Director of the Pleasance Theatre, Anthony Alderson talks about his new six month commitment to support New Writing, starting with #YouWillKnowTheirNames.

On 28 November last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that the UK’s roaring creative industries had made a record contribution to the economy in 2017. Smashing through the £100 billion mark, these sectors are now worth £268 billion to the UK economy. These staggering figures are drawn from the combined economic value of a wide range of sectors but, they often overlook the crucial role of New Writing as a strong, dynamic culture in the wider success of the creative industries. New Writing is one of the UK’s most valuable contributions and one of its most exciting exports. You only need to look at your TV guide, the lists of film nominations or last year’s Tony Award nominations to see the impact of supporting new playwrights. Playwrights are taking over TV screens with recent hits like Mike Bartlett’s Doctor Foster, Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls  and Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica is currently being adapted into a miniseries. Martin McDonagh scored Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri last year and Abi Morgan is behind such powerhouse films as Suffragette, The Iron Lady and Brick Lane. Even the video game industry has benefitted, with award-winning playwright Lucy Prebble counting 2014’s Destiny on her CV.


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But, recently, important concerns have been voiced about the lack of support for emerging, debut and first-time playwrights and specifically the significant decrease in output from many of the Arts Council funded producing houses. Playwright James Graham has been very vocal about the need to produce work by debut and emerging writers and this year challenged theatres to produce one new play for every three classics.

The reality facing emerging and debut playwrights is that opportunities are shrinking. Theatres are prioritising ‘safer’ choices so the cost to produce increases. The public subsidy available is reducing even as demand increases.

In 2019, the Pleasance wants to make a serious statement in support of New Writing. The result is #YouWillKnowTheirNames – an ambitious six month season which is, we hope, a significant contribution to the ongoing development of writers and text-led companies. Bursting with exciting, challenging, lyrical, daring, cheeky and compassionate new plays, all the playwrights and companies are taking risks in the way they tell stories as they tackle some of the great ideas of our time and share beautifully crafted human tales.

Half of the plays in this season are by debut writers or companies, including our opening production In Lipstick, the debut full length play from North London writer Annie Jenkins. This exciting co-production will see the Pleasance working with award-winning new writing company Up In Arms (Eventide, Arcola Theatre and Visitors, Bush Theatre) and independent producer Ellie Keel (Callisto: A Queer Epic, Edinburgh Fringe and Mrs Dalloway, Arcola Theatre). Together, we are excited to be able to bring Annie’s savage, funny, deeply loving debut which gives a heartfelt voice to the fractured life of the modern city to our stage.

Alongside this, we are presenting ten other productions which showcase the most original new voices. The debut plays Call Me Vicky by Nichola and Stacey Bland, Lilies and Sweets from Nathan Wright, and Ali and Dahlia by Tariq Jordan are joined by Don’t Look Away, the second play by NOVAE Theatre’s Grace Chapman, and the third production by Fledgling Theatre’s Christopher Neels and Callum Cameron, Neck or Nothing. We have London transfers of Fringe hits Model Behaviour and The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé, as well as London return seasons of #BeMoreMartyn: The Boy with the Deidre Tattoo from Manchester’s Hope Theatre Company, and Horatio Production’s Science Fiction Theatre Festival. Finally, Pleasance will also present the European premiere of Australian playwright David Finnigan’s Kill Climate Deniers, which won the Griffin Playwriting Award ahead of its 2018 premiere in Sydney where it provoked, enraged and delighted audiences and critics alike.

These productions all mark an important contribution to the future of new writing with UK, European and world premieres by some of the hottest emerging writers and companies from across the UK and beyond!

We are confident that, if you don’t know their names yet, you will soon!