Sunday, September 20, 2009

Best of 24:7

First, a PS note: I should have mentioned that if you order Too Many Mapgies from the Salt website, there's 20% off (20% off all Salt titles, in fact!)

I had a day out in Bolton yesterday, at the final day of The Best of 24:7 at the Octagon, in which we saw the three chosen plays, 5.30, Lub You and As We Forgive Them, and took part in a discussion after each, chaired by Bolton University's Martin Thomasson, about the plays themselves, the process of being '24:7' 'd and where the writers and directors see their plays going on from there. It was a very gratifying day for me, as I had read all three plays at the initial adjudication stage, and had immediately felt there was something special about them and put them forward for a full read. I must say, it's an experience that I don't always have in general: I so often find that the things I'm sure are great meet with lukewarm reception elsewhere in our dumbed-down culture, and it was just lovely to see these innovative, intelligent and serious yet witty scripts getting their just reward - and very nice to have had the power to help make it happen (which I must say was one of the great things about editing the short-story magazine metropolitan). And very gratifying to know that the 24:7 audience had voted for these three plays too.

Interesting, too, to see how they had developed over the two runs. 5.30 is the story of a young man alone in a train carriage when a menacing yob gets on and sits next to him. There is amazing tension and suppressed violence in the early part of script, but I didn't feel at the 24:7 preview that the production quite captured it, whereas yesterday the tone was perfect. Eve Steele had actually worked on the script of her amazing play Lub You, about a baby/child's point of view, and there were subtle developments in Joe Sims' fantastic performance of the murderer-convict in Richard Vergette's As We Forgive Them.

David Slack, 24:7's founder, started off the day with a brief account of 24:7's history which began with a meeting above a pub in Jan 2003, a meeting I attended - in one way or another, I've been involved all along: with three plays produced for the festival, one year on front of house, and the last two as a reader.

I was chuffed too to read that Exit Salford, another great 24:7 play which I read at the initial stage and put forward (and which was written by Lub You's director ED Jones) has been chosen for the Library Theatre's REPLAY festival in January. Nice the way things turn out sometimes...

John and I arrived quite early for the day - there was hardly any traffic on the motorway - and had time to find cheap parking a walk away from the theatre. It was really interesting to wander through Bolton and see the changes - John worked for many years in Bolton and I've taught at the university. So many buildings down, and new ones in their place. There was a time when my children were small and sometimes we'd go there with John in the car in the morning and have a wander round and a drink in the Octagon and then come back to Manc on the train. And suddenly yesterday morning - instead of seeming like only the other week as most of my past does, even my childhood - that seemed like a very long time ago, even the olden days... which made me feel so old!

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