I read scripts ALL the time, and am always on the hunt for a good play. I have a pile of plays I would like to produce one day, but it is always about logistics, timing, venue, budget, available cast etc. So my script 'to-do' pile gets higher & higher every year, and my bookcase wobbles that little bit more.
Twitter is a wonderful tool for so many reasons. I have met some wonderful people through Twitter, increased our attending audience, found people to work with, new friends, and I usually learn something new every day - it might be a useless fact, but even so. Another big advantage of Twitter, is that I get to keep up with all the new theatre being produced throughout the country, and spot potential plays in the making.
So what makes a good play? Well that, I believe, is in the eye of the beholder. When I start reading a script, I can usually tell within the first 20 pages of writing whether I am going to like it, by the first 40 pages whether I can stage it, and by 60 pages I will know whether I am going to produce it - then it all rests on whether I like the ending of the play. The hairs literally stand up on my neck when I read a good play; I cannot put it down and have to finish the whole script in one sitting.
What makes a bad play I hear you ask (I am sure you did). A bad play in my opinion consists of:
- Too many pages - nothing worse than a lonnnnng play. Theatre has changed so much in this regard. The last ten years have seen plays reduce drastically in length, and so many playwrights now tend to favour no interval. Look back to when we had three act plays, and three intervals, you almost needed a camp bed to get through them. I am definitely a fan of the no-interval-shorter-play.
- Bad writing (obviously) - characters who are one-dimensional, thin storylines, too complicated storylines, and no storylines! Comedies that are not funny, tragedies that are not tragic, and drama's that have no drama. Finally my big pet hate are very bad/cop-out endings.
- Sets so complicated you need a house builder to construct them for you. Personally I think a playwright should think seriously about this if they want their play to make any money for them. Yes, they might get a commission, so one theatre is happy to stump up the money, but after that the play will be left on a dusty shelf where no small theatre company will ever be able to afford to stage it.
In our 2014 line-up we have two superb plays, both so very different, and both had me gripped by the first 20 pages. I fell in love with 'Before it Rains' by Katherine Chandler because it is not a play like any I have read before. It is written in a realistic way, but the playwright found the poem 'The Law of the Jungle' by Rudyard Kipling a real inspiration for not only the world, but the themes in the play too. We’ve all had those lazy, hazy sunny days when everything’s going our way but then along comes the rain. We have an excellent cast for this play, and I am very excited about starting work on this superb piece of writing in January.
When I was a teen I bought a book at a jumble sale called 'Ladykillers', which was the real life story of five lady murderers, one of whom was Ruth Ellis. From here my interest in her story captured me. When I saw the script for 'The Thrill of Love' by Amanda Whittington I had all my fingers crossed it was going to be a good play - I was not disappointed. Again, it is written in a very unusual way, and the stylised manner in which Amanda tells her story of Ruth Ellis, makes it an exciting and captivating play.
So to end on a little bit of theatre logic for you ...
In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course-
Left is right and right is left
A prop doesn't and
A trap will not catch anything
Strike is work (In fact a lot of work)
And a green room, thank god, usually isn't
Now that you're fully versed in Theatrical terms,
Break a leg.
But not really.