New writing has been the lifeblood of Nottingham Playhouse since we moved to our current home in 1963 and we have premiered well over 50 new plays in 50 years.
In the past ten years alone we have told epic stories of survival, small stories of hope, and tales that simply entertain. We have made them on the large scale, in studio spaces, and in schools. There have been large casts, small casts, and in some cases no visible cast at all. We have created musicals, thrillers and comedies alongside hard-hitting dramas and plays of ideas. We have told the stories of Brian Clough, Harold Larwood and the Donner Party, as well as creating fictional worlds inhabited by fictional people that tell meaningful stories.
In the past 12 months we have presented a number of new plays, including new work by Helen Edmundson, William Ivory, Teresa Ludovico, Mellie Buse and Jan Page, and in the next 12 we already have plans to present new plays by Michael Eaton, Andy Barrett, Amanda Whittington and Gill Brigg.
New writing has always been at the heart of our policy and it has also always been a part of the culture of the city and the region. Because of this, our new plays are amongst the most successful that we produce.
There are many interesting benefits in reviving a new play: any production as it moves towards opening starts to take short cuts as time for discussion and experiment is curtailed in order to meet the 7.45pm deadline of the opening performance. In the case of an existing play this has less impact as most of the rehearsal time has been spent dealing with the acting and the play looks after itself, whereas with a new piece much of the rehearsal time is spent working and reworking the text. There may be extensive rewrites, significant cuts or just minor tweaks by the time one opens, but you can be sure that once you put the play in front of an audience more work will need to be done, not all of which can be achieved. This is a necessary part of the creative process. The advantage of the revival is that one can both spend more time on the performances and make any revisions or rewrites that might not have been possible on its original outing.
In the case of The Ashes, we have one completely new scene, some judicious editing and some minor rewrites and in each case I believe the effect has been beneficial to the overall impact of the play. As far as the performances are concerned we have been able to come back and see new opportunities and spot things that we missed first time round. Some of the changes are of tone and some are of intention. In certain cases it’s not been a case of right or wrong, but more a choice of interpretation. Time and pragmatism will once again force us to curtail some of our discussion, but we have had the rare chance to delve deeper into a new play and consequently enhance the storytelling. We may never get the chance to work on The Ashes again, but for those who produce it in the future, and surely they will, the play’s the thing and we have done our part to make it as good as it can be.
Giles has been Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse since 1999 and is the Director of The Ashes.
This article is taken from the 2013 programme of The Ashes. If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy reading Giles Croft’s recent interview with The Stage
Above photo by Robert Day. Giles Croft and cast member Daniel Hoffmann-Gill take some cricket practice ahead of the original production in 2011.