Sunday, September 10, 2006

Three of the Best

To Bolton last night and the Octagon Theatre, where the best three plays from the 24:7 Theatre Festival in July (evaluated by the audiences) were being given an extra run: the surreal and funny The Judgement of Mr Jenkins by Ross Andrews; Vegetable by Diane Whitley, the moving and highly topical tale of a woman trapped in a persistent vegetative state yet conscious of everything around her; and Neil A Edwards' shockingly raw play about the devastating effects journalists can have on people's lives, Canaveral's Lurch. This second run is a new innovation for 24:7, and it has been inordinately successful. The two scheduled nights at Bolton were sold out, and so the run was extended to Saturday, when again the house was full. Next year a repeat of the six best plays is planned.

Festivals like 24:7 are a godsend to writers and other theatre artists. Up to 24 plays by North-West production companies are chosen each year for the seven-day festival. It doesn't matter if you're a lone writer, you can still send in your play, and if it's chosen form your own company, and 24:7 will help. I did it two years running. The first year, 24:7 found me a director and with their help I learnt from scratch how to be the producer - the person responsible for making casting calls, setting up auditions, liaising with everyone and doing the marketing and publicity. Last year my experience was more communal: Sue Twist was directing plays by two of us, so we decided to produce the two plays jointly, and there was a greater sharing of the labour.

That's the point: 24:7 allows for all sorts of set-ups, and for people trying things out for the very first time. So three cheers for Dave Slack and Amanda Hennessy for setting it up and making it such a growing success!

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