As we say goodbye and good luck to our 2019-20 cohort of PlayBox playwrights – Billie Collins, Nana-Kofi Kufuor and Keisha Thompson – we take a look back over the last 12 months of our writer-on-attachment programme…
“My skills as a playwright have developed, alongside my confidence in them. I’ve come out with a play I’m genuinely proud of and am excited to develop further.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of my experience.”
“It has definitely been a confidence boost for me and I’ve been given the incentive to take more risks with my writing.”
Now in its third cycle since its inception in 2014, PlayBox is Box of Tricks’ year-long writer-on-attachment programme offering bespoke residencies to three early-career North West playwrights to write a new play with support from Box of Tricks.
Playwrights are identified through a process of reading open submissions, recommendations from local theatres (including Royal Exchange Manchester and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse) and talent-spotting local emerging artists. From a shortlist of 10 local playwrights, we read scripts and had face-to-face meetings, selecting three playwrights who would most benefit from a year-long attachment and commission.
Over the course of a year-long attachment, each playwright receives a seed commission to write a new play with dramaturgical support from the Box of Tricks team and workshop development with actors, culminating in a public rehearsed reading.
Meet the writers
“Researching birds led to migration, which ripples out into ideas of home, and once you’re looking at migration it’s not long until you get to the climate emergency… From this big mess of images, places, themes (and really good bird facts), a story developed.”
“Hannah [Tyrrell-Pinder, Joint Artistic Director] asked me about me, which took me aback slightly. I learnt from that moment that people who want to read your writing are really reading you. They want to know who you are and what makes you different, what makes you tick; in effect, what makes you special.”
“As I wrote it felt liberating but daunting in equal measure. Am I being clear? Is that realistic? Is this even interesting? In order to perform something, I need to feel connected to it. Was I giving enough information so they could do the same? How prescriptive do I want to be? Have I written enough so they can get in my brain? Should they get in my brain?”
PlayBox Takeover at HOME
The PlayBox placements culminated in public rehearsed readings at Box of Tricks’ PlayBox Takeover day as part of the Push Festival at HOME in January 2020. The PlayBox Takeover day involved three rehearsed readings of our PlayBox plays, as well as a Writers’ Breakfast conversation event and a Page to Stage workshop.
The Takeover day was a huge success, with 50 people attending the free events and audiences of over 200 people attending the sold-out rehearsed readings. We received positive feedback from audiences, participants and critics:
“All three pieces of writing which, even at this stage, are already well-crafted, ambitious and engaging.” Circles & Stalls
“Loved spending yesterday at #PUSH2020 @HOME_mcr and the excellent @bottc PlayBox Takeover. So many interesting ideas tackled by 3 brilliant playwrights who seemingly know no limits”
Jamie Walsh (@walshjamie_) on Twitter
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored by Nana-Kofi Kufuor
In a classroom over the course of an hour, a teacher and a student dissect a traumatic experience fuelled by racism and a sense of wanting to belong.
“For all its intensity, its energy rarely falters, even managing to find space near the end for two blazing monologues about being Black that hit home with ferocious precision.”
Circle & Stalls
The Bell Curves by Keisha Thompson
Follow the protagonist Nana as she considers the science in her future. Set in Manchester, this story features an all-female cast who explore the human implications of CRISPR-Cas 9 gene-hacking technology.
“This lively and well executed ensemble piece is a change in direction for Thompson, who is mainly known for her solo work.”
Circle & Stalls
Too Much World at Once by Billie Collins
On his fifteenth birthday, Noble transforms into a bird. His sister Cleo is thousands of miles away. A play about home, and what happens when it spits us out.
“The writing is just beautiful – poetic and clipped.”
Circle & Stalls
PlayBox was generously supported by:
Garrick Charitable Trust, Thistle Trust & Fidelio Charitable Trust