Writers respond to Chichester Festival Theatre’s Five Day Plays challenge

Chichester Festival Theatre’s lockdown project Five Day Plays has reignited the writing ambitions of David Kinder, who lives on the Hampshire/Sussex border.

David Kinder
David Kinder

His contribution to the lockdown initiative, Blue Moon, has now been recorded as an audio play, featuring Lucy Briers (Forty Years On, Young Chekhov) as Anushka and Keir Charles (Quiz) as Simon.

In the early days of lockdown in March, Chichester Festival Theatre initiated the Five Day Play challenge: writers of all ages were invited to submit an original play written in just five days, the only rules being that it had to match a short brief (for example, a play with two characters, one of whom has a secret to tell the other) and could not exceed ten pages.

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Over ten weeks, 300 entries were received from as far away as North America.

Now, a group of professional actors, all of whom have appeared at Chichester in recent years, have recorded four of the winning entries as audio plays, co-directed by Dale Rooks and Hannah Hogg from CFT’s learning, education and participation team.

David, who won week four of the challenge, is delighted that his is one of the scripts to be given the professional treatment.

Writing to the original brief dancing in the moonlight, David, head of English at Godalming College, offers a piece in which sparks fly when the past catches up with a left-wing journalist and a Tory politician at a party conference gala.

“I used to write on and off, mostly off. I used to write way back when I was at university, but after I left university I was working as an actor for about five years in the late 80s and early 90s, and I suppose I hadn’t really done any serious writing for about 20 years.”

David went into teaching, firstly at a London secondary school, then Alton College, then Godalming College. And then lockdown hit.

“Everything stopped. It was weird. We were thinking ‘How are we going to do this? How are we going to do that?’ But everything just finished in mid-March and we had to go with whatever we had with the students.”

But at the very least, lockdown got David writing again, nudged into it by his wife. The attraction – and the challenge – was to come up with a short play every week, without having to get bogged down in research. In all David wrote nine, one a week across the nine weeks the project lasted. His fourth-week piece was declared the week’s winner.

“The beauty of it was that you got into a rhythm. You got the thing on a Monday, and you would go through Monday thinking ‘I have got no idea.’ By Tuesday, something was emerging and you have written a page, and by Wednesday it was trundling along – and that’s exactly what deadlines do. It was writing with a purpose. You knew that someone was going to read your stuff. And the other good thing was that by the time you knew you had not won the previous week, you already had the brief for the next week. But week four, hey presto, I won!”

Part of winning meant you got feedback from a professional director; for David, winning also meant his play was performed – and has now been released as an audio play.

“I think the thing is that it has given me confidence. That’s the main thing. I would like to try to stay in touch with the Festival Theatre somehow.

“And the director gave me advice and suggested a few things to explore. I think I might perhaps do a parallel story set at a Labour Party conference. There are possibilities. But really it just gives you a tremendous buzz to hear your own work performed.”

The piece, alongside other winners, is available to listen for free on Chichester Festival Theatre’s Soundcloud channel: visit https://www.cft.org.uk/prologue/blog/five-day-play