Playing Gooseberry

NODA Summer School helps Kath West achieve her dream of seeing her own One-Act Play performed!

After a lifetime in amateur theatre, whether as a performer, backstage crew, choreographer or director, I’m well-accustomed to first night nerves. However, recently I experienced a first night unlike any other I’ve ever had: the first ever performance of the first play I have ever written. To hand over a piece of your work to someone else to interpret and perform is a massive exercise in trust and faith, not to mention total helplessness! Would it work? Would people laugh? Would they applaud? Would it be performed the way I had intended? I must confess I felt slightly nauseous as the lights dimmed and the opening music started to play, but I needn’t have worried. At 2K Theatre’s world premiere production of Playing Gooseberry in Taunton was everything that I could have hoped for. To hear people actually laughing at the gags I had written, and to hear gasps as the plot twist was revealed was just as exciting as anything else I’ve experienced in my theatrical career.

My writing journey began during lockdown in 2020. Like many people I had always wanted to write, but there always seemed to be more important things to do. Lockdown meant I suddenly had time on my hands, so that excuse was no longer valid. But, what if I simply couldn’t write? What if everything I wrote was simply childish rubbish? I joined Sarah Osborne’s Yew Tree Creative Collective on Facebook, and found myself responding to her creative prompts with odes, limericks, poems and short stories, and what’s more, sharing them with other group members. I hadn’t written anything creative since my schooldays, but I found myself actually enjoying stretching my brain in a way it hadn’t been used in years. But could I actually write anything substantial? A play?

There followed a NODA Theatre Summer e-School in 2021, all conducted via Zoom. On the Playwriting module I learnt about structuring a play, about creating characters, about writing my ideas down without judging them first. I dabbled with a few ideas, then remembered an article on Gardener’s World from the previous year, about a man who wanted to grow the world’s biggest gooseberry. If you’ll forgive the pun, it was this seed that germinated into a play!

In January this year I sat in a pub in Wakefield with a group of Summer School friends, listening to them reading the 2nd draft of my one-act play, Playing Gooseberry. This, together with their feedback, and comments from one or two other trusted friends, led to a 3rd draft and, more importantly, 2 of these friends said they’d like to perform it with their group in Taunton.

Summer School this year found me on the Work in Progress course. We were a small group, all at different stages of our writing careers, and we spent the week writing, learning and laughing in equal measure, under the excellent tutelage of Tom Hughes. We were all encouraged to start to write a one-act play. We learnt to dramaturge our work; to research and edit our own and each other’s creations. Tom showed us how helpful it is to put new writing up on its feet, to invite opinions (without being afraid of them!) and to offer and receive feedback in a constructive, non-judgemental way. As a group we have stayed together, meeting regularly via Zoom to read and discuss each other’s latest works. As usual, NODA Theatre Summer School provided not just amazing tuition in a new skill, but also a new group of great friends.

Currently I am continuing to write the one-act play I started at Summer School. Maybe there’s another opening night waiting for me somewhere; who knows? If not, no matter, I will continue to write, even if it’s just for myself. Thank you once again NODA Theatre Summer School for opening my mind to a whole new way of thinking!

For more information on Playing Gooseberry contact Kathy West at kathy.west32@gmail.com