31 July 2019

Northcott brings D/deaf and disabled writers together to create new plays

Three playwrights came together at the Northcott to create new 60-minute plays as part of a programme to develop D/deaf and disabled writing talent.

Daisy Higman, Kellan Frankland and Anita MacCallum were selected to take part in Graeae’s renowned Write to Play initiative after a call for artists last summer.

Over the course of one year, the programme will help five South West artists to each write and develop a full-length play through collaboration with some of the most creative minds in the industry.

The trio have completed an intensive three-day workshop in a Northcott studio space this week, turning ideas into draft scripts.

Josh Elliot, who has been running the workshop, said it had been the most successful in his time since joining Graeae.

“Giving people the time and space to write is really valuable,” he added.

“Writing can be quite lonely so the fact that everyone is from the South West encourages people to make alliances. It is a tough industry but if we help each other we can amplify each other’s voices.”

Left to right: writers Daisy Higman, Anita MacCallum, Kellan Frankland and facilitator Paula B Stanic.

Daisy Higman, from Plymouth, who is writing about the way atheists process grief around the loss of loved ones, said Graeae’s support was invaluable.

“Writing can be quite an isolating experience, particularly being a disabled artist, so it is really good to be part of a network of people with which to share your passion and experience,” she explained.

“My piece, which has a working title Nest, is about two people who are experiencing grief and how we process the loss of someone as an atheist without belief in the afterlife.

“There are a lot of birds in it.”

Fellow writer Kellan Frankland has been working on her own idea about two long-time friends who fall out completely over the Brexit vote while Anita MacCallum is producing a play about teenagers and social media.

“We have outlined ten scenes and spent our time speed writing through them to see what works and what doesn’t,” Anita added.

“I have got two teens so having space and time and being around who understand what I am talking about is really valuable.”

This is the sixth year of Graeae’s renowned Write to Play programme, run in partnership with Bristol Old Vic, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Wiltshire Creative, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Ustinov Studio at Theatre Royal Bath.

The first five years have developed the skills of twenty-five playwrights, many of whom have gone on to have work produced professionally.

In August 2017, Graeae and the Royal Exchange Theatre produced for the first time a full length play from a Write to Play graduate.

Cosmic Scallies by Jackie Hagan (from year 2 of the programme) premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, followed by a run at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Both runs played to sell-out houses, 4-star reviews and audience acclaim.

The year-long programme includes Playwriting 101 (an intensive craft-focused playwriting course), specialist workshops, mentoring sessions and opportunities to have short pieces of work performed in front of an audience.

The programme will not only provide the writers with the opportunity to develop their skills, it will also introduce a new generation of D/deaf and disabled playwrights to the wider theatre landscape.

Click here to read more about the other writers and partners from the previous five years of the programme.

The Write to Play programme (incorporating Play Labs and Play Chats) is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England and Backstage Trust.