WoLab presents…The Actor-Writer Showcase

Less a review and more of a feature on this innovative programme – WoLab presents…The Actor-Writer Showcase

“I don’t want to be the last chair”

You want to believe that the world of theatre-making is open to everyone, that institutions are craving to hear new authentic voices, but the reality is is that it really isn’t that simple at all. Just look at theatres like the Hampstead and the Almeida who have taken the radical step of announcing Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters in their new seasons. Admittedly auteur-led but still, where’s the support and encouragement for those that want to tell their own stories?

It’s in the grassroots that’s where, in schemes like WoLab’s Actor-Writer showcase which invited aspiring artists to participate in this summer-long course to further develop and nurture their skills not just as actors and writers but as rounded theatre professionals with an eye on marketing and producing as much as making. It’s a stirringly positive enterprise from WoLab AD Alistair Wilkinson and one which proved most entertaining when the ‘graduating class’ were invited to perform specially written monologues and duologues.

What struck me most was the positive amount of diversity on show. In a week when some would pathetically decry the attempt for better representation and even claim that old religious white folk are hard done by, it is exceedingly pleasing to think of this group exploring their sexualities, their racial identities, the stereotyping they’ve experienced, the realities of low-paid work and much more besides with the harsh sting of their authentic voice cutting right through. Tell me again how hard it is to be a Christian in this country.

And the quality of the material presented here more than lived up to the billing. I agreed not to formally review this work but if you twisted my arm then I might say that you should do anything to encourage Chloe Wade to further develop the cuttingly funny May I Take Your Order? and definitely watch out for Thanh Le Dang and whatever she does next. But honestly, this whole company impressed , seizing the opportunity to show off the range of their voice as well as its specificity, having them all do two pieces was inspired in this respect.

And the reality is they could wait a lifetime for the Hampstead to knock on their door and say give me something different, and then have Purves hate it. So there’s no time like the present to get stuck in, finding collaborative souls like this, finding the venues that will be supportive like the Bunker and TheatreN16 and just doing the damn thing. Wilkinson puts it so well: “Nowadays, opportunities are framed to be there for the ‘stars of tomorrow’. But this group of Actor-Writers are not the future. They are the present – the now.” I very much look forward to seeing their progress sooner rather than later! 

Photographs: Alessa Davison

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