PLAYS FOR THE PEOPLE is a project in development.
Rather than performed by actors in a theatre, these plays are written to be read aloud and discussed by a group of audience-participants. They can be organised and undertaken by any group of people in a suitable place or space.
This project, and form, is inspired by the lehrstück, a word usually translated into English as ‘learning play’. The most well-known historical examples of these plays were created by Bertolt Brecht in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Inspired by this model, the short plays in this project want to attempt to address some big questions and themes, and present a sense of involvement, engagement participation and agency in those that encounter and take part in them.
So far the project has produced two examples, The Actions, created in collaboration with director Sam Pritchard, and a new work called The Rule of Six. More information about each play can be found below, along with a brief outline.
Each play contains the necessary instructions. Often all they need is some people to meet and read aloud to each other, some copies of the text to do this from (printed out or on a screen), and a space quiet enough for the reading/performance to happen. This might be a lecture theatre, a classroom, a hall in a community centre, a table in a pub, a rehearsal room, or even a video conferencing platform such as ZOOM. Each performance should be seen as a play with two halves. The first part is the reading, the second a discussion/debate about the themes and ideas that the play presents.
Over time, and along with more collaborators, the aim of the project is to write more and further explore the possibilities of the form.
THE ACTIONS was the first play for the people. It was created in collaboration with director Sam Pritchard with the support of The Yard Theatre in London and Arts Council, England.
Telling the story of a group of political activists who are meeting in secret, the play asks questions of how far we might be willing to go for a cause.
Since its first reading at The Yard in 2018, the play has been read/performed in a number of HE settings, as well as in schools. Most recently this has taken place through a pilot scheme funded by the University of Manchester/Creative Manchester.
Connections to Brecht means that this play is ideal for use teaching undergraduate students, as well as pupils undertaking 'A' level Theatre Studies. As well as this, the play could also find a readership in citizenship, politics and history classes and wider social organisations such as youth theatres and other community groups.
The play needs a nominated 'host' figure to read the first three pages and introduce the story and concept to the assembled. The minimum number of participants is about 6 but it can be more (up to 30, say). Not everyone has to read in order to participate in the work.
Age guidance 14+
THE RULE OF SIX is the second play in the series. Written in September 2020, it is designed to be read by six people at a time, perhaps outdoors in a public square or park, or failing that on a video call platform such as ZOOM.
The play asks questions of where we might be headed in a time of global chaos.
It might be possible to read it with others listening, but six is the optimum number. It's ideal for a small group of friends or colleagues, students or pupils.
The play is only eight pages long (including one of instructions). Everyone takes a turn to read one speech, and then a discussion afterwards is encouraged. Overall, the whole thing should take about 45 minutes.
The age guidance is 14+
If you would like to discuss or find out more about this project overall, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch through the CONTACT page.
Please head to the DOWNLOADS page to find PDF copies and information about how you can make a donation.
This is an open source resource but please do consider contributing to the project through the PayPal button if you can. Anything that you can afford allows and encourages to explore the project further, and is much appreciated.