Features Published 9 November 2015

The Miniaturists: A Mini Adventure

A small but perfectly formed verbatim play from Duncan Gates, to celebrate the 10th birthday of the short-form new writing nights.
Duncan Gates
Photo: Claudia Marinaro

Photo: Claudia Marinaro

SCENE 1:

Stephen Sharkey, Playwright and Miniaturists founder:
“Five writers were looking to practice on a willing audience, and to that end they borrowed Southwark Playhouse one Sunday night in November 2005.”

Flavia Fraser-Cannon, Miniaturists producer, 2006-2013:
“…to write about the things they wanted to write about. Outside of commissions and other external pressures. We asked our writers to embrace the opportunity to take charge of their work, to have as much involvement in the process as they liked – ask a director you admire, be involved in casting, work with everyone in a manner you enjoy.”

SCENE 2:

2007. A writer has finished his first ever young writer’s programme. He’s enjoyed it and wants to develop. Opportunities are limited because regional theatre is under-resourced. He is watching the Champion’s League group stage when a friend calls to offer him a room in their flat in London. He says yes. He researches new writing nights in London to get involved with. He finds this website: www.miniaturists.co.uk

SCENE 3:

The Miniaturists has moved to the Arcola Theatre. It still takes place on Sundays, once at 5pm and again at 8pm, on whatever set happens to be on the main stage. There are usually 5 plays, all as short as possible. There are 4-5 shows every year. Curation of writers is done by Stephen and playwright Declan Feenan.

FFC:
“I think with every show for the next year we grew exponentially – our tech team inflated to four per show (lighting, sound and 2 SMs – I hate for people to feel anything less than totally looked after by our team – putting on a short play with no budget can be hard enough without adding tech stress to boot), we moved to the Arcola and we really kicked in with marketing as we had all these extra seats to sell!”

SCENE 4:

2009. A writer has hung around nights like this feeling inspired. He writes more, his personal and artistic confidence growing into the spaces created by diminishing isolation and self-doubt. One day he will be like the rest of them – there’s nothing to be afraid of. He even appears in a Miniaturists show at one point, for god’s sake.

SCENE 5:

Will Bourdillon, Miniaturists curator/producer/writer, 2013-present:
“There’s a different skillset required, all to do with knowing what not to say, having an economy of information while still delivering a tight, exciting narrative – for an audience, this can present an exciting alternative to the longer theatre works they might be used to, and for a writer, it allows them to exercise different writing muscles.
…one unifying factor to the best Miniaturists plays I’ve come across are that they’re not trying to be longer plays, wouldn’t work as longer plays, in fact – they proudly embrace (and experiment with) the short-form.”

FFC:
“We once commissioned all the writers for one show over Christmas and they did their writing in Jan – that show was one of the bleakest we ever had. Don’t write in January if you’re looking for a comedy folks!
…there was one show where every play had a dead baby in some form. I’ve never lived it down.”

SCENE 6:

2012: A writer has a play at Miniaturists, just like he always promised himself. Everyone is very kind about it.

WB:
“The Miniaturists shows that have really, really come together the best for me are the ones where the audience pick up on links between the plays and feel a real coherence to the night – all entirely coincidental of course, as the individual writers can pen whatever they want, but it still gives the night an extra buzz.”

SCENE 7:

2015: The Miniaturists is 10 years old. A writer has had two further plays there. He is just one of hundreds of writers who have been involved in the last 10 years, including:

Alice Birch; Moira Buffini; David Eldridge; Samantha Ellis; Sam Holcroft; Joel Horwood; Anna Jordan; Dawn King; Elizabeth Kuti; Glynn Maxwell; Duncan Macmillan; Tom Morton-Smith; Lizzie Nunnery; Nick Payne; Dan Rebellato; Al Smith; Steve Waters; Tom Wells; Joy Wilkinson.

WB:
“I’d like to explore setting up other Miniaturists nights in different areas of the UK, providing the same platform for writers of other regions to showcase their work.”

The Miniaturists has appeared at the Liverpool Everyman, the Latitude Festival, and at Forest Fringe in Edinburgh. It remains the best short play event in London, possibly the country. You should get involved if you can.

The Miniaturists celebrates its 10th birthday on Sunday 15th November at the Arcola. Find out more, or book tickets, here

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Duncan Gates

Duncan trained on the Royal Court Young Writer’s Programme, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and under Stephen Jeffreys at RADA. He's been longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize (2013), the Verity Bargate Award (2013), Channel 4/Touchpaper TV's Coming Up scheme (2014) and the Old Vic New Voices TS Eliot Commissions (2014). He's had plays on all over the shop. In an ideal world he'd be an anthropomorphic bird who solves supernatural crimes.

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