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In Other Words

Barbican Theatre, Friday 22nd January 2016, as part of the From Devon with Love Festival:

Scratch readings of six new short plays, written by LGBT writers, read by LGBT actors, directed and dramaturgy by an LGBT director.

LGBT voices onstage. Finding their voice.

Responding to Plymouth’s award-winning LGBT Archive.

All the pieces are different yet have a commonality. A thread. A pulse that beats through them all.

They are held together by the connecting tissues of the archive.

This force of nature that has impacted on all the lives of those involved, and now it has reached a wider audience, and that audience asked if it can go further, reach out even more, cast a wider net.

Stories save lives, don’t you know.

It is a hope.

In the archive there is hope and drama and trauma and celebration.

It is a holding space for the gaps that need attention.

The work was simply moving and beautiful and honouring by the writers:

Alan Butler (Dr)
Paul Cooke
Jo Lewis
Jennifer McDerra
Jon Nash
& myself

Made and performed in Plymouth in response to its award-winning LGBT Archive.

Al – now Dr Al to us all – not only got his PhD this week, he also added his story to the archive he has built, by having his first piece of writing for the stage performed in front of an audience. Not a bad week there then. When he is mentioned by Josie Sutcliffe (Director & Dramaturgy) in the introduction, great whooping sounds resound from the audience. Alan’s achievements deservedly honoured.

It is humbling to be part of it.

We have two days of working on the new scripts. Two hours for each play. The team gathers apace as actors arrive:

Derek Food
Paul Lawless
Eliot Salt
Jo Loosemore

It is, for some, a new experience working with actors, hearing their words spoken for the first time. The newness encourages fast thoughts and scribbling, and questions. This is supersonic dramaturgy. Hearing and reflecting and responding. Scripts getting their inner secrets revealed.

Writers go off and re-write. Actors ask questions, give feedback, think out loud.

Ten minutes isn’t long.

Jen makes a bold decision to cut a whole section and to change her title!

Some of us still don’t know where to end.

The process is working and is held together beautifully by Josie. Who keeps her focus as she shifts from one writer to another, from one script to another. The actors are generous in the room and full of good humour. There is a lot of laughter.

Derek wants to add his story to the archive. He’s a Plymouth bey.

Jo’s play is about herstory. A changeling woman who is best at sea.

Jen’s explores the shift in laws, the personal choices it can evoke in relationship to civil partnerships, marriage and LGBT folk.

Jon’s is a rite of passage. An adventure through a door.

Paul’s is his story, and yet could be that of so many other gay men at the time it is set in the mid-1990s. Gay men cruising in Central Park. One man dead.

Al wonders how many times it takes before you can stop coming out.

Mine is an eclectic act of theft honouring lesbian fictional characters as a way in to celebrate Prudence and Gay, who ran the radical alternative book store In Other Words.

All of them are about finding safe spaces.

Electric spaces.

Personal spaces. Public spaces.

As an audience arrives.

We have a fantastic audience and responses to the work.

At one point Jon Nash notes that there are 11 LGBT artists in the studio making work at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth. He is beaming. I am beaming. We have our photograph taken. We are all smiling. This is a real moment of pride and I feel it and I am trying not to show the emotion I am holding back.

Pride. It’s a wonderful thing.

Thank you everyone involved in some way. Thank you.

Natalie McGrath
26th January 2016