Oxford’s organic new writing


There are many ways in which Oxford is an ideal environment to try out new writing. The pressures of having to deal with the fiscal cut-and-thrust of putting on a professional performance are (for most part) greatly mitigated when everyone’s agreed that you’re getting central funding together for a student show. The practical upshot of which is, you have the kind of freedom you’d very rarely have elsewhere to experiment: you can take risks with things that might otherwise be shot down in a place where a lot more rides on being able to get bums on seats. Added to which, there’s a lot of scope to let your writing develop in a vital, organic way alongside your cast and crew, when they’re as psyched about the project as you.

It’s also a very healthy way of inculcating yourself against being overly precious with your own material: I’ve had the good fortune, in my own writing and on directing other projects, to work with people who, whatever their levels of casualness with regard to pursuing drama, have all had keen critical instincts, and they’ll tell you right away if they don’t think something rings true and needs rethinking.

Pretty much the single biggest headache (although I imagine only slightly more so than in any other project) is in getting your name out there and actually enthusing people about seeing your work: experimental community or not, there’s still something of an (admittedly quite healthy, in some cases) caution about putting your money into an evening of what could be self-indulgent twaddle. All of which should encourage you to take particular care in making sure it isn’t, and instead have it be one of those new plays, of a kind that I have, happily, encountered a number of times while here, where you do actually find yourself, if only momentarily, transported.

Tim Kiely


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