The past four days of the 29 Plays Later challenge have brought me two satisfyingly fun pieces – a farce, and a revue – and two clear failures. Imagine me in a Travelodge in Leeds on my birthday, exhausted and trying to write about the Eastern Bloc for my nineteenth play of the month. Who made months so long anyway?
Day 18 – The Second ‘I’ in Liaison – I usually do titles last so the challenge was to begin with the title. Mine was kindly donated by the mighty Tom Elkins. I improvised a farce starting with a man triple-booking himself at a restaurant and trying to maintain three meals at once. Instantly painting myself into a corner, I just had to keep painting! Obeying its own absurd logic the farce built to a satisfyingly ridiculous conclusion.
18_-_THE_SECOND_I_IN_LIAISON_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 25pp, 5 actors)
Day 19 – The Obedience of Kolya S – Write about what you don’t know. I do this every time anyway. I started with this East European film I saw over twenty years ago and can’t remember properly. I wish I could track it down. There was some kind of revolution or siege, and a final grainy tableau where they find the weird little guy they’re after in a pile of bodies in a big net. I got thinking about Václav Havel‘s mixture of politics and absurd theatre, and Heinrich Böll‘s stubborn and eccentric protagonists struggling to sustain personal life against a background of war and political upheaval. I failed to create a coherent play in the little time I had on my birthday. Nice first line though: “I found myself with a nun in a cupboard of bread. I said to myself “Whatever happens, I’ll be eating bread.””
19_-_THE_OBEDIENCE_OF_KOLYA_S_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 10pp, 3 actors)
Day 20 – 1996: The Year in Revue – Write a play with twenty characters to celebrate the twentieth birthday of the Space Theatre. One challenger wrote a football match, another poured vitriol on the crappy challenges we’re being given. I created a revue, a mixture of surreal satirical sketches, songs, stand-up and skits telling the tale of 1996, the year of the mad cow, Dolly the sheep, GM Frankeinstein food, Take That and the Spice Girls, royal divorces, and tragedies on Everest, in Manchester and Dunblane.
20_-_1996_THE_YEAR_IN_REVUE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 15pp)
Day 21 – Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town/Our People) – We were sent a text about visionary/outsider art. I went to my well-thumbed copy of Colin Rhodes’s book and picked out Simon Rodia who between 1921 and 1954 constructed the so-called Watts Towers (pictured) using ad hoc materials in a rough area of LA that would later experience massive race riots. I poured in content and didn’t create any characters or a good narrative, but there’s a kernel of an idea about not submitting and building a future.
21_-_NUESTRO_PUEBLO_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 12pp)
Speaking of which: eight more plays to go! Follow the hashtag #29playslater.