Screenwriting Battle 2021

silhouette of ninja with words Marie Cooper Screenwriting battle
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I am still new to Screenwriting and I am very much learning the craft as I go. This Screenwriting Battle was an invaluable experience that did not give me time to over-research and overthink (which I am prone to do). just like Scriptly Writing, I had to just take the brief, or in this case, card prompts and write with it.

A theatre director, Jen told me about the Screenwriting Battle. I had never come across it before but I took my usual approach to these kinds of opportunities. That you have to be in it to win it and the prize money was tempting enough for me to enter.

For most competitions, the entry fees are offputting, despite the potential prestige of winning a prize and the pile of prize money that means it might be possible to both eat AND pay bills that month. Usually, when you enter a writing contest, it feels like you are ****ing your money into the sea if you don’t win. Not only that, nobody tells you that you haven’t won. You have to wait for the winners to be praised and you see their smug happy faces painted all over the unfurled sails of the long list before you realise that you have been shoved unceremoniously off of the fail plank back into the murky depths of the poverty-ridden ocean of obscurity once more. Not sure where the piratey metaphors came from.

The Luck of the Screenwriting Battle Draw

The Screenwriting Battle makes the contest entering process fun and engaging and not all just about winning and losing. Everyone gets something out of it.

As the battle progresses you know exactly where you are. Emails and your page of the Screenwriting Battle website keep you updated. You draw your three cards to receive a prompt at the beginning of the battle. You draw a Genre card, a Location card and an Item card. You can redraw, but once you do you can not go back to the previous card if you feel your choice is not as appealing as the one you discarded.

Your Hand is Cast

There are nice little deadlines along the way to prevent too much in the way of procrastination. Once your hand is set you have until the next deadline to write your screenplay which can be no longer than ten pages long. Then once the writing deadline has passed you become an arbiter of other screenwriters for the Genres that you did not choose. You read pairs of screenplays from each genre and decide which you liked best. You leave comments to say what you liked and what you thought might need improving.

Screenplay Feedback

The great thing about this screenwriting battle is that not only can you see where you are in the contest every step of the way, but you receive praise and constructive feedback from other participants wherever you finish in the overall war. So, no matter what, even if you don’t land the luscious loot you had your eyes on (last pirate reference, I swear), you still come away with something of benefit to your writing.

Marie Cooper’s Screenwriting Battle Experience

Science Fiction Screenplay

I stuck with my initial card dealt for the genre, which was Science Fiction. Not because I thought I would be any good at writing in that genre, but because it is one of my favourite genres to both read and watch. My location card was Pharmacy and my item card was a Mallet. That had me stumped (intentional woody pun), but I had already re-dealt once. Also, I had just handmade a mallet from a single piece of tree on a nature reserve getaway. So, I have to confess, that it felt a serendipitous deal, so I went with it.

It was difficult. The writing time fell over a weekend when I have my granddaughter and even though there was an extension to the original deadline due to an error on the website, I could not take advantage of it because I had work that day. I did the best that I could do in the time that I had. It felt rough and rushed and my writing did not feel as good as it could be. Not my worst. Not my best.

Feedback on Screenwriting Battle screenplay – Acorns

Constructive Criticism

I am keeping the constructive feedback to myself, to re-read and to make use of going forwards. I have already used some of the feedback to improve the horror screenplay I am currently working on.

The Good Stuff

The positive comments I am sharing, in no particular order. I feel that I am gradually improving and I am enjoying celebrating every little win, even if I haven’t managed to land a prize… yet… Yay! Go optimism!


You’ve built yourself quite a world in 10 pages, it was enjoyable.


I love the world you created. So mysterious but ouch, depressing and hitting close to the bone of today’s world. It’s a creepy cautionary tale but definitely a little spy/thriller in there too. An exciting world that holds a lot of intrigue. And hope!

I’m totally captivated by this world and want to see more of it.

Another thing that your script has going for it, is that it not for hardcore sci-fi types only but could be done with enough science to catch that audience and also people who have no science background. It’s a universal worry but still has the good guy/bad guy appeal.

Original idea too.


Great script! You did a good job keeping the audience wondering, driving them forward. I wanted to keep reading, so that I could better understand the world you had created.

I also think the title is very creative! It summarizes the story perfectly.

It is a wonderful concept for a story, with lots of complicated layers. The whole time I was wondering what “Barbiture watches” meant – and I think that’s a good thing! It keeps your readers engaged, even after the story concludes.

Overall – you did a great job!


This is a very interesting concept. I would love to see it as a larger piece. Very relevant given our current ecological situation and I can really see something like this being a reality. You’ve envisioned a very detailed world with a history and scope that stretches far beyond the confines of a 10 page script. Nice twist at the end.


Interesting concept, well described environments. Seems to be a thought out world, feels like it has breadth.


I really see the world you are building it almost feels more inmense then the characters.


14 Screenplays 2021

Notebook that reads Marie Cooper Writes 14 Screenplays
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marie Cooper wrote fourteen screenplays from the 11th to 24th October 2021 during the Scriptly Writing challenge.

What is Scriptly Writing?

Scriptly Writing is an annual screenwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write fourteen complete short screenplays in just two weeks.

The Stats

How many words did I write during Scriptly Writing?

This year I wrote 14878 words over the course of the two weeks of the challenge. The fourteen screenplays consisted of 69 pages and 106 scenes, containing a total of 97 characters. Well, there were many more background characters and wildlife, but I left those out of my count.

Looking at the ratio of male to female characters, it might initially seem as if my screenplays were male-dominated with 60 male and 29 female characters. But, there were groups of male characters in some of my plays that skewed my stats. Despite the stats, many of my main characters were actually female. If I were to count the time characters were on the page and their lines, then the figures would most definitely be reversed. But I am not going into that much detail. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I wrote 1107 fewer words compared to Scriptly Writing 2020, but I wrote in more characters this time. Or had become more aware of including those in the background to my scenes.

2021 A Challenging Challenge

I did spend far less time on my work this year though and therefore did less research for each brief and felt I wrote in much less detail.

It has been incredibly difficult to write my screenplays for this year’s challenge. Last year I had the luxury of lockdown, which provided time to think and create. This year the challenge has coincided with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, pushing me into dire straits financially and with the impending doom of the Minimum income floor on the horizon. Sadly, the UK (well, the Torys) does not value its artists, arts and culture, or heritage or, well anything that does not fill someone’s already bulging coffers. Prices rise and Brexit empties our shelves in the UK, my face is still messed up and waiting to be fixed, forcing me off the stage and any unmasked acting work. I am working face to face again when Covid cases are currently higher in the UK than they have been since March, which is a worry.

I can’t deny, it has been incredibly difficult to work under these conditions. Trying to write around work and under pressure has been stressful. It only took receiving a Council Tax demand to send me to the edge this month. As a result, I really don’t feel that the standard of my writing has been as good as last year and this has left me feeling despondent. That the stress and pain have not been worth what I accomplished. But maybe that is what I thought at the end of the challenge last year. I will reassess now that the challenge is complete and once I have given myself a week or two of space to recover.

14 Short Screenplays written by Marie Cooper 2021

Obsessive Coffee Disorder – Day 1. Oct 11th 2021

Whatever is cooking in his oven, it doesn’t smell good.

The Elephant on the Grass – Day 2. Oct 12th 2021

An explosion of angst-ridden frustrations of planetary destruction explode out of a woman’s vagina, and then things get a bit weird.

As the Crow Flies – Day 3. Oct 13th 2021

Crow has no choice but to be crow, until his captor sets him free.

Spiders – Day 4. Oct 14th 2021

Don’t eat spiders.

You Shall Not Pass – Day 5. Oct 15th 2021

Protestors are holding up traffic at Dartford again and the locals are not happy.

Swan Island – Day 6. Oct 16th 2021

In 1810, two men discover each other in their small riverside, town.

Somnus Persona – Day 7. Oct 17th 2021

The masks we choose to wear.

Windows – Day 8. Oct 18th 2021

Watching from her window, a woman creates worlds.

Finding Nina – Day 9. Oct 19th 2021

Nina has been missing for three days. The community gather together to search for her, hoping to find her safe and well.

Tusks – Day 10. Oct 20th 2021

Taking a musical track as inspiration, a story of a woman’s first day on the job.

In Perpetuity – Day 11. Oct 21st 2021

Immortality is lonely.

Skinwalkers – Day 12. Oct 22nd 2021

A strange occurrence at a local school attracts international press coverage.

Emma’s View – Day 13. Oct 23rd 2021

Scriptly Writing brief Day 3 from 2020, from the perspective of Jess’s sister Emma.

Little Doors – Day 14. Oct 24th 2021

Let little doors lie.

Other Writing Projects

Duelo, Directed by Edward Heredia

Norwich actor Marie Cooper Filming Duelo in Norwich
Reading Time: 2 minutes

This last project Norfolk actor Marie Cooper was working on, just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, was Duelo with Edward Heredia, Paige Fisher and Norwich University of the Arts. Filmed on the weekend of 6th March 2020. Duelo is a short film produced in Norwich, Norfolk.

Who does Marie Cooper play in the film Duelo?

I was playing Clemence, mother to both Tristan, played by James Crawley, and Stephen. The scene I was in was a funeral scene, filmed on location in a church in central Norwich.

Where can you watch the film, Duelo?

The short film is now doing the film festival rounds. It is being shown at the Prague International film festival and the Reading International Film Festival.



The team crowdfunded for the project raising money to fund the film, from set design, props costumes etc, right through to the payment of film festival entry fees. The project was professionally and impressively run, with catering on location and actors being paid for their work.

Duelo Rehearsals

I met up with the director and fellow actors for an afternoon of rehearsals. I am far more accustomed to theatre than film and analysing the dialogue of stage scripts, rather than the descriptive visuality of a screenplay. So, it was immensely helpful to have the opportunity to meet up with the director and fellow actors to get to know each other and to run our scene beforehand.

Where was Duelo flmed?

Duelo was filmed on location in Norwich on the weekend beginning Friday 6th March 2020.

This was such a wonderful project to work on because, once more, I was working with student filmmakers Edward Heredia and Paige Fisher from our very own Norwich University of the Arts. This felt like an extra special project to be part of because I worked with Edward from the beginning to the end of his course. He is a deeply thoughtful, reflective and professional Director, who I am sure will be incredibly successful when all of his hard work pays off after university.

The Cast of Duelo

Cole                                          Ben Wheatley
Tristan                                     James Crawley
Clemence                               Marie Cooper
Amy                                          Estelle Long
Funeral Director                  Andy Turner
Leon Zedlmayer
Sara Gonzalez

The Crew of Duelo

Director/Producer/Writer      Edward Heredia
1st Assistant Director            Bram Kwantes
Producer                              Vaineta Keraityte
Cinematographer                  Ethan Cassidy
Production Designer            Georgia Pett
Sound Designer                   Sally Gilbert
1st Camera Assistant            Paige Fisher
2nd Camera Assistant          Frances Pesquera
Make-up Artist /Hair              Gemma Simmons
Production Assistant            Cameron Cassidy
Production Assistant            Finlay Cassidy
Set Dresser Assistant          Emily Brown
Production Assistant            Christos Chyrsanthou
Patricia Pickman
Deniz Berberoğlu
Dávid Bodrogi
Drone Operator                    Alex Woosey


Related Blog Posts

Walking Plays 2021

Norwich Cathedral in a puddle, taken by Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Walking Plays anthology available now

Check out the May/June 2021 Radical Hospitality edition of The Dramatist – Page 40 41 for a two-page feature written by Jo Brisbane about the Walking Plays. I am joyous to see our beautiful, small medieval city of Norwich get mentioned in a New York magazine.

During lockdown in three countries, twelve states, playwrights walked. Inspired by their wanderings, they wove stories and came together to share. Tales of social justice. Of magic and the tragic. The comical and the historical. Horror and fantasy. Where their minds wandered, their characters followed. Across time, across generations. Diverse and dispersed, they brought their plays together and walked the world. Well, some of it.

The International collection of Walking Plays, written by a talented bunch of twenty-eight playwrights from the US, Canada and the UK, curated by Claudia Inglis Haas. All of the plays were written for outside – so they can be performed over Zoom, as a podcast or radio play. If your theatre, podcast or radio station would like to perform our anthology our plays, visit the Walking Plays Facebook page for the performance rights.


Marie Cooper’s Walking Play, ‘Unlocked’

My audio play ‘Unlocked’ was inspired by my walking Norwich during the pandemic lockdown. Particularly the riverside area of the city and Norwich Cathedral Quarter. Unlocked is part of the Walking Plays collection, and is also now available on the New Play Exchange.


Synopsis for Unlocked

Hannah discovered something about her partner, Ryan that unnerved her. She panicked and ran. Both Ryan and her friend Lauren are out looking for Hannah along the riverside.


Recommendation for Unlocked on the New Play Exchange

“…you start to feel breathless from the movement. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed audio play that tears your emotions a zillion ways before letting them go.” Lee R. Lawing

Recommendation for Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper's short Walking Play, 'Unlocked', originally posted to the New Play Exchange

My Walking Play Route – Norwich Riverside

Although I live in the city, I am fortunate that there are many green spaces dotted around the urban centre. The river walk nearest to our Cathedral is the section of the riverside I tend to favour – from the train station to Whitefriars – because it is mostly set aside from housing and industrial units.

You can walk right up to the water’s edge for most of the way. Unlike further upriver, where walkers are sandwiched between housing and the steep fenced-off, bricked-edges, or further downstream where the riverside is somewhat marred by blocks of apartment buildings, restaurants and concrete.

On the section in between, running from the entrance through the patio of the Angler Pub, you can feel the spongy grass beneath your feet. Allow the weeping willow leaves to run between your fingertips. If you are there at just the right time of year, you might find some areas of grass turned white by poplar tree fluff.

Historic Norwich Cathedral Quarter

Although the brief of my play was to write in the modern time, the area I walked is steeped in history. I tend to walk the greener sections of old Norwich, from the Cathedral Quarter and Pulls Ferry to Whitefriars bridge. So, it was at this point that my short play also begins.

Norwich Riverside Map for Marie Cooper's Walking Play.
The Riverside walk in Norwich where Marie Cooper’s Walking Play ‘Unlocked’ takes place. Google Maps, 2021, maps.google.com


As the Play begins

Lauren leaves the Cathedral coffee shop and spots Hannah walking by the old red post box. Lauren is dressed for the office, not snow, so it takes some time for her to almost catch up with Hannah. She reaches the picturesque Pulls Ferry before being close enough to shout…

Pulls Ferry sits at the end of Ferry Lane where a canal used to run from the river up to the Cathedral, It was used to ferry the Caen limestone up to the site where the cathedral construction began in 1096. The two main characters, of my play, Lauran and Hannah, come together near this point and walk along that stretch of river.

Further along, the Red Lion pub nestles at the side of Bishop’s Bridge. This was where Robert Kett fought for the rights of the poor in 1549, when his army of rebels attacked Norwich, crossing the river Wensum and forcing through the city defences.

Beyond the pub is another stretch of trees and grass with the path meandering through it. A side path leads closer to the river’s edge. There are benches dotted along the walk to rest or just stop, to breathe in the wonders of nature. To watch the swans glide by or the gulls dipping under the surface for fish. There is a small area on the turn of the river where local children tend to come to play during the summer. It is known locally as ‘the beach’.

Skywatch Seat

On the left of the path before the beach is the Skywatch seat, carved from redwood, a memorial to a local musician. The Japanese Cherry Blossom tree that partners the polished seat, stands adorned with colourful trinkets.

Cow Tower

Overlooking the beach stands the flint-built Cow Tower. Once part of the city walls and defences for the city of Norwich, now it stands alone and gated. It didn’t use to be so exclusive. I remember going inside as a youngster. My friends and I loved going inside. I don’t recall why to be honest, as there wasn’t much more to find inside, other than the pigeons and pigeon poop. Yet I feel sad now to find myself lockout out of somewhere there was part of my wanderings growing up.

Behind the Tower, away from the river is a pond. When the river rises, the area becomes flooded and the wooden-planked river walkway becomes a bridge. The pond freezes over in the winter. When I was writing my walking play, the pond was solid and there was snow crunching underneath my footsteps and so that was the environment into which I placed my characters into their story.

Crossing a short wooden bridge, there is a small inlet from the river that leads to what remains of the 18th-century swan pit. The tidal water would lead into the grounds of the Great Hospital where the swans would be fattened up and then consumed by the local gentry,

A little further along, across a car park, sits the Adam & Eve pub, the oldest pub in Norwich, dating back to 1249. It was used by the construction workmen whilst the Cathedral was being built and according to the website of the pub, still has a Saxon well underneath the lower bar floor.

Spanning the river, leading away from the Adam and Eve toward Mousehold heath is the curving, modern Jarrold’s bridge. This was the point at which my story ended for my characters, as they go their separate ways.


Other Writing Projects

Monologues

Monologues by Norwich Playwright Marie Cooper
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Monologues written by Marie Cooper. The first is ‘Six’. A dramatic monologue for a female character on the subject of bereavement, grief, guilt, motherhood, and police shooting.

Six

Six is a monologue created by Marie Cooper, written during the inital 2020 pandemic lockdown. It is written for a female performer and reads at about four to four and a half minutes. The monologue can be read over on the New Play Exchange.

Synopsis

A grieving mother agonizes over how she is ever going to tell her little girl that her daddy will never be coming home.

Please do credit me if you use my monologue.


Recommended by Rachel Feeny-Williams on New Play Exchange

 A beautifully sad piece where anyone would struggle not to shed a tear. Death can be a cliched subject to explore but I believe the phrasing here brings something new and gives the character a unique voice. It would be a powerful piece for an audition.  – Rachel Feeny-Williams


Conception

I originally conceived the initial idea for ‘Six’ during an online playwriting workshop run by Rosa Torr on 8th July 2020 with South East Creatives.

The workshop was a fantastic twelve step process over the course of two hours that guided writers through exercises to stimulate ideas. From freewriting, prompts, questions and lists, progressing on to developing those ideas into monologues and dialogue and dropping random ideas into existing work.

It was a brilliant workshop and by the end I had pages of potential ideas, snippets of monologues and dialogue. One of the exercises had encouraged us to envision and create a location that could be set up and recorded from home in the new post-pandemic world of lockdowns and Zoom. This was particulary exciting for me as I was considering writing a monologue but had been stuck for ideas. During the exercise I created an entire list of setups. One of which was “Home in bed”.

At the time I had established a regular, daily writing routine thanks to London Writers’ Hour which I woke for, every morning, at 7am. I worked towards finishing my first play and exploring creating new work. During Writers’ Hour I took the dialogue I’d scribbled and rewrote it as a monolgoue. I then put the monologue aside as I worked on completing my full play.

I dipped back into the monologue every now and again to edit, add bits, remove bits. It was good to not look at it for a while and ocassionally revisit and read with fresh eyes.

I do keep meaning to learn it and record it, but still haven’t got round to it. But one of our lovely local actors, Helen Fullerton, very kindly read and made a recording of it so that I could hear my monologue with a voice other than my own or that inside my head.

Hearing Helen bring it alive and give good feedback on it, I felt more confident that the monologue worked well, so I posted it up on the New Play Exchange. I was surprised and happy to receive a recommendation from another NPX member (see recommendation above).


Other Writing Projects

28 Plays 2021

Notebook that reads Marie Cooper Writes 28 Plays
Reading Time: 4 minutes

28 plays were written by Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper in February 2021. The plays were created whilst taking part in the 28 Plays Later playwriting challenge, along with other writers from all over the world.

What is 28 Plays Later?

28 Plays Later is an annual playwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write 28 plays in 28 days.

That sounds crazy! Why write 28 Plays in 28 Days?

The challenge stretches you as a writer. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and gets you writing about things you might not have otherwise done. You don’t have time to plan or procrastinate as there is a new brief and new deadline daily.

I decided to take part in 28 Plays Later after the success of the Scriptly Writing screenwriting challenge in the previous year. It was a fantastic productive month for me.

I wrote my reflections on writing 28 plays in 28 days over on my blog. Below is the full list of plays, the day on which I wrote each one, along with a short synopsis.

Where can these plays been read?

The short play from Day 15, I integrated into another longer piece. I carried across the name ‘Unlocked’ to the longer play. It is due to be aired on AirPlay radio in 2022, as part of The Walking Plays collection. 

I have plans to continue working on a few of these pieces. I am currently editing and adapting the play I wrote on Day 9 into an audio play.

The plays I wrote on Day 7, The Elbow Grease Strategy and Day 12, The Jade Palace, have had development readings at Maddermarket Theatre. I have some further edits to do as a result of the feedback.

28 Short Plays by Marie Cooper

Sideways to Siberia – Day 1. Feb. 1st.

A message doesn’t make it in time to who, where and when it is supposed to be.

Dawn in Misty Cove – Day 2. Feb. 2nd.

A woman returns every day, to visit the same place that her daughter died.

Dover Sole – Day 3. Feb. 3rd.

A tea stop on the Dover coast.

The Facility – Day 4. Feb. 4th.

It’s simple enough to get into the facility. But is it possible to get out?

The Catalyst – Day 5. Feb. 5th.

A wealthy man chats to a salesperson about his funeral options brochure.

Old Shuck – Day 6. Feb. 6th.

Even the old black dog comes when he is called.

The Elbow Grease Strategy – Day 7. Feb. 7th.

Jessica just can’t seem to get a (Brechtian) break in life. This short play is up, on the New Play Exchange.

Two Lattes to go – Day 8. Feb. 8th.

Two people who care about each other, but who can’t tell each other.

No Man. No Queen. No England – Day 9. Feb. 9th.

Hatshepsut and Grace O’Malley bump into each other, on a hilltop in the midst of a tank battle. Yeah! This short play has been further researched, edited, revised, and renamed since the challenge.

Nusturi – Day 10. Feb. 10th.

Purposely not making any sense.

Blood on the Leaves – Day 11. Feb. 11th.

The day the hanging tree falls.

12th Floor Room 2 (Now renamed the Jade Palace)- Day 12. Feb. 12th.

A woman has outstayed her welcome in the hotel lobby.
The very first draft of this play was brought to life during its first reading at the 28 Plays Later reading over Zoom. My play begins at approximately 1 hr 47m 33s and runs for 10 mins, to 1 hr 57m 54s



This short play was edited and renamed, “The Jade Palace”. The Jade Palace is now up and available on the New Play Exchange.

The Leopard Sleeps – Day 13. Feb. 13th.

Petty Gods and the mortals unlucky enough to get in the way

Poppy Packer – Day 14. Feb. 14th.

A strange poetic monologue

Unlocked – Day 15. Feb. 15th

A woman finds her partner’s phone unlocked and doesn’t like what she finds.

This short was integrated into a larger piece that became one of the audio plays I was working on at the time. I liked the title of this too, so I also used this as the title of the audio play. the full audio play script for ‘Unlocked’ can be found over on the New Play Exchange and is part of the Walking Plays anthology. It is due to be performed on AirPlay radio in May 2022.

Unlocked – The Walking Play

Best Day Ever – Day 16. Feb. 16th.

A woman notices a ‘Sold’ sign has gone up in her neighbour’s garden.

All characters and events in this play, even those based on real people– are entirely fiction. Even the anti-social neighbours who kept me awake for four years who do not make an appearance. Imagined resemblances to anyone alive, dead or (at 2 am and sleep-deprived) wished to be dead, is entirely coincidental. Celebrations, alcohol, whooping and a happy dance did most definitely happen though.

Mosaic – Day 17. Feb. 17th.

A man searching for answers finds riddles

Do-Over – Day 18. Feb. 18th.

A woman talks to herself

The Sloth Appropriation – Day 19. Feb. 19th.

A trip to the zoo.

Stallion – Day 20. Feb. 20th.

A man becomes a horse.

Unidentified – Day 21. Feb. 21st.

Kings and Consequences – Day 22. Feb. 22nd.

Financial Services – Day 23. Feb. 23rd.

Stealth – Day 24. Feb. 24th.

The Cremation Perturbation – Day 25. Feb 25th.

A little girl has disturbing aspirations

Cocaine Cockup – Day 26. Feb. 26th.

The party doesn’t go quite as expected

Black Rye – Day 27. Feb 27th.

In the church ruins, a stranger comes to the fire.

Cockwomble Caffeination – Day 28. Feb. 28th.


Other Writing Projects

14 Screenplays 2020

An autumnal tabletop and notepad saying Marie Cooper writes 14 screenplays 2020 in Scriptly Writing Challenge 2020
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Could you write 14 short scripts in 14 days?

I signed up for the Scriptly Writing Screenwriting Challenge for the first time on 8 September 2020 during the lockdown. I saw an ad for it on the BBC Writer’s Room Twitter feed. It asked the question, “Could you write 14 short scripts in 14 days?” I didn’t think I could, but me being me, decided that I could not leave the gauntlet just laying there. But it turns out that yes, yes I can.

I confess it was a stressful couple of weeks, where I got up and wrote until I finished a script. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I might write. Everything I did write I thought was rubbish. I was tired and grumpy by the end of the two weeks. But it was an amazing experience.

I wrote 14 short screenplays between 10th to 23rd October 2020. Not all of them… No, none of them was great. I wrote one script a day between 9 am and 10 pm, for goodness sake. I wasn’t going to write my masterpiece. But, by the end of the fortnight, I had 14 screenplays that I would never have had otherwise.

Plus, prior to the challenge, I had never written a screenplay before. The only script I had written was for the stage that relied very much on dialogue. I didn’t even have any idea how to format a screenplay or write so visually.

The wonderful thing I found afterwards though, was that as first drafts go, not all scripts were half as bad as I had originally thought. The sometimes bizarre themes and prompts had forced me out of my comfort zone and made me write things I would not have considered had I not taken the challenge. And there are a few I would definitely like to re-read and work on further in the future. These are the scripts I wrote during the 14 day challenge.

14 Short Screenplays Written by Marie Cooper 2020

Waggledance – Day 1. Oct 10th 2020

Acoustic – Day 2. Oct 11th 2020

The Fallen – Day 3. Oct 12th 2020

The Boy in the Canal – Day 4. Oct 13th 2020

Bin Day – Day 5. Oct 14th 2020

Catface – Day 6. Oct 15th 2020

There’s no Place Like Home – Day 7. Oct 16th 2020

Too Late – Day 8. Oct 17th 2020

Am I Real? – Day 9. Oct 18th 2020

Possessions – Day 10. Oct 19th 2020

The Slow Movement – Day 11. Oct 20th 2020

The Roving – Day 12. Oct 21st 2020

After Work Drinks – Day 13. Oct 22nd 2020

Story Time – Day 14. Oct 23rd 2020


Other Writing Projects

Murder in Neighbourhood Watch by Stewart Burke

Norfolk Actor Marie Cooper playing Ann Wingate in Murder in Neighbourhood Watch
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marie Cooper performing as Ann Wingate in Stewart Burke’s ‘Murder in Neighbour Watch’ at Great Hall Theatre at the Assembly House in Norwich, Oct – Nov 2019


Ann gave up her career as a travel courier to become the dutiful headmaster’s wife to her husband, Andrew. Ann felt stifled to have settled in the village of West Lynstead, near Worthing, with its coffee mornings full of gossips and people in and out of each others’ houses.

She returns from three months away on holiday in New Zealand visiting her parents, to find that village life has been turned upside down by a murder in local woodland.

Photography – Norwich Photo

Feedback following the performances was positive. There were some funny moments at the start of the play and the cast worked incredibly well to bring the characters to life.

Audiences seemed to enjoy it, discussing who they thought had committed the murder during the interval. I did not enjoy the play, in and of itself, but I did like pushing myself out of my comfort zone in terms of line-learning once again and the challenge of the emotions that Ann is put through when she returns home.


Related Posts

Murder Mystery – Dreamstone Productions

Murder mystery
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Marie Cooper performing in Murder Mysteries and Comedy evening with Dreamstone Productions.


Dance with Death by Paula Alexian

Thanks to a recommendation from a lovely director, who I worked with at Great Hall, I got an email from Dreamstone Productions, asking if I would like to work with them on a Murder Mystery event in Norfolk.

I was nervous, and at first and wasn’t sure whether to say yes. It’s been some time since I’ve performed anything so improvised, but I was emboldened by my director having confidence in my acting ability.

I am immensely happy that I went along.  It was a fantastic evening. I worked alongside some great actors and gained new experience in working in immersive, improvised theatre. It’s been relatively busy workwise over the past few weeks and I am feeling incredibly grateful and fortunate to be surrounded by talented artists and doing work that I love.

Check out the Dreamstone website or Facebook page to get more information about their upcoming Murder Mystery evenings in and around East Anglia…

Dreamstone Productions…

Dreamstone Productions Facebook page

What is Supporting Artist Work?

Image of analogue film strips
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Whether you call the people helping to bring realism to movies and television background artists, supporting artists or extras, they are often vital for creating the authenticity of the scene. Many supporting artists are actors who do this work as part of their portfolio career in the creative industries when they are between other acting jobs.

We are incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic scenery and buildings for film locations in Norfolk, so background artists are often in demand by local and national casting agencies. Before Covid hit the country and halted productions I was working with NBA Norfolk.

Are there Supporting Artist Agents in Norfolk?

I work with an agency called Norfolk Background Artistes who source local actors for work that is filmed within the region. This is brilliant because it not only provides much-needed work for local performers, it also cuts the carbon impact of production by reducing the need to drive people in from further afield.

Filming First Ladies with October Films

In 2019 I was invited by NBA Norfolk to work with October Films as a background artist on an episode of the US TV show ‘First Ladies’. A series about the wives of presidents in the US. It was aired in Oct 2020 on the US channel ‘CNN’.

Stills from First Ladies, Episode 4 on CNN

Filming Raw Terror with October Films

In 2019 I was invited by NBA Norfolk to work with October Films as a background artist on an episode of the US TV show ‘Raw Terror’. It was aired in summer 2020 on the US channel ‘Showtime’.

Stills from Raw Terror: Murder on the Tracks on Discovery ID


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Casting Photographs

Photographs of Norfolk actor playwright Marie Cooper
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Sometimes I get a call asking for new photographs that are needed immediately. It’s great that it’s now possible to get quick, raw, authentic photographs out with some immediacy. Taking up-to-date photographs to send over for castings is so quick and easy to do nowadays via a mobile phone.

Casting Photographs – October 2020

Callout for background artists in Oct 2020. I get called at short notice to pop over photographs. Thankfully it doesn’t take too long to get my background up on my bedroom wall and camera on my tripod. I don’t have any fancy lighting. Which is both a blessing and a curse. What you see it what you get. It is my face. Unfortunately, I found with this blue background, my phone camera doesn’t pick up the colour of my eyes properly. They are blue but in these photos they look olive green.

Casting Photographs – April 2019

Key Casting were in Norwich in April looking for extras for filming of the Netflix film Jingle Jangle.  I needed to send over some updated casting photographs. Nothing complicated or expensive. Just a few selfies to show that my face and hair haven’t metamorphosised since my last photos. Which is a fair enough request. My hair used to change more frequently than my underpants. I feel that I should emphasise that my hair used to change colour a lot. It’s not that my underpants were only changed a little.

In my failing to have the ‘strike a pose’ superpower, (where do people learn that?) it took me a mindbogglingly huge amount of time little time just to get a handful of photos that I was (even close to) happy with.

I thought I might as well pop the serious photographs up here on the website. Along with the not so serious ones. It saves me having to find out where in the folders of laptop hell, I have hidden them at some later date.

Someone Waiting by Emlyn Williams

Marie Cooperperforms as Hilda
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Marie Cooper performing Hilda, the maid with an interesting past, in ‘Someone Waiting’ at Great Hall Theatre. 22 January to 26th January 2019


I managed to tick quite a few things off of my acting bucket list during this production in a small, but challenging and fun role. One of which included slapping one of my fellow actors.  It turned out to be surprisingly effective.  The audience oooooh’d and gasped when Hilda struck Mr Nedlow across the face. I was very pleased with this as we had practised it a number of times.  Hilda’s slap managed to shock the audience, despite my not making any contact with Mr Nedlow’s face at all.

I also had to perform drunk. What I mean is, I acted drunk whilst on stage, I didn’t actually get drunk to perform. I got some nice comments from fellow actors saying that Hilda was nicely drunk and that it wasn’t overly done, which I am very pleased about. Acting drunk is a tricky thing to do convincingly, whilst still trying to enunciate so that the audience can hear.

An in-depth review of the play was written by Rob Fradley-Wilde and published on Facebook and in the Great Hall Theatre Company newsletter.

“the maid Hilda was able to go to her death with style, in Marie Cooper’s vivacious and feisty example of the mid-twentieth-century servant class. “

Andrew Cliffe of Norwich Photo photographed the following images during the dress rehearsal of Someone Waiting.

Norwich Photo

Cast

Hilda                                      Marie Cooper
Mrs Danecourt                Glenda Gardiner
John Nedlow                     Chris Higgins
Vera Nedlow                     Samantha Elmhurst
Martin                                  Steven Logsdon
Walter Fenn                       Kevin Ford
Miss Lennie                       Rachel Miller

The photos below were taken by members of the cast

Handbagged by Moira Buffini

Marie Cooper peforming as Margaret Thatcher
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Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Marie Cooper perfomed as the younger Margaret Thatcher, ‘Mags’, in Handbagged, performed at Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich, 11 October to 20 October 2018


The fantastic photographs for Handbagged were taken during the dress rehearsal by Sean Owen of Reflective Arts

The bad thing (and good thing – I hate seeing and/or hearing myself) about theatre is  that you never get to see the play. Especially for Handbagged, as our entire cast were on the stage for almost the entire duration of the play…and yes, this was a worry if nature called.

This was my absolute favourite role so far by miles, one of my proudest achievements and most challenging, as it was the first time I’d attempted to portray someone who actually existed. The play also the most lines I had had to learn at that time as well as the most time I had needed to be on stage for. Both Mrs Thatchers and the Queens are on the stage for all but a few minutes of the play. I have written further reflections about the show on my blog which also includes reviews of Handbagged.

The pressure was on as I didn’t have much time to prepare. The person who was originally cast dropped out just before rehearsals began, so I didn’t have anywhere near as much time to prepare as I would have done had I got the role just after auditions. It was a race against time to research and learn lines, whilst simultaneously rehearsing. Thankfully I had, that very morning, completed and handed in the last course work of my MA so I knew I would have the time to invest into the role.

Mrs Thatcher was most definitely not someone I shared the politics of. Yet it was a little disturbing (and helpful) during my research, to find that the ‘Milk Snatcher’ and I did, surprisingly, have some things in common, other than being female.  We both studied for a degree in Chemistry and contained the resilience and perservance to stand up and fight for what we want and believe in, to not let anyone stand in our way of what we aim to acheive.

Directed by Clare Williamson

Cast:

Alexandra Evans – Mrs T
Marie Cooper – Mags
Mandy Kiley – Liz
Gill Tichbourne – Q

Kevin Olreich
Denis Thatcher, Peter Carrington, Gerry Adams, Ronald Reagan,
Michael Heseltine, Arthur Scargill, Rupert Murdoch, Geoffrey Howe
and Prince Phillip.

Will Harragan
Palace Footman, Kenneth Kaunda, Nancy Reagan, Enoch Powell,
Michael Shea, Neil Kinnock, Kenneth Clarke, and a Protester.

Lily by Yuqian Tong

Photo of Marie Cooper as PC Edwards in Lily by Yuqian Tong
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Lily by Yuqian Tong – Filmed in Norwich, August 17th – 18th 2018

Marie Cooper performing in the short film Lily by Yuqian Tong, student filmmaker at the University of East Anglia – Filmed on location in Norwich, August 17th – 18th 2018


I found myself very quickly attempting to learn lines in August. An unanticipated opportunity popped up to take part in the short film, Lily by Yuqian Tong. The film was written, produced and directed by the student filmmaker who is currently studying here in Norwich at the University of East Anglia.

The photos below were taken by Tuqian Tong on set during filming.

Spirit of the Place with the Jenny Lind Arts Project

Marie Cooper Actor performing as the Spirit of the Place in Norwich
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Marie Cooper performing as the ‘The Spirit of the Place’ in promenade street theatre with the Jenny Lind Arts Project and Slow Theatre Company, 2018


Slow Theatre Company, Norwich

8 – 9 June 2018

From Workshop to Playwriting

It all escalated quite fast. One evening I turned up for a free scriptwriting workshop being run by the Jenny Lind Arts Project and Danny O’Hara with the Slow Theatre Company. I thought it would be a great help to learn some new creative writing techniques and generate some ideas to kickstart my creative coursework.

It turned out that writers could submit a piece of their work to be part of the project’s performance in June 2018.  The next thing I knew, my “Abandoned Places” script, with Megan and Josh, was included as part of the theatrical promenade piece. I performed as the ‘Spirit of the Place’ too. It felt odd, but exhilarating, seeing the words that I had written being performed. I had put my toes tentatively onto the edge of the path to becoming a playwright.

It was an immensely ambitious and unique piece of community theatre, a promenade piece composed entirely of local writer’s work which was then beautifully sewn together with the words of playwright Danusia Iwaszko, who created the Spirit of the Place as a guide, leading the audience around the stage, following the walkways, green areas and stairwells that make up the community space. There were many people working incredibly hard to bring the show together, both performing and behind the scenes,. It would not have been the same if even just one person had not been there.


I grew up, an artistic child, in an area of Norwich that was in the top 10% of the most deprived areas of the country.  For poor families, this meant that opportunities to get involved in the arts were next to zero outside of the school curriculum. So, the opening up of provision of the arts for everyone, no matter what their background or income, is something very close to my heart. The work that the Jenny Lind Project does, bringing the arts into local communities is invaluable.

And I Saw my World From my Home

The short film, ‘And I saw my world from my Home’, is a collaboration between the Jenny Lind Arts Project, BBC Voices and the Suffolk Square community. The footage is composed of clips that we filmed around the area. The poetry and readings are by the local community. The poem I am reading between 2:09  and 2:58 is by writer and poet, Salah El Nagar. Other contributors to the movie include Cate Oliver and me.

It was a privilege to be part of the project.  I have some wonderful new people in my life. People who I might never have even met if I’d not gone along to a little community scriptwriting workshop a few months ago. My life has been enriched for taking part. I hope the community feels the positive effects of the project long into the future.Wall of Feedback for Spirit of the Place

Review board for the show. 'Spirit of the Place'

Hellthy – Filming with IW Films in Norfolk

Marie Cooper Actor with the cast of the Hellthy movie taken after filming
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Update 2020: ‘Hellthy’ has now been released and can be streamed immediately on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime you can watch it for free

Project Update 2019:  The film ‘Hellthy’ by IWFilms is now complete and will be doing the festival circuit. Check out the trailer below…

‘Hellthy’ Trailer


Hellthy Trailer 1 – British Zero Budget Psychological Horror – Paul Andrew Goldsmith from iW FIlms on Vimeo.

If you are interested in finding out more about the film and director/producer, you can find more details, including Director Biography, overview of the movie, specs, credits, production photos over at FilmFreeway.

Filming with IWFilms on the Norfolk Coast

12th February 2018

I spent an enjoyable afternoon on the film shoot for ‘Hellthy’ in a traditional pub on the Norfolk coast, with IWFilms, director Stephen Willis, Paul Goldsmith, Clive Stubbs, Steve Dunn and Tilly.

I have not had many (and when I say many, I mean any) performances before, where a pint glass containing real beer (well, when I say beer, I mean Shandy) has been put down in front of me as part of the set and I am allowed to drink it. Not that I am complaining mind.

I was having a chat with the landlady and she told me that the pub had also, many years ago, been used to film an episode of ‘The Chief’.

As well as meeting some lovely new people , I also met the extremely friendly and handsome ‘Blue’. Blue decided that he would rather have a cuddle on my lap than go for a walk. He was such a cutie,  but he was highly jiggly when I was trying to take a selfie with him. I didn’t realise I had left my sunglasses on my head, until filming was over and I attempted the dog selfie.

Hellthy is produced by IW Films and directed by Stephen Willis.

Synopis: “A psychopath kidnaps addicts and forces them through torturous rehabilitation”

The filming for this scene was in Great Yarmouth on 12th February 2018.

The feature film was completed on 19 June 2019.

Duration: 1 hour 34 minutes 21 seconds

Starring:

Paul Andrew Goldsmith
Talithia Willsea
Ian Alldis

Supporting Actors:

Behind the Scenes Photos on Film Set for Hellthy

Behind the scenes photos taken by the cast and crew during filming below. With permission from Paul Andrew Goldsmith

Selfie with Blue on the Film Set of ‘Hellthy’

Hellty IW Films Feb 2018
After filming I made friends with the local doge.

Come into the Garden, Maud by Noel Coward

Marie Cooper Actor as Anna Mary becoming increasing irritated at Verner interrupting - Photo onstage during Come into the Garden Maud onstage during Come into the Garden Maud
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Norwich Theatre: Great Hall Theatre Company, The Assembly House, Norwich

30 January – 3 February 2018

Marie Cooper played Anna-Mary Conklin, in ‘Come into the Garden, Maud’. One of two short plays by Noel Coward, performed together, by The Great Hall Theatre Company.


First time in The Round

Come into the Garden, Maud was performed ‘in the round’, with an audience on all four sides. I hadn’t performed in that configuration before. It was a challenging but fun, exploring the space and being open to the audience on all four sides.

I didn’t originally audition for the role of Anna-Mary. I was a little surprised, but very happy to be offered her. She is quite an unpleasant, dominating character, whose attitude to her friends could spin on a dime.

Accents

I had to learn more lines than I’ve ever needed to before. My character was American, so, I had to learn lines in an American accent for the first time. I also had to learn some badly pronounced French, in an American accent. I got some laughs at my attempts at French. Hopefully the audience thought I was acting and didn’t realise my French actually is that bad.

I wrote a little more about Anna-Mary, accidentally breaking the fourth wall and some of the feedback over on my blog

The Cast for Come into the Garden Maud

Rob Fradley – Wilde
Imogen Fletcher
Marie Cooper
Felix

Verner Conklin
Maud Caragnani
Anna-Mary Conklin
Ben Turner

All photographs for Come into the Garden, Maud were taken during the dress rehearsal by Andrew Cliffe of Norwich Photo Motorsport Photography

Norwich Photo

Come into the Garden, Maud Gallery

Syncopated, Directed by Edward Heredia, with NUA

Photograph of Marie Cooper actor during the filming of Syncopated. Details in portfolio of my work
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Marie Cooper performing in the short film ‘Syncopated’ with NUA production team at The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich.


On the rainy afternoon of 4th November 2017, I met with the Norwich University of the Arts production team at the Owl Sanctuary in Norwich to film some scenes from their short movie, ‘Syncopated’, directed by Edward Heredia.

I was playing a rather nasty piece of work. A boss of a strip club who dominated her girls, who was so tied into her own seedy existence that she had a seething jealousy, and bullied any of her girls looking to escape the business. She was prone to getting drunk and out of control if she felt she was losing control.

It was an exciting day of firsts. The first time I had performed in a film other than as an extra, the first time I had had somebody else do my make-up and the first time I have had to enact on-screen violence. It was challenging. I almost caught our other lovely actor on the first slap attempt.

The character was great fun to play and sometimes challenging to snap instantly from team giggles, because I’d almost just squashed one of the team behind a slammed door, and then trying to get back my composure (probably not the right word for anger) and focused with my character’s intent. I can not wait to see how it all came out. The photos below were taken by the production team, before and during filming.

Film and photographs courtesy of Edward Heredia, Director.

Directed by Edward Heredia
Produced by Georgia Diane Pett
Edited by Sam Papidas
Cinematography by Sam Bywater
Script by Jessica Hulusi
Sound Design by Mason Wilson
Production Design by Gracie Slatter

Lark Rise at Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Mrs Blaby (Marie Cooper Actor) and Mrs Peverill in Larkrise
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Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

11 – 21 October 2017

In Lark Rise, performed at Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich, Marie Cooper played Mrs Blaby and Mrs Beamish.


Mrs Blaby always seemed to be hanging about outside her cottage, gossiping with the other women-folk of Larkrise. She had a love of dressy fashion, despite mostly being a year out of it by today’s standards, as she relied on her daughter sending her clothes parcels from London.

Heavily pregnant Mrs Beamish was proudly getting her young daughter Martha all smart and ready to find her petty place in Larkrise so that she could earn her own living. With a new mouth to feed on the way, the family needed the income. A year in training and Martha might be ready to move on to proper gentleman’s service.

It was a huge production and the final show at Sewell Barn for the Director, Robert Little.  It was great fun and a privilege to be part of the wonderfully large and diverse cast, with ages ranging from young teens, through to students from the University of East Anglia’s drama course, right up to the not-quite-so-young seventies. It was one big, happy theatrical family.  I even got to share the stage with one of the actors from Harry Potter, the young Sirius Black, Rohan Gotobed,  and it’s not every day I get to say that.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Evans

Lark Rise

Written by Keith Dewhurst
Adapted from the novels by Flora Thompson

Directed by Robert Little with
Sewell Barn Theatre

Music Directed by Michelle Glover
Photography by Andrew Evans

Cast

Emma Timms                                                                           Wendy Atkinson
Albert Timms                                                                            Martin Dabbs
Laura Timms                                                                            Connie Reid
Laura Timms                                                                             Charlotte Woollsey
Edmund Timms                                                                       Bradley Flint
Bishie                                                                                            Shem Jacobs
Boamer                                                                                        Chad Mason
Old David / Dick / Twister                                                    Terry Dabbs
Pumpkin                                                                                      Colin Barrett (Baz)
Old Price / Old Postie / Grandfather / Rector           Dave Dixon
Bailiff / Doctor / Squire Bracewell                                  Robert Little
Old Stut / Tramp                                                                      Danny Burns
Fisher                                                                                            Liam Purshouse
Jerry Parish / Cheapjack                                                     Rohan Gotobed
Mrs Spicer / Garibaldi Jacket                                            Ruth Howitt
Mrs Blaby / Mrs Beamish                                                   Marie Cooper
Mrs Peverill / Queenie                                                         Ros Mace
Old Sally                                                                                     Anne Giles
Mr Sharman / Landlord                                                      Peter Jackson
Mrs Miller / Mrs Andrews                                                  Diane Webb
Martha Beamish                                                                    Connie Reed
Martha Beamish                                                                    Charlotte Woollsey
John Price                                                                                 Sam Webber
Polly                                                                                             Ella Daymond

Candleford at Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Photograph of Mrs Macey played by Marie Cooper actor and Dorcas Lane played by Lyn Smith in Candleford at Sewell Barn Theatre
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Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

11 – 21 October 2017

In Candleford, performed at Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich, Marie Cooper played the dour, prim and proper Mrs Macey.  She lived with her young son, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Snowball’ her cat, as her husband was away, travelling abroad with his gentleman. Or so she told everyone in the post office. Dorcas, the Post Mistress General, was the only person Mrs Macey trusted with the truth.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Evans

Norfolk and Norwich Festival with Berlin’s TheatreFragile

Street Intervention with TheatreFragile for Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2017
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In summer, Marie Cooper performed with Berlin’s TheatreFragile and their production ‘We Meet in Paradise’ at The Forum for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival – NNF17
17-18 May 2017


In the run up to the two evenings of performances, TheatreFragile ran acting workshops for the local participants, specifically focused on performing in masks. The voices in the audio were of real refugees who had been forced to flee their own countries because it had become too dangerous for them and their families to stay. As performers we acted out the experiences but their voices and stories were their own. We provided the stage for their stories.

It followed the refugees’ harrowing escape, across the sea at the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers, who took advantage of the travellers’ adversity, to the confusing, stressful and worrying time landing on the shores of a new land where they did not speak the language.

‘We meet in Paradise’ was a beautifully choreographed and moving piece of theatre, which engaged the audience and pulled them, literally, onto the stage to participate at the end of the performance and to end on a heartwarming, inclusive and welcoming celebration of mixed cultures.

You can read a review of the show by Eva Stebbing over on the website of the Eastern Evening News

Photos courtesy of TheatreFragile
Video clip courtesy of Richard’s Reality