(First posted June 2013)
I’m anything, I’m lucky. May demonstrated this beautifully. I got the opportunity to develop my play ‘Our Kid Jesus’ with Salon:lab.
Salon:lab are caffeine for a new writer. A large cup of Americano with sugar. They energize your work and more importantly invigorate the writer to write. For any of you who know the play, which won 24:7 theatre festival’s next big idea event, it’s a huge jump sideways from my usual writing. It had also received some conflicting feedback from various people. I placed the play down and went back to drama.
But, Salon:lab managed to encouraged me to keep going. They display a love for new writing which is both genuine and nurturing. I feel extremely lucky to have worked with them – seeing them take the work seriously enabled me to look at it with fresh eyes. Improve it, tighten it and enjoy it.
Most importantly they held my hand as I explored the play. For little red riding hood writers like me, who spend more time off the path than on it, they called me back from the wilderness. Their honesty, professional understanding of what works, and respect for your story is rare and precious. They let you own your work. Prop you up with courage when your own is wavering. Find your point when you’ve become blunt. And they laugh a lot too. They are a group of professionals who not only want to hear something new, but really respect the writer’s process, theatre and good writing. They genuinely want you to get better at what you do and none of their advice feels like hot air, intellectual indulgence or worse still an unconscious domination of the play. They are writer friendly.
I have been involved in development before (funded development too) – and had dreadful experiences which left me insecure, numb, bored and ultimately depressed by the whole process. Poor Salon:lab met me in this fog of jaded confusion. Pin-pointing exactly how they brought my enthusiasm back to life is difficult – perhaps it is the individuals, perhaps it is the collective spirit, perhaps it just is a genuine love for theatre – but they are unique. Their knowledge is infectious and empowering. Writing should ultimately be invigorating, theatre-making exciting and they are a team who remind you of that fact. They have shown me that a rag-bag can be included in what is often seen as a middle-class pastime and if every development team were as inclusive as Salon:lab I have no doubt we would see more and more important, different, diverse writing emerging in the UK.
So if you are a writer trying something new seek them out, if you are a fan of new writing donate them some pennies (or pounds) they are simply invaluable. To all their crew – from actors, directors, producers, chair movers, audience members, fundraisers etc etc etc… a GREAT BIG THANK YOU! You gave me back a play I thought I had lost!
I owe you one.
©Alex Clarke 2013