If you haven’t heard of the OUDS New Writing Festival, don’t worry. You shouldn’t have. Until last year, the festival consisted of a paltry six plays submitted by students who scribbled some dialogue in their notebook when they should have been taking notes in Shakespeare lectures.
But last year, for reasons unknown, the festival exploded into an actual honest-to-God festival, a massive thirty-eight play competition. The OUDS Committee was forced to pull all-nighters, reading all thirty-eight plays and whittling the stack down to about a dozen.
These dozen scripts were then passed on to the Soho Theatre’s literary associate, Helen Eastman. Eastman pulled an all-nighter, and cut the pile down to six. These were in turn forwarded to the super-playwright Michael Frayn, of Copenhagen fame. It is not known how well he slept that night. But four battered and coffee-ringed scripts staggered onto the BT stage last Hilary, representing the gleaming cream of Oxford playwriting.
And now the circus is beginning again, and the OUDS Secretary has a message for hopeful new writers: ‘Write! Please write! Submit! It’s the chance of a lifetime that happens only once a year! Do it! Write! Stop reading this article and start writing!’. If you are still reading this article, you should know that there are enticing rumours of playwright Christopher Hampton and director Trevor Nunn being asked to judge the Festival this year which might actually make this a chance of a lifetime if you fancy two of the biggest names in theatre reading over your script.
For any of you who missed last year’s NWF and are scratching your heads for inspiration, a safe bet would be to do a remix of last year’s four finalist plays to make sure you cover all the bases. The Cherwell has helpfully provided you with a basic outline for you to flesh out individually:
Act 1: Don’t have your main character ever come on stage. Have all your other characters talk about her and her conspicuous absence. If it’s a boy, have them talk about his penchant for wanking or bribing women with pizza.
Act 2: Enter Odd Character Inexplicably Wearing Wig and Heels. This one should be a boy, for the effect to really hit home on your audience. Channel Beckett with lines like, ‘What if?’ ‘If what?’ ‘Who, you?’ ‘Me. Who?’
Act 3: Then have a brief interlude with a new character who does magic tricks. It would be nice to give one of the smaller characters a corresponding monologue about something along the lines of God/Life/Escape/Death accompanied by physical theatre-style gestures.
Act 4: Then have Incredibly Attractive Woman enter in a ballgown. Make her do the splits and do a poetry-slam style version of a Shakespearian monologue.
Act 5: Let it be disturbingly interrupted by a boy describing a woman’s breasts. Channel Beckett again and require that this goes on for at least six minutes. Have Attractive Woman do a backflip into this boy’s arms. Play a Regina Spektor song and have all the other characters drink Strongbow. DO NOT bring on the absent main character at all costs. Lights out.
The deadline for the New Writing Festival submissions is Friday of 5th week. Email email@example.com with any questions. Visit www.ouds.org/New_Writing_Festival for rules of entry.