The Playgoer: "Play's the Thing" winner

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Play's the Thing" winner

And the playwright of the play that is the thing is...

Kate Betts, "51-year-old teacher and mother of three." Read all about it.

If the goal of the Channel 4 (UK) "reality" series was to unearth daring writing of the next generation, then... well you be the judge:

The play is set in London where "a young woman catches the eye of a stranger in a bar. Before the night is over they have told each other secrets that will change their lives forever."
Oh well, it's TV. Wait, worse, it's the West End.
The television show's objective is to illustrate the complexity of bringing a first-time playwright's debut work directly to the West End. According to [producer Sonia] Friedman's research, 50 years ago there were 16 new plays in the West End. When On the Third Day opens, the play will represent the West End's only new play.
Interesting to see the London commercial theatre as dramatically barren as Broadway. (If not more so. At least we have their dramas!) But once again we have to ask: why? The commercial market clearly doesn't want a wide selection of interesting new plays. Why force them there?

Any of our London readers see this yet?


June said...

Pedantic correction--Channel 4 is independent, not a BBC channel.

Webloge put it on her Shows to steer clear of list, which can't be good, though she praised the show as television.

Playgoer said...

Duly corrected, June. Why did I think there was some association btw BBC and Ch.4? Is there?

Anonymous said...

Nope. Channel 4 is a not-for-profit, publicly owned broadcaster, whereas networks like ITV are fully commercial and privately owned. The BBC is the government's voice, its very own. And of course Channel 4 also produces films. As does the BBC, but to a much lesser extent.

June said...

Also, a bit of a narrow definition of "West End" from Ms. Friedman. If you include the National (and the National counts as West End when it comes to the Oliviers), there are new plays--the National just preemed (doncha just love Variety speak) Market Boy--and there are at least four other plays currently in rep there that they originated.

And re associations between the Beeb and Channel 4--just a lot of interbreeding, especially of execs, but no formal associations I'm aware of.

corin said...

I don't know that the commercial theatre doesn't want new writing, exactly. Let me clarify: I think a large percentage of the commercial theatre audience would welcome new writing, but commercial theatre producers have cold feet.

I was talking with some friends recently and someone mentioned that you don't go to the West End for risky, edgy theatre. You go to the Fringe. I wish that was really true, but so much of the Fringe in the last decade has been an emulation of the West End. Only companies such as Shunt, or (I hope) Act Provocateur International really try to puch the envelope. Companies like ours try new writing all the time, but it's difficult to get it seen by any significant figures who might promote something so different to the regular commercial audience.

And, as I say, even if it was seen, I don't think many would have the stomache to try for very good financial reasons. We're just too risky.

Also, I wouldn't have described the Beeb as the government's voice. And I'm pretty sure Alistair Campbell would agree.

Anonymous said...

It didn't occur to me when I first read about The Play's the Thing, but now the idea of "bringing a first-time playwright's debut work directly to the West End" sounds almost as risky as the Project Greenlight films were. A would-be filmmaker gets a budget, a would-be playwright gets a full commercial production: both situations are tempting fate, and part of the appeal of both is that the TV audience may get to see a big embarrassing flameout. At least that was how Project Greenlight worked. Surely there's an element of that behind this show too. (I haven't yet read the linked story.)

June said...

Mark Shenton at the Stage's newsblog notes the paucity of plays in the West End--he does a good (if slightly arbitrary) job of removing various productions from the count. And the final result is very depressing!