Summer Madness London 14/48 :The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival



So it’s now over a year since I returned from America and blogged about my experience of staging The Peacock and the Nightingale in San Diego. Where did it go?

On my return to Britain I continued writing up these blog posts and still have pages of my journal and adventures to write up. But life takes over and I’ve simply been too busy throwing myself into exciting projects and diversions, meeting every new challenge head on.

I was invited on a sailing holiday down the North East coast of Britain by my neighbour and fellow Yorkshireman and in my continued goal to say “Yes” to everything, I leaped at the chance. I knew this was where my parents had sailed many times from Whitby, our hometown and was keen to retrace their steps as a kind of homage to them. I decided to write a journal about this adventure too. On my return I discovered scraps of paper from a pocket diary Mum had inserted into their Reed’s Log Book for Yachts which noted the very same journey I had just undertaken from Eyemouth to Hartlepool, stopping at most of the ports along the way. It was a jigsaw puzzle trying to put them in the right order, though mum had numbered some of the pages in the corners. It was only when I found receipts for mooring fees at Amble for four yachts that I had a date for their journey, 17th August 1966. Then I began writing an article about it, contrasting my journey with theirs. But I got distracted from this by teaching creative writing, storytelling workshops for IDEO, leading the Jack Writers’ Workshop and doing workshops for Goldsmith’s and Ideas Tap publicising the Brockley Jack’s Write Now 6 new writing Competition.

After intensively reading scripts for the competition both full length and short and meetings for selection the Spring came round fast and another offer from my neighbour to do the next leg of the journey from Hartlepool to the Medway calling at Whitby on the way. I hadn’t been back to Whitby since 2012 for the 80th anniversary of the Whitby Yacht Club, again to honour my parents, so I took the opportunity to visit two old friends I hadn’t seen in years. This trip was much tougher than the last and again I continued the journal and will eventually hope to blog about my experiences. I was then plunged straight into the Write Now 6 Festival itself throughout May at the Brockley Jack, helping with dramaturgy on scripts, hosting post show discussions, workshops, feedback forms and box office.

Then from May to now I have been actively writing; playwrighting intensively, making up for the time I spend facilitating all other writers in their endeavour and applying for competitions and opportunities as they come thick and fast every week. I am a little boggle eyed with proposals and deadlines.

I feel a pang of regret that I won’t be visiting Edinburgh Festival this summer. But I console myself with the knowledge that I have done it several times and all the best stuff gets picked up and reprogrammed in London eventually. However, I am going to use the opportunity of checking out shows in London and see what type of shows the Camden Fringe attracts, which I have missed the last few years.

But I also saw online about an American festival 14/48 which is being premiered in London for the first time this August at the Lost Theatre in Wandsworth. Apparently it hails from  Seattle and finally hit Britain at Leicester last year and Wolverhampton, of all places, this summer. Taglined “The world’s quickest theatre festival”, it takes it name from 7 writers challenged to write a short play overnight TWICE in 48 hours. Once is bad enough! But can you imagine what type of masochist would volunteer to put their reputation and sanity on the line twice for public ridicule and humiliation?

You’ve guessed it… me! Again in the spirit of saying “Yes” to everything, I thought this will be my midsummer madness, my replacement August festival lark.  I was thrilled to be accepted to take part and then the realisation dawned, tonight in fact, I have the responsibility of creating an original play overnight along with 6 other writers as there are 7 directors, 7 designers, 7 composers, and 24 actors all waiting to receive our scripts ready to rehearse tomorrow morning at 9am to create a fully staged designed show with music by 8pm on Friday night. Not only that but we have to repeat the process all over again the following night! No pressure!

It’s perhaps one of the greatest challenges any playwright could face and certainly not for the feint hearted! I like to think I am bold, brave and naive at times to what I allow myself to plunge into. But at the same time, I can thrive by the seat of my pants and often write in an intuitive manner. But then I find if I sleep on a problem in a script or characterisation it can be miraculously answered the following morning in my waking brain. Sadly I won’t have that luxury at this gig. It cannot be a cumulative script, layered with nuances as it matures slowly in the brain, turned over and studied from every angle over weeks. No, this is a rough diamond that needs mining with bravado, brute force, skill and nerve to carve something gutsy with balls and attitude. Here’s hoping ten hours, burning the midnight oil is long enough to create something resembling a playing script that can stand up to the rigours of severe testing at the world’s quickest theatre festival. Wish me luck everyone. God knows, I’m going to need it!