Birmingham REP commissions 10-minute pop-up plays

Published: 28 September 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

The writers commissioned to come up with the Park Bench Plays

Birmingham REP has announced 12 new commissions, The Park Bench Plays: a series of short works from “some of UK theatre’s biggest writing talents and comedians alongside emerging playwrights” that “illuminate, interrogate and even celebrate today's socially distanced world”.

The commissions are the brainchild of REP artistic director Sean Foley. The writers are Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Janice Connolly, Rachel De-Lahay, David Edgar, Robin French, Tanika Gupta, Bryony Lavery, Sabiha Mank, Amerah Saleh, Frank Skinner, Liam Steel and Jack Thorne and Lettie Precious.

The 10-minute plays have been written to be performed in pop-up locations throughout Birmingham—at bus stations, community centres, parks, public squares, foyers and train stations—surprising commuters, shoppers, residents and others going about their daily business in the city and its environs.

The plays will be directed by Foley, deputy artistic director Amit Sharma and associate director Madeleine Kludje.

Foley said, “the Park Bench Plays will bring together the work of some of the UK's biggest writing talents for an exciting and diverse collection of micro-plays.

"Considering the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry, we at the REP feel it’s important to continue to employ artists and create work for audiences.

"From comic to serious, tragic to hysterical, this collection of two-hander plays takes ordinary and everyday conversations and makes them extraordinary and timeless—they all have a sense of fun and provide a living snapshot of our socially distanced, somewhat disturbed world.

"We look forward to sharing this extraordinary collection of works with audiences when the time is right to do so in the future and to continuing working with this wonderfully eclectic set of writers."

Comedian Frank Skinner commented, "I'm really properly excited to be part of this project with the REP. I've had some life-changing experiences on park benches in the West Midlands but I'm hoping this one will be a bit easier on the elbows."

Sabiha Mank added, "as soon as I was approached about taking part in the Park Bench Plays, I couldn't wait to get started. Coming out of lockdown, this project has been a dream to be a part of and a brilliant way of trying to make sense of the world."

The Park Bench Plays were to have had their first outing during October but new restrictions have made that impossible. As soon as it is safe to resume outdoor performances, the plays will go into production and will begin their pop-up tour around the city.