Stimulating, provocative, playful: the Hay Festival is where writers and thinkers come together. It’s where audiences contribute to a wide-ranging artistic and political conversation. It’s where important ideas to sit next to purely playful ones. There are talks and workshops, gigs and shows. It’s a full, vivid, eclectic experience.
Pentabus Theatre Company placed a playwright right in the middle of this environment in 2012. Writing a play usually takes a long time and is often done in isolation. Pentabus Theatre Company sought out a new playwriting model – one in which a writer is stimulated at every turn by new thoughts, new characters and new material. Where she can’t help but be bombarded by big thoughts and little thoughts; where she met inspiring people alongside eccentric people, where she was provoked by a range of incidents and images.
Nell jumped at the chance to be our guinea pig. (Really, she did.) She lived with a family in Hay for the festival. She roamed around, eavesdropping and interviewing, and then let her imagination run wild. She knew some of the ideas she wanted to write about, and was keen to get under the skin of the town as well as the festival, allowing the characters and scenes in the play be guided by her everyday Hay experience. She responded to what wasaround her, and very quickly (with the help of numerous lovely tea shops and pubs) turning that into drama.
After a week, 5 actors, a director and a stage manager arrive and she handed over her pages. They spent 4 days rehearsing, characterising, costuming and staging the play – and then the doors are opened to the audience, which was free to anyone with a Hay postcode.