When, a couple of years ago, I went to see a double bill of the National Theatre's New Connections short plays for young people and school groups, I enjoyed Anthony Neilson's The Séance
so much I bought a copy of that year's playtexts so I could read it again. Having had the book of all 12 plays from 2009 cluttering up my room since then, I thought it was about time I actually read through them. I remember at the time the few official reviews there were of the plays weren't very positive all in all. True, there were plenty of them I didn't warm to but a few are strong even on the page. I liked Conor Mitchell's musical The Dummy Tree
, despite its bizarre recurring theme of 17-year-olds who are desperate to get married and settle down. A rather dark play but with flashes of humour, Anthony Horowitz's A Handbag
is also interesting, featuring the most staggeringly inappropriate production of The Importance of Being Earnest
imaginable (and not always in a funny way, in a rather chilling and sometimes heartbreaking way.) The biggest name out of that year's playwrights was surely David Mamet, who provides the very short, deliberately oblique The Vikings and Darwin
(the production notes that follow show that teachers who participated in a workshop for that particular one were pretty baffled.) The Séance
remains my personal favourite, and the Evil Willow line made me laugh all over again, but with my director's hat on I was very drawn to the opening story, Davey Anderson's verbatim piece Blackout
: As the plays are meant to appeal to youth theatre groups of varying sizes, this one doesn't allocate lines to anyone and can be done as anything from monologue to large-scale production. With no stage directions, it rather predictably got my mind racing with the possibilities.