In this interview Alison Chaplin talks to David Farmer about her plays for children and how she got into writing them.
How did you get into writing plays?
I was looking for something to do with a group of children on a holiday theatre workshop I was running, but couldn’t find anything suitable for a large cast that was funny, interesting for the kids and wouldn’t bore the audience! Then I had the bright idea of writing something from ideas suggested by the children. The workshop ran over five afternoons; on the Monday afternoon we ‘workshopped’ some ideas; on the Tuesday we firmed them up; I wrote the play and printed off enough copies on the Tuesday night. We rehearsed Wednesday and Thursday and performed it on Friday. I did that twice – resulting in ‘A Suitably Happy Ending’ and ‘Coronation Fleet’. I never did it again! From then on I wrote the plays in advance of the workshops.
How many have you written?
Twenty short, or one-act plays, one full-length play and one mini play. I also have a one-act adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and a mini play based on the water cycle waiting to be tidied up and then published.
Do any of your plays have music and who writes the music?
Yes, ‘A Suitably Happy Ending’ has been turned into a musical play, with original songs and music by a great Kent-based music teacher, Richard Scarff. He’s also written songs for two of my other plays: ‘The Witch Who Nicked Happiness’ and ‘The Clown Who Couldn’t Smile’. These will be published when I have the time and money to create the package.
What size of cast are they for?
Most of the plays are for large casts, from 16 to 36 roles, and every character has a speaking part.
Do you cover different age-groups?
Yes. The plays are separated into three age groups: 7-11; 8-12 and 12+. This – sort of – makes the distinction between KS1 and KS2 but I’ve directed the plays with mixed age groups and have had children as young as 6 and as old as 16 performing in them.
What’s your best-selling play?
There are two best-sellers, and they couldn’t be more different: ‘Harry Rings, Lord of the Potters’ and ‘The Rise and Fall of Lord Macbeth’!
And what are your most recent ones?
‘The Xmas Factor’ is my latest play. It’s the nativity story told with a bit of a twist. It’s a respectful retelling, but very funny (even if I do say so myself!)
Which is your favourite play?
I always like the one I’m working on, but if I had to choose I would put my top three as ‘Harry Rings, Lord of the Potters’, ‘The Xmas Factor’, and ‘The Big Ship Sails’ – the latter because the children performed brilliantly and it was such a powerful, memorable, production.
What are you writing now?
I’m currently researching to write another mini play set during World War One.
What’s the best play you’ve ever seen?
My all time favourite theatre visit was to see ‘War Horse’, which is a fantastic mix of theatre, puppetry and songs. A fabulous adaptation of the book, very visual and imaginative and powerful – I cried a lot! Highly recommended.
The fabulous selection of plays for children to perform can be found at www.artsonthemove.co.uk – paperback editions are £15.00 including a performing rights licence; downloads are £10.00 with full cast/character list, comprehensive production notes and follow-on ideas (but performing rights licence sold separately).