New Inck Theatre‘s Natalie Toyne fills us in on the development behind Scenes Unseen, an eclectic evening of new & previously unstaged work opening on Friday 8th March.
With a writer for a partner and many of friends and colleagues being multifaceted performers, writers and producers, I often see pieces of text put away in a drawer or hidden at the back of a hard-drive, sometimes before they are even read by outside eyes. The few pieces I get to read before they are buried are considered by the playwright to be too short, lacking enough substance to fill out a full-length play, or not suitable for the current platforms the theatre offers. Often, they are great moments worthy of a showing, some are absolutely brilliant, insightful pieces of work which are crying out to be performed.
I was curious to see what pieces of writing – be they scenes, short plays or sketches – were sitting hidden on the hard-drives of well-established world-renowned playwrights, never having premièred because of the same reasons. I felt like an archaeologist beginning my dig, and while some warned that I may find that some of the pieces of work may have been hidden because they were not of quality, I knew that I could also unearth some precious gems.
I shared the seed of my idea for Scenes Unseen with Andy Arnold in June 2011 and he was encouraging and positive that I should follow through on trying to get established playwrights on board, and so the 2am starts began…
I found that American literary agents were more open to unsolicited phone calls asking whether their famous clients would consider donating a world-premiere to my seedling of an idea, hence the early hours. I was pleasantly surprised that so many were excited about the idea of creating a platform for previously unseen work of quality, and passed my email or letters onto their clients. I was even more surprised at how enthusiastic the playwrights were about the project and soon I had a number of scripts with which to work, all from playwrights I hold in high regard.
Alan Ayckbourn helped me financially through my studies at the RSAMD (now the RCS) so he was a playwright I contacted directly. He and I wrote letters to each other for the most part. He was full of advice about the project, and what his piece (being such a technically challenging one) would need from the theatre’s technical department. Ron and Julie: A Technical Love Story, which he called “something more of a curio”, was written in the mid-80’s to showcase the National Theatre’s new technical department at the time. It was a one-off and has not been professionally produced since then. It is hilarious.
Patrick Marber’s short sketch ‘Casting’ was originally published in a magazine called ARETE and has never been performed. Again, I was overwhelmed by the support received for the project by him.
My first acting training was in South Africa, and a hero of mine is Athol Fugard – a fundamental cog in the protest theatre movement. I am not sure if my Scottish theatre friends quite understood how incredible it was to receive an email from Athol Fugard with a scene from the play he is currently working on. Andy Arnold commented: “It’s a privilege to read unseen words by such a craftsman – old fashioned story-telling, pure and simple…” I can only agree.
Andy Arnold chose the last established playwright, J.P. Donleavy. I believe he performed in the piece in his student days – but that could just be a rumour!
The playwrights studio and word of mouth through the Scottish theatre network put me in touch with the emergent playwrights whose work will be showcased alongside the established playwrights pieces. They are all incredible artists and I have already witnessed careers leaping to new heights in the short time since we first started pulling everything together. I am so pleased I got in there when I did! Stef Smith, Andrew Stott, Julie Tsang and Lynsey Murdoch – I thank you!
Of course, this journey would have been for nought had Andy Arnold at the Tron not wanted to take it on. His solid advice and guidance has been invaluable.
Rediscovering work hidden away for years, never been seen or even read by another until now, is going to be an exciting process for the creative team and the audience at the Tron Theatre.
Presented by New Inck Theatre in association with Tron Theatre Company.