Southend/Chelmsford: Festival showcases work by promising playwrights from around the world

The Southend Playwriting Festival starts this week

The Southend Playwriting Festival starts this week - Credit: Archant

Three nights, 12 plays; the Southend Playwriting Festival returns to the Palace Theatre Dixon Studio this week to celebrate new work by some of the best up-and-coming dramatists from the around the world.

The Southend Playwriting Festival starts this week

The Southend Playwriting Festival starts this week - Credit: Archant

Even better, it will transfer to Chelmsford’s Cramphorn Theatre for the first time this year.

“In each of the first two years we received around 30 submissions,” says Amanda Whiteford who organised the event with Janet Tomkins and members of the Palace Writers Group.

“This year, thanks to extensive internet marketing, we attracted a incredible total of more than 400 scripts - not only from local playwrights but from all over the UK and even as far afield as Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia.”

There will be 12 plays at the Dixon Studio from February 5-7, repeated at the Cramphorn from February 9-11.

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Work by a mix of writers covering a mix of genres will be staged by well-known local actors in the form of dramatised readings with post-performance discussions with the writers, actors and directors.

Choosing the plays was no easy task, says Amanda.

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“Janet and I first whittled down the 400 scripts by reading the first 10 pages of each one to see whether it really grabbed us. We then selected from our initial shortlist a range of plays that would give the audience real variety – drama and comedy and different subjects.

“Finally we read them out loud with our actor colleagues to see if they really were the right choice. We’re confident the net result is genuinely something for everyone.”

The plays themselves range from Deckchairs, a darkly comic piece which takes place on the main deck of the Titanic just after midnight on April 15, 1912, to Conchiglia, the tragic story of the son of Ruth Ellis who was the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

Two of the works are by Ann Hilton and Colin Riley from the Palace Writers Group, with three by American writers.

Several of the writers will be attending, including Bill Arnold who wrote Deckchairs and plans to fly over from the USA specially to see his work performed.

Before the festival starts proper, there will be an open mic night organised by Sundown Arts on February 4.

For more details about the festival visit Tickets for each night cost £8 at both venues or there’s a £15 season ticket covering all three nights for just £15.

The show are:

Conchiglia, by Vivienne Allen: The story of Clare André McCallum (Andy), who was just 10 when his mother Ruth Ellis was executed for the murder of her lover David Blakely. Now a lonely adult, out of step with a world he can’t function in, he relies on prescription drugs to get him through the days and nights during which he’s haunted by visits from his mother.

The Visit, by Graham Large: Volunteer befriender Patricia calls on her first ever client, an old lady called Betty living on a council estate.

Jam, by Sion Wilson: Meet the occupants of various vehicles jammed on the M25, going nowhere - or are they?

Burnt Out, by Ann Hilton: How would you feel if you found yourself in the middle of a riot?

Obvious Guilt, by Ethan Bortman: A psychiatrist’s wife mysteriously disappears. At first it looks like an accident...

Hideout, by Helen Foster: Two soldiers in a combat zone talk about their future after leaving the army.

Skeleton, by David Payne: What do you do when your daughter doesn’t want to eat?

Remember, Remember, 1605, by Colin Riley: A re-examination of the Guy Fawkes trial.

Sanctuary, by Val Valdez: Set in 1940, a young German Officer hides his Jewish lover but is forced to find sanctuary for them both when given orders to build a concentration camp.

Mountains, by Chris Skinner: You’re saying you wouldn’t climb the highest mountain for me?

Deckchairs, by Bill Arnold: Taking place on the main deck of the RMS Titanic just after midnight on April 15, 1912. Could feng shui be the answer?

Saffron Jack, by Rishi Dastidar: What does it mean to be a ruler in a world of your own making?

Call the Palace Theatre box office on 01702 351135 or the Cramphorn Theatre on 01245 606505 for tickets.

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