In May, I began my FITD traineeship. I was assigned the outdoor monologues project to work on, which was really exciting for a lot of reasons: the kind of performance I am interested in most does tend to be small short pieces like these five minute monologues; it was outside (how you make a set or performance space outside is something I had never really considered before and which interests me a lot); and because I come from a background of literature moreso than live performance I was delighted when I was asked to read over the monologue submissions and help choose.
I was supervised very supportively on my placement by Ian Townsend, who right at the start sent me a shortlist of twelve – a number we halved in the run up to the festival. I really enjoyed reading through and helping come up with a list of ones that would go together well and complement each other as part of a complete performance, and which were most suited to outdoor promenade performance. The shortlist of twelve was very exciting to read because they were all so different, approaching the theme of Manchester’s scientific history in lots of creative ways. It made me think in a new way, trying to select monologues not just based on each piece as an individual, but in terms of how they might fit together, inform each other, provide a good mixture of different settings and styles: I feel like part of my role was helping to curate a selection.
It’s Not For The Likes Of Us, Looking Through John Dalton’s Eyes, Four Hundred Yards, Tracing Stars, Treasure, and Miracle (the six we selected as the final choices) are all varied, imaginative, and captivating to read or watch. It’s been great seeing them develop and change over the various edits and it was a real treat seeing how the directors and actors interpreted them at the festival weekend. I would like to say a huge well done to the writers, actors and directors.
The monologues all represent different time periods so it’s really interesting that they were performed as part of the same promenade performance one after another – the order that they are in needs to feel right and have the right progression of mood. With the order we ended up with, the tone at the beginning and end is contemporary, witty, and simultaneously drawing attention to serious modern day issues: the right for working class women to be included in the higher education system – and the strain of undergoing costly fertility treatments such as IVF. There were some really positive reviews of the quality of these monologues:http://www.thepublicreviews.com/brief-encounters-247-festival-martin-harris-centre-for-music-and-drama-manchester/
I’m really glad that a shortened selection of Brief Encounters will be performed again at Manchester Science Festival. I think they are such an engaging watchable way of informing people about this city’s fantastic scientific achievements – and also a way to ask some thought provoking questions.