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Drama from scratch: with, by and for Northampton

Christopher Elmer-Gorry, Artistic and Executive Director of Warts and All Theatre celebrates the success of an 18 month theatre project with The Collective -Northampton’s Theatre-Making group for adults

Back in July 2017 Warts and All Theatre hosted Scuff Night at Foodies.rocks. Sixty audience members from across Northampton took part in our first ever Scuff Night- so what was Scuff Night? Well, we deliver a monthly writing group for playwrights at any stage of their career or at any experience level. The group is called The Collective: Makers. Over the course of a year the participants develop ideas, extracts or scenes from a play that they want to make. Then in the Summer our theatre making group The Collective: Performers present extracts from these plays at Scuff Night… and here is the exciting bit, armed with casino chips (of different values), the audience at the Scuff Night place their bets on which ideas they would like to be developed into full plays.  


The two plays that received the most votes in 2017 were Deep Freeze by Greg Dallas and No Child by Emma Matthews and now its time for us to present those one act plays as part of a double-bill in March.


With the rehearsals starting for both shows back in September 2017 we are now a few days away from the world premiere of these two new plays. Both of these plays will have been written, developed and performed by artists from across Northamptonshire.

One of our aims here at Warts and All Theatre is that we present projects at a variety of locations.  Specifically, non-traditional theatre venues in the hope that it encourages new audiences to attend. So this year we are presenting the plays at St James Community Centre, On 23rd and 24th March.

Now there is something unique about this project that sets it apart from traditional theatre events which enable people to tread the boards…. With this, it’s the fact that we have made the plays from scratch. Devised, created, edited, deleted, cut, pasted, developed, improved, you name it -We’ve probably done it!

It’s not as simple as the actors learning lines and knowing where to stand, and what emotion to use. The project encourages its participants to develop their craft in playmaking. It’s basically like making your own greeting card, but it’s a show!

Making something from scratch requires the actors who will be performing it to consider what drives their character to behave a certain way. How that behaviour then affects another character’s behaviour. It provokes the actors to consider all the cogs in the machine. It’s about understanding the narrative of the play and how each time we add a different ingredient -the taste of it changes. It’s about putting one’s ego to one side so we can wrestle and debate the content of the play and what the point of it is. It’s not just about who has ‘the main part’.

Double Show A5 For Online

All sounds very complicated and high-brow- but in fact, it’s not, it’s been great fun!  Our weekly sessions take the form of the writer, either Emma or Greg sharing bits of the script they’ve been working on. We then workshop this scene or extract, which basically means we improvise around it, we talk about where it sits in the play and then we rehearse the scene. Emma and Greg then use all the information gathered in that session to either amend the scene or re-write it. It’s a collaborative process. Of course, the writer and director have a large part of making final decisions, but the group really feed into the process of creating something new.

The process is a really important element to our work at Warts and All Theatre. I’ve mentioned it already in regard to ‘main parts’ but that terminology is actively discouraged in our rehearsal room. I believe it encourages a sense of ‘me, myself and I,’ and not the idea of working in collaboration, developing each-others skills and actively committing to learning new things…and let’s face it, I think the world could do with a lot more ‘us’ and a lot less ‘I’ at the moment!

So, will this collaborative process of creating new plays in Northampton work? I think it already has. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. Of course, our performance is still to come. But for me its not just about the end-product. It’s not just about how good the set is, or how brilliant the costumes are. It’s about the process of how we got there and how we developed towards creating the final product. I think it’s useful to think of the performance as a celebration. It’s an opportunity to share the work with the community that voted for it to happen in the first place. It’s about arts organisations committing to its community and developing projects that are with, by and for its residents. If you want to get involved- you can! We are now enrolling for the Summer Term of The Collective: Performers and our Makers group will be presenting this years Scuff Night in July.

In my opinion, as we continue to make theatre with, by and for Northamptonshire residents, it won’t be long until we all reap the rewards. With that in mind, hopefully you will join us on that journey to celebrate the hard work of The Collective over the last 18 months.

See you at St James Community centre in 23rd and 24th March!

Production Information:

For more information on Deep Freeze and No Child or to register your interest to get involved please visit www.wartsandalltheatre.co.uk

Deep Freeze by Greg Dallas and No Child by Emma Matthews

St James Community Centre


23rd & 24th March at 7.15pm

Tickets: £11 (ticket includes both plays)

Tickets available: http://bit.ly/2oP4igQ

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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