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28 Plays Later challenge for Newbury theatre writer

New brief at 10pm every day, 36 hours to produce complete play

Newbury theatre writer and director Tony Trigwell-Jones has been staying creative during Lockdown3 by taking part in 28 Plays Later. Along with his wife Amy and Robin Strapp, Tony leads Newbury Youth Theatre, whose plays have received critical acclaim in this newspaper, as well as in national and festival press at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Organised by The Literal Challenge since 2017, participants are given a new brief at 10pm every day and are given 36 hours to produce a complete play - although of course 'complete' is open to some flexibility. We caught up with Tony just after the half-way point.

“It’s going okay at the moment, although the titles, characters and events are starting to merge into one,” he explained.

“Some of the briefs have been very challenging, for example we had to write a traditional Sanskrit Drama, which is as formal and specific as Greek Tragedy (also a brief) but less familiar to me, so there was a lot of research to do about the form, as well as the subject matter.”

Tony decided to take up the challenge to stay creative while Newbury Youth Theatre remains on hiatus. He suggested that “disruption from Covid has been difficult for NYT. Back in the summer we did embrace Zoom and ran a few sessions, which were good fun, but we found numbers continued to dwindle. Many of our members were finding that they needed a screen break, having spent all day on video calls for school-work.”

The subsequent six months of uncertainty have meant that Newbury Youth Theatre has not been able to meet.

“It will be like we are starting afresh,” said producer Robin Strapp, “which has huge implications for us as we have lost the momentum of almost 40 years of continuum.”

Robin has been supporting Tony on his daily challenges, proof-reading the plays before submission. He said: “There is such a variety a plays and ideas coming through, many of which have the potential for NYT, as well as for schools. Tony is producing some great resources, which we will be exploring when we can finally get together as a company again.”

At the time of our conversation, Tony was working on a brief to re-write a play from memory. Inspired by a recent article in Newbury Weekly News N2 arts about the Hand of Glory, he has decided to revisit Newbury Youth Theatre’s excellent Wizard of Winterbourne from 2019.

“It was almost two years ago and I’ve just written 16 plays in a row but I suppose the point is not the accuracy of the retelling, it’s part of the whole principle of 28 Days Later, which is to stretch those writing muscles and explore new ways of working – it isn’t easy but I’m having a lot of with it.”

For more information about 28 Plays Later, visit https://www.theliteralchallenge.com/

or for more info about Newbury Youth Theatre go to https://newburyyouththeatre.co.uk/

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