Modern Heresies: continuing our celebration of Christopher Marlowe’s 450th anniversary

Modern Heresies rehearsal.

Members of The Marlowe People’s Company rehearsing for Modern Heresies.

This year marks 450 years since the birth of Christopher Marlowe, our theatre’s namesake and one of England’s greatest playwrights.

Earlier this year we held Marlowe450, with stagings of Faustus, The Massacre At Paris and The Jew Of Malta from Fourth Monkey Theatre Company alongside accompanying talks from leading authors. This weekend we continue to celebrate and think about Marlowe’s life in Modern Heresies.

This mini-festival of new writing features six plays written by our participants and performed as rehearsed readings by The Marlowe Senior and People’s Companies.

Directing the plays will be Paul Ainsworth and Grace Irvine, recent graduates of the University of Kent’s MDrama programme. They have both worked with us previously, assistant directing on National Theatre Connections and The Garden Of England respectively. Paul talks us through the experience of working on the project.

2014 has marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of Christopher Marlowe, allowing us to celebrate his important contribution to early English theatre. Although today he is rightly considered as writing some of the most important plays of the period, to many of his contemporaries Marlowe was seen as a dangerous heretic with radical ideas.

It is this aspect of the man that has inspired the current new writing project taking place in The Marlowe Studio, Modern Heresies, asking writers to explore what is considered heretical or radical today.

The six plays that have been selected certainly tackle the concept of Modern Heresies in a variety of creative ways. Some of the writers have focused on a character that challenges the status quo, or have introduced a plot point that could be seen as radical for a modern audience. Other writers have tried to marry the old and the new to create a more fantastical world. What has struck me is how varied the individual writing styles are and how they have managed to use the term Modern Heresies as a springboard for their ideas.

For myself as a director the most rewarding part of the process has been working on three new plays that have never been performed before. Rarely do you get the opportunity to work on a piece of new writing – so getting three to work on at once is extremely exciting.

The writers have been very involved throughout the process attending rehearsals with the cast. The dynamic of having writer, director and actor in the room is a fantastically creative one and all three groups are able to gain a lot from the experience.

An actor may deliver a line in a particular way, which inspires the writer to edit the script, or a writer may reveal something about a character giving the director a greater insight into the text. It’s a process that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

I am so thankful to the writers, for approaching the project with such an open mind and a willingness to get involved, and to the cast for their dedication and patience.

Modern Heresies will take place at The Marlowe Studio on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 August at 8pm. Our new term of acting and writing workshops begins week commencing Monday 22 September. Click here to find out more.

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