10 Minutes To… Save the World

It started (as all the best things do, in my experience) with a tweet…:

I was chuffed to bits to be picked as one of the writers for Live Theatre‘s inaugural ’10 Minutes To…’ an evening of 5 new plays by emerging writers to be written, rehearsed and performed (off script) within just 2 weeks. 10 Minutes To… is the successor to Live’s previous Short Cuts evenings, and is a brilliant and exciting format for bringing the work of emerging writers and directors to the stage.

The theme for the first event was ’10 Minutes To… Save the World’, and all of the writers had applied with a 100 word synopsis of the play they would like to write. Here’s the synopsis that I applied with:

How much of the world did you want to save, exactly?
Gill and Jon wait by the machine. They’ve been told it’s not time yet, that they should come back again later – but if this turns out to be ‘the moment’ then it’s too big to go unwitnessed.
Gill’s experiment could change Ann’s life tomorrow.
Jon’s might change all of our lives forever.
A sliver of a mouse’s thigh muscle.
A droplet of a mate’s vitreous humour.
Does it mean more to save the world if you’ve got someone worth saving it for?

The 5 chosen writers (Nina Berry, David Raynor, Jojo Kirtley, myself and m’good friend and fellow Meerkat, Mhairi Ledgerwood) and 5 directors (Kwab Adjei, Anna Ryder, JonLuke McKie, Melanie Rashbrooke and Rachel Glover) were first introduced at a ‘speed dating’ event, where each writer got 5 minutes with each of the directors to talk about their play idea. Live Lab tweeted a snap of us all mid-date:

Once we’d all had a chance to mingle we were given the (frankly horrifying) task of ranking the people we’d met on a scale of 1-5 based on how excited we were to work with them. Graeme and his colleagues then squirreled themselves off in a corner to determine the pairings that would work best. I was dead chuffed once again to be paired up with Rachel Glover, who is a drama worker at Live as well as a fantastic director.

With our dream teams in place, we were packed off and given a week to get in our first drafts, then a bit of constructive feedback from Graeme and Rachel before sending in our final drafts to be circulated round the performers our directors had chosen. My final piece was titled A Slice A Sliver, and Rachel cast the marvellous Stephen Gregory and Samantha Bell as my pair of scientists anxiously awaiting the outcome of their experiments. We all spent the performance weekend at Live making use of a multitude of rehearsal spaces to get the play on it’s feet (cue montage – and note to self: don’t write any more plays with an eye patch as a prop, what a nightmare that turned out to be!):

Clockwise from top left: Rehearsing in Live’s Gallery space; warm up games in the writers’ room; working out complex chair choreography in Live’s rehearsal room; a pre-dress rehearsal pep talk from producer Graeme; and Rachel eye-patch-wrangling like a pro

There’s really nothing that makes a play seem more real than performance shots, and we were all very excited to see the shots from the dress rehearsal printed up and on display in Live’s foyer as we headed in to watch the final performance. Due to demand for tickets the show was moved from the Studio Theatre into Live’s main house, and we were all brought onto the stage for a group shot of the whole 10 Minutes To… company. It was pretty thrilling to be up on a stage that I’ve spent so much time staring at over the years. See if you can spot the writers (hint: we’re the ones at the front looking a bit mortified at being literally under the spotlight):

Writers L-R: Nina Berry, Jojo Kirtley, David Raynor, myself and Mhairi Ledgerwood

The final plays were performed on the evening of Sunday 6th June and it was amazing to see how polished and powerful all the pieces were, even after just a weekend of rehearsing. You can see more of the professional photos on Live Theatre’s 10 Minutes To… Facebook photo album, and read a lovely review of the event on the Live Theatre blog.

10 Minutes To… was a fantastic experience and I got to meet and work with some amazingly talented people – it was especially great to share the weekend with Mhairi and represent the Meerkats! I’m thrilled to say that Live Theatre have since asked me to be one of the writers for another shorts event – 24/7, the closing performance of Live’s youth theatre festival Right Here Right Now. At 7:30 on Saturday 9th August five writers will pick a pair of young performers, a director and a prop out of a hat and then will have until the following morning to produce a 10 minute script. When I saw the event advertised in Live’s brochure I thought ‘What kind of a mad writer would sign up for that?’ Apparently I am just that mad a writer. Roll on next weekend, and a sleepless night of feverish writing!