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It always felt impossible at the beginning, like it would never work. The pesky siren call of possibility wouldn’t stay quiet though: What if we could gather people together, people committed to playing, to see what we could achieve between us, even if we failed?
With theatres shut for the foreseeable future, many authors and performers have begun looking for creative ways to express the inherently dramatic tensions of the present time. Unprecedented, the excellent series of specially written new dramas, available on BBCiPlayer, show how little is needed to create engaging, moving pieces with little more than an actor, a script and a webcam.
At Radius, this set us wondering about what formats of drama could still be possible under current restrictions. Of course, monologues such as Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, currently also enjoying a renaissance, always work well, but what about two characters, or more? What about 'real' plays?
In the famous prologue to Henry V, Shakespeare apologises for not having a suitable stage set, a cast of thousands, or a phalanx of trained horses with which to recreate the battle of Agincourt. So what does he do? He does what actors always do – he asks the audience to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps.
As our own response to lockdown, we’ve curated a selection of eight one act plays that we think could be easily rehearsed and performed online or as a socially distanced performance or reading.
They’re all very different. When the weight of antici-patory grief feels heavy, just listen to the longing for salvation resonating down the ages in Les Ellison’s reimagined morality play The Summoning of Everyman. In Kate Griffin’s Cuthbert and Hilda, by contrast, an imagined dialogue between historical figures in the afterlife could acquire added poignancy when presented through a webcam, where a reflective context of distanced friendship is automatically understood. Anyone who has tried to carry out an online Zoom meeting in recent months knows about the difficulties of deciding anything online, and some of the church committee dramas in the Sacred Spaces collection speak very comically to those frustrations.
It always feels impossible at the beginning. Remember what it’s like to play though, to be players, and discover again how imagination can recreate the world anew.
The Radius Drama Un-Locked collection is available in the shop now. While performance venues remain closed, we are even waiving the performance fees.
Introducing the New Radius Collection
Possible Drama in Impossible Times
I remember what it used to feel like to put on a play.