Like one of Raza’s curries, Stranger in the Kitchen has been simmering over the summer, the different ingredients of the play merging and blending together.
In August, Artistic Director Gary Phillpott and writer Azma Dar reviewed the latest draft of the play with Max Stafford-Clark and Stella Feehily. This was a time to test the building blocks of the play: distinct characters, clear motives, plausibility.
Azma said of the overall experience:
“Working with Gary on the script has been fun and inspirational – the workshops with the actors in particular were invaluable in bringing the play to life, highlighting its flaws and in developing the play further.
“Max and Stella’s feedback and ideas were gratefully received as they made me think about certain aspects of the play in more depth, and will definitely help me in writing the next draft.”
Late November, Upstairs at the Western played host to a script-in-hand reading in front of an invited audience including writers, programmers, actors and directors. We were delighted to welcome back Sharan Phull following her involvement in our June workshops at Curve, together with Subika Anwar, Andrew Joshi and Amirul Hussain who were new to the the text. Performing key scenes, the audience got a good feel for characters, plot and tone and their subsequent feedback will help Azma as she takes Stranger in the Kitchen further on its journey.
Azma added: “I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity to work with Off the Fence and Out of Joint, and the experience has taught me a lot, not only about this play but also about my writing in general.”
And while Stranger in the Kitchen is at the early stage of its development, what of our two World War I plays? Teresa Jennings has packed up her pince nez after a great run playing Vesta Tilley (and eleven other characters) in England Expects. Likewise, Jonny McClean has put away his puttees as Clamber Up the Crucifix’s tour for 2014 is over.
Gary said: “It’s been a productive year both for Stranger in the Kitchen and also Off the Fence as a producing and now a touring company. We’ll be reviewing the WW1 tours with our actors, writers, stage managers and other stakeholders. We’ve all learnt so much from this process, making connections with venues and audiences around the UK, the highs and lows of touring – all things that will help us as we take the next steps in our own journey.”
Many thanks to everyone who has supported us and got us this far – as well as the great thrill and privilege to spend time with Max and everyone at Out of Joint, we have collaborated with so many talented people in Leicester and around the UK and it has been a huge thrill to welcome new audiences to our work.
With two plays toured and two plays now in development this is most definitely not the end but the beginning, the starter to what will hopefully be a rich and satisfying banquet (if we’re going to get back to food metaphors).
by Sally Jack
Images of Stranger in the Kitchen – Emma Penney
Images of England Expects and Clamber Up the Crucifix by Sean Goldthorpe