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Durham Drama Festival 2021 – Meet the writers (part 2)

Hear from three more of our talented students who have written plays selected for this year’s Durham Drama Festival as it moves entirely online.

Esalan Gates, author of The Lovers

The Lovers is an adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, a play of Shakespeare’s that is hilarious to us, but psychologically scarring for the core characters. It makes sense that this is not a prominent aspect of the original play, but I began writing The Lovers with the curiosity of what would happen to the comedy if the lovers were the only characters onstage. The Lovers deviates from the original in that it is an intrigue, not a mystery plot; the dramatic irony that precipitates much of the comedy in the original becomes suddenly twisted when the psychological ramifications of the events of the play are isolated and exposed. As a decided discovery writer, I wrote in visuals as they came to me, but of course stage directions became obsolete when I began directing the play for radio. I have since had to rework my original creative vision and think about emotional arcs in terms of soundscapes instead of imagery. Thankfully, this was always a play about atmosphere; we already know what’s going to happen, but our omnipotence becomes cruel as the characters beg us for answers outright.’

Imogen Usherwood, author of Meeting Point

‘Meeting Point is named after the 1936 poem by Louis MacNiece, which describes two lovers in a coffee shop – they don’t say much, but are just glad to be in the other’s company. I didn’t mean to, but as I was writing I realised that I was constructing the same images as MacNiece, and filling in the details his poem misses out – who are these “two people with one pulse”? Why are they in the coffee shop in the first place? The entire play is a collection of meeting points between those two people, who I’ve named Matt and Sadie, as well as with various other people in their lives, and even (bear with me here) with technology and the internet. 2020 has transformed so much for us, but particularly our understandings the physical versus the digital, which got me thinking about how you’d go about writing and staging online interactions.’

Miriam Templeman, author of Grace

‘Grace was the product of a lot of conversations, observations and stories that manifested in a number of 1am writing sessions over lockdown. In a locked down world, I was intrigued by everyone’s choices – specifically, the choices to demonstrate grace in a time when self-protection was the anthem of the world. Lockdown was a time of both choices and voices – we saw people lay down their time, their commitments, feelings and lives to serve and save others; systematically suppressed voices began to be heard. I think it was a combination of the voices and choices around me that inspired me to experiment with a series of monologues. 2020 amplified the intensity of vulnerable emotions as we were all forced to reflect on our own humanity. None of the monologues are set in or around lockdown, but the production has evolved from it. It definitely took a little while (and a LOT of experimenting and editing!) for Grace to develop into what it is now, but I was really keen to foreground the voices of characters usually restricted to the shadows. As the pandemic took hold, society looked to the sometimes underestimated to become heroes: supermarket staff, postmen and cleaners. I wanted to observe the choices made by the characters (to live with or without grace), alongside the choices of those who influenced them.’

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 1 and part 3

Esalan Gates, Imogen Usherwood & Miriam Templeman

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