Micro Theatre is coming into its fifth year. Like all things that grow up, we are looking at ways to keep the festival experience fresh for our audience while also building on the strengths of what we have become.
We have been pondering – how do we encourage writers and directors to create new and innovative ways to present theatre in small spaces? And what we’ve come up with is a new award for… bravery.
We created Micro Theatre as a competition, with the encouragement of a number of practitioners who wanted this. It offered us a way to pay back, in whatever way we could, to the many people who do such an awesome job of entertaining us! However, what we’ve found is that the competition element of Micro Theatre can also stifle creativity as people try to create what they think will win based on what has been successful in the past - whereas we want to keep building on what has gone before.
Strangely enough, this problem brings us back to prizes. This year we have created a prize to award the new and brave. This award is by the Festival Director, for the writer or director who brings the best new creative twist to Micro Theatre. (Don’t worry, prizes for best direction, script and acting will remain).
In saying the prize will be awarded for ‘the best new creative twist to Micro Theatre,’ I feel like I should help out with what this might mean. So, in trying to not be too prescriptive, I thought I could tell a few tales of things that have happened in Micro Theatre where I have thought – cool idea – I wonder where we could take that?
Our Press Bookhouse Homeless Person
At The Press Bookhouse last year a battered and bruised young man sat out on the street as the audience arrived, old coat hunched up over his shoulders. I was impressed by how many people where concerned, (unaware he wore a Tommy Hilfiger fleece jacket underneath the threadbare one) and I heard two ladies discussing what to do.
‘Should we check he’s okay?’
‘This is Micro Theatre, he may be part of it, you know, stuff happens.’
I love that Micro Theatre has a reputation for unexpected stuff! But the reason for the anecdote, how do you get people thinking and being in your play before it even begins?
The Linked Narratives
Why limit your script to one start and one end? Two seemingly different works may come together at a venue with some form of linked story. Also, be open to building on what people may already know – an issue, other theatrical work, a site or something else commonly known or understood – subject to your whole new angle. How do we give a short play backstory, depth and a significant past in such a short time?
The Play that was almost too real
In Helen Hopcroft’s play Late, (set and performed in an art gallery) two actors, who had introduced themselves as the gallery owner and assistant, stalled the audience when an actor failed to show up by telling her story in very short vignette’s between each of the other plays.
It was a comeback performance, fragility was hinted at, as was a slight crush by the gallery owner – they never found her.
I was thrilled by how many of the audience didn’t realise it was a play. The audience were scandalized, ‘oh isn’t it awful she didn’t perform’, they were concerned, ‘is she ok?’
On the third night we had to introduce the actors at the end of the performance – it was becoming exhausting. A year later I was still having to reassure audience members who asked after her.
If you have never seen a micro performance and are thinking of entering please have a look at our videos, see the venues and remember, no sets, few props, no lights out! The venue is the stage!
And finally, the feedback we receive from our audience says that they like the intimacy of Micro Theatre, the surprise and that it is different. Stuff happens at Micro Theatre – really good stuff!
Good luck and happy writing!