SCORE is a drama with a cappella performances of disposable pop about two friends, Hannah and Kirsty. The script was inspired by interviews with drug-addicted mums. In summer 2014, I had sat with my field recorder in a sweaty room at Bournemouth’s Recovery Hub and listened to hair-raising and humorously-told stories. Documental creates new writing drama that draws heavily on lived experience and these contributors had definitely lived.
In January 2015, after an all-too-short 2 week rehearsal period, we tested the play at the From Devon with Love Festival at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. The director, Steph Kempson, and I were very proud when we were asked to Plymouth’s Barbican to perform again as their pick of the festival alongside Hugh McCann’s ENSUITE.
As the play’s producer as well as writer, I started plotting a longer tour, got my Arts Council touring application in and picked Dan Baker’s brains about how we could use the play to do outreach around social work and addiction. Simply put, addiction escalates out of a “desire to feel different”. I wanted to use the play as a platform for discussion on the subject. 3.5 million UK children live with addicted parents, our care system is under pressure but spending on drugs treatment is unpopular too.
You know you’re in trouble when you get a thin envelope back from the Arts Council but luckily there was a resounding thud on my door mat come February. The ACE tour was go! We applied to the inaugural Plymouth Fringe, and although we were not expecting to fund a Donald Trump-style lifestyle on the box office, it gave us the chance to connect with drugs organisations in Plymouth – both Harbour and Longreach Rehab House for women.
Our connection with Longreach was an amazing opportunity, as the manager there organised a mini-bus for therapists and twenty odd women in early stages of recovery to travel to the play at TRP. They were forbidden to leave the theatre in case temptation lay in store. It was thrilling, if terrifying, to sit in an auditorium where the majority of the audience had lived experience of the content on stage.
The next morning, Steph and I were invited to their group work and gained invaluable editorial insights into everything from the temperament of your average prison guard to the low points of sex work. I went on to deliver some drama writing sessions there which I enjoyed enormously, even if the Ravenhill-quality scenes some started were doomed to incompletion by the chaos in their lives.
What else was great about Plymouth Fringe? Getting an artist pass to see some really stunning, shrewdly curated shows, not least the game-changing INFINITY POOL by Bea Roberts (another Toast winner). And as for our own Toast of the Plymouth Fringe Award, it’s surprising how helpful the little phrase “award-winning” can be in your future publicity!
So here’s to Plymouth Fringe 2016. We hope it isn’t like the difficult second album and is every bit as exciting and varied as last year. My new script for Documental may not be ready in time but there’s always 2017…