The 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic as part of the Old Vic New Voices programme is a bold and refreshing take on how creating theatre and plays can be. It is about time, or rather lack of time to produce something truly remarkable and completely bursting at the seams with creativity. It is like the National Youth Theatre on ecstasy, the Royal Court young writers scheme on LSD and the Young Vic Genesis programme on horse tranquilizers, which has been boiled in a creative pot to produce the ultimate theatre drug known to thespians: The 24 Hour Plays.
The challenge is to write, direct, produce, and act a new play in 24 hours. Simple aye? With 7 writers, 7 directors, 31 actors, and 7 producers this is no easy task, and the pressure is really on as come 7:30pm a sold out audience take their seats in the Old Vic Theatre to see the outcome. This is the ultimate test. Almost a right of passage into the theatre industry.
From the moment you step inside the Old Vic there is a sense of excitement, the atmosphere is alive with every sort of emotion possible being emitted from every member of audience. There are last minute panics happening in one direction whilst another see’s a family pointing proudly at the daughter in the programme. I can’t remember the last time I was in a theatre that had so much anticipation around a performance(s), and such joy I took in noting that the majority of the audience are young theatre professionals.
It is clear that the 24 Hour Plays is about talent, nurturing and exposing it raw. This is theatre at its best.
What I admire most about the manner in which the plays come across is a real sense of young professionals going through an intense regime and putting on, what can only be described as professional short plays. The level of talent is rather spectacular, with an equally diverse set of plays being produced.
From hotels as a metaphor of sex and relationships, to the end of the world (twice), and the epiphany of youth summed up in 14 minutes – these plays are a reaction to the now, where iPhones are a sign of achievement and monopoly is no longer just a game. The 24 Hour Plays are the future playwrights, directors, actors and producers in spotlight, and they command the stage.
It would be wrong to single out individuals within this immense project whilst ignoring others, for there is no good nor bad plays, acting, or direction to be seen. From the programme you can see the sheer amount of people who have been involved and from an audiences point of view it is an excellent and diverse evening unlike any other.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 25, and want to get that feeling of being thrown in at the deep end in a professionally produced scheme, then the 24 Hour Plays is a must. With the Old Vic’s New Voices scheme enabling further extension of learning and support there is a continued sense that the Old Vic isn’t forgetting about those they have showcased.