Blog: Out of the Archive (but any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental…)

Greg Mosse, Young Playwrights, New Writing South, Archive, Devised drama
Greg Mosse works with our Young Playwrights on “Out of the Archive”

The Pass It On project is a real voyage of discovery, not just in terms of the history of the Festival Theatre, but also the opportunities it presents to bring the worlds of heritage and theatre together. Now in the second of our three years, we are being experimental and exploring how the objects we uncover in our archive can be used to inspire new creative work.

We are embarking on an exciting project called Out Of the Archive, which draws on several areas of the Festival Theatre’s activity. A group of early-career play writes, alumni of the New Writing South and Chichester Festival Theatre’s Young Playwrights scheme, are currently developing a short series of 20 minute plays inspired by our archive.

In these pieces the archival material provides a spring-board to imagined characters, whose personal traits and inner conflicts drive the unfolding action. Here, engaging with the past provides texture and depth, as well as a real-life framework for drama, but these writers have been given a clear brief to explore their imaginations when it comes to the stories themselves.

Working with the expert help of published writer Greg Mosse, our writers will have scripts ready by the beginning of April, but their work won’t stop there. We will have the summer to workshop them – exploring how these pieces work in practice – under the direction of our Senior Youth Theatre Leader, Megan Purdie. We will then be forming a company of young people to bring these scripts to life, drawing on all the expertise available at the Theatre to help support and advise this process, with a scratch (or rough developmental) performance in early September, through to technical advice in the run up to our public performances in October.

This process started last autumn when we gave each of our 36 Youth Theatre groups an item from the archive and asked them to devise 10 minute shorts, coming together to share them in November last year (an exciting project in its own right; you can read our blog post ‘Inspired by the Archive’ and one on ‘Our Archive Inspired Performance’. We invited our group of playwrights to see these sharings and the items from the archive that inspired them.

For each of the three years of the Pass It On project we will be working with our Youth Theatre to present short pieces of theatre based on Chichester Festival Theatre’s heritage. In year one, we re-presented Pass It On, a lovely short piece written by Amelia Mlynowska telling the story of the founding of the theatre, and an illuminating verbatim piece called Word for Word, developed with the Youth Theatre by the then Youth Theatre Intern Louise Rigglesford – both of which, in their different ways, were very true to fact.

Out of the Archive will be performed to the public Saturday 25th October 2014.