NO PLANET B – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2020
I thought the world might be suffering from eco-fatigue and not turn out on a cold January night to see BOLDtext save the planet with four short plays. I was wrong. The theatre was packed and buzzing.
Julia Wright’s Stepping Up opened the show. A well-meaning couple stage a sit-in at an office block. These eco-warriors are also the ultimate embarrassing parents because their daughter works in the very same building. The comedy soon darkens as far-right vigilantes turn up to drive the protesters out. As the thugs get closer, mum, dad and daughter reunite and fight for their cause.
Enough is Enough by Nicola Jones was inspired by her partner’s hatred of plastic packaging. In the first part a shopper braves anger and ignorance at the checkout as she tries to return her plastic packaging to the supermarket where she bought it. In the second part, a young woman recounts the episode to her father. Despite her father’s climate change denial. the daughter subtly grows and starts to think for herself.
New Doggerland is set in a flooded future with the country largely underwater. Sayan Kent explores the tensions between a mother and her pregnant daughter, while a family friend descends into mythical and religious symbolism to cope with the apocalypse. Is it right to bring a new child into this troubled world?
Definitely not according to protagonist of my play Suicide Kills. She’s a punk rock singer prepared to die to reduce the human population. Despite the grim title, there were some comedy scenes, including a visit to Planet B, and a song at the end!
The cast – Miriam Edwards, Tyrone Huggins and Rochi Rampal – sparkled throughout. They were superb as they switched between styles and characters, wonderfully directed by Ali Belbin who must be an honorary member of BOLDtext by now.
The audience enjoyed it because the theatre remained packed for the after show discussion. The four writers were joined by Dr Katie Chong from Aston University, a specialist in ecological packaging and other clever stuff, and Kefentse Dennis from the Green Party.
Kefentse entertained us by recounting what first drew him to environmental matters. It was a crush on his geography teacher! Meanwhile, Dr Katie of Cleverness broke the hearts of half the audience by explaining that an all-day breakfast sandwich is an environmental disaster.
Apart from that everybody went home happy and inspired. Indeed, an audience member told me that it was the first time she had been to a night like ours and she preferred it to “normal theatre”. Now that is a top compliment!
FOLLOW ME – Birmingham Weekender, 2019
THE SENTENCE – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2019
BOLDtext’s first all-female Open Door – three writers, two actors and a director – continued our focus on law and order, following our very successful site-specific production Behind Bars: Ghosts of the Lock-Up in October 2018. This time we adopted a modern context by looking at sentencing in the UK today. The BOLDtext writers scripted three short plays on that theme, after which we held a panel discussion with Warwick University law professor Jackie Hodgson and probation officer Keith Stokeld, discussing ‘weekend prison’, the impact of privatisation on the probation service, sentencing in domestic violence cases, and more.
BEHIND BARS: GHOSTS OF THE LOCK UP – Steelhouse Lane Lock-Up 2018 & 2019
“Very atmospheric – sent shivers down my spine several times”
BOLDtext Playwrights’ Behind Bars: Ghosts of the Lock Up, went down a storm in Birmingham city centre’s Steelhouse Lane Lock-Up – with sell-out audiences who loved the humorous and heart-wrenching tales we told, as well as the more everyday stories embedded in the WM Police former Lock Up building. In fact it was so successful it returned the following year for another twelve shows.
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Liz John, Nicola Jones, Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes, Tim Stimpson and Julia Wright. Director: Jo Gleave/Tim Stimpson. Actors: Alison Belbin, David Gray, Francesca Millican-Slater, Graeme Rose, Laurance Saunders, Becky Wright.
Funded by Arts Council England and The Sir Barry Jackson Trust
A MOUTHFUL OF RHINESTONES – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2018
On the evening of Elvis’ 83rd birthday we explored the crazy world of the ultimate celebrity and followed it up with our popular Unwanted Xmas Present Swap hosted by our Ted Pigeon (AKA Stephen Jackson).
Writers: Helen Kelly, Vanessa Oakes and Julia Wright. Director: Clare Smout. Actors: Ashleigh Aston and Vimal Korpal.
FAKING IT – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2017
BOLDtext returned for another season of Open Door at the Birmingham Rep with Fake Times – four short plays that ponder how to get real and counter today’s culture of lies.
Our theatrical deliberations tackled political extremism, fan obsession, social media news creation, and reality television.
Writers: Liz John, Nicola Jones, Tim Stimpson, Julia Wright. Director: Jon Legg. Actors: Miriam Edwards, Victoria Piper and Laurence Saunders.
DOUBLED UP 3 – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2017
Liz John and Julia Wright presented the first 40 minutes of brand new full-length plays. Liz’s World War 3 explored modern-day activism, and the challenges faced by young idealists living a non-ideal lives. Julia’s Unfollow Me was about the worrying consequences of stalking and its profound effect on, in this instance, a 25 year old young woman.
Writers: Liz John, Julia Wright. Directors: Caroline Frewin, Julia Wright. Actors: Jalleh Alizadeh, Phoebe Cresswell, Sarah Gain, Nadia Kemp Sayfi, Oli Leonard, Jack Richardson, Dru Stephenson.
Part-funded by Arts Council England
INSATIABLE – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2017
Our post Christmas show explored the politics of consumption and asked: Why do we always want more than we need? Have you got an empty bank account, a tight waistband and a pile of unwanted Christmas presents?
We finished the evening with an anarchic Unwanted Christmas Present Swap hosted by our director Janice Connolly (AKA Mrs Barbara Nice).
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Liz John, Vanessa Oakes and Julia Wright. Director: Janice Connolly. Actors: Shannon Anthony and Janice McKenzie.
BEHIND BARS – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2016
In November 2016, BOLDtext Playwrights took up the subject of prison reform in Behind Bars, three brand new short plays about Prison Reform from Liz John, Nicola Jones and Tim Stimpson, writer of Helen’s trial in The Archers. Directed by the BBC’s Jessica Dromgoole, the show asked: Does prison work? Or is it a revolving door? In Birmingham, this was an extremely pertinent question – the issues experienced in our local prison had been widely covered in the press, with 60% reoffending rates for those serving sentences under 12 months, and worrying levels of violence.
The plays were followed by a debate: Does Prison Work? with panellists from both sides of the justice system, including a spokesperson from the Howard League, serving probation officers, an academic and an ex-offender.
Writers: Liz John, Nicola Jones, Tim Stimpson. Director: Jessica Dromgoole. Actors: Murray Andrews, Marcus Hendry and Aimee Powell.
DISORDER – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2016
We decided to focus our dramatic microscope on mental health and asked: What happens when things in your head aren’t what they’re supposed to be? Or what if they are and it’s everyone else who has the problem?
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes and Julia Wright. Director: Ola Animashawun. Actors: Miriam Edwards and Greg Hobbs.
EUROTRASHED – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2016
In May 2015 The Tories were back in power and the European Referendum was on the horizon. That’s when one of us said: We should do something about that… So, that’s exactly what we did. While we didn’t have any answers we hope we asked some of the right questions.
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Nicola Jones, Liz John, Helen Kelly, Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes, Tim Stimpson and Julia Wright. Director: Bob Eaton. Actors: Jade Samuels, Jenny Stokes and Rich Stokes.
Funded by Arts Council England
DOUBLED UP 2 – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2016
Excerpts from two new plays exploring the human cost of the accident in 1986 at Chernobyl and reliving a 1966 road trip across Greece, Turkey, and Syria (based on Tony Fisher’s autobiographical book).
Writers: Vanessa Oakes and Tim Stimpson. Directors: Mark Evans and Milli Bhatia. Actors: Aimee Berwick, Mark Carey, Daniel Hoffman-Gill, Nadi Kemp-Sayfi, Janice McKenzie, David Nicolle, Ben Norris, Rochi Rampal and Sam Swann.
Funded by Arts Council England
LEAP – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2016
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII replaced the old Julian calendar with the modern day Gregorian calendar, adding one extra day to the shortest month every four years, thus keeping the months in time with the seasons. Taking this event as inspiration, BOLDtext Playwrights return to Birmingham Repertory Theatre with six micro-plays about what this extra day means to the ordinary person.
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Liz John, Nicola Jones Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes and Julia Wright. Director Peter Leslie-Wild. Actors: Therese Collins, Chris Hampton and Aimee Powell.
DOUBLED UP 1 – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2015
Guaranteed to get your toes tapping, with plenty of laughs along the way, ellaYella – The Poppera by Stephen Jackson is a play within a concert featuring Emma Skipp as ellaYella: “Will ellaYella and Joe Lonely ever get together – or will she sail away on the Queen of All Heartache and drown in the bay?”
A dark rural tale about fading dreams and desperate measures, Cold Cuts by Nicola Jones promises plenty of twists and turns along the way: “When three old friends meet at a remote hillside café, a seemingly innocent reunion takes an unsettling turn as it becomes clear the setting holds a dark history that none can escape.”
Actors: Murray Andrews, Adrian Ross-Jones, Nick Wilkes. Director: Jonathan Legg.
Cold Cuts funded by Arts Council England
SUNSTROKE – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2015
Eight microplays told tales of British tourists caught up in events beyond their control. Ordinary holiday-makers reflected on the unfolding chaos around them in an increasingly frightening and uncertain world, when they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. How should we react to catastrophic global events? And what responsibility do we bear when all we want is a couple of weeks in the sun?
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Liz John, Nicola Jones, Helen Kelly, Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes, Tim Stimpson and Julia Wright. Actors: Sean Connelly, Bharti Patel. Director: Jessica Dromgoole.
THE RUSSELL BRAND EFFECT & THE RUSSELL BRAND EFFECT: THE MORNING AFTER– Birmingham Repertory Theatre 2015
As the General Election approached, Russell Brand expressed his opinion that it was pointless to vote (then later changed his mind). This triggered an indepth BOLDtext discussion – followed by this two-part show – about the political helplessness felt by a generation of potential voters.
Writers: Stephen Jackson, Liz John, Nicola Jones, Helen Kelly, Sayan Kent, Vanessa Oakes, Tim Stimpson and Julia Wright. Actors: Shannon Anthony, Dan Hagley, Marcus Hendry, Rochi Rampal, Sonia Ritter, Jan Summerfield. Directors: Ali Belbin, Ola Animashawun.
Funded by Arts Council England
SELFIES – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Warwick Words, Shop Front Theatre, Warwick Writers Festival, 2014 – 2016
In the Autumn 2014 season of Open Doors at The Rep, we presented Selfies and More Selfies – a series of self-portraits exposing what it’s really like to be a working playwright in the Midlands today.
For once, we were the ones on stage, engaging directly with our audience as we presented our own monologues. The results, like all good selfies, were entertaining, diverse, occasionally comedic – and sometimes downright bizarre!
Curated by Vanessa Oakes, Selfies visited a variety of venues and festivals across the region.
REP NIGHT 1, 2 & 3 – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2014
REP Night 1 featured hard-hitting contemporary drama The Predator from Sayan Kent, innovative stage adaptation of a WWI diary A Diary without Dates by Vanessa Oakes, and a thought-provoking political piece from Tim Stimpson called Liberal Guilt about the early days of the Lib Dem coalition.
Our third and final night, REP Night 3, featured two contrasting family dramas: Friday Afternoons from Liz John (directed by Janice Connolly) and Never Let Me Down by Julia Wright (directed by Ali Belbin).
As well as helping to develop some exciting new stageplays, our Open Door programme has also showcased the considerable talents of Midland actors and directors. Their input was greatly appreciated by BOLDtext playwrights and by our enthusiastic audience.
Our three Rep Nights were funded by Arts Council England.