Tag Archives: play

Chris Wilkins and his play ‘Lock In’


Could you tell me a bit about your play?

The play takes place in a pub in Wallsend that has seen better days. A man turns up with a shotgun and declares that he is hiding from the police. It quickly turns into a siege situation with a group of characters trapped in the pub. Ultimately it is a question of who is going to make it out of the pub alive.

Where did you get the idea?

There was an actual pub siege in Wallsend, about twenty years ago. It was famous locally because the people trapped in the pub during the siege continued to get drunk. They could be seen through the windows playing darts and pool. When the police eventually took them in, they had to wait until they had sobered up in the cells to question them. So it is partly based on that, and partly made-up. It’s not set twenty years ago, it just sparked from that story.

Why should people come and see it?

It’s amusing and I think it’s something people can relate to- everyone in the North-East has been in some kind of dodgy boozer. They’ll know what the atmosphere is like and what sort of thing goes on. And of course you can have a drink while you’re watching it.

Is it the first play you’ve written?

No. I’ve written a short play with similar themes of claustrophobia, it was set in an air-raid shelter.

What is it about playwriting that really appeals to you?

I enjoy the process of going through rehearsals- being able to see the actors up close and watching them change little things and add things to what you’ve written. Its adding physicality to writing. Working with a director can also add to a play.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

No, I’ve never been in a pub siege. But I have tried, sometimes successfully, to stay in a pub after hours.

Do you think character or plot is more important?

I think the two have to be intertwined because it has to be interesting people doing interesting things.


John Hickman and his play ‘Looked After’


John Hickman is the writer of Playing Up’s second play for their series of script-in-hand performances at The Bridge Hotel. Here is what John had to say about his play.

Looked After tells the story of fourteen-year-old Ellie. She finds herself in a children’s home, due to her mother’s severe alcohol misuse. During the play Ellie develops friendships with a couple of the other kids at the home: Karl and Jordan. However her relationship with Jordan becomes volatile and Ellie flees home to her mum.

In the end, she’s left with a choice. Does she keep on trying to help her mum? Or does she finally put herself first and return to the children’s home?

Where did you get the idea?
My idea draws on my personal life, as well as my experiences as a social worker. I’ve worked with some great kids over the years and there’s bit and pieces of them all in there, I guess. I’ve also recently started a PhD, with a focus on the media representation of looked after children. I wanted to write something that felt representative of the kids I’ve met along the way, something that explored their dilemmas, but also highlighted their humour and resilience.

Why should people come and see it?
It’s an interesting take on a setting we don’t see a huge amount of. I hope that the characters are likable and interesting; but the subject matter is heavy going in places. Yet there is a lot of humour, which reflects the young people I’ve worked with along my way.

Is it the first play you have written?
My first play was performed at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and transferred to a theatre in London. However I’m pretty new to playwrighting and still wrapping my head around the medium.

So do you tend to write more in other styles?
I’ve written prose predominantly. On the back of my creative writing MA dissertation piece, I got an agent who represents my children’s fiction. It’s been in the last eighteen months that I’ve really got into other forms of writing. I’m currently working on several film projects, which I’m really enjoying.

What are your future ambitions with playwriting?
Seeing my stuff come to life with actors, and working with directors is really exciting. I just want to get as much of my work on as possible and learn as much as I can. Ultimately, I’d like to make my living as a writer.

What is more important for you- character or plot?
For me, characters are what it’s all about. If the characters aren’t engaging, no one will care about the story.

If you’re interested in new playwrighting please come and support us. John’s play is on at the Bridge Hotel on the 16th, and there will be more plays following it over the next few months.

Playing Up is our writing company, it would be awesome if you could also like our facebook page. We were founded through Arts in Touch, they have a facebook page in need of some liking too.


Christina Maiden and her play ‘Spending A Penny’


Hello Christina, Could you tell me a bit about your play ‘Spending A Penny’?

Spending a Penny is about two airport toilet attendants – Gillian and Jackie. On a normal morning at work, Gillian is behaving unusually. She’s decked the toilets out with fairy lights, bunting and even a lava lamp. Jackie’s convinced something’s going on. And she’s right.

Where did you get the idea?

I started thinking about the location first. Public toilets are such bizarre places. The host of different people who go in and out, the snatched conversations at the sink or over cubicle doors, the embarrassing sounds people sometimes make and the fact that people go there to do something so completely normal but often not talked about made me think it would be a fascinating place to tell a story. I then considered whose perspective I would be most interested in and so decided to look at a few hours in the airport toilet as experience by two cleaners.

Why should people come and see it?

It’s not every day you can watch a play set in an airport toilet! Spending a Penny is a warm story that will make you laugh. My fondess of toilet humour certainly played a part in the location choice. However for me plays are about all about the characters. I love exploring characters. Delving into their stories – why they are the way they are and the way in which this influences how they relate to others. I find people absolutely fascinating and I really enjoy exploring the intricacies of human relationships through scriptwriting.

Could you tell me a bit about what you have written before?

Plays are my style of choice, certainly. Dialogue and the space between what characters say to each other and what they mean is what I love about writing. Plays give the perfect platform to explore that. I write bits of poetry here and there but for my eyes only. I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone else

.I’ve written a couple of short plays for young performers Once Upon a Story and The Last Word. The Last Word was one of the winners of Trinity College’s International Playwriting Competition 2012 and was also performed by Shincliffe Primary School in December. I really enjoy writing for children as it gives me permission to explore weird and wonderful ideas in a way that isn’t as possible when writing for adults. I’ve also written a one act play, Instructions Not Included, about a young woman looking back on the past seven years as she packs up her house. This was performed by Northumberland Theatre Company in March 2013

What are your future ambitions with your work?

I hope to develop my skills and experience as a playwright and doing the Live course has been fantastic for that! I would love to be able to make a living from writing plays – bringing beautiful stories and interesting characters to life.




Live Theatre’s Bursary Scratch Night

Live Theatre’s latest scratch night displayed four incredibly different pieces about isolation. The pieces are all currently under development into longer works; however they each worked very well as one off character studies.


Although technically brilliant, and wonderfully timed, this piece tended to fall short in terms of character. The point that ‘Sound and Guts’ was trying to make was to do with a lack of emotion; and how our sense of emotion is developed by our relationships with other human beings. However as the monologue was spoken in a monotone, the content could have been more interesting. Vague poetic attempts were made in the words, but it was the interesting use of sound, lighting, projection and song that really captured the audience’s imagination. Movement around the stage and the various theatrical styles that were used were also appreciated to break up the monologue.



As the previous piece ended on a depressing ebb, the audience had to be turned around quickly in order to enjoy this much more humorous look at loneliness. The actors swiftly achieved this impressive feat moving from a stereotypical look at psychics, into a genuinely funny moment between a psychic and her spirit guide. By the end the tone of the piece had turned on itself again by becoming haunted (literally). The audience, stuck confused as to whether the psychic woman was acting, deluded or had genuine power were unprepared for such an emotional ending. As a result the shock and shouting whilst the psychic was torn away from her spirit guide (a figure that she seemed to relate to much more than any of the living humans she referred to), hit the audience hard. It was painfully relatable to a couple having an argument and breaking up due to it; and made even more tragic as the psychic didn’t even have that to fall back on.



After the interval, this piece stormed onto the stage, accompanied by raucous swearing and accordion playing. Such a powerful entrance prepared the audience for a powerful piece throughout.  In this short scene the theme of isolation built up slowly; hidden at first by brash dialogue and hilarity. One of the most tragic moments of the play was the death of Mr Aesop (Mrs Bloom’s supposed husband), but it wasn’t portrayed that way. Instead, between an impression of what a short and ugly man her husband was, and how even as he drowned he was giving her the finger, this moment was made incredibly funny, and obviously entirely fictional. The joke of the plot was that Mrs Bloom made up stories that were not only funnier, but more human and clumsily pieced together into something that depicted the chaos of life, better than the morals of Aesop’s fables ever could. 



This piece quietly made the night. At first the girl depicted just came across as slightly kooky: she was wearing a patent red raincoat and green wellies, and to begin with seemed to be talking us through the facts of the rain cycle, accompanied by quirky drawings. However as the audience was pulled into the performance, we began to realise how embedded the character’s eccentricities were. She grew from vulnerable, to delusional, and then eventually tragic. This allowed a careful and intelligent script to shine through; as it became clear that the girl could understand emotions, and articulate how they felt, yet had no-one to project her own feelings onto. Instead she desperately reaches out to raindrops, considering how they travel all around the world as a way of connecting herself to many people, and most especially her father. It is a poetic idea that was skilfully executed.

Technically the piece was also interesting. There was audience participation, but it was done minimally and as a method to express Vera’s desperation to connect to ANYONE. Occasionally theatrical moments were added to by the faint sound of raindrops on a roof.

Rhythm in Theatre (A review of ‘The Secret Agent’ at Northern Stage)

Rhythm in ‘The Secret Agent’

It was haunting. A blue spotlight and a limber woman in a floating dress, was all Theatre O needed to create a highly disturbing image. It was the image of a woman slowly drowning; bumping gently against the sea bed as she sank. An image that not only froze the audience together, in one moment, but must have stuck with them long after the performance was over. Unfortunately it came near the end of a horribly clumsy interpretation of Conrad’s novella: ‘The Secret Agent.’

‘The Secret Agent’ was an hour and a half crammed full of theatrical techniques and styles. It is rare, even in theatre, for a creative piece to be overly intense. That it managed to maintain visual beauty, completely out of sync with its dull wording, was the most frustrating thing about it. It was like watching an episode of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and having to press the mute button because Harry Hill’s voice is so annoying. I wish I could have muted most of the play, taken a step back and just observed the action.

The play’s most impressive feature, and the only thing that held it together, was the rhythm of the images it presented. There were a range of methods used, including dance, animation and absurdist scenes. Whatever the technique, the aesthetics throughout were photographic. Even before the play began; an attempt to entice the audience was made by leaving a single antique armchair centre stage and pouring in smoke. The music played over this opening was the first marker of the rhythm of the piece.

The careful movements of the actors, as well as their painted faces, were reminiscent of a mime artist. Perhaps they should have considered producing the play as a mime, as it was the addition of meandering layers of monologue and awkward dialogue, which spoilt the stunning visuals and their rhythm. Meanwhile the action of the characters was choreographed into a steady beat. The actors moved and re-organised the stage like dancers. However Theatre O and writer Matthew Hurt seem to have completely ignored the rhythms that are inherent to speech. If the character’s mouths had matched their bodies, it would have made the play much more effective.

Since ancient times speech in drama has been able to move as rhythmically as any of Theatre O’s actors. Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter because it mimicked the natural rhythm in human speech. More recently Dylan Thomas wrote his radio play ‘Under Milk Wood’ entirely in verse to remind people that the world was still beautiful even when it also contained nuclear bombs. This respect for the effect of words could have greatly improved Theatre O’s effort.

Even modernist writers like Carol Churchill, who prunes her dialogue write down to the basics, still maintain rhythm of speech in their plays. The curt, often one-word exchanges between her characters results in a rhythm that is quickly passed back and forth across the stage. In contrast Theatre O just kept piling in more dialogue until its meaning was incomprehensible. Their theme of terrorism was buried somewhere amongst Verloc’s endless speeches.