8 September 2016

Theatre Madness Festival 2016: A Chat with the Writer-Directors

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend FAITH Drama Productions' Theatre Madness Festival this coming Saturday, and in preparation for the event, I've done some interviews with the writer-directors, to see what it's all about and find out a little bit more about them! 

To find out more about the event itself, click here.

Em: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday?

Darrel:  I am quite excited to see what the other writer/directors have produced using their secret words. It's going to be very interesting to see what different styles of theatre and performance have been incorporated into this years festival. Rumour has it, all four pieces are very distinct from one another. If I can get at least one laugh from the play in which I've written, and at least one audience member goes away thinking about the subject matter being explored, I will be happy. 

Isaac "Icey": Seeing my words being performed is a really exciting prospect - music videos are a completely different beast to theatre. The immediacy and real time energy of theatre is something you can’t capture with music videos so seeing my work unfold in front of a live audience is going to be a thrill. Also having my friends and family there to see it all is going to feel pretty special. They’re incredibly supportive and I always want to put on a good show for them.

Kerri: I'm actually really looking forward to seeing what the other writer-directors have created from the words they were given, really intrigued to see where they've taken things. I'm also really looking forward to seeing my own piece performed on such a lovely stage and in front of an audience - you tend to gage if things are working from the audiences' reactions so will be interesting to see what they make of it.

Megan: I’m really looking forward to seeing the piece come alive, taking it from page to stage with all the costume, props and lights. Everyone’s worked so hard these last few weeks, and I can’t wait to share Holnap House with my friends, family and all those attending the festival. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short space of time.

Em: What’s been your favourite thing about the process so far?

Darrel:  It has been genuinely great to direct a group of very talented, energetic and enthusiastic actors. They've really dived into the roles they were given and I feel together we have managed to build something concrete from the blue print which was the script. I've genuinely enjoyed working with the cast and there's been lots of laughs both on and off the stage. I've also learnt a lot more about myself as a director and honed the way in which I work and operate within the rehearsal room.
Isaac "Icey": Working with my actors has been a privilege. For me Directing is primarily about collaborating and building trust with your team. If they believe in the process and the product then great things tend to happen. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about working with actors, which is something that can be fleeting on a one day music video shoot.

Kerri: The short writing deadlines have forced me to write quickly and I love the fact that I've produced something that I had absolutely no idea was in me in just a matter of a few weeks. I've also really enjoyed having the support of a dramaturg (John Gordon), writing can be lonely work so having someone to bounce ideas off during the writing process was like gold dust.

Megan: I loved meeting the actors properly for the first time, going through the piece and discussing their immediate thoughts and reactions to my play. Right from the get-go the actors really understood what I was trying to do/say so it was really fulfilling to know that what I had written was evoking strong reactions and a shared understanding.

Em:  What’s been the most difficult thing so far?

Darrel:  Trying to create a coherent story which has a defined beginning, middle and end is quite difficult within the space of ten minutes.  Perhaps even more difficult than that is giving birth to five contrasting, three-dimensional characters within that tight time frame. Hence the writing of the play was a challenge at first. The script underwent many drafts and there have been many edits, edits which have continued throughout the rehearsal process. As a final draft is never quite a final draft as there is always room for improvement. I suffered slightly from writers block upon being given my word in which to base my play upon. I thought long and hard of ways in which I could avoid interpreting the word literally, and wanted to think of a unique story which would still demonstrate a connection to the root of the word. I want all of my written work to be both entertaining and thought provoking, and I hope that this piece will be.
Isaac "Icey": Getting the most out of the rehearsal time has been tricky. I’m no stranger to pressure and time constraints and the challenge is something I relish but it is difficult shifting focus to my other projects and then coming back to this for a few hours, which have to be squeezed to the max for every last drop of energy.

Kerri: Yesterday, writing a 50 word blurb for my piece, I was told to get the reader excited about coming to the show. I found it incredibly difficult to actually describe the piece without spoiling it for the audience. I also found it tricky to sell the show, as I'm a fairly new writer I think I'm a little self conscious about my writing and what people will think of it, I often question whether I'm actually any good at it, which I know isn't the point, but I do.

Megan: The most difficult thing was the fact that I had to completely scrap my first play – the whole concept, theme, characters everything – and rewrite a brand new piece in less than a week, whilst working a full time 9 to 5 job! But I managed to do it and completely agree with the feedback that was given, and now I feel I have a much stronger piece, with a strong message that is explored through characters and emotions rather than statements, which was the problem with my previous play.

Em:  What are your dreams for the future?

Darrel:  One day I hope to reach the stage in my writing/directing career where I can look back on a particular piece of work and be genuinely proud of it. To create a piece of theatre which bestows confidence in my abilities, as it is so easy to doubt yourself within this industry and get wrapped up in comparing yourself to other artists and the work they create. However making it into the final four of this competition has helped slightly. As an analogy, I feel like an artist who is yet to create their masterpiece. Perhaps this play will be it once it comes to full fruition. But I want to have an impact on people. I want my work to truly challenge and change peoples perspectives of the world in which they live, and at the same time change and alter my own through having that creative journey, and I suppose, shared experience. As pretentious as that sounds (says every pretentious person). 

Isaac "Icey": One of my tattoos reads “My Dream Is So Close”. I got it a long time ago but in the last year it has started to feel timely as I have been developing my debut feature film in association with The Screen Arts Institute and the BFI. Making this film is a big dream of mine. Also I’m privileged to frequently work with an awesome collective of friends and collaborators so everything definitely feels like it is getting closer when we’re clicking. As a result I feel now I’m dreaming a little less and doing a lot more. But if I had to give one answer, I would say I want ‘The Incredibles 2’ to hurry up and get released already. Definitely to write and direct more theatre too.

Kerri: Well I've worked in drama for a while acting, directing and also doing a bit of sound so I'd really like to continue doing that and develop further as an artist, I'm keen to create and write more pieces too. Sometimes it's difficult to write but when you're in the zone with writing and completely unaware of what's flowing from you, then (I think) that's when the magic comes. So yeah, more of that please. I love theatre and would also love to write for screen too one day… Oh yes, and I'd love to be able to fly one day, my own secret super power.

Megan: The dream is to be a successful playwright. To have my work on at theatres such as The Royal Court and the National. To walk into the Olivier Theatre and sit in baited breath as the lights go up and my characters come out on stage. I really want to progress and grow as a writer and make a name for myself in the theatre industry.

Em:  Why should people come down to see it on Saturday?

Darrel: People should come to the festival to see some emerging talent and to witness the birth of four new plays which I'm sure will offer the audience an emotional roller-coaster. They should also come down because the theatre is a place where we can truly express ourselves and strike at the heart of certain issues and subject matters which are regularly ignored or brushed over within our day to day society. Without the support and interest of the general public, all forms of art would eventually seize to exist, and that world would be very bleak indeed. So help us keep the spotlight on what really matters. 

Isaac "Icey": Firstly because I think Faith Drama have struck on a really refreshing approach to an evening of Theatre. If I wasn’t already taking part I would definitely want to be in the audience. It’s fresh and definitely won’t be prosaic. The structure of the event almost creates a something for everyone appeal and underpinning that they have really encouraged us to create something honest whilst expressing ourselves. Secondly I think any excuse to watch new or emerging talent is an opportunity worth taking. You never know who you might be watching before their next big gig. And finally, in relation to my play I think the audience is in for a pretty fun and unique show, which as of today is also incredibly pertinent and relevant.

Kerri: Oh don't, what did I just say 2 questions ago?!!! Errrm yeah it's raw, real and really really good … oh no that sounds terrible ha ha ha. Just COME you'll see something you've never seen before and have a unique night out. Yep, that sounds okay does't it? Hopefully!!

Megan: People should come to see my play Holnap House and all the other Theatre Madness plays because the whole festival is a celebration of emerging talent and fresh bold voices who need to be heard. As one of the final four writer/directors I am so proud to have made it this far, and would love people to come and see how hard everyone has worked and to celebrate our achievements, as well as to celebrate the tenth anniversary of such a fantastic organisation such as FAITH Drama Productions.

If this all sounds like something that might interest you, head down to the Stratford Arts Centre on Saturday night to see some new and innovative theatre! You can find out more about all of the writer-directors using the links below:

Darrel Draper: @ThemeanDoubleD
Isaac "Icey" Tomiczek: www.anicesouvenir.com
Kerri Maclean: @kerri_mclean
Megan Fellows: @Megan_Fellows

To see the trailer for Saturday's Theatre Madness Festival, click here!

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