Good evening and welcome to a blog post that probably should have come into being last Sunday, but due to a combination of photo editing and the need to sleep was unavoidably delayed - apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.
So the sixth to the eighth of August saw the inaugural London incarnation of the 14/48 speed theatre festival take place at the Lost Theatre in Wandsworth. Following strict instructions from the ever marvellous (Christer Award Winning) Charlotte Bond I packed up my photography gear, some essential clothing and some even more essential journey sweets and headed down to the big smoke in the Bond-piloted cat mobile. The main features of the journey being a steady flow of musical theatre soundtracks, a minor detour (which allowed us to take in the sights of Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Parliament and Marble Arch), seemingly getting snarled up with the entire Tour de France at several sets of traffic lights, and a slightly nightmarish moment where all the drivers in London seemed to want to simultaneously lynch us... All of this was handled with consummate ease by miss Bond, if I'd been driving I think I would have adopted the foetal position and sobbed quietly until being forcibly removed!
Accommodation duly located we made our way down to the basement (the stairwell seemingly polythene sheeted for an anticipated massacre...) whereupon we found erstwhile veteran 14/48 writer, and my roommate for the festival, Matt Beames making himself at home (he'd put things on hangers, definitely a sign of a true gent). I wasn't entirely sure how sharing a small room with a scriptwriter working through the night would pan out, but it was another experience to add to my "list of new things that I wouldn't have done where it not for 14/48" (there isn't an actual list, and if there was it would need a snappier title!)
Fortified by jam and cream scones (further evidence of miss Bond's readiness for all eventualities) we struck out for the Lost Theatre, very much aware that anything could, and more than likely would, happen. Having located said theatre (not difficult as it looks a bit like a hastily designed concrete spaceship has crash landed into the front of an otherwise unremarkable office building) we made ourselves known and fervently scanned the faces of those present for people we knew. Coming off the back of the fairly veteran heavy 14/48 Wolverhampton there was a palpable tension in the theatre, heightened no doubt by the fact that the inaugural 14/48 London would be judged on the performances of those present, in a place where theatre is really rather a big deal. I also introduced myself to fellow photographer for the weekend Scott Rylander (www.scottrylander.com) I will confess to being a tad intimidated to be shooting alongside such a skilled professional theatre photographer, but appreciated what a great opportunity it was - further evidence of the kind of experiences that 14/48 can fling at you! With the theme "into the deep" chosen at random, the writer's headed off into the mild Wandsworth night, wondering what on earth they'd signed themselves up for.
Across the following 48 hours, 14 plays of a frankly remarkably high calibre were performed to rapturous applause from appreciative paying audiences. These ten minute performances ran the full gamut of emotions giving the audience a real roller coaster ride sure to leave them blown away by what can be achieved by talented passionate artists pushing each other to deliver their very best. I shan't waffle on in too much detail, as hopefully my photos of the event say more than my clumsy literary attempts ever could. However some of my highlight's include: a philosophical journey into deep space, an intense domestic drama (that I photographed from a washroom in rehearsal), a boyband based whodunnit (featuring one of Bob Christer's two roles with abandonment issues...), hunchbacked/dreadlocked farmers (kind of like The Archers on acid) and a genuinely moving, thought provoking asylum seekers piece that needed absolute poise in both writing and performing to negotiate such a sensitive subject. All of the performances were soundtracked by the tightest 3 piece band since ZZ Top, who worked tirelessly, forgoing luxuries like food, to ensure that the musical performance was delivered with style and panache. They matched the actors in giving the audiences an eclectic masterclass, with everyone leaving the theatre humming along to tunes that (if they're anything like me) will have been popping back into their heads all week. The work from the tech and design teams was similarly stellar, as is the way with 14/48, the writers and directors visions were not curtailed by the constraints of the format. Many a set/prop design gauntlet was thrown down and duly picked up, polished to a high shine, filled with a sweet metaphorical beverage and handed back with a winning Colgate smile!
So to sum up, it was bloomin' great! Seeing the transformation from a tentative and slightly terrified group on Thursday evening, to a fire-breathing all conquering troupe of performers by Saturday was awe inspiring (the combination of self-service ale and sleep deprivation seems to work wonders). Onwards to Leicester in November, I have a feeling that the shadowy selection committee are going to have their work cut-out sifting through the applicants!! I shall be there lurking in dark corners clicking away incessantly (there has been talk of a restraining order, but I'm sure they're only joking...)
Oh and one last thing, it turns out that sleeping whilst a playwright feverishly works away is remarkably easy, so much so that my other half now has to tap away on a keyboard until I drift off to sleep and I make sure that there's a drafted play ready for me to read if I wake up at 2am.