FEATURE: Louise Taylor on Preservation | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Writers’ ARCADE is a group of emerging playwrights who meet regularly to discuss their work, share experiences and develop their skills. They have recently been awarded a grant from Arts Council England to support a ten month professional development programme.  As part of this, each writer will create a brand new one hour script that will be given a rehearsed reading at ARC. 

Writers ARCADE Rehearsed Readings will take place every Wednesday from 6 May – 24 June 2015. In this new series, we’ve asked the members of the Writers’ ARCADE to tell us more about their experiences of being involved in the group, the works they’re presenting and their hopes for the future. This time, Louise Taylor talks about her work Preservation. Words: Louise Taylor.

By day I’m a design manager in a research group at Newcastle University Medical School, but by night (and any other sliver of time I can get my hands on) I’m a playwright. It all began back in 2002 when I made my sister Laura come with me to see a play called Noir by Peter Straughan at (what was then) Newcastle Playhouse. The play was dark and tragic and foul-mouthed and hilarious – and it was set in Newcastle. As I listened to the psychopathic security guard ranting about his job in Fenwicks it slowly dawned on me that plays weren’t just things that came into Newcastle from other places. A person from Newcastle could write a play. Maybe I could write a play?

Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have my plays performed at Live Theatre, Northern Stage, ARC Stockton, The Customs House, 24:7 Festival Manchester and Riverside Studios in London. In April 2015 my first full-length play The Frights was produced by Newcastle’s newest fringe venue Alphabetti Theatre, and also toured to Jabberwocky Market and ARC Stockton.

I’m really excited to be able to present my new play Preservation as a rehearsed reading at ARC Stockton, after spending the last seven months developing the piece with the support of my Writers ARCADE mentor, award-winning playwright Alexandra Wood. Preservation was inspired by a visit to the Willet-Holthuysen Museum in Amsterdam – a perfectly preserved canal house that was left to the city by its wealthy owners in the 1800s. As I toured the building I wondered what my own home would say about me if it was preserved exactly as I’d left it (which was far from looking its best!), and what my family might do with it if I wasn’t there. Would they look into all of its corners? And what would they discover if they did?

In Preservation we meet a family who have kept their sister’s flat exactly as she left it when she died sixteen years earlier. Every New Year’s Eve they go back to remember her – but this year, they arrive to find the door already open. The play is a witty and moving exploration of guilt, loss and unspeakable things, which explores whether it’s best to leave the past buried or to dig it up and shine a light on it.

louise taylor

The play is a witty and moving exploration of guilt, loss and unspeakable things

I’ve met with my mentor Alex several times, and even got to spend time in the rehearsal rooms of her upcoming plays Ages for the Old Vic and The Initiate for Paines Plough. It’s been amazing to get the benefit of her insightful advice on how to polish my own play into the best possible shape. Characters have been cut, the timeline has been moved, and a whole raft of flashback scenes have been dropped completely. A recent workshop with actors and director at ARC Stockton had made clear that Preservation is now a much stronger piece, thanks to all of this hard work.

My hope is that the rehearsed reading will show me how audiences react to the play, and give me the confidence to submit it for national opportunities like The Bruntwood Prize. I feel very privileged to have been a part of the first Writers ARCADE mentoring program. Now I feel I owe it to my mentor, my fellow ARCADE playwrights and the team at ARC Stockton to ensure that this leads to many more exciting developments for my playwriting career in the future!

Preservation comes to Stockton’s ARC on Wednesday 6th May.

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