Irene Barr Play Development with Nightschool Level 4

This week, our Nightschool participants are sharing what they've learned during the Autumn terms of classes with friends and family. 

Our Level 4 participants have been working with Director Mick Duke on a new play titled Irene Barr

Director Mick Duke with Nightschool participants. Credit Karen Gordon

Here, Mick shares with us how he got involved with our Nightschool classes, and the role the participants are playing in developing this new work.

"The Nightschool 4 students have been stepping into the unknown this term, working with me on the development of a new play. 

Irene Barr is about a woman whose anger towards the financial executives who emerged unscathed from the banking crash of 2008 has never dimmed.  Eventually deserted by her political allies, penalised by the courts and frozen out by her family, Irene is required to attend weekly anger management sessions.  In these unlikely surroundings she forges new friendships and a novel way to protest against the banks, until a violent tragedy in her family tips her life out of control.

I wanted to explore a new process for writing the play that included working with community based groups on the text as it developed.  Martin Travers picked up on the idea immediately, and put me in touch with Elly Goodman, who in turn gave me the opportunity to work with the Nightschool Level 4 group.  Creative Scotland has generously supported the project, which will include sharings at both the Citizens in November and the Traverse in January.
Nightschool tutors. Credit Karen Gordon. 

For the last six weeks we have been looking at the skills actors use in the development of new work, through our focus on the play and Irene’s political and personal journey in particular.  Asking questions about what a character is saying and how they’re saying it, tracing their journey through the play and taking risks to explore the action in new ways have all been key to our work each Tuesday evening. 

Despite 30 odd years of writing for theatre and working with students and community theatre groups, I have never put my own writing into a group situation before – so it’s a shared journey of discovery for the students and myself.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with on this or any new play.  Various, lively and always ready to work the 16 students have brought so much energy and insight to the process.  Arriving into the Cookery Room of the Scotland Street Museum at 6.15, most of them after a full day’s work, they are raring to go.  Their skills and commitment – well honed in their previous Nightschool experiences – have thrown light on ideas and moments in the play that aren’t yet working and given a first, memorable expression to some that are.
Nightschool Participant. Credit Karen Gordon

The next step is to choose and prepare some extracts of our work together for a sharing in three short weeks time.  When I asked what sort of material they might like to perform, one response was typical of this group – ‘I’m up for anything - just tell us what you want and I’ll give it my best shot’"

Nightschool is a programme of weekly drama classes suitable for adults aged 18+. The classes take place on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 6.15pm - 8.15pm at Scotland Street School Museum. 

Booking is now open online for new participants on our Level 1 course beginning Monday 13 January 2020.