Microplays

At the beginning of December the Royal Court created a series of ‘microplays’ in conjunction with The Guardian. Some were a bit hit or miss, but one really stood out as being great example of what you could achieve in just five minutes.

The piece was entitled Groove Is In The Heart. I loved that it evoked so many emotions through the use of very little language and instead played on the audiences associations with music and how one song can create such a vivid memory of someone. To me the story was straightforward (he is about to go to her funeral) but the comments section offered up a couple of other explanations I hadn’t thought of. It just goes to show how we can each interpret something different from a film/play, even if it is only five minutes long.

I have been involved in and watched a lot of ‘short play’ evenings, however when a play on stage is only five minutes long it often doesn’t quite involve the audience enough for them to really care about it. However when a film is just five minutes in length it can be enough for an audience to become totally engrossed in a story. It makes me wonder if there would be any way for a very short play to have the same impact as a short film like the one above? Music is often quite a difficult thing to get ‘right’ on stage and can come across as intrusive, so words become the main medium playwrights can use to tell a story – which can mean that not much is left open to interpretation. I’d be very interested to know if anyone has seen a very short play that they’ve really enjoyed, and if so what made it work particularly well as a five minute piece onstage – comments as always very much encouraged and appreciated! I’d love to have a discussion about this and hear opinions 🙂

3 thoughts on “Microplays

  1. Look at ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ again, but this time imagine you are filming it on your iPhone. The actors are from the Royal Court. The sets could easily have been on stage at the Royal Court. So what’s the difference between watching the same scenes on stage and on film?

    The opening shots say it all Your field of vision is filled with a crocheted bedspread, a backpack with badges and a plastic carrier bag containing cassette tapes. All things very reminiscent of the time.

    Now imagine seeing exactly the same scene on stage. You could throw a spotlight on the backpack and keep everything else black, but what would that look like from a dozen rows back in the audience?

    So the question is how do you create the same kind of spectacle on stage? The answer is you can’t. Not unless you get rid of the set and the actors, lower a white screen and project the film onto that.

    So does that mean cinema killed the theatre? Of course not. It only means that if you want to create the same kind of impact and immersion on stage you have to concentrate on the things theatre can do that cinema can’t.

    The nearest I’ve seen to theatre capturing the sort of attention you get in a 5 minute film was – strangely enough – a 24 hour play I saw at the Edinburgh Festival 30 odd years ago called The Warp.

    They took over a large space like a warehouse and laid their sets out all around. A bed and bedside table here – a sofa and TV there – a bar over there .., and so on. The characters moved from set to set. The lights and the audience followed them. You could stand wherever you liked. You could sit on the sofa or even get into bed with them if you wanted (though nobody did!).

    They had intervals every couple of hours with a bar and a disco. I was dancing in the disco when the lights went down and the spotlight hit the girl dancing next to me, who turned out to be the opening character in the next scene!

    That’s the kind of impact, immersion and emotion film can never reach!

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    • Hi Ian, yes immersive theatre is definitely a medium which film can’t touch! (though it has been tried recently with Secret Cinema with varying levels of success) I suppose if you played out that 5 minute sequence actually in someone’s bedroom in a semi in London with the audience in the room experiencing it all you could offer something that film couldn’t – actually a 24 hour play in a semi in London would be a great idea for a production! Wonder if it’s been done before!?

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      • A 24 hour play in a London semi would be an excellent idea. I doubt it has been done before. Forget about the 24 hour bit. Any kind of play in a London semi would be novelty enough.

        Better still, what about a council flat in Newham – where the E15 mums are? How many average London theatregoers have ever experienced what it’s like to live somewhere like that?

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