Sunday, 10 April 2016

24 Hour Stage Project - Blak Yak Theatre (9 April 2016)

Blak Yak Theatre held their inaugural 24 Hour Stage Project at Rigby’s Bar and Grill in the city on Friday and Saturday nights. I had the pleasure and great honour of being asked to come along and adjudicate the 6 teams that had created productions in that 24 hour period. Writers, actors and directors had been assigned at random and given the theme of Back in 5 which they were free to interpret in any way they liked. The writers went away Friday night to work their magic with the directors and actors starting their work Saturday morning. There was time for a tech run each in the afternoon before the lights came down on a paying audience from 8pm.

Teams were competing for cash prizes and there was also the opportunity for feedback and Honourable Mentions. Perhaps more than that it was a way for newcomers to get involved and have their words, directing, or acting staged in front of an audience, some for the very first time. Plus the impetus of having people coming together in a collaborative endeavour to create new work. Hopefully creative partnerships were forged and some if not all of these projects will find life in further development.

I received the scripts Saturday morning and I was impressed with the quality across the board given that they were written in only a 12 hour window. For the Best Script prize I wanted to choose a winner based on the work on the page before seeing the actual productions later that night. It also had me intrigued to see how they would be realised, again in the fiendishly short space of 12 hours for directors, actors, and the technical crew Blak Yak had provided to make the words come to life on stage.

The night was very well run, there was a good sized and enthusiastic audience in attendance downstairs at Rigby’s, and everything went without a hitch. Above all else the end result of 24 hours of frantic creativity was 6 varying yet compelling pieces of theatre. There was everything from a super-hero themed comedy set on a train to Midland; international spies duelling to see who would end Donald Trump’s robotic march to the White House; a hard hitting tale of a woman trying to come to terms with the abuse of her childhood; overwhelming grief and confusion over the death of a friend; a woman celebrating her wedding anniversary in, let’s say, unusual ways; and a relationship coming to an end as ‘going out to get milk’ turns into a cross country trip to Sydney. It was a nice mix of comedy and drama.

The quality of acting was high and the use of the small stage space inventive. As I remarked before announcing the winners it was instructive to see so clearly demonstrated that with a space no matter how small, a script, some actors, a director, simple props, minimal set, basic sound and lighting cues you can create theatre that will move people or make them laugh or think or all of these things. All you need is a willingness to work together, take some risks, and be creative in your storytelling.

I really enjoyed the night and it was a little unusual for me. Normally I never ever take notes when I’m watching a show. Occasionally at interval or after a production you might see me adding a few reminders to Memo on my smart phone but they’re usually song titles or references I might forget. Here I had a notepad and Adjudication form as there was the opportunity to give some brief feedback to each team as well as having to choose winners in a short timeframe. I even eschewed my usual cider, nursing a lemon squash (heaven forbid!) all night.  

Thank you to Blak Yak President Lorna Mackie who, along with her team, did such a wonderful job of organising the event and looking after me on the night. It really was a fantastic evening and, given the positive reception, looks like it will become an ongoing proposition. If so, I encourage people to get involved as it’s a fun (if tiring!) way to meet new people, put original work in front of a receptive audience and develop momentum for stories and idea. 

Congratulations to all the writers, actors, and directors who participated. Thank you also to the people who came up to chat after the event. I suspect Blak Yak will make a formal announcement of all the winners online so I won’t pre-empt that here only to say, well done everyone!

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