24/7 at Right Here Right Now

After my last jaunt to Live Theatre for 10Minutes To… I was lucky enough to be invited back as one of the writers for 24/7, the madcap closing event of Right Here Right Now, the 2014 Live Youth Theatre Festival.

This event was a seriously scary ask for any playwright! On the evening of Saturday 9th August 2014 the writers, directors and young actors for 24/7 assembled on the stage of Live. Each writer got to pick names out of a bag to determine the 2 actors, 1 director and prop they would be writing their ten minute play around. We all had to loiter behind the stage of Live waiting to hear our names called out – the anticipation back there is terrifying! How do you actors do it?!

When it was my turn I picked out director Tracy Gilman, actors Lydia Brickland and Luke Taylor, and a golden Oscar prize statue as our prop! Once all the teams had been picked out and matched up, the writers then had until 9am the next morning to complete and email in our ten minute play scripts. We would then have all day on Sunday 10th August to rehearse before the final script-in-hand performance at 7.30pm!

I frittered away the first hour of my writing time by hanging around at Live to see my actor Luke performing in another festival show, Mouthing Off. I’m glad I did this because it gave me a real insight into his character and performing style (which is ‘outrageously hilarious’!). I also had a chat with Lydia and Tracy about some initial ideas – Tracy told me our actors were both great comic performers but could also play emotion brilliantly, and I came up with the premise that they were brother and sister travelling by plane to an awards ceremony. With everyone on board with the idea, I set off for home and a long night at my computer…

The thing that the 24/7 experience really brought home to me was how valuable the editing and redrafting process is – because in this case, I didn’t get to do any! My usual process is to write a draft, leave it a few days, go back and review it with fresh eyes. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for those fresh eyes with 24/7, and it was pretty painful having to send in my script (at about 3am) knowing it hadn’t been through that stage. I managed to squeeze in a few hours sleep before our early morning start in the rehearsal room at Live (where I heard some scary stories of writers binning their original scripts just a few hours before hand-in and starting all over again!)

Luckily, my brilliant director Tracy and performers Luke and Lydia did an amazing job making sense of what was probably a not-quite-fully-baked script during a very full-on day of rehearsing in Live’s studio theatre and rehearsal rooms. The play was christened Takeoff, and featured spoilt up-and-coming Hollywood star Jamie and his downtrodden but loyal sister Janine reconnecting on their flight to the Oscars.

24/7 was the closing event of the youth theatre festival, and it was brilliant seeing what everyone had come up with while locked away in their various corners of Live during the Sunday. This was an amazing learning experience for a playwright, and I’m so grateful that Live gave me the chance to be part of the event. You can read a review of the final 24/7 show from Live blogger Gemma Sargent on the Live Theatre blog at: http://livetheatrenewcastle.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/review-247/