [there is a lack of] respect for each other. Each character is an archetypal member of society. All the characters speak the truth, in a sense, but they speak their own version of the truth. They have their own grounding in the play, and their own reasons for being where they are.

At what point after the riots did you decide, “I’ll write a play about this”? Was it a conscious decision?

AM: It wasn’t really. I’m part of the Orange Tree Theatre’s Writers’ Group, which is brilliant. We write response plays to the ones they put on at the Orange Tree. [A particular one that we focused on] was called The Conspirators, about paranoia in society and political awareness. I thought it really resonated at the time, with so much paranoia in this political climate, and I wrote 23 pages as a response play.

Henry Bell: What really impressed me about this play was that Archie gives a voice to completely different parts of society and everyone’s got a point of view. What you get from this play is seeing how there are problems in all corners of society and how those corners don’t really communicate with each other, which is the crux of the play. You can apply that to [both] historical and future situations, I think.

AM: People have a perception of the world only from their standing, so they are never going to perceive it in the same way as someone else.

What was the writing process like?

AM: I think I finished the play at the beginning of October 2011 – pretty quickly. My writing process for each character was different. The Thug was born out of countless frustrations of my friends and I, from people on the street, past experiences and other people that we knew. But for someone like The Wolf, I just watched people on TV’s Question Time, noticing the way that they spoke, the way you could see the thoughts behind their eyes not coming out and they were structuring their words in a very specific way. So [my own words] just poured out, really. The play was born out of music, as well. I’ve got a very eclectic taste: I’ll listen to [anything from] hip-hop to classical. I thought, “What would this character listen to? Would it be this type of music?” A lot of it came from literature too, especially writers who were frustrated with their own society. [Those feelings] lent themselves to the characters.

How did the collaboration with the Orange Tree Theatre come about?

AM: It came about from the Writers’ Group. I joined in August 2011. We get to come and see the theatre’s plays, we [receive] feedback from our response plays and we get a lot of support. That’s fundamental for the theatre.

How do you feel having your first professional production at such a young age?

AM: I’m delighted. It’s amazing. I’m really humbled to see people coming in, speaking the words that I wrote and believing in the piece. It’s very surreal. I didn’t imagine it being like this. I don’t want to say it’s like a dream, but it’s kind of like I’m floating about. I’m very excited for it.

HB: Very well deserved. It’s a great play.

How experienced were you in writing before your involvement with Orange Tree?

AM: During my university years, I did a lot of creative writing. I wrote two novels, which have not been looked back over – it was for National Novel Writing Month – they’re probably pretty bad, but it just got the writing juices flowing. Then, I studied abroad in America. It made me look at things back here in England and want to write about my experiences. Post-university, I thought, “That’s it, I want to be a playwright”. That was always the goal. There was no better time to start building my foundations as a writer.

Could you tell me about how the play itself will be performed at the Orange Tree Theatre?

HB: The actors will talk directly to the audience. There’s going to be a sort of dialogue. We’re the only theatre in the round in London so it’ll work really well.

AM: It completely breaks the fourth wall. I wrote it in mind for the Orange Tree Theatre. The upper and lower levels make the atmosphere much more intense, particularly with a play like this. It gets the audience involved to a point where some of them may be uncomfortable, but that’s what I want. They will be facing these characters and, in a sense, some of them may be facing their fears.

HB: With theatre in the round, the audience themselves add to the experience as they are actively involved in it. The Orange Tree is a 172 seat theatre and you’re never further than about six or seven feet away from the stage.

How much input did Archie have into the actual production itself, in terms of casting and involvement in rehearsals etc.?

AM: I think I’ve been really lucky because Henry has got me completely involved in everything! Obviously he’s the director and he has final say, but I kind of feel like we’re a team. It’s very collaborative, which I’m very thankful for.

HB: I think that’s the best way of working with writers: get them as involved as possible. During the casting process, it is quite useful to have the writer there, particularly with a piece like this, which is very much from Archie’s personal point of view. What’s really interesting about new writing, as a director, is that collaboration with a living writer. That is what’s great about having a Writers’ Group that is in the DNA of the building. Archie understands the theatre, I understand Archie… so far.

AM: I’ve done play readings where the writers have been there and you can see in their eyes if they don’t like something, and you’re just like, “Oh no! What have I done?” I want to be very open-minded and approachable. I want to go on a journey with the actors, the directors and the producers. I don’t want to have an image of where the play is going to go; I want it to take me by surprise.

What are you most nervous and excited about seeing on stage?

AM: I think it’s hard to pick something specific: I’m excited about seeing the whole play, but mostly the audience’s reaction, particularly in Richmond. This is a play that the Orange Tree would not have done before and it’s a bold move.

HB: As with all directors, I’m excited about getting in the rehearsal room and getting into the depths of the text that Archie’s written with some good actors. There’s a real challenge with this play and that’s how we will have the relationship between the performer and the audience. It will be epic with a capital E.

What are your future writing plans?

AM: Well, I mentioned taking over the world earlier, but [right now] I just want to get more plays on. By the time I’m 25, I’d like to have my first series on TV, maybe written a few films and a novel. I’m quite ambitious. Ideally, in the next two years, I want to have on a minimum of another four plays. In the future, I want to do everything. I know that’s quite a lot to ask but I think if I aim high, then I might come close.

Mottled Lines runs from Tuesday 10 July to Saturday 14 July. You can check booking prices and information on the Orange Tree Theatre website.

Image credit: Orange Tree Theatre

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