Category Archives: Original Content

Catching the Devil: Writing in Response to a Well Known Play 

Playwright Athena Stevens’ short play, Recompense, is being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of Dark Night of the Soul: The Feminine Response to the Faustian Myth. In this guest post, she shares her experiences of writing in response to a well known play.

If we are very lucky, a playwright’s commission comes with a set of boundaries and guidelines. There is little so overwhelming as an open ended prompt. “Write about anything you want” can quickly become the kiss of death as the parameters quickly become unwieldy.

To be commissioned to write a response to a well known play almost feels like a relief.

Until you start doing your research that is.

When Michelle Terry approached me a year ago with the request to write a feminine response to Faust, I knew I wanted to become more familiar with the story before putting pen to paper. So I started reading. Then I started asking. A fellow feminist wrote a university dissertation on the Faustian Bargain, so we had coffee. A friend in the US was a professor of religion at an Ivy League school, we had late night Facebook chats on how one quantifies the value of a soul. Others told me of their interpretation of a Faustian Bargain: it was a quest for power, it was a form of self hatred, it was to give oneself a temporary advantage which could never be repaid, it was to give up what was most valued in the world, it was to give up what was valued least.

After a while I came up with one question which unified everything: Are we even talking about the same play?

I’m a plotter by nature. While impressions and ideas are important, I have to be able to tell a well made story in order to feel like I’m doing my job well. Like questioning the Devil, the longer I interrogated the backbone of Faust, the more bewildered I got and, to be perfectly honest, the less I wrote.

As much as writing a response to a well known play feels like it should give you a huge amount a structure, very often the task becomes so daunting it can seem that we have no place to put pen to paper at all. Who are we to respond to Marlowe, or Shakespeare for that matter? Perhaps it were better nothing were to begin?

Walking around my London office I somehow didn’t feel like committing that kind of career suicide for the sake of keeping my mouth shut. So I started with some very basic and simple steps towards putting pen to paper, even if it meant throwing it all away in the process.

1. Look at the original prompt, then look at the promotional materials.

 The Globe’s website was pretty clear on what is was I needed to be focused on, and it wasn’t where my gut instinct was taking me. The central question of the festival was: what would I sell my soul for? It was not:  What would women sell their souls for, or what is the value of a soul, or even how would Faust be different if she were a woman? None of the academics mattered. Rather, I had a deeply personal question to ask, and then had to come up with a script that answered that question.

2. You are HERE, and that’s exactly right. 

Whatever you feel like is your connection to the play, that has to be your starting place. It does nobody any good to read all sorts of academic articles or the moral ambiguity of Faust if you simply are enchanted with the idea of being able to talk to devils. By all means do your research, but don’t let scholars or literature teachers, or even critics tell you how you should relate to your play. Your way ‘in’ is completely valid, and as long as you are answering the questions put before you, it doesn’t matter if your in is the story as a whole or a single word choice.

3. They were writing for then, you are writing for now.

It sounds really obvious and yet sometimes it needs to be said, centuries can separate you and the author you are responding to. Yes, human nature can be universal, and sure the more things change, the more they stay the same. However, artistic sensibilities have changed. The narrative tools we use to tell stories have progressed, and, most importantly, what was once considered to be cutting edge is sometimes quite simply an everyday occurrence now. Figure out how to keep the stakes as high as they once were, even if the original problem seems easily solved today. My job was never to write a new Faust, nor was it to prove myself a comparable playwright to Marlowe. My job was simply to put the Faustian bargain within the context of my life.

4. Nothing is sacred. 

I’m probably the last person Marlowe would ever expect to have a decent response to his play. The idea that a brain injured, thirty something, single, immigrant woman could even show up to a production of Faust never crossed his mind, much less that I would be granted a commission to speak to it. The world keeps changing and it is our jobs as artists to give voice to those changes. As writers it is never our job to write a ‘modern’ anything. Instead, it is our job to lend our voice and our times to give a new shade to the story that has already been told. It might be that simply shifting the setting of a familiar tale is enough to throw it into new light, or perhaps the story has been waiting for someone of your exact background to throw it on it’s head. Never be afraid to put your own voice towards redefining the work of the canon, its author was a mortal just like you and was confined by their place and time in the universe,

5. Whatever you do, just keep writing. 

Writing is rewriting. Sorry. There’s no getting around it. Even Ayn Rand talks about sitting at her desk and simply not wanting to do the work. I say this not because I hold Rand up to be some extraordinary writer, but because if the high priestess of hard work paying off admits to the struggle, why do you think you are immune? Set a reasonable page quota daily (mine is four pages) and meet it. If you go over, great. If you don’t meet it, the days you exceeded your goal help to fill the gap. Keep writing, slowly consistently, even with a good amount going straight to the trash, just getting the words down is progress.

Athena Stevens’ short play Recompense is being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of the Dark Night of the Soul Festival between 5 January and 1 February. The festival brings together a chorus of women’s voices to respond to the Faustian myth, asking the question: What would you sell your soul for? Find out more about the festival and book tickets on the Shakespeare’s Globe website.

Happy New Year from London Playwrights’ Blog & Workshop!

So, as 2018 draws to a close, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for supporting us in this past year. Whether you’re a LPW member, a reader of our blog, a workshop participant or someone we’ve script consulted for – we are super grateful for your support!

This year has been nothing short of amazing for us. We kicked off with #WrAP2018, which saw over 150 of you step up to the challenge of writing a play in January. We’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of you at our workshops and meetups, we’ve run online workshops, partnered with London Writers’ Week for the third year running, and posted hundreds of opportunities – which many of you have reported success with!

It has also been fantastic to see our membership scheme grow and grow, which has meant we’ve been able to keep bringing you all the opportunities, content, and resources you find on the blog for free.

So, what’s coming up in 2019?

Well, as we did last year, we’re kicking off with #WrAP, which is going to be packed full of everything you need to write a play in January (if you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still time! Read this for more info!). Our first members’ meetup will take place on 2 March and for the first time, will include a free feedback session for your work. And we’re currently working hard on building an exciting array of new projects all designed to continue supporting emerging writers do what they do best – write plays!

We couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead and we hope you’ll keep supporting us in 2019 and beyond.

Here’s hoping this is your year to shine as a playwright and that we can continue to support you on your journey!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

From The LPW Team

Fireworks in Harlesden, London. Image by Billy Hicks (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

Write a play in January! 5 Reasons why you should take part in #WrAP2019

Want to find out more about why you should take part in #WrAP2019? Here, our Head of Writer Development and #WrAP2019 producer Kimberley Andrews,  gives you the lowdown and her top 5 reasons for why it’s worth giving it a go!

1.  It’s the perfect New Year’s Resolution

With Christmas looming you’re probably starting to think about your New Year’s Resolutions. Mine usually consist of a diverse selection of overly ambitious aims such as taking up a wild and daring new sport (NB, I don’t do any sports) or eating a fiercely unbearable cocktail of superfoods on a daily basis for the whole year. Not to mention my ‘Writerly Resolutions’ which include bold and completely unattainable commitments such as ‘I will set my alarm for 4am every day to make more time for writing’, or ‘ I will make it big in Hollywood this year’.

Needless to say, most of these resolutions have been ditched before the end of January and whilst I can happily forget the idea of taking up a sport, falling off the wagon with my writing aims leaves me feeling demoralised and I find this really kills my motivation.

#WrAP2019 might sound like another  outlandish January plan but it differs in the fact that you’ll see results in relatively short space of time. Seeing how much you can achieve in just one month will give you a massive boost for the year ahead! It’s also completely possible to achieve your goal – and we know this because people actually did write entire first drafts when we ran #WrAP last year.

2. You can’t fail

Unlike a resolution that requires you to abstain from something you really love for a whole year or FAIL(!) completely, you can’t actually fail WrAP. It’s true that some of those who took part last year didn’t manage to finish their plays in a month but you know what, they still had more than they started with at the beginning of January. That sounds like success to me. Even if you only get a few pages down, you’ll have sown the seeds of an idea you’ll be able to develop as the year goes on. Plus, you’ll have the #WrAP2019 emails in your inbox (and live on our members site) to refer back to as you go along.

3. It’s even better than last year

Well, last year’s WrAP was phenomenal. And that’s not us blowing our own trumpets – that’s based on the amazing work that the 155 writers who took part managed in the space of just one month.  Some people completed a whole first draft in January, others wrote a few scenes, others fleshed out an idea which formed the basis of the project they worked on for the rest of the year. It was amazing to have so many writers working alongside each other, albeit digitally, to achieve a common goal.

#WrAp2019 will work in pretty much the same way as it did last year (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!) with participants receiving prompts straight to their inbox to guide them through the process of writing a play –  but this year, we’ve got even more exciting stuff coming up…

We’re going to be throwing in some bonus content which looks at the building blocks of playwriting so rather than just focusing on the page count, you’ll have even more of a chance to develop your craft and to become a better writer.

We’ve even got a new content producer on board called George, who has experience in delivering digital content and supporting writers (and is also an emerging playwright) who will be working with me to make sure #WrAP2019 is even better than last year!

In addition to this, we’re also going to be giving you the chance to share your work at the next members meet-up so you can get feedback from other LPW members, and I’m also going to turn up armed with some tips for redrafting (which will be useful if you’re thinking of entering any of the big competitions coming up in 2019). You can read more about that here.

4. It’ll make you a better writer

This might sound like a bold claim and admittedly, there is no scientific evidence to back this up nor any guarantee that completing #WrAP2019 will mean your play gets snapped up by a producer. But based on the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ I don’t see how committing to your writing in January could not make you a better writer in some (even small) way.

With writing prompts, mini workshops, and exercises to banish writers’ block, you should feel motivated to write as much as you can in January and whilst you’re doing that, you’re bound to discover some stuff about playwriting and you voice that will no doubt improve your work. There’s also something magical about working to a tight deadline which unlocks something in your writing – you might not come up with your most polished piece of work but you’re more likely to write something you feel connected to, once you’ve let go of the idea of perfection in favour of getting it finished.

5. It’s not going to break the bank

We know January is that notorious month where we desperately await payday, subsisting on slightly stale mince pies and the Bounty Celebrations that no one ever bothers eating over Christmas. But, if you’re already a member of LPW , you can access #WrAP2019 for absolutely no extra cost. if you’re not a member yet, it’s only going to cost you the price of a coffee to join. And weren’t you giving up coffee for 2019 anyway…?

We should also mention that by becoming a member, you’ll also be helping us to continue the work we do to support emerging playwrights, so you’ll also be doing a good deed! Find out more about joining here. 

You can also find out more about signing up for #WrAP2019 here. And feel free to ask questions by commenting on this post, tweeting @LDNPlaywrights or emailing members@londonplaywrights.org 

Team #WrAP2019

Kimberley Andrews 

Kimberley is a co-founder of LPB and is Head of Writer Development. She’s worked with many writers through the workshops she programmes and delivers, and also works as a playwriting tutor & script consultant. A playwright herself, she’s passionate about helping others to be the best writers they can be. 

George Bailey

George is the LPB intern and also works at Chichester Festival Theatre in digital projects. He’s an emerging playwright and has worked with many writers through mentoring schemes he has managed with theatres. He is keen to help everyone and anyone in their writing; whether it’s their first draft, first play or first time picking up a pen! 

Featured image by Marco Verch via Flickr CC 

LPW Online Book Club: Girls by Theresa Ikoko

The LPW Online Book Club is just one of the things you can access if you become a member! Not a member yet? Well, if you want a jump start for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for? Sign up here today! (Want more reasons to join and a bit more info? Read this).

As a result of your feedback, we’ve changed the way we do book club, find out more here.

This month’s pick

For our December selection, we’re going to be reading Girls by Theresa Ikoko.

Why did we pick this?

Girls is a powerful play which won both the George Devine award and Alfred Fagon award in 2015. It received its world premiere in 2016 as part of HighTide’s annual festival, in a co-production between HighTide, Soho Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company.

The play follows three characters who have been kidnapped, and explores the impact of friendship, growing up and the stories that live behind the news headlines we see everyday. Girls delves into human nature, relationships and world circumstances in both a comical and deeply realistic way. We’re really excited about discussing the play with as many of you as possible.

Here’s a bit more information about the play: 

Tisana, Ruhab, and Haleema are three normal girls. They have a lot to say about family, faith, the world, growing up, their bodies, other people’s bodies, and much more. They’ve got plenty of time to talk. They’ve been kidnapped.

Girls explores enduring friendship, girlhood and the stories behind the headlines that quickly become yesterday’s news.

How it works

All you need to do is read the play then head on over to our Members Facebook Group from the 15th of the month to join the discussion! Book club threads will be marked with the hashtag #bookclub, so it will be easy to find the discussion. Feel free to comment on existing threads or even start your own, the more discussion, the better!

Once the discussion is open  on our Facebook Group, it will stay there, so you can dip in and out throughout the rest of the month as much or as little as you like, whenever is convenient for you.

(Please note, to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t finished the play yet, any comments posted on our Facebook Group prior to 15th of each month will be deleted). 

Need a copy?

If you need to buy a copy, you can do so at the link below. (And if you buy through this Amazon Affiliate link, a small portion of the sale will go towards supporting LPW – at NO extra charge to you!)

Girls by Theresa Ikoko

Find out more and sign up to become a member here!

Image by Soho Theatre

LPB Members’ Monologue Competition: Full Winning Entries

In the summer, we ran an online course for our members on How to Write a Monologue. We then invited participants to submit their monologues to us and promised to publish our favourite ones on the blog!

We received some fantastic entries which encapsulated  some vibrant characters with unique voices, so it was a difficult task to choose the ones we wanted to showcase. However, we managed to make our selection and here are the four winning entries:

Blessed be the Peacemakers by Alison Rayner

The Wrong Leg by Rupert Mallin

Daddy by Nicole Zandi

A Dark Place by Jane Walker

If reading this gets you in the monologue writing mood, you can still access the course on our members’ site here. If you’re not a member yet, sign up here!

 

Festive Gift Guide 2018 – The Best Gifts For Writers

It’s that time of year again: for the Christmas gift round up! Discover our selection of the best presents for writers…

‘Tis the season for mulled wine, Christmas films, carols, and trying to be more organised than last year and not leaving all of your shopping to Christmas Eve (gulp).

Maybe your friend or family member is a playwright and you’re looking to avoid buying them a notebook for the sixth year in the row (though a writer can never have to many notebooks), or maybe you’re a playwright looking to treat yourself or even add something special to your own wish list.

We’ve scoured around – stopping off for plenty of mince pies on the way – and have compiled a Christmas gift guide for writers.

Also, did you know, that by shopping through the links provided in this list, you can help support LPB at absolutely no extra cost to you?  We’ve provided links to everything we’ve recommended here using the Amazon Affiliates scheme. Even if you DON’T buy the original item (and purchase something different ), if you click through any of our links to access the Amazon website, we’ll get a small percentage of the sale to help us keep running the blog, and it won’t cost you anything extra.  So if you are planning on shopping at Amazon this festive season, we’d really appreciate it if you clicked through from here first! Thanks!

Here’s what made our 2018 Gift Guide:

  1. Papatango: Being a Playwright

Becoming a playwright doesn’t just mean picking up your pen and creating a story, there’s also lots of practical and business elements involved in building a career in theatre. This brilliant book from Papatango covers everything from pursuing funding opportunities to approaching agents. (Paperback £9.29/ Kindle £8.83)

2. The Misty Play Text

We’re frequently told that a good writer is also a good reader. Seeing theatre shows performed live is incredible, but reading the play text helps you discover a play in a whole new way, as well as learn more about the practical side of writing  a show, particularly in relation to formatting.

Misty by Arinzé Kene, originally on at Bush Theatre before transferring to Trafalgar Studios, was one of the stand-out hits of this year. A mix of music, poetry and theatre, this show was spectacular – and the play text should be at the top of everyone’s wish list! (Paperback £7.09/ Kindle £6.74)

3. Membership to London Playwrights’ Workshop!

Sign up for an annual membership for London Playwrights’ Workshop and you’ll get access to resources and writing exercises, including our Write A Play In A Month (WrAP) scheme, which will help you hit the New Year running (or writing even). You’ll also get discounts on course bookings, access to the playwrights’ book club and the chance to come along to member meetups.

You can sign up for monthly membership for just £3.63 per month here, but for a limited time, we’re also offering annual membership for £40; there is even an option to purchase this as a gift and the lucky recipient will receive a nice email on a date of your choice (even Christmas day!) containing details of their membership. If you want a gift that lasts all year round, this is it! Purchase your annual membership here. 

 

4. Writers and Artists Yearbook 2019

Often writers don’t just stick to theatre, and write for TV and novels, and this best-selling guide gives handy tips on how to get published across all these different types of media. There’s also nuggets of advice and inspiration, and it’s updated every year, continually supporting writers in their careers by providing the latest opportunities and knowledge. (Paperback £14.77/ Kindle £14.15)

5. A Pencil Case Fit For The Bard!

Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous playwright, so how could he not feature on this list? Well, we’ve not added Shakespeare himself to this list as we seem to have misplaced our Tardis… But you can get this lovely tin pencil case with a variety of Shakespeare quotes on. It’s perfect for when you need a bit of a poetry pick-me-up while you’re slogging through your tenth draft… (£9.49)

6. Something To Get The Creative Juices Following


Unfortunately, creativity sometimes just won’t strike. That’s when writing exercises are brilliant to kick-start your brain again and fill it with wonderful ideas for your next show.

The Writer’s Toolbox (£13.01) is filled with exercises and instructions to help you discover new stories and ignite those sparks. It also contains four spinner palettes to spice up your story with some plot twists…

Sometimes the problem is actually finding the time to write, but the Five Minute Writer (Paperback £9.99/ Kindle £3.49) shows how (you guessed it) we can all find five-minutes to get our creativity going again. Just spending five minutes a day on one of the exercises in the book will help you discover your story!

7. Subscription to The Stage

Full of theatre news, reviews, interviews and jobs in the industry, The Stage is a one-stop-shop for any playwright who wants to stay up-to-date about everything happening in theatre land.

They’re currently offering a special Christmas gift subscription that will begin on December 25, and grant the holder access to the print, digital and web only editions, as well as 10% discount on theatre tickets and other subscriber benefits! (From £12)

8. Theatre Brooch

Maybe you’ve stumbled across this article as you’ve got Sue from HR for your Secret Santa but all you know about Sue is that she quite likes plays, and likes to write on her lunch break (we may now be thinking about the backstory for Sue, please stop us).

This metal enamel pin is the perfect gift for any theatre-lover, and won’t break the budget! (£1.90)

9. A Pocket-Sized Notebook

We’re officially allowing you to give your writer friend a notebook for the sixth year, as a writer can really never have enough notebooks. Getting a pocket-sized one is great as it means a writer can fit it into their bag, so when an idea suddenly strikes them, they have somewhere to write it down in! This Field Notebook is also great as, with it living it someone’s bag, it’s handy that it’s waterproof and tear proof – no one wants a notebook to become so dog-eared they can’t read it! (£9.07)

10. Women Who Write Are Dangerous

The title of this book alone should be enough of a reason to buy it!

This book challenges the previous notion that writing is not a suitable career for women (with writers like Charlotte Brontë having had to adopt male pseudonyms), and instead brings the work of around 50 female authors together to showcase their brilliant writing.

Learn more about some of the best authors of our time with this book that’s perfect for curling up by the fire with on Christmas day. (Hardcover £13.88)

Happy Holidays from all of us at LPB!

Four tips on how to write a historical play that still feels contemporary

Reflecting on her experience of writing ‘Dandelion‘, which is set in 1988 and centres around the impact of the homophobic law Section 28, guest writer Jennifer Richards discusses writing a play for a modern audience that isn’t about the modern at all. 

Writing a play that’s not set in today’s world feels risky; with the idea of “newness” often favoured in theatre, with new writing theatres tending to ask for plays about the modern world. This suggests that historical plays (new ones, not the classics!) may not have a place in today’s theatre scene. But just because a play isn’t set in a contemporary time period, doesn’t mean it can’t have a contemporary feel.

My latest play Dandelion is set in 1988 and explores the impact of Section 28, a piece of legislation introduced by Thatcher that banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by schools and local councils.

You may be thinking that 1988 isn’t exactly Elizabethan times, but history is so important to this play, with the entire one hour and 20 minutes centred around the fallout of this legislation on the two queer female protagonists. As I was writing Dandelionlearning to make a play that so steeped in history feel contemporary was definitely a learning curve, but here’s the tips I picked up:

  1. Ask yourself: why is this story still relevant today?

When learning historical texts at schools, whether that was a Shakespeare play or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I always felt slightly distant from the story.

I was 14 and knew nothing of forbidden love or scary scientific inventions; and it’s not that I’ve now spent all the years since I’ve left school having my own Romeo and Juliet story set in a mad-scientist’s lab (though, great idea for a play), but I’ve seen loads of wonderful new takes on these plays and stories, which has helped me discover my connection to them.

Also, finding myself in unequal relationships where there wasn’t the correct balance of power, I’ve learnt the universality of the themes in those stories, which often do deal with power and love.

Shakespeare’s plays are still staged so frequently as they have something important to say to a modern society. In writing a historical play, it’s about looking where that universal connection still lies, that point within your play that exists outside of its time period.

With my play Dandelion, its’ ideas around identity and learning to be comfortable with yourself are not thoughts that only existed in 1988. And though the intricacies of any historical play are likely contained to that time period, it’s the wider themes that should make your story enduringly relevant.

  1. Plan an event exploring the history

Exploring that relevancy I mentioned above doesn’t have to just be contained to the script or stage. With Dandelion, we’re hoping to run a panel event in the New Year centred around the impact of Section 28 and why it’s important to remember queer history.

This has further helped us explore that historical significance of a piece of work in a modern setting. Putting on events like this, or perhaps running workshops that offer the chance for people to learn more about the history of your play and why you chose to explore that history, will further foster this connection between the historical and the modern.

  1. Don’t shy away from the time period

Making a historical play feel contemporary doesn’t mean trying to minimise the history as much as possible for fear that that part of the play will seem dull. If you want the world you’re creating in your play to really resonate with your audience, it has to feel genuine.

Using the correct language from the time period, having fun with the costumes and the music all helps cement the time period. Building a world that does seem different from today also encourages audience members to examine this difference, and look at how we’ve changed as a society, or perhaps how we’ve not changed.

  1. Understand the historical significance through the character

When I first started writing Dandelion, because it centres so specifically around a piece of legislation, I didn’t know how to introduce Section 28 to the play without it sounding like I just really needed to funnel in the description of what Section 28 was so the rest of the play could work.

And it would have been these stilted historical references that would’ve prevented the play from resonating with a modern audience. I needed to learn to tell this history through the characters rather than name-dropping legislation every other word.

Therefore, at the beginning of the play, we play the sound clip of lesbian activists crashing the BBC News to protest Section 28 (an event that really happened) to make it clear from the start that though this play is about a time of historical significance, it centres on the people of that time.

Plays are typically about having a strong voice and characters that people connect with and it’s important to remember that doesn’t change when it comes to historical plays.

Rehearsal shot for Dandelion, taken by Rosie Featherstone

Dandelion has been my first time writing a play not set in the modern day, and it’s been great learning how to combine the historical and the modern – and decking myself out in all the 80s costumes hasn’t been too bad either!

Wait – you’re telling me those costumes are only for the actors?

 

Jennifer Richards’s show Dandelion is running at the King’s Head in Islington on December 16th and 17th December.       

 

LPB Members’ Monologue Competition: Winning Entries Week 3

In the summer, we ran an online course for our members on How to Write a Monologue. We then invited participants to submit their monologues to us and promised to publish our favourite ones on the blog!

We received some fantastic entries which encapsulated  some vibrant characters with unique voices, so it was a difficult task to choose the ones we wanted to showcase. However, we managed to make our selection and we’ve published them over the last 3 weeks, with this being the final winning entry…

This week’s selection: A Dark Place by Jane Walker

Jane’s short plays have been performed on the London Fringe, and ‘King of Hearts’ was voted second favourite in a Valentine-themed evening of short plays by Spontaneous Productions. Her one act plays have reached the longlists for the Funny Women Comedy Writing Award and the Windsor Fringe Award for New Drama Writing. 

Introduction:

I was inspired by LPW’s online course to write this monologue, which is loosely based on a relative. I changed the setting and the story developed from there.

A Dark Place

By Jane Walker

1922, Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Night. A tired-looking working class woman in her forties, wearing an apron, is cleaning a railway carriage.

The mess these passengers make. Mind you, found a pipe the other day. Exchanged it on the market for some cotton. I’ll run up some dresses for the girls with that, do as Christmas presents.  Every job has a little bonus.

She picks up a newspaper from one of the seats and looks at it.

They’re still talking about it. What happened, who’s to blame.

‘Firedamp’ they call it round here. Other people call it methane. Either way it caused an explosion. Thirty-nine gone, just like that. Everyone’s still reeling, two months on. What a Christmas.

Some of those men hadn’t even reached the age of twenty. I don’t know what to say to Evie, she lost her lad.

Looks up.

What can you say?

Puts the newspaper down.

He was a big man. Quiet at home. A presence – you could sense him. The children never spoke when he was at table. He never had to put up with their noise. Always the same announcement when he came home: “Breadwinner’s here.”

Tired, all the time, he was. And filthy, six nights a week. I had to make sure the bath was ready. Haul it up from the cellar, take it back down again later – he didn’t want to see it once he’d had his bath. Sometimes, when I was pouring the water, I’d think about what it must be like, working down there in the dark.

Pause

Out to sea on a fishing boat, or down the pit, that’s the choice round here for fellas.  And the pit pays better. Me Dad was a miner too. He was good to us. It was just Mam, me and me sister. Tight-knit we were. Wish our Isabel was here now, I’d talk to her. She’s trapped, frozen for ever at the age of eight. Was it Scarlet fever? I wasn’t well after they told me, can’t remember.

Wish I had a timepiece. Maybe I’ll find one. No, I’d have to hand it in. Only keep small things, that’s my rule. Could do with knowing the time though – I want to miss last orders, don’t want drunken oafs following me home.  Our Flo will want to get to bed. She’s got school tomorrow.  She likes school.

Your husband, they would say. The stories he tells. Has us in bits he does. I never heard them stories. He preferred the company of men. Liked working with them, laughing with them… fighting with them. Bare knuckle champion he was. I went along once, to one of the fights. I wasn’t sure, but people told me it was all good natured.

As soon as I arrived I wanted to leave. They were all standing round, no boxing ring, just a big crowd in a circle. You could taste the fear, sense the bloodlust. I wanted to leave, but someone spotted me and pulled me to the front. I looked down, ashamed. And I could see bloodstains from previous fights.  They said, “Your Tom’s on next!”. I was meant to be the proud wife.  Had to stand there as he belted the soul out of some poor lad, and when it was over and the lad was spitting blood, his eye swelling, they patted me on the shoulder as though I’d achieved something. I felt sick.

I’m a widow now, a Colliery Widow. Got me name in the paper. People have been sending money for widows and children. I’ll believe it when it’s in me hand. Need it though. Can’t make ends meet.

I stand and nod and accept their condolences, their sympathy for the children. Except while I’m listening I’m having sinful thoughts.

In my heart there’s a dark, secret place, coal black it is and cold, cold as the depths of the earth. And in that place I’m thankful, so thankful for that Firedamp, that pocket of gas which ignited and took him away.

If reading this gets you in the monologue writing mood, you can still access the course on our members’ site here. If you’re not a member yet, sign up here!

Catch last previously featured monologues here:  Week 1, Week 2.

#WrAP is back for 2019! Write a play this January!

**Announcement!**

 #WrAP is back for 2019!

 

Last January, more than 150 of you kick-started 2018 by taking part in WrAP (Write a Play) – where you took on the challenge of writing a play in a month.  Some of you managed to get a whole first draft finished, others wrote a few scenes, or came up with ideas that were seen through later in the year.

We got some great feedback from writers who, whether they finished their scripts or not, felt #WrAP gave their writing a boost for the new year!

So, after last year’s success, we’ve decided to bring the challenge back for 2019 and we want YOU to join us!

You CAN write a play this January!

Forget overpriced gym memberships or learning how to crochet, the only new year’s resolution a playwright needs is to get  writing!

Throughout the month we’ll be posting a whole host of writing prompts, exercises and resources to guide you through the process of getting your first draft on paper.

Sounds a bit full on with your other commitments? Don’t worry. #WrAP2019 is all about writing as much as you can manage in January; if you finish your play, great, if you only write 20 pages, also great – that’s 20 more pages than you had at the beginning of January!

Who’s it for?

Anyone who wants to write a play! It doesn’t matter if it’s your first play or your fiftieth – as long you’re willing to give it a try and commit some time to writing your play in January, then you should go for it!

How does it work?

Throughout January, we’ll share regular writing prompts, exercises and online mini-workshops. These are all designed to support you in writing your play.

All the materials will be sent directly to your email inbox. (These will also posted online for easy reference if you want to look back at something that came before.)

The resources will take you chronologically through the playwriting process. We’ll kick off with looking at how to develop your idea and end with writing your final scene.

There will also be the opportunity for online discussion with fellow #WrAP2019 writers (and us!) via our Members Facebook group, with scheduled sessions where you can ask questions or share concerns.

How do I sign up? 

Participation is FREE but you’ll need to be a member of LPW to take part.

If you’re already a member, simply click here to sign up and receive #WrAP2019 emails in January.

If you’re not a member, you can sign up here. 

Why do I need to be a member to take part? We love supporting the next generation of playwrights but running the organisation comes at a price. Our subscription fee for members helps us to cover our basic running costs and means that we can continue to provide free resources for emerging playwrights (like you). Whilst we’ll never charge for the content on our blog, we provide additional resources over on our members’ site for paid subscribers. The great news is, monthly membership only costs around the price of a coffee! Read more and sign up here. 

Watch this space for more #WrAP2019 news!

LPB Members’ Monologue Competition: Winning Entries Week 2

In the summer, we ran an online course for our members on How to Write a Monologue. We then invited participants to submit their monologues to us and promised to publish our favourite ones on the blog!

We received some fantastic entries which encapsulated  some vibrant characters with unique voices, so it was a difficult task to choose the ones we wanted to showcase. However, we managed to make our selection and we’ll be publishing them over the next few weeks…

This week’s selection: The Wrong Leg by Rupert Mallin 

Rupert has variously worked in community arts and as a teacher. He has had much poetry published  from1970s to 1990s. Two plays on BBC Radio 4 1990s and various small theatre projects since then. From around 2005 he turned to visual arts and have my own city centre studio. Rupert is involved with ‘Creative Working Lives,’ a group of older people who have been squeezed out of working in public services. They put on exhibitions, small shows and make short films.

Introduction:

‘The Wrong Leg’ is a monologue based off of something similar which happened to my best friend’s 89 year old mum in May. Unfortunately, her mum is still in hospital and is among the bravest, warmest people I’ve ever met.

The Wrong Leg

By Rupert Mallin

HOSPITAL WARD. MAUREEN SITS IN AN ARMCHAIR WITH HER LEGS UP, COVERED IN BLANKETS.

Aren’t the flowers lovely? Put them out of the way, Dear. That’s it. And thank you for the jigsaw…

I shouldn’t be here. Pops found me on the floor – middle of the night. I sleep on a chair at home – a fancy expanding chair. Press the button and you’re lying down, press the button again and you’re sitting up! Trouble was, I kept my finger on the button and I just kept going up! Was ejected without a parachute – crash I went on the floor.

We waited three hours for an ambulance. If it had been daylight though, I might have got a ride in a helicopter. Well, there you are. Took me to hospital along the A47. Very busy. Road. Hospital.

Pain in my leg. A rotten pain. They took me for an x-ray and, guess what? No fracture at all! Just bruising, they said.

Pops got up with a terrible start – steam coming out of his ears: “That’s an x-ray of her left leg. What about her right leg?”

“What about her right leg? She only complained about pain in her left!” said the nurse in charge.

Pops went apoplectic: “She’s paralysed in her right leg! Been paralysed in that leg for thirty-three years! She only feels pain in her left leg!”

Thought he was going to explode. Well, there you are. Apologies all round and then they took an x-ray of my right leg: clean break high across my thigh bone! And I didn’t feel a thing – in that leg!

PAUSE

Six more weeks in here before I get out. Could be more. Got a thigh to toe plaster and they’ve put some kind of bolt in my leg – some sort of hinge. Of course, I won’t be able to use the leg but I need to stand on it, so Pops can hoist me up properly. On his own. And swing me about in the harness.

But with a lump of metal in my leg, will I be magnetised?  I don’t want to find myself stuck to the fridge door. Or worse, Pops can’t get me out of the wheel chair because of me magnetisation.

PAUSE

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t speak at all.” We were brought up on that round here. If you can’t say nice, zip it. Well, there you are.

It’s a bit quiet on this ward though. We don’t say a lot to each other. Just “You’re awake now then?” And “It’s raining again.” And things like that to pass the time. Mostly we dose. And if we’re not dosing we’re asleep. Sometimes, I have a funny old dream…

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT. SPOTLIGHT UP ON MAUREEN WHO THROWS OFF BLANKETS AND FAST UP ON HER FEET – DANCING

All washing’s been done and dried in the drum

I’ve polished and dusted and cleaned out the bin

Kids have been fed and are tucked up in bed

Dinner’s been eaten and Pop’s in the shed

Finally it’s my time to let go and relax

Away from the chores and polishing wax

Me and my radio, volume on max

Oh no, not this one – it’s Jumpin Jack Flash!

 SPOT TO BLACKOUT. LIGHTS UP ON MAUREEN SLUMPED IN THE ARMCHAIR WITH HER FEET UP COVERED IN BLANKETS AS BEFORE

Glad Pops noticed it was the wrong leg. You hear all sorts about people coming in to hospital and having the wrong limb taken off. Doesn’t happen all the time, does it? Take jockeys, they’re breaking bones all the time. If they took the wrong limbs off, well. You can’t have legless little men riding horses at the races, can you?

But if you’re able I suppose you can do anything, even if you can’t hang on properly. Wind surfing, wing walking. I wouldn’t want to. I prefer jigsaws. Slowly, piece by piece, you put the picture together – and what a picture it is – country scenes, Winter, penguins, dogs, people, boats, The Broads – five hundred, a thousand piece jigsaws – all in living colour. Magic how you can put it all together… Well, there you are.

If reading this gets you in the monologue writing mood, you can still access the course on our members’ site here. If you’re not a member yet, sign up here!

Catch last week’s featured monologue here.