Our approach to this area of work is strategic and the routes by which writers can benefit from our support in this area are specific and often competitive. To this end we cannot read scripts speculatively or offer reports on your work for free. Check out the Services section of the website if this is something that you are interested in exploring.
The profile of our work in this area runs from the strategic development of dramaturg and associate director posts with Northern Stage, Live Theatre and Newcastle University, through to the staging of festivals of new plays in progress. Most of our work in this area is produced in partnership with theatres and other producers and we have close working relationships with many theatre companies both in the North and nationally.
When we launch development programmes for scriptwriters they will be advertised on this website and circulated via our news e-bulletins.
Here are some examples of our work in this area:
The People’s PlayThe People’s Play is run biennially and is open to first-time playwrights; the winners receive a production of their play at The People’s Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne. This awards scheme has been an effective way of unearthing talent over the years. Peter Straughan was an early recipient of the award. Following the production of his first play, A Rhyme for Orange, we introduced Peter to Live theatre and set up a residency for him with the company. His first play for Live, Bones, has become a seminal piece in Live’s canon of North East plays. Peter has since gone on to write screenplays for films such as The Men Who Stare at Goats and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. The last winner of the People’s Play was Fiona Veitch Smith, whose play will be performed in autumn 2010.
Bite Size TheatreFor two years we produced an annual festival of new half-hour plays at lunchtime at Apartment in Newcastle. All the writers involved in the project were relatively inexperienced, and each of them was involved in a development programme working with a script mentor and a theatre director in the run up to the productions. Notable successes from this project include Scarborough by Fiona Evans. The play, about an illicit affair between a teacher and her pupil, went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after Bite Size and Fiona won a Fringe First for the play. A longer, developed version of the play was then produced at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The following plays were produced as part of Bite Size:
Scarborough by Fiona Evans
Knives by Eileen Jones
Mam, Dad, Monkey and Me by Alison Carr
Immaculate Deception by Paul Charlton
This Way Up by Joe Harbot
Ballroom Cougars by Bridget Deane
Mr Forest’s Second Nature by Barrie Darke
Swan Song by Lee Mattinson
Geoff Dead: Disco for SaleDuring her involvement in the Bite Size Theatre project, New Writing North commissioned Fiona Evans to write a new play based on the suspicious deaths of young army recruits at Deepcut Barracks. Fiona worked with the bereaved parents of the recruits to write the play Geoff Dead: Disco For Sale. The play was then co-produced with Live Theatre to great acclaim.
‘Both unsettling and mesmerising… Another triumph for Evans.’
‘Fiona Evans doesn’t have the fame of Lee Hall, but make no mistake: she will.’
British Theatre Guide
‘A breathtaking account of the Deepcut Four deaths… Clever flashbacks inject the heart-stopping drama and essential gallows humour required as the pace quickens.’
Viv Hardwick, Northern Echo
There was also a campaigning element to the play, as the co-producers put together an online petition asking audience members to sign up to ask for a public inquiry into the deaths. We also programmed a series of events alongside the show including an interview with key journalists who have reported on the case Brian Cathcart and Heather Mills, about the role of the media in the case, and with top barrister John Cooper, who was interviewed by the BBC’s Daniel Sandford about why it has proved so difficult for the Deepcut families to get a public enquiry into the case.
North East Theatre ConsortiumIn recent years we have identified new writing for theatre as a priority area, responding to the relatively few opportunities in the region for the full production of new plays by new writers. The North East Theatre Consortium is an example of our ability to step in and address the needs of the sector for the benefit of both the writer and the venue. Writers have often expressed a concern that there are relatively few opportunities to get their plays produced in the region. At the same time receiving venues say that they are rarely offered work from the region, and would like to have more involvement in influencing the sort of work they programme. The North East Theatre Consortium is a group of three venues based in the North East and New Writing North. We have funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to develop, produce and tour three new plays from the region.
The first of these was Pub Quiz by Carina Rodney (herself a People’s Play winner). Taking place in real time over the course of a quiz, the play used popular TV quiz formats to interrupt reality and reveal how the characters’ relationships and past mistakes have always kept them one step away from the big prize. Pub Quiz was a rich, fast-paced comedy which examined ideas of difference and belonging in a Northern town.
The play toured to venues in the North East to great acclaim. Carina Rodney was offered a residency at The National Theatre Studio in London following the production.
‘In her new play Carina Rodney has a lot of fun with the notion of pain masquerading as pleasure – and it’s fun for the audience too… The action builds gradually and there are flashbacks presented by dream-like sequences recreating famous TV quiz shows: The Weakest Link, University Challenge etc. All explain why this sorry lot are drinking in the last chance saloon. The climax is gloriously ghastly. It will strike many a chord when Psyche Stott’s production hits the road.’
David Whetstone, The Journal
Queen BeeThe consortium’s second production was Queen Bee by Margaret Wilkinson. Directed by Wils Wilson, this ghost story for the stage toured North East venues, plus the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster.
‘Margaret Wilkinson’s supernatural fable uses the disturbing influence of ectoplasmic insects to create quite a buzz… the action develops into an intense power struggle for dominion over the patient… Wils Wilson’s production hits the right note of atmospheric creepiness, aided by the rambling dereliction of Imogen Cloet’s set and the on-stage accompaniment of Kieran Cheung.’
‘The dramatic power of Margaret Wilkinson’s psychological ghost story Queen Bee emerges from the intricate layers of ambiguity, generating multiple interpretations… Queen Bee treads a fine line between comedy and horror, with the excellent cast exploiting the comic potential of Angel and Eusapia’s batty behaviour… John Alder’s live cello soundtrack is seriously creepy, and Imogen Cloet’s cluttered design provides impressive supernatural trickery… Queen Bee’s main achievement is that is has you trying to make sense of it long after the curtain has gone down.’
‘Playwright Margaret Wilkinson subverts the genre by, at times, introducing elements of comedy which had the audience laughing out loud, whilst at others there are events which bring a genuine frisson of terror… A fascinating piece, which left many members of the audience deep in discussion as they left. They’d clearly enjoyed it and they were thinking. What more can one ask of a piece of theatre?’
British Theatre Guide