The Off Cut Festival 2011 will see 28 short plays being performed at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios as part of a three week showcase of new and undiscovered talent with the audience able to vote for their favourite play, which will receive development time and a full run next year – much like last year’s winner Sweet Engineering of the Lucid Mind which played at the Hen + Chickens in March. The reading panel selected 32 plays, all of which they would have been happy to have in the festival and of those, 24 were put into four groups to best reflect the diversity of writing style/genre/tone/casting in order to present the most exciting, interesting and varied programme for the audience. And because they are crazy people at Off Cut, they invited a panel of bloggers – yours truly, Scott, Luke, Alison and Havana – to select our favourite four from the remaining eight to make up the final programme.
Thus we were treated to readings of 8 short plays from the Off Cut reading panel plus a little extra assistance, and though there were several moments of helpless giggles at some of the more absurd points, there were also some lovely touching moments which really added to the whole experience and brought a complete life to the scripts that would have been lacking had it been a simple reading exercise. The subjects covered were an interestingly varied range, as were the formats, but the final four that we selected by committee were:
Click by Mike Carter
The Final Days of Fringe Theatre by Ian Townsend
They Fuck You Up, Your Mum and Dad by Michael O’Hanlon
Two Rings by Louise Taylor
It was interesting to see that we all responded very strongly to two of the above and were largely in agreement about the third, but it took a little while to choose the fourth, torn between two options as we were and it was most illuminating to then see how we had each come to our decisions and what we had been looking for in the plays and the different things we perceived to be weaknesses. We all had our different approaches and preferences and so I think we managed to come up with the best selection of plays to join the other 24 in the final programme.
Scott has done a good round-up on his blog here including some of the more general points about the writing that he personally didn’t like, most of which I am in agreement with, especially the last one about giving the game away too early, something that was crucial even in a 15 minute long piece: by and large, it was surprising how quickly one was able to suss the better pieces of writing, or rather the ones that appealed more to my sensibilities. I also found it amusing how many references to star-signs there were, I don’t know anyone who talks about them in real life, but perhaps I move in different circles.
It was great fun and most definitely something of a privilege to be asked to help with the Off Cut festival in this way, and it made for a most entertaining evening. I can’t promise that you will like the four we chose as much as we did, but there’s 24 other plays involved there too and a huge number of creative personnel who should make the festival a most interesting place to be and spot new and established talent come October.