By David Chriscole.
Fringe theatre here in the North West is huge, as it is elsewhere in the country. So big in fact, it should probably have its own post code. Yet prior to February 2015 I hadn't an inkling that this sub-culture even existed. Having been exposed to it by my nephew Sean, a UCLan trained actor, I was and am hooked.
In October 2015 Sean hails his next appearance on a stage being at a pub in Salford called The Kings Arms. The event, called "Marmite Night" was to be presented by Manchester ADP, part of their freshly baked "Scripts Aloud" programme. Having already seen a multi-play "Scripts Out Loud" event in Manchester during July, I more-or-less knew what to expect. However, Manchester ADP went a lot further than just presenting a series of scripts. Oh no, they wanted nay demanded your feedback after each presentation in a Q&A session. This was something quite different, and it was met with an eager audience keen to give their views.
Something quite extraordinary happened on this night though, something I had not seen coming. After the last script had been read, and the Q&A session had ended, our delightful MC Hannah Ellis talks briefly about Manchester ADP. The request for actors, directors and writers to get involved goes up.
"Anybody can submit a script for evaluation & possible performing in a script aloud event."
This statement, of which I'm paraphrasing from memory of course, is duly heard. After returning my Nephew to his home, and arriving back at my abode just about midnight, I sit and ponder the evening. Sipping a Gin & Tonic to help me unwind, I hear the echo of Hannah's delightful Australian twang, melting gorgeously in my ears. "Anyone can submit a script...". Funny how the simplest things can take you by surprise. I sat there for a moment wondering what to make of this fleeting memory of a few spoken words that evening. I nodded to myself in silent acknowledgement of this query, slipping it into my mind, with a post-it note "todo: think about this a little more".
The following evening I did do just that. I became aware during that day of a growing ache in my head. Not a real one mind you, more like a thought that wanted to get out but was blocked behind a door marked "gone to work". Opening that door in the evening proved quite eventful. I realised I had been mulling over part of my own existence during the previous year. This period was quite a hard, self-imposed self-loathing kind of affair. Yet, I seemed to join these events with Hannah's simple request for script submissions for Manchester ADP and... boom! (as you kids say)
Could I? Should I?
Part of the recovery from my "dark period" saw me promising myself that I would not shy away from doing something different. So I considered something astonishing; Could I write a short play about the struggle I had? Would it be interesting, engaging, thought provoking or just plain crap? A line from the Coldplay song "Fix You" rang in my ears, "If you never try, you'll never know.". Okay then, why not give it a go.
Once the decision was made, the words came fast. I poured out some of my deepest feelings in text, abstracting those feelings into characters I could relate to. By the end of 2 or 3 hours of writing, fiddling, reading and more fiddling, I launched the script into the ether and to my nephew Sean for some critique.
It did take a while to have the opportunity to sit and discuss what I had written, but the feedback I got from Sean gave me the positive vibe I'd been hoping for. There could be something here, it has legs. Can we maybe call it "a thing". Gosh! Another couple of iterations and the piece was ready. The script was submitted to Manchester ADP April 9th, and I await evaluation, words of wisdom, and I hope plenty of constructive critique. Exited, yes I am!
So to my point of this missive?
Well, I'd just like to say a massive thanks to Diana Atkins for having the foresight to found this amazing idea called Manchester ADP, which has turned into a thriving community. So too my adoration goes out to Hannah Ellis for the superlative interactions with us poor mortals every month. The combination of an exceptional bunch of people, packed theatre, vibrant and friendly conversation, has given fuel to creativity I had not known was within me.
To date there have been 11 Manchester ADP events since its inception in August 2015. Of the 4 events in 2015 I was only able to attend October, but the 7 thus far of 2016 have been fully attended. So impressed, delighted and enthralled by what I have seen, my calendar now boasts a repeating appointment for the last Monday of every month... to Salford we will go! So to with the additional full length rehearsed Script Aloud events, they are given the highest priority in my schedule.
Speaking to an actor recently, a polite conversation ensued in regards to what was being gained by professionals at these events. The actor said "I wasn't going to bother with them, but having bitten the bullet I'm so glad I did. I've worked with, networked and made friends with some incredible people.". Testament to the power that Manchester ADP wields.
Even if my short play never sees the light of day, the experience of writing and sharing is an invaluable one. It is my hope too, that others follow me as I follow those that have been before. Join in, have fun, come meet some totally awesome folk doing totally awesome things. Perhaps in doing so, you'll end up like me; Attacked by inspiration.
Manchester ADP, I salute you!