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Durham Drama Festival 2021 – Meet the writers (part 1)

Durham Drama Festival 2021

Radical Voices for Radical Times

Despite national lockdown, the 47th Durham Drama Festival will be going ahead on the week commencing February 1st. The festival will involve nine student written plays showcased in digital forms from pre-recorded Zoom shows to audio dramas, workshops with industry professionals, an open mic night and much more. Looking forward to this exciting event in Durham University’s calendar, our nine student writers from the festival discuss the inspiration and origins of their work, their experience of writing theatre over lockdown, and their hopes for what their shows will bring to 2021.

Olivia Jones, author of Alone at the Edge of the Universe

‘Putting on a play about the apocalypse is probably not the ideal way to begin what everyone hopes to be a better, brighter year, but here we are. The state of events in 2020 led me down a long and winding path of existential crises that culminated in me word-vomiting a seven-page-long monologue the night before the DDF submission deadline, and I have spent the last month or so trying to make said monologue make sense. I think one of the main themes of my play that particularly resonates with current events is uncertainty: ironically, my seemingly perpetual state of existential crisis has brought me to the certainty that life right now is uncertain, and it will remain that way for a while. My apocalypse survivor, Sam, has no idea what will happen to them or how long they’ll live, and while our circumstances aren’t quite as dire, we also don’t know how long we’ll have to wait until life gets back to normal. But to balance that out there is also hope: in the play, hope that humanity will rise and rebuild from the ashes; and in real life, hope that we can get back to living life to the fullest sooner rather than later.’

Harry Jenkins, author of Degenerate

‘Degenerate’ took me over a year to write, all told. From the first intimations of scene and character to the building of structure and speech, I always viewed it as a process through which I could discover who exactly this central figure, the Degenerate called D, is. What do they talk like, how will they move, what do they want? A prisoner in a nameless and faceless institution, how did this come to be? Its final coalescence into a concrete script took only about a month, however, as the DDF deadline loomed. But the process, I think, is far from finished. As another deadline, the performance date rears its head with the turning of the year, our rehearsals too are beginning. Inevitably, what audiences will see will be greatly shaped by Ben, our actor, as we navigate my script, build up its layers of meaning and prepare to present D to the world. I try to put aside worries that this performance isn’t identical to the one I had in my head, as it’s something new and fresh even to me. Like any other text, my script is flexible and open to ranges of interpretations, beyond my narrower intentions. I’m excited to find out more about how ‘Degenerate’ will be interpreted, who D will be this time around at least, and I hope our audience will be too.

Ryan King, author of The Republic of Eric

‘At last year’s DDF, we were having dinner with the judges, and one of them mentioned that they lived in a riverboat. I immediately thought that that was a good location for a play. A single closed location that could provide plenty of conflict and imagery, all while being a statement about the current property climate. This gave me the idea to try and write something where the location comes first. I found this approach to be very refreshing. I have enjoyed tackling themes that I would not have tackled if I were to go down my usual concept-driven approach.

Durham Drama Festival 2021

Full information on Durham Drama Festival 2021

Watch the shows online here

Find out more about Durham Student Theatre

Meet some more of the writers in part 2 and part 3

Olivia Jones, Harry Jenkins & Ryan King

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