Category Archives: New Writing

Tamasha Playwrights Intensive Play Writing Week

Tamasha Playwrights is a writer-led collective founded in October 2014 by Artistic Director Fin Kennedy and formed of 8 emerging playwrights from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Refreshed yearly, the aims of Tamasha Playwrights ranges from offering long-term career development to providing showcase opportunities to promote the writers and their work to the professional theatre industry.

This year, for the first time, both cohorts of the playwrights groups will be taking part in an intensive play writing week. Between Monday and Friday at the Tricycle Theatre, the week features quiet writing time as well as 5 leading playwrights and theatre makers as visiting tutors, alongside one-to-one advice sessions with  Dawn King and Tamasha Artistic Director Fin Kennedy. Omar Elerian of the Bush Theatre will also direct a company of actors in workshop readings of the writers’ work.

In the spirit of Tamasha Playwrights as a writer-led collective everything is scheduled by demand from the group themselves.

The schedule for the week:

Monday 8th February
10.30am-1pm  – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy
2pm-5pm – Devising workshop with Complicite director and performer Clive Mendus

Tuesday
10am-1pm – Dawn King workshop and Q & A
2-6pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Dawn King

Wednesday
10am-1pm – Tanika Gupta workshop and Q & A
2-4.30pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy
4.30-6pm – Dennis Kelly Q & A

Thursday
10am-1pm – Roy Williams workshop and Q & A
2-6pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy

Friday
10am-6pm – Workshop readings of 10-15min script extracts with director Omar Elerian and 4 x actors.

For more information on Tamasha Playwrights click here.

 

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Fin Kennedy’s Westminster Media Forum Speech June 2014

The In Battalions report, published by Tamasha co-Artistic Director and playwright Fin Kennedy and researcher Helen Campbell Pickford in 2013, received widespread coverage and formed a significant part of the recent debate about arts funding cuts, in particular around theatres’ capacity to take risks on developing new plays and playwrights in an age of austerity. Below is a transcript of Fin Kennedy’s Westminster Media Forum speech on how we assess the cost versus the value of the arts, in order for the sector to better make its case to politicians and the public.

“I’ve been asked to speak today because last year I wrote a report entitled In Battalions, about the effect of cuts to the Arts Council on the British theatre industry’s capacity to develop new plays. The results made for grim reading. The report is available online so I won’t repeat its findings here. Instead I would like to address a philosophical point which I feel often gets overlooked in this debate, and that is about the difference between the cost of the arts to the public purse and the value the arts generate for public life.

There is a prevailing ideology you come across when this debate comes up. Phillip Pullman calls it ‘free market fundamentalism’. I prefer the softer term ‘market value’, because it is not a wholly illogical or unreasonable position. But it essentially states that if any play cannot attract enough paying theatregoers to cover its costs then it should be allowed to go to the wall. Let the market decide.

I’m in my first year of a new job – as Co-Artistic Director of a small-scale touring theatre company, Tamasha – and I’d like to offer a few reflections on this.

Small scale theatre tends to confound the market value principle, and here’s why.

A 90 minute new play with 3-5 actors will always play in what we call a studio or black box theatre – small auditoria of around 150 seats. So far, so cheap you might think.

But if you’re going to do things properly – which is what being a professional artist is all about – then costs begin long before show opens. Commissioning a playwright and developing the script is the first step – and can often take place years ahead of first night.

Once the show is cast there are the actors and other professionals such as the director, designer, company manager and stage manager. Then there are material costs, back office costs, producing costs, admin support, publicity – and if the show is required to tour, travel, accommodation and per diems.

All this means that even a modest four-hander play, with three weeks’ rehearsal, a three week run in London and four weeks’ touring can easily cost upwards of £100,000. Given what one can charge for shows of this scale – and even if the show does roaring business (a big if) it will make back on box office perhaps half what it cost – at best.

Small scale theatre is essentially economically unviable. It cannot exist without some kind of subsidy.

But the question we should be asking of such shows is not ‘Did it make money?’ but ‘Did it create value?’ – a far more amorphous concept, and one at which our sector is notoriously bad at successfully making its case.

I’d like to demonstrate the difference between cost and value with a brief example from my own company’s recent output.

My Name is… is a three-hander verbatim play written by my colleague Sudha Bhuchar. The play has just closed in London and Glasgow, where it received a clutch of rave reviews and in Scotland standing ovations. The play tells the real-life story of Molly Campbell, a mixed race Scottish-Pakistani girl who, in 2006, was reported as having been kidnapped by her father and forcibly taken to Pakistan. The truth turned out to be a lot more complicated.

My Name is… tells this family’s story in its own words. It has been a huge success, with audiences in tears, TV and radio interest, and a national tour booked for September and October. Even so, it will not make more money than it cost.

The value in a show like this is manifold. It tells the truth behind a story located along an important cultural fault line which exists in our society. It gives visibility to often-misunderstood or vilified minority groups. It creates understanding in audiences of other cultures with which many share their cities.

Performing in the show has been a stepping stone for all three of its actors, for one it was her professional debut and another has been nominated for an award.

The show was accompanied by workshops in inner city schools, exploring what it means to have a dual heritage in 21st century Britain.

In Scotland, Asian audience members urged me to remount the show for a longer Scottish tour because of the social and cultural community understanding such a show can create.

This makes it sound worthy – it wasn’t. It was funny and warm and heartfelt and human – and desperately sad.

But perhaps most movingly, the real Molly Campbell and her mother came to see it. They loved it. They came back – several times. They brought extended family. After the third time they had seen it, Molly herself said, “It was like going back in time and looking at us all … I got to see my mum and dad falling in love … I was just a little girl who was stuck but not knowing she was stuck and having to choose. I was scared in the beginning that people would blame me for what happened but watching myself being so innocent it’s finally hit me that I don’t have to carry that guilt anymore.”

If there is a price you can put on that, I have no idea what it might be.

My Name is… took five years to create. The project is a quintessential argument for public investment in the arts – ‘market value’ would never have come up with this show. Don’t get me wrong, now that it is a hit, Tamasha are doing everything in our power to exploit its success. It may, one day, break even. But it will never make a profit. Does this mean it is without value?

I’d like to close with a quote from Lorne Campbell, in a recent think piece for the Guardian about whether an obsession with value for money is trumping concerns of artistic quality.

“Perhaps this is the role of the cultural organisation now?” Cambpell writes, “To be the buffer between the market system we operate in and the non-market place that must be created if we are to begin to dream a new more equitable way for us to be as a society?”

So, I would repeat again: the question we should be asking of our publicly-supported theatre is not – or not only – ‘How much did it cost?’ but ‘How much value did it generate?’ for British society.

Thank you.”


Writing Masterclass with Ella Hickson

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Kat Roberts – participant

“It is a very difficult thing to cultivate an atmosphere where strangers feel comfortable enough to not present a version of themselves, but to simply be and create. But that is what Ella Hickson achieves instantly and seemingly effortlessly on her two day Masterclass. I have written more, thought about writing more and considered myself more of a writer in the week following the course than I ever have before. How? How has she done this to me? Actually, in retrospect it’s quite simple. Ella Hickson searches for honesty in everything; in her themes, in her characters, in herself and by extension, in the people attending her Masterclass. She invites you to do a very simple thing: to be honest. What’s the thing inside you can’t let go of? But what is it really? Let’s interrogate this feeling. What’s the question of your play? Is that active? Will that work dramatically? No? then what will? I don’ know… let’s talk about it… not later… now. Let’s talk about it here and now so you can leave and get on with your play. Here’s some writing exercises – Do I use them? Not really. Let’s do one. You didn’t do what I said, you did something else. But what you came up with was just as interesting. Why did you cross out that line though? Because you felt you should? Let’s get away from ‘should’. That feeling that you can’t do it, that you’re not good enough, it doesn’t go away. “Find your hook, and let yourself off it”. Thanks Ella Hickson and my fellow participants.

Ayndrilla Singharay – participant

The two days I spent with Ella Hickson and my fellow participants have been an absolute inspiration. Being new to writing plays, this masterclass was a perfect balance between the technical craft of playwrighting and the other, more personal and creative side of writing for stage. Ella was an excellent teacher. She is extremely knowledgeable, friendly, honest about her own experiences and passionate about not only theatre but helping and nurturing fellow playwrights. This is a wonderful combination of traits and made the class a wonderfully safe space in which to explore our own writing. The time was divided between practical exercises, tips for creating time and space for writing and focusing on our own projects. The masterclass has left me feeling infinitely more equipped to take my play forwards. I really hope Ella does another class in the near future, as I would certainly love to attend.

Shazea Quraishi – participant

I was fortunate to get a place on Ella Hickson’s playwrighting masterclass for Tamasha. As well as being a talented playwright, Ella is a wonderful teacher: generous, insightful, supportive… and rigorous. As well as generating discussions and exercises to free inspiration, she provided us with a tool kit to interrogate a script, scene by scene, to whip it into shape and get at its truth. Much in the way the bad cop interrogates a suspect (good cop having stepped out for some air). Although it’s uncomfortable playing bad cop to your own script, it really works. I feel better equipped to write the play I want to. I also met a great group of people who I know I will keep in touch with.

Michael Lister – participant

I’m so glad I took the chance and made the effort to take part in the New Writing Masterclass. I learned exactly the lessons I was hoping to learn and gained the encouragement I needed, so that I have been motivated to embark on a new play writing project.

Ella Hickson introduced herself with an open friendliness that immediately brought the group together. She continued this sense of honest sincerity, making revelations from her own experience in a way that encouraged everyone to express their own hopes and fears, blocks and aspirations.

She lead the class through basic ideas of structure, shape and analysis that she encouraged us to apply to our own work while at the same time acknowledging that our creative drive will come from a less cerebral place. We worked with a sense of urgency and seemed to achieve way beyond my expectation in those two days. From a starting point of a basic analysis of dramatic action Ella took us to the point of writing the first scenes of our new plays; plays which we are all committed to writing in the coming weeks.

An indication of the success of our collective Masterclass experience was our aim to all meet again to discuss our creative progress; we have agreed to meet together in April to share our newly written scenes and check these against our understanding of dramatic action. I’m looking forward to continuing the discussion.

Ellen Carr – participant

The masterclass with Ella was a great blend of developing a tool kit for us to use whatever we’re working on and discovering the questions we really want to write about – accessing the inner part of yourself where all the good stuff is hidden. I hadn’t done anything like this before, and had never really been ‘taught’ to write. I found discussing the main building blocks of dramatic narrative extremely helpful, and although a lot of the work we did on dramatic action and interrogating our homework scenes made my brain hurt (in a good way!) I now feel I have the skills to keep writing even if I do get stuck with an idea.

What I found totally invaluable in the two day masterclass was working with a group of people for whom being a writer is an actual career – even if it isn’t their career right now. Discussing the craft of writing, the industry, the various head-banging-desk issues you will face in a totally serious way provides validation to the idea of being a writer as a job which is something you very much need when you’re starting out. I now feel much more confident about my writing ambitions and ready to just work really hard to achieve them. I’m aware of the different ways I need to develop as a writer, and that I will only do this by producing work. Ella made the writing process more enjoyable and open, getting rid of any thoughts of what we ‘should’ be doing in our process.

The group on the masterclass bonded really well, and Ella helped to create a very supportive environment. We have set ourselves a deadline to share drafts of our work with each other! I’d say the masterclass was both practically useful and inspirational in equal measure – just what was needed.

Zella Compton – participant

Play Masterclass: to book or not to book, that is the question.

The word masterclass is rather scary. It implies that you think you are a cut above the majority of aspiring playwrights, but what – when you get there – if you’re not? Or worse, if you are and everyone else is not. The application was a big decision for me as I struggle to know how good I am, and not only did I have to fund it myself, I also had to take time off work.

But thank goodness that I did apply, fund and go. For every part of Ella Hickson that is genius, there is a small murky part which is tyrant – and that was the most valuable to me. The questioning, the justification expected and the raw honesty with which she made me think about every little aspect of my writing process has really opened my eyes.

The two days were so valuable in terms of putting craft around what I do, getting inspired and meeting an awesome collective of other people. Well worth the time and effort and money. Thank you!

Elena Procopiu – participant

The Ella Hickson masterclass was brilliant. Having never written much dialogue before, I now feel equipped to understand what would make a dramatic scene and therefore good dialogue. Ella’s knowledge and experience combined with her charisma and energy ensured that we did more writing in two days than I have done in the last six months and laughed a lot! Before we knew it, we had fully written scenes, done at breakneck speed with great enjoyment. The in-depth storytelling exercises were utterly essential, brilliantly structured and eye-opening. It just shows what you can do in two days!


Schoolwrights: A new playwrights-in-schools training scheme

Photo by Phil Adams

Schoolwrights is a new scheme which has just started in MulberrySchool, run by playwright-in-residence Fin Kennedy, new co-Artistic Director of Tamasha. It is a training scheme designed to equip a new generation of young professional playwrights with the skills to become writers-in-residence in urban state schools.

Six professional playwrights have been recruited. They include Alia Bano, who won the Evening Standard’s ‘Most Promising Playwright’ award in 2011, Morna Regan, winner of the Irish Times best new play award 2013, and Rachel Delahay, whose play Routes is currently selling out the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs.

All six writers will receive training and development over the course of a year the end result  polished productions which will be presented at leading new writing venue Soho Theatre, Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, as well as touring to each school.

The scheme is a partnership between Mulberry School, Tamasha Theatre Company, playwright Fin Kennedy and OffWestEnd.com, the leading listings site for off-West End theatres. Fin Kennedy has been MulberrySchool’s writer-in-residence for six years and has just been appointed co-Artistic Director of Tamasha.

The ambition is for Schoolwrights to become an annual rolling programme of playwrights-in-schools training, sharing the expertise in this field which Mulberry has developed over the years and it aims to establish a permanent two-way street between the theatre industry and London schools.

Schoolwrights blog by Fin Kennedy (cross-posted from www.finkennedy.blogspot.com)

This is a piece I have been meaning to write for some time, but after last week’s exciting news I thought I would wait a while so that it gets a bit of its own space.

The first public mention of Schoolwrights was actually in the Tamasha press release about my appointment, but regular readers may recall that it is a scheme I have been working out how to run (and how to pay for) for some time. The background is the long association I have with MulberrySchool in East London, stretching back almost ten years now, and taking in seven plays, three Edinburgh premieres, a Fringe First Award, our own London fringe festival and a published play volume.

Each year Mulberry and I have sought to evolve this work in some way, to produce bigger, more ambitious projects, to offer new opportunities to students, and to find new ways for theatre artists to work with them. In 2010, the SpecialistSchools and Aacademies scheme, under which much of this work was financed, was scrapped by the incoming coalition government. So, in 2011, I applied to Tamasha to work as their Associate Artist, in order to continue this work in a new form, and share the costs with a new partner.

The pilot playwrights-in-schools training scheme which we set up together attempted to test out a new model. It went phenomenally well. Even though the scheme was barely able to offer much more than expenses, we had over 60 writers apply for 8 places, proof of the strong demand among playwrights for some sort of managed training around working in schools.  The 8 writers we ended up working with, who included Sabrina Mahfouz, Tim Cowbury, Neela Dolezalova and Amman Brar, each wote touching, funny, quirky and heartbreaking 15-minute plays which Mulberry’s students presented at Soho Theatre.

To their immense credit, Tamasha really put their money where their mouth is. After the project was finished, they commissioned me to conduct a feasability study into how the scheme might be extended across the school year and be rolled out to more than one school, and even how it might become and annual programme of managed training with different cohorts of writers each year. I spoke to schools, colleges, new writing companies and playwrights across London, and put together several draft budgets for how the scheme might operate at different scales.

I’ve been very lucky in the partners this idea has inspired. My friend and longtime collaborator Sofie Mason, who runs listings site www.OffWestEnd.com entirely from private donations, and with whom I set up the Adopt-A-Playwright scheme, offered to back Schoolwrights and help me with fundraising.

Sofie once worked in opera so knows a lot of wealthy people. She specilaises in getting private individuals to donate to the arts. (Adopt-A-Playwright, for example, is run along a Roman or medieval patronage model in which private donors rally round one emerging playwright per year and donate funds to a pot to buy them out of their day job so they can write a first draft).

Sofie introduced me to a former hedge fund manager, Paul Wedge, and took me round to his house to talk more about my idea. This is what I think of as ‘proper’ fundraising! Not an Arts Council form in sight, just you, your idea, and a potential donor sat across the table. It was scary. But I must have done something right because at the end of the evening he pledged £6,000.

That first chunk was absolutely key. With an amount like that in the bank, we were able to go to further trusts and foundations and show that the scheme had some chance of becoming a reailty. Sofie marshalled a few of her contacts and between us we were able to raise further funds from The Writers’ Guild Foundation, the Herbert Smith Trust, and the Mackintosh Foundation. Tamasha also continued to support the scheme by pledging £1,500 of their own.

But towards the start of this year we were still £9,500 short, so I bit the bullet and put in a couple of weeks applying to ACE’s Grants for the Arts. It was the right time to do so – at that point we could show that the majority of the funding had been raised elsewhere but that we could not run the scheme without a top-up. We were successful. In total, we raised £26,000 in two years – a longer wait than we would have liked, but it was worth it.

So what is Schoolwrights?

Schoolwrights is a professional training scheme which sends playwrights into inner city schools, focusing initially on schools in East London. Playwrights are recruited from within the theatre industry and embark on a managed period of training to equip them with the skills to become writers-in-residence in an urban state school. They will have regular, direct contact with the school’s students, working with them to generate creative ideas for stories, and write a short play (15 minutes) in response. This first phase takes place at Mulberry, which is very well-placed to offer itself as a training base for this sort of work. It’s also a lovely, supportive school full of friendly, well-behaved kids, in which to cut your teeth if you’re doing this for the first time.

From now until Christmas is Phase One; a discrete term of work at Mulberry which doubles up as a training phase. I train the writers and pass on a whole host of creative exercises I’ve developed over the years, and support them developing session plans to generate the ideas they need to write the play for their group.

In January, the writers start a new residency in a second, nearby school, this time with more autonomy. They will work in pairs to support one another, though each will write their own short play with their own group of students. In total we have six writers who will work across three further schools. Each will deliver a further 15 minute play at the end of this second residency.

After Easter break, we will hopefully have twelve short plays developed across the four schools, each of which has those students’ voices at its heart. Each school will take responsibility for rehearsing these up with their students, in polished productions directed by their teachers. There is money in the budget for a masterclass for teachers with a high profile theatre director, as well as follow-up sessions where the director will observe rehearsals and give the teachers some notes. All the productions will be off-book and there is a small budget for set, costume and props.

The twelve short plays will then embark on a mini-tour in June 2014. Clearly, twelve 15-minute plays is too much for one evening, so we will present them in different combinations; once in each school’s own theatre, then at Rich Mix in Whitechapel who have generously donated their entire upper floor for one whole Saturday so that we can make something of a festival out of presenting all twelve across the day. And finally Soho Theatre have also offered to continue to support us, this time (we hope) on their main stage.

One of the key principles of Schoolwrights is parity of esteem between the venues and professionals involved. The same plays are presented in East London school theatres, at local professional venue Rich Mix, and at leading new writing theatre Soho. And for the professionals involved, everyone can learn from everyone else: playwrights from experienced Drama teachers, and the teachers from a professional writer and their process. Asking the teachers to direct the productions, rather than bringing in someone external, provides a professional development opportunity which many teachers are eager for, but all too rarely receive due to the pressures of delivering the curriculum.

I’m thrilled with the calibre of writers we have managed to attract. Since they are all now contracted and confirmed, and had their first day in Mulberry last week, I can exclusively reveal that they are:

  • ·         Alia Bano, acclaimed writers of Shades and winner of the 2011 Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright award.
  • ·         Rachel Delahay, whose play Routes is currently selling out the Royal Court upstairs
  • ·         Rex Obano, 2010 Alfred Fagon award shortlisted
  • ·         Jane Wainwright, Royal Court Supergroup and BBCWritersAcademy member
  • ·         Morna Regan, 2012 Irish Times Best Play award winner
  • ·         Abi Zakarian, 2012 Soho Theatre attachment scheme.

I admit that this year I made personal approaches rather than solicit open applications, just due to the workload that generates. But in years to come I hope to be able to open the scheme up to unsolicited applicants.

I’m also due to have a conversation with my publisher Nick Hern Books around digital publishing. With the twelve plays next year, plus the eight from the pilot scheme, we will potentially have twenty 15-minute plays written with, for and about London’s young people. I have a theory (backed up by every teacher I speak to) that there is a gap in the market for good quality, well-structured plays which can be read from beginning to end within one school lesson – with time to spare to then discuss and analyse them. And schools which might not be able to afford to commission them from scratch may well be able to stretch to a few pounds to download them as a professionally-typeset digital collection. This could potentially be a really happy marriage – quality plays for schools, available nationwide, structured to support teaching and learning, plus a steady trickle of income for writers.

Schoolwrights is a new way of working. It is a manifestation of one possible solution to the problems surrounding new play Research and Development identified in my In Battalions report. One silver lining amidst the gloom is that fewer resouces to go around means we will need to work together more, in particular with community partners. If we can find ways to stretch and develop our artists, which simultaneously benefit members of the community organisations which host them, then we might be onto a winning formula. And what’s more, we’ll make some great theatre together along the way.

Sofie Mason, Tamasha and I have every intention of making Schoolwrights an annual programme; the UK’s first centrally-managed, quality-controlled playwrights-in-schools training. We will need to be very on the ball around fundraising, but I hope that after this first year it will be easier to showcase what we have achieved, and inspire donors accordingly.

And at some stage, we will need an audience too. I hope to see you among them next June.

http://www.finkennedy.co.uk


Workshops in Writing & Making Theatre as part of the RichMix Youth Takeover Festival

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The Youth Takeover Festival was held in August 2013 and provided free workshops and events for 16-21s.

Below is some of the feedback we received from our workshops:

‘Writing, improvisation, there are many threads to play with. There were so many differences between us and our interests and so many common things emerged’.

‘It’s been an amazing four days, working together. I loved how you can start from simple things and write something that’s not direct’.

‘I realised that there are so many important stories out there and you can respond to them, react to them. It was great seeing what we wrote this week come to life and learn from that’

‘I had seen writing as private and for myself and I wanted to learn how to collaborate. That’s what it’s been’

‘It’s a shame that it’s only four days. This should have been an intro week. I’m always so anxious to start things and I’ve realised there are so many ways to get the wheel turning. It was nice to have all the different techniques’.

‘Everyone is outstanding in their own ways. It’s changed my perspective on writing. I’ll take it more seriously now’.

‘Thank you kindly for these days. You’ve truly opened doors for me and made me fall in love with writing!! Good luck on all your creative endeavours. In any case you’re great teachers!!’


New Writing Masterclass 2013

Ekta Baja, Participant

I enrolled to the workshop quite unsure of what to expect out of the week. I knew that I had a story in my mind and this workshop was to test if I had the potential to turn that story in a play. It almost seems like a universal conspiracy to get us all together in that room. Each one of the writer had an amazing experience to share and every exercise made us explore the domains within us to a much greater extend. I, personally was a bit nervous to start with the first exercise but the amount of encouragement, stimulation, ideas and sharing made the whole week just a great learning experience.
The workshops were well crafted and beautifully presented. The tutors put their heart into making every day, in fact every minute such a unique experience. I think enrolling in the course was one of the best decisions I have taken as a writer.

Fariyal Wallez, Participant

When I enrolled on this week-long exploration of playwriting, I felt a bit of a fraud. I was in the process of editing my first novel and had never attempted to write a play. Yet, from the word go, we delved into writing exercises that were somehow easy, fun, inspiring, deep and personal, all at the same time. In my reflections from the first day, I recognised how difficult I make the writing process for myself; I have some weird, ingrained notion that true creativity can only be the result of hardcore hours spent in suffering and desperation. By the end of the week, I had seen again and again, that this belief was just not true!

The sheer simplicity of the techniques that Philip and Sudha got us to engage with; the breadth and depth of how to develop an initial idea for a character; and then to let my imagination run free with the drama of a narrative…It was one of the most inspiring courses I have participated in.

The crucial insight for me from the week was the realisation that who I think I am and what I think of as my identity (cultural ethnicity, educational background, gender biases, etc) is a delusion. When I allow ‘my self’ to be free and look outward to my environment and pay attention, I am able to inhabit and create a narrative for any character; be they an actress, a victim of violence, a high society woman, or a rapist. The ‘I am’ is not of importance; the creative endeavour lies in my relationship to and with others.

Lucy Basaba, Participant

I’d consider myself new to the playwriting world, having only written a few short plays in the past. Prior to the workshop, there were potential themes and ideas I wanted to explore, however I didn’t quite know how to go about articulating them. I definitely feel that the workshop has provided me with a fresh approach when it comes to exploring ideas, allowing for me to go with the moment and to improvise with text rather than to just stick to one formula. It was great to be taught by tutors who provided a creative and encouraging environment and was lovely to be surrounded by a supportive network of like-minded people. It was also a useful platform to hear out loud what I had written, and to receive feedback, which was very valuable as it was an opportunity to hear what resonated with people. I found the verbatim exercises particularly helpful, as this was an approach I hadn’t used in the past. The scenes created using the Verbatim obtained made for compelling theatre, and a useful way to begin developing multi-dimensional characters. In a week, I felt that had learnt a lot, and would most definitely recommend it to aspiring playwrights.

Sally Woodcock, Participant

Just finished a week’s play writing course with Tamasha. Found myself scribbling away on different writing exercises every day and enjoying every minute.

Exercises included: recording verbatim dialogue, responding dramatically to verbatim, particular words as stimulus for dialogue, news events as catalyst for story, using existing classic texts as blueprints for re-telling.

The group’s diverse cultural and social positions were handled with great sensitivity and also proved stimulating to creativity. I ended the week tired but greatly enriched and having forged some interesting new friendships. I highly recommend this course to any writer looking for fresh approaches, inspiration and illuminating company.

Jade Greyul, Participant

Before I started the course I was very apprehensive as to whether I could bring any new and exciting ideas to the table, or that I even considered myself enough of a ‘writer’ to take part. I worried about being put on the spot and freezing up or that I wouldn’t produce anything I deemed ‘good enough’ to share with the group. Within minutes of meeting the tutors and my fellow participants I realised I needn’t have been so nervous! The wonderfully relaxed atmosphere meant I felt safe, with everyone’s support, to share and explore new ideas. The pressure I had feared when doing spontaneous writing exercises was purely a psychological barrier, and the fast turnover of written exercises was actually a very freeing experience! Every day I learnt a new skill or technique that I could put into practice immediately – going from being anxious to even put pen to paper, to having the confidence to let my mind and imagination flow, constantly creating and shaping characters from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds – surpassing my previously thought capabilities.

I decided to apply for the course because I felt the outlines spoke directly to me as a young multi-cultured writer, eager to refine my voice. They say you should always write about what you know; my previous work had always been very personal and relating to the same, small ethnic group, but this course taught me how to channel those thoughts and emotions and transpose them onto a multitude of different settings. It has shown me that what I know, and who I am are separate entities, and can influence my work in their own ways. The course affirms that what we observe and experience as people can inform our work, creating worlds far beyond our own whilst still remaining true to who we are as writers, and our own unique voices.

I’ve made some great new friendships and have a refreshed outlook on the next stage of my writing career. I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in theatremaking – I’m certainly very thankful for the opportunity to go through such an organic learning experience.


New Writing Masterclass with Alexi Kaye-Campbell

Tuyen Do – participant writer

Last Monday and Tuesday I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a masterclass with Alexi Kaye Campbell. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I was stuck and having read and seen his work, I had a feeling that this class was going to help me out of my current predicament. By lunchtime Monday, I knew I was in the right place. That morning AKC spoke about his process openly and honestly, which then allowed the whole group to do the same. By mid-morning we were in the position to create something that came straight from the heart and it was bliss. Our first writing exercise was what AKC called ‘imperative words’. We were asked to write a monologue where we were saying something to someone that had to be said because this was our last chance to say it. It was a way of discovering our motor, our passion, and the seed of our play that was going to drive us all the way to the end. In the two days we carried on in search of the ‘germ’ of our play and in doing so, I started to see writing in a different way. I was enjoying the creative process and I felt inspired and energized from the experience. I learnt from the others in the group and felt supported by everyone there. It reminded me that sometimes you need to get out, get out of your own head, get out and see and be with people who you admire and know that you’re not alone. It was a great two days and I will carry what I learnt with me into my future work. Alexi was passionate, inspiring and generous and I thank him for his masterclass.

Sally Woodcock – participant writer

Alexi emphasized from the outset that his class was a purely subjective exercise and that there was no right or wrong way to write a play – he was just sharing with us what worked for him. And he really meant this (not all playwright-teachers do, I’ve learnt) which became apparent over the next two days, as we worked our way through his method which involved, in his words, digging around in the ‘soil’ of our own personal histories to find a story we absolutely had to tell: a ‘howl’.

This was a brave and honest approach – more than once, members of the group were taken by surprise with the strength of their own personal discoveries … he was in danger of conducting a class in playwriting-as-therapy! But we all kept our senses of humour and, thanks to Alexi’s humility and honesty, felt safe in the creative environment to explore the personal-through-political territory he guided us through.

The workshop was very well crafted and our ideas were handled with respect and encouragement. I came away with the kernel of a play I think I might just have to write. Which is more than I could have hoped for.

Em Hussain – participant writer

The terms ‘seed of a passionate play’ and ‘tilling the soil’ were used often in this Alexi Kaye Campbell new writing masterclass. But I can’t help thinking that these terms do not really do justice to Alexi’s insight and generosity. We, as writers, during the course of this masterclass, not only discovered these seeds, but were assisted in identifying exactly what that seed was. Tools shoved in our hands, we were pointed to the precise, fertile spot in our gardens that would enable our seeds to grow!

In using Alexi’s incisive exercises: the sharing of something personal (not factual) using the ‘imperative words’ where the stakes were dramatically raised, to five specific details of our characters – factual and internal – I had in my hand three dimensional characters, a dynamic situation and the visceral dialogue that would reveal what exactly my play is getting-at at a particular crucial moment. It usually takes me weeks of scribbling before I get to this stage! I was fired up and ready to roll with a new play. I would like to thank Alexi for his skill and generosity and the camaraderie within the group that provided those (usually illusive) right conditions for my germinating little seedling!

Jacob Hodgkinson – participant writer

Within each of us there is a drip, a slow drip of emotion that can manifest itself in any number of ways: in anger, in reticence, in love – during any circumstance, foreseen, unforeseen, lasting or short lived. Yet these emotions that we feel may come never come to realise their fullest potency without a direction; a focus. Something that we can ‘hang’ it on… And for many, that is a blessing. A Godsend.

However, for a writer, those emotions – those feelings, those ‘quiets’ – are what make us tick. But, further to that, what Alexi Kaye Campbell taught us over the course of his two day Masterclass, was that those feelings which lie deepest within us are probably the ones that we most want to talk about openly, to relay in story version. Naturally, those ‘stories’ are ones which, under normal circumstances, we would never tell for sake of entertainment, unless in a dire need to pass on fertile understanding and knowledge. Which, of course, we can’t circumnavigate as playwrights: we have an incorrigible urge to vent.

So, says Alexi Kaye Campbell, let’s write something that we desperately want to tell someone that we’ll never see again – whether it be wishful, required or something that is an obligation to our inner-self. Let’s throw ourselves in at the deep end. There needs to be something of Pride, Apology, Faith or something that has meaning to us. Something that speaks to us and other people: but it must come from the soil of our soul. And from there we set our sail.

We wrote and the emotions were vivid. It was smelt, seen and succumbed to by all: in our imaginations and within the room. But, as Alexi Kaye Campbell said, what was said or written in that room stays within that room. Like one of those holidays. Though less insalubrious – more redemptive.

And so we went on as a collective group of individuals joining together (as writing is often an extremely solitary existence) under the tutorage of the inordinately giving Alexi Kaye Campbell. What was learnt during that short, yet intense, two days cannot be replicated by anyone! I defy you to find a more charming, erudite and gracious tutor as that of Alexi Kaye Campbell.

Tamasha are by far and a way the most accommodating and far-seeking new writing and acting Theatre Company I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with – I wish them all the greatest success in the future and hope that I get the opportunity to work with them again. The entire experience was an absolute joy: something out of the ordinary.

My lasting thought is: Praise be to Tamasha and Alexi Kaye Campbell – let’s turn those taps a little further and turn the drips into streams!

Jocelyn Watson – participant writer

I came to the Alexi Kaye Campbell Tamasha masterclass with a play that I had almost written but was unclear as to whether it worked. What was really effective from the start was that Alexi encouraged each one of us to go deeper into the scream, into our subconscious, forgiving and telling. Alexi highlighted that any play is personal, about our desire to communicate and that inevitably we invest a lot of ourselves though the main protagonist is not us. Consequently I began to explore for myself how much of my central character was me and the soil that connected me to her and my needs to communicate. It was very illuminating and I was able to look at my play more critically and sensitively rather than intellectually. It was very powerful and I think Alexi was absolutely right in encouraging us to be more personal and to look at the friction of the play in greater detail.

Tom Fletcher – participant writer

In recent months I have learnt the conventional approach to film writing and film structure pretty much inside out, however I enjoy reading plays in my spare time and so many of them don’t follow the same rules at all and I had no idea in certain cases how playwrights went about developing their ideas into something they could begin writing. As I wish to write for theatre as well, I was looking out for a work shop with a writer of some calibre. So I therefore decided to apply.

The first thing that struck me was what a dedicated selection of writers that were on the course, more so than any previous course I had been on. That enthusiasm was more than matched by Alexi’s contagious passion for the theatre, which clarified and solidified the reasons that makes writing for the theatre so important and unique. Following on to the second day, we deconstructed his writing process and tried building a new play of our own in the same way. I came out of it with a great understanding of how playwrights develop the structure of their plays and much readier to write an accomplished work of theatre. I believed I hit on something while trying to analyse Apologia: films go from premise to story structure and fit the characters to suit the story, and playwrights develop the characters once they have decided on a premise, and then fit the structure around who they are. There is obviously much more to say than that but I believe that is a useful and fundamental way to understand the way the two crafts are conventionally approached.

I have found Alexi’s approach to writing to be massively important to my own development although doing it in reverse, so to speak, I believe works better for me. That is to say I take a situation that is totally fictional and find ways in which I, the writer, can empathise with it, as apposed to Alexi’s way of taking something that has effected him and building it outwards into a fictional story. He has taught me the importance of finding those parallels that make my writing personally relevant however.

Anh Chu – participant writer

It’s not easy to summarize the masterclass with Alexi Kaye Campbell at Tamasha, the way it’s difficult to adequately describe any transformative experience in the midst of it. As hard as it is to identify the germ of your play and what it is you’re actually trying to say.

Yes, we went through practical exercises. First we looked at imperative words – what is something one character must say to another? Then we looked at conflict – finding as much of it as possible, both between characters as well as within each character. We created an inner and outer CV for our characters. We discussed form. We worked on an elevator pitch of our play.

Each of us had to dig deep and ask the important questions – what is the seed of the play? Writing from a true and often raw place inside ourselves is terribly difficult – but that is the starting point and that’s why the play has to matter to the writer. With Alexi’s generosity and compassion, I came to realise I need to go to the darkest place within myself that I’d as yet just glossed over and for this I am very grateful. That dark place is where the richness lies.

As writers we must remember that the more specific we can get, the more universal a story becomes, the more the capacity to resonate with an audience. As playwrights, we must confront ourselves and use that information constructively and creatively in our work. Alexi told us to own up to parts of ourselves that are unattractive whilst remembering that although we can put ourselves in to our characters, they ultimately are not us. Playwriting can be a long, grueling and heart-rending process, but that is the norm. It is this outpouring that spills over the stage to make theatre such a visceral and profound experience the audience participates in. Commit to the work and dig. Dig until you hit paydirt. Then dig again.


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