I often have my most profound realisations when picking food from the kitchen plughole of the restaurant that I work at. Several months after graduating from drama school, gathering mash and gristle into my wet fingers, I realised that as a ‘creator’ in a ‘creative industry’ my day to day life severely lacked any creativity. At drama school you are constantly encouraged to be innovative and playful but once you’re out and moonlighting in various part time jobs, that all seems like a distant utopia. Even when acting work does arrive, it’s not guaranteed to scratch the itch. It’s a tired topic, but actors really are bottom of the food chain when it comes to having creative autonomy and independence. Making your own work is offered as the solution to the dilemma – yet to do so can be a daunting prospect. I spent weeks trying to come up with a one-woman masterpiece, but the witty and engaging play I had in my head never quite materialised.
PLAY sprung from this restlessness. I say sprung, but it felt more like it had fallen straight from the sky to my lap – because without too much strain and struggle, the concept came together very naturally – and it has been snowballing at an alarming rate ever since!
PLAY is a new writing theatre company that champions a collaborative approach to making new work, bringing together the best emerging theatrical talent to share a PLAYroom for a fiercely fast-paced fortnight of devising and creating.
I write this whilst sitting in on rehearsals for PLAY 10, which will be performed at VAULT Festival at the end of January. Despite meeting for the first time only three days ago, the four people in the rehearsal room today (writer Sam Freeman, director Dan Pick and actors Molly Vevers and Thalissa Teixeira) spent the morning pretending to be dinosaurs yet are now engrossed in an informed debate about psychological welfare. PLAY 10 is one of eight that will make up PLAYs subterranean season at this year’s VAULT Festival.
With PLAY I wanted to give people the chance to challenge themselves. I wanted a collaborative process in which actor, writer and director had equal input into the writing and shaping of a new play. In an industry in which we’re constantly pitted against each other, I wanted to bring together creatives from a whole range of backgrounds, encouraging the formation of lasting partnerships for future collaborations, building an ever-growing network of hot young talent. I wanted to bring together actors of different heights, sizes, looks, ethnicities and accents, bucking conventional casting trends. I wanted the PLAYs to be polished and professional – not falling into the vague and half-baked realm of ‘scratch’. The people I envisaged coming to watch PLAY were not only those who worked in theatre, but those who more usually found themselves at the latest safe-bet sell-out at the National. At PLAY, audiences instead would watch the work of actors, directors and writers who in the near future would make those acclaimed shows at the National. Most of all I wanted to be in a rehearsal room PLAYing and creating and doing what I had trained to do.
These were all things that I wanted, but it took me a while to realise that if I wanted these things I needed to make them happen. As an actor, I doubted that I’d have the skills to carry it off. But actors succeed through intuition and imagination, projecting themselves into unfamiliar experiences and roles all the time. And so I find myself succeeding in the unfamiliar role of PLAY’s creative producer, learning as I go. I have learnt not to wait for others to deliver your desires: it’s possible to make the projects and networks your creative fulfillment needs yourself. In the (slightly moderated) words of that infamous 80’s self-help book, ‘Feel the fear and then PLAY anyway’.
PLAY will be at VAULT Festival 27 – 31 January and 17 – 21 February.
Photo credit: Richard Lakos