11 November 2007

Notes about the 24 Hour Play proceedure

The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices
Information sheet taken from the Old Vic website


The ultimate theatrical challenge. In just 24 hours, seven teams comprising of 1 writer, 1 director, 1 producer and 4-5 actors must create, produce, rehearse and perform a 10-minute play in front of 1,000 members of the paying public.

The breakneck schedule starts when the writers, producers and directors meet the actors who, one by one, introduce themselves, have their photograph taken and describe a single prop that they’ve brought. The actors retire and each writer bids for the actors that they feel most inspired to write for. Clutching polaroids of their chosen casts, the writers each head for their own room in a local hotel where, overnight, they’ll have to create their plays.

At 7.00am the next morning, the producers prise the new works from the hands of the weary writers, and frantically photocopy and distribute them. The directors read the plays and make impassioned bids for their favourites. Once everyone has been assigned a play, the rush begins to create ideas before the casts arrive.

Come 9.00am, the actors and directors are at work around the theatre - a process managed and co-ordinated by the producers. Each cast has just 11 hours to rehearse the show and memorise their parts.

A short technical rehearsal that afternoon is the last chance for directors to make changes, and for actors to learn lines. The producers are on hand ready to tackle all the inevitable last-minute crises.

At 8.00pm, the moment of judgment arrives. The Old Vic is a-buzz with 1000 eager theatregoers waiting to see six brand new plays, ink barely dry on the scripts. As the curtain rises, an evening of spontaneous creativity rarely seen in the theatre begins...


Each year, a celebrity 24 Hour Plays gala is held at The Old Vic to raise money for Old Vic New Voices. Previous casts have featured a host of well-known theatre, TV and film talent, including Catherine Tate, Brooke Shields, Brian Cox, Gabriel Garçia Bernal, Joseph Fiennes, Jim Broadbent, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Meera Syal.

In 2005, we decided to throw out the same nail-biting challenge to 18-25 year old practitioners. The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices project was born, with a company of 50 young actors, writers, directors and producers receiving support and advice from a host of professionals (including Patrick Marber, Claire Higgins, Michael Sheen, Patsy Rodenberg and Sam Adamson) to prepare them for their big day. The event was such a success that we made The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices an annual sister event to the gala show.