This is the 6th annual 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Galas at the Old Vic, however the history of the format goes back to 1995 when the first 24 Hour Plays was mounted in New York where it has been happening annually every since. This Gala was in aid of the Old Vic's New Voices - developing the very best young and emerging talent and opening up the building to diverse audiences through education and community projects.
Here's a rundown of the specifics - how it works, who wrote, directed and starred:
Luckily we weren't watching 24 hours worth of plays but only an hours worth. Here's what happened during the previous 22 hours.
10pm - Actors, directors and writers meet at the Old Vic. Each was asked to bring an object which they shared with everyone. Each play must include one of the objects brought to this session. After the introductions - the actors and directors are sent home.
11pm - The six writers choose their actors from photos and are taken to a hotel to write a play throughout the night.
6am - The six 10 minute plays are taken and photocopied in preparation for the directors.
7am - The directors speed read the plays and choose their favourites.
8am - Actors gather to hear how they have been cast and receive their scripts.
9am - Rehearsals begin.
3pm - Each company gets 20 minutes of onstage tech time.
7.30pm - The performances begin.
The Plays, the writers, the directors and the actors:
I Should Never Have Agreed To This
Playwright - Ol Parker
Director - Jamie Lloyd
Cast: Nigel Lindsay, Elliot Cowar, Romola Garai, Haydn Gwynne, John Light
Playwright - James Graham
Director - Josie Rourke
Cast: Clive Rowe, David Haig, Hattie Moraham, Rafe Spall
Stop Blaming, Start Loving
Playwright - Chloe Moss
Director - Patricia Benecke
Cast: Lorraine Burroughs, Helen McCrory, Dominic West
- interval -
Playwright - David Nicholls
Director - Douglas Hodge
Cast: Anna Maxwell Martin, Andrew Scott, Ruth Wilson, William Houston
Playwright - Nick Moran
Director - Angus Jackson
Cast: Jason Isaacs, Anna Chancellor, Art Malik, Ashley Walters
Playwright - Amy Rosenthal
DIrector - Annabel Bolton
Cast: Charity Wakefield, Stephen Mangan, Jane Asher, Kieran O'Brien
Although not all of the six plays were equally successful for one reason or another (yes, there were missed lines and one poor actor had to stop to run offstage and retrieve a script - all actors were off book), I enjoyed myself immensely from beginning to end, and it all ran like clockwork which was amazing.
The evening was hosted by Graham Norton and began with a short film that gave insight into the process from the previous 22 hours. The film was introduced (on film) by Artistic Director Kevin Spacey who couldn't be at the event as he had to fly to New York. For a film that was shot and edited over a 20 hour period with mulitple participants I found it extremely engrossing. It was great to see the actors and directors reveal the objects they brought. Here are just a few - electric hair clippers, an inflatable (inflated) Thomas the Tank Engine child's paddling pool and a pink toilet seat. Graham also mentioned that Dominic West forgot his but evidently it was a leather gimp mask. Hmmm. There was also a bit with each playwright as they settled into their swanky hotel rooms faced with the daunting task of writing a 10-minute play on the hoof. In fact, the whole project was daunting for everyone concerned, as was continually mentioned so hats off to everyone for bringing it all together.
I'll add to this soon with more detailed rundowns of each play.