Reflecting on the inaugural Alchymy Festival

Emily Smart assesses the success of the recent Alchymy Arts Festival, held at The North Wall:

During the Easter Holidays, The North Wall hosted its first Alchymy Arts Festival, produced by Ellie Keel. It was a fantastic celebration of theatre for both young directors and playwrights, all looking for an insight into what it’s like to work in the industry, as well as gain experience through the programme.

There was a broad and hugely impressive range of people that were involved with the Festival and it was an excellent chance to meet new and upcoming young theatre makers. In particular, the sheer quantity and outstanding quality of the work performed and created resulted in the audience being exposed to fantastic talent and being able to experience the amazing work that both ensembles and individuals had created in such a short space of time.

Throughout each day there was a fantastic array of recently written plays performed, panel discussions with playwrights and director, workshops and script readings that allowed audience members to venture from one forum to the next.

The workshops and discussions with writers, directors and producers were fantastic! Stella Duffy and Ella Hickson along with Max Gill and Stephen Unwin were just a few of the names that held outstanding workshops that focused on ‘shaping new scripts’, transforming plays from the ‘page to stage’ as well as looking at creative and new ways of writing and developing them.

I found these workshops to be incredibly valuable as, for an intensive few hours, we were able to interactively explore the process of developing work for the stage. The audience also experienced how professional theatre makers create new work, allowing us to gain insightful knowledge of how industry professionals shape their work.

A key moment that I found particularly fascinating was one of the final workshops with Stephen Unwin. We began the workshop by looking at three brand new scripts by young writers who had all taken part in the Arts Lab programme. Then, with Unwin’s guidance and explorative attitude, he began to work on developing small sections of each script while interviewing the playwright about key moments within their play. At the same time, he directed actors to portray these moments.

As a result of this, Unwin managed to create visual ‘snap-shots’ of the play that had only so recently been created. It was magical to see the written work come to life on stage in such a short space of time and for me, this was incredible!

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