The 24 Hour Plays is to return to the British stage as a new talent development initiative, featuring a mentoring process led by figures including Sheila Atim and Laurie Sansom.
Spearheaded by the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield in partnership with the New York-based 24 Hour Plays, the revived project aims to replicate prior successes in helping to nurture theatre talent.
The 24 Hour Plays, which bring together a group of theatremakers to create new pieces of theatre over a non-stop, 24-hour period, have been being staged in the US and across the globe since 1995.
In the UK, they ran for several years at the Old Vic under Kevin Spacey’s tenure, with the theatre staging an annual 24 Hour Plays with emerging talent as part of Old Vic New Voices, and each year also hosting a celebrity gala version that featured stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Fiona Shaw, Vince Vaughn, Lily Cole and Dominic West. It last ran in 2013.
The 24 Hour Plays will return as a full-time talent development initiative – The 24 Hour Plays UK – at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, with a focus on attracting talent from across the UK.
A group of mentors will offer specialist advice to six writers, six directors, six producers and 24 actors, who will come together to create six new short plays to be staged at the Huddersfield venue on May 3.
The theatre’s artistic director and chief executive Henry Filloux-Bennett said taking part in the process at the Old Vic in 2008 was “undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career to date”, and that he had long hoped to restart the programme.
He added: “It’s also great that it won’t be based in London. If I hadn’t been based in London, it might have been a more scary or daunting prospect. To be able to do it in the north, with the backing of so many other practitioners from the north and all over the UK, is really amazing.”
Girl From the North Country star Atim, who received an MBE last year for services to drama, and Northern Broadsides artistic director Sansom will be among the project’s mentors, alongside producer and Turbine Theatre artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills and playwright Amanda Whittington.
Taylor-Mills praised the scheme for allowing artists to “follow their instincts, to learn new skills, to make mistakes, to meet incredible future collaborators and, most importantly, to play”.
It is the first time the initiative will return to the UK as a permanent talent-development scheme, in an official collaboration with the 24 Hour Plays.
The US-based operation produces an annual Broadway gala, featuring high-profile actors, as well as hosting versions across America and in Mexico, Italy, Denmark and Greece.