Theatre Royal Brighton Young Playwrights 2019: Create and Connect by Lois Zoppi
Whether it’s life drawing hen parties, impromptu street performances, or an artistically overpriced pint, Brighton offers plenty of opportunities to be creative. But despite the abundance of creative spaces and inspiration around the city all year round, there is still something special about being given the opportunity to sit in a theatre when the stage is bare and the stalls are empty and create a story.
This is the luxury nine young playwrights like myself enjoy, from cold and blustery January to equally cold and blustery April with the Young Playwrights programme. Led by playwright Sara Clifford, Theatre Royal Brighton and New Writing South’s playwriting course allows writers from 16 to 25 to craft a short play inspired by the theatre space around them.
Along with giving us the chance to create new work, develop our voices and find the confidence to put our writing into the world for the first time, the Young Playwrights course is an opportunity to connect; whether that be to other young writers, to new characters stepping out onto the page, or to the beautiful theatre that has been at the heart of Brighton for over two centuries.
Having enjoyed the programme in 2017, I enrolled again in 2019 to write another play to add to my slowly growing collection of personal work. I took the brave step to focus on mental health for my first piece, Restless, and have since enjoyed seeing it performed in London at short play showcases and mental health arts festivals. I maintained a mental health focus for my 2019 piece The Future’s Not Ours to See, but was taken in a very different direction after spending a morning sat in the wings by the dressing rooms.
Inspired by the small seat reserved for the prompt boy in years gone by, I wrote a story about a 65 year old man in conversation with his 10 year old self, struggling to admit that he has sacrificed his real life to wild and theatrical fantasies brought on by a childhood prompting actors on the Theatre Royal’s stage. Personally, it is important to reflect mental health conditions with humour and heart, and the opportunity to push myself once again and stretch my voice to create two distinctly theatrical characters very different from my usual work was extremely enjoyable and rewarding.
Learning the craft, enjoying the risks, and exposing ourselves to the nerve-wracking but magical experience of hearing words we have rolled around our heads for weeks come from an actor’s mouth to make work that belongs to us, to them, and to the audience watching is all part of the writing process.
Another joy of the course is seeing how a group of writers can create work that is at once individual to their beliefs, passions, and writing styles, but connected thematically. For 2019, an overarching theme of external, all-seeing control emerged that was as telling as it was unplanned. Whether pulling together the cohorts of past and future could create another collective story, one that charts the changing priorities, worries, and preoccupations of young playwrights today is an interesting concept to consider.
For me, the future holds two years studying for an MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media, an opportunity available to me in part because of the work I have produced with New Writing South and Theatre Royal Brighton, and hopefully, my library of plays and other scribblings will continue to grow every year.