It was a chance finding that started it.
Browsing through social media, I noticed a call for short scripts to be submitted for a new initiative to Manchester. If accepted, the scripts would be performed as rehearsed readings. It was early in the summer of 2015, and I had a small collection of short monologues, courtesy of a project marking the twentieth anniversary of the Manchester Irish Writers Group to which I belong. I had always written short stories or poetry, and the group’s “Changing Skies” production had been a new departure for most of us: monologues charting 200 years of Irish immigration to the city.
I loved the challenge of writing for the stage, but after the performances in March 2015, during the Manchester Irish Festival, was unsure how to develop my new-found enthusiasm. Then I saw that call for scripts. Professional directors? Professional actors? An emphasis on feedback for writers? How much would that cost? Several readings confirmed the almost incredible answer: nothing!
The email from Diana, Hannah and Lisa came as a very pleasant shock: the script I had submitted, the story of Maggie, widow of an Irish patriot who joined the British Army during World War One, only to find he returned reviled, and mortally wounded, had been accepted, and would be performed at the inaugural “Scripts Aloud” performance at The King’s Arms.
That experience, of seeing the superb Clare Cameron, under the inspired direction of Dan Jarvis, bring Maggie to life in “Songs He Left Unsung”, was the best “professional” development I could have wished for. And seeing the play performed as the first “Scripts Aloud” piece ever in Manchester, remains one of the proudest moments of my writing career.
The last two years have provided several such experiences, opportunities to work with an unbelievable selection of directors in Craig Sanders, Samantha O’Rourke and Dan Jarvis (again), as well as amazing actors like Clare, Simon Naylor, Joel Parry, Ewan Orton, Billy Brayshaw, Ben Sherlock and Diana Atkins herself, who combines fabulous talent as an actor with “Duracell-bunny” energy, alongside Hannah Ellis and the growing team, in driving Manchester ADP forward.
A particular high point – among many – for me, was the chance to write for performance at the Oldham Coliseum on 22 May – a night which tragically entered the city’s consciousness for awful reasons. Once again, ADP teamed my writing with an incredibly talented group, with Joyce Branagh directing “Never Wonder” and a dream cast of Jill Myers, James Oates and – once again – Clare Cameron.
The King’s Arms remains the spiritual home of ADP, but one remembers great evenings at The Lowry, 53two and Oldham Coliseum, and particularly the creation of a community of mutual support and constructive criticism, culminating in the success of Alex Keelan and Tim Keogh in the recent Manchester Festival, winning respectively Best Comedy Play (“The Loves of Others”) and Best Newcomer (“Thorn”) with pieces that were developed after performances originally brought to “Scripts Aloud” evenings. I’m sure every member of that community was as delighted as I was to see their success; proof, if any more were needed, of the value and benefit of the ADP.
Long may it continue to thrive!
Thank you so much Kevin for this post. It warmed our hearts. Long live ADP!