Playwrights do it collaboratively

first image

The beautiful drawings in this blog are all by Manchester based artist Liz Ackerley, an inspiration in this playwriting process, (She’s graciously allowed the use of her images here).

I’ve dipped into Liz’s visual world as I’ve developed the first draft of I Love You Baby and as I move forwards (With Director’s hat on) into thinking about rehearsal room exercises and improvisations for the actors, in preparation for the scratch performances, her drawings feature large in my contextualisation of the onstage activity.

Place and a sense of it are very important when building an imagined world, for playwright, actors and designers alike.

Each of us in the creative team will have our own reference points and these are mine.

1 Salford

I know Salford a little but Liz’s drawings have helped me to root my internal view of Samantha’s penthouse apartment, and what surrounds it,  into a reality- not a photographic one as this is too stark somehow- but an interpretation of a place which falls in well with the landscape I imagine.


Before making the move into the urban world at the beginning of the play Clarence lived with his elderly mother in a cottage in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The drawing above took me into Clarence’s past, a context he grieves for.

Liz’s drawings in the countryside have provided Clarence’s memories for me, which in turn inform his choices in the moment-to-moment activity of the play.

The sense of somewhere remote, with an established community and rural feel was important when developing his character and thinking about the clash of culture he experiences when he moves from east to west into Samantha’s apartment on the other side of a busy Manchester.

ScribbleMyStreet_Deansgate (3)

Middle sister Grace is a nurturer and professional carer for dogs of varying pedigrees and this drawing of a greyhound called Tanzi would be just the kind of thing she’d like to have on her wall in her living room in her house adjoining kennels somewhere in the Pennines.


Younger sister Sadie comes to Salford from London and Liz’s drawing of Camden Lock drew me into an area north of the river which makes sense for Sadie’s night-life focused existence- the image below resonated.


The context I’ve drawn from Liz’s work has been invaluable and demonstrates one of the principals of playwriting in particular and theatre-making in general.

It’s a collaborative medium.

Novelist’s novel away in private and can choose never to meet or communicative with their readers, their publishers, their cover designers and the people who put their book into a carrier bag and sort out the change. A solitary process and a single vision.

Writing a play involves a single vision at the outset but from a first draft onwards (In my case, usually) the glimmering light of that original idea ignites various other tapers in a long journey towards production and beyond.

Playwrights write for creative teams, directors, designers, actors and composers, production teams, technicians and stage managers and venues, marketeers, front of house teams, groups of specific people who the play may be of interest to, and ultimately- hopefully- any human being in pursuit of a story and ideas that entertain and engage.

I Love You Baby has entered the ‘opening out’ phase of the work.

In October I’ll direct the first process workshops for interested people, followed by a scratch performance in the round at project partners the Stephen Joseph Theatre, working with Artistic Director Chris Monks and Outreach officer Cheryl Govan to interest and engage a new audience.

Next week I’m at project partners Dark Horse who are resident at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, auditioning actors for the role of Tyler.  I’m also working with Matthew Eames at further project partners The Lowry in Salford,  in anticipation of the scratch performance there in November and I’m beginning a series of discussions with the set and costume designer and the digital projection designer for the planned ultimate production alongside some initial swimming in the aural landscape with the composer. Seven further actors are about to start their journey with the play and dozens of other people will input into it’s development over the next few weeks.

Playwriting is not for the introverted garret-residing fedora wearer, it’s a carnival of collaboration happening both on the street below and up close and personal, terrifying and exhilarating by turns.

Liz writes about her work and process here and you can find more of her images here





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