Combining six brand new one-act plays, workshops and script-in-hand readings, Liverpool's Write Now Festival lays bare the writing and rehearsal process, as Ian Moore explains
When artistic director Ian Moore first arrived in Liverpool he was immediately struck by the amount of writing talent in the city that didn’t get an opportunity to be seen. “I’d been working in the theatre industry for a while and been around the block a few times,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that the city didn’t have anything organised to strategically assist grassroots playwrights and directors.”
Inspired to set up a platform for new writing in Liverpool, Moore began to form the idea for a festival that would focus on and showcase local playwrights. So, after a few years' structuring and with the help of actress Pauline Daniels and other patrons, Write Now Festival was born.
Now in its fourth year, Write Now is keeping true to its purpose as a ‘platform for playwrights’. To make sure that the writers get the most they can out of the festival, a little restructuring has been done – a discussion and workshop follow the debut of every play to give the writers, each working with a mentor from the theatre industry, a chance to fine-tune the performance before its final showing. Audience members who came to the first showing are welcome to sit in on these workshops to find out more about the process of creating the festival’s performances.
This year also sees the festival moving into Liverpool’s award-winning Unity Theatre – and as summer comes to a close and the cold weather draws near, the shows programmed are a fairly cheerful and light-hearted bunch to keep spirits up.
Take, for instance, Sting Like A Butterfly (19, 21 Sep), described by first-time writer Johnny Parker as “a comedy based around the story of an Olympic boxer who was knocked out of the competition by a bee that flies into his helmet… he’s living a dull and quiet life until a customer in his shop pulls him into the sequined world of salsa.”
Another comedy is the tongue-in-cheek Last Tango at St Leonards (18, 20 Sep), Mari Lloyd’s second contribution to the festival – after last year’s The Match – and based in the unfathomable world of the NHS. Lloyd describes being part of Write Now as “a fantastic opportunity for writers like me who wouldn’t be able to get their plays seen by themselves. If anyone has a play hidden in their bottom drawer they should definitely send it in.”
The festival’s other four plays range from the dark to the uplifting. Happiness, by Danny Whitehead (18, 20 Sep), questions whether our happiest moments are our most vulnerable, and Angela Walsh’s The Road to Skibbereen (19, 21 Sep) is a poignant tale of the love between a mother and daughter. Liverpool-born playwright Brian Brown explores the moral values of two young men seeking to profit from charity work in his Hoverin' on the Edge (19, 21 Sep) and, last but not least, Margot Agnew’s Guardian Angel (18, 20 Sep) examines some unexpected results of what happens when a mother’s desperation meets the occult.
As well as these six plays, each an hour-long, the festival will have script-in-hand performances from members of the Liverpool Playwrights group and a ‘Playwright's Challenge’ (both on 21 Sep) – three playwrights, six actors and a director are thrown together for the first time ever and given the four days of the festival to write and stage a brand new play.
As Moore says simply, the heart of Write Now Festival is a celebration of “writers and performers coming together to support one another and new writing which deserves to be seen.”