Pint‐Sized Plays

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 A (we hope) helpful blog

We often get queries about Pint-sized Plays asking just what and what is not possible.  I hope that the following will prove useful in helping you to judge whether your submission will be suitable. Fundamentally, the first thing to know is that (with the exception of the Script Slam) the plays are not performed in a theatre, they are performed right in a pub bar. So you don't have the luxury of lighting effects, or scenery or any such stuff.

Having said that, the play doesn't have to be specifically centred in a pub. It can be anywhere, but there are important considerations. The only props are those that the cast might reasonably carry and any furniture has to be what is already there. Bear in mind that, when we set up the 'playing area', it might be in a corner of the bar or right in the middle amongst the punters. So, for the play to work, the audience has to be able to imagine what you're imagining.

For example, one play, the first year, was set on an aeroplane. There were three skydivers, with white overalls, helmets and a 'parachute' on their backs. When they came to 'sky dive' they lay on their stomachs on three bar stools with their hands and feet spread out. It worked perfectly and the audience loved it. A couple of years ago, the winner was a play about two dogs who were in a 'bar' - but a doggies' bar, so they drank out of bowls. Again, it worked really well.

But we have had scripts submitted, for example, set in the bridal suite of a luxury hotel. And, with the best will in the world, four pub chairs put together is not going to suggest that situation. Remember there is no lighting, no blackouts: the play is exposed - and exposed to an audience who, for the most part, probably don't go to theatres, and probably don't understand theatrical conventions.

But that is the point: we are trying to attract people to the joy of live theatre. So, it's a different frame of mind. What might work really well in a 'pub theatre' won't necessarily work in the middle of a bar with people having a drink. It is amazing though that when we announce that the plays are about to start, what might have been a noisy pub actually goes quiet. They stop chatting and listen!

But we can't take them for granted. After all our audiences aren't paying to see us. They may not even have known there was going to be three plays on in the pub. We have therefore to be respectful. Language doesn't have to be devoid of swearing, but it has to be acceptable. Plays don't have to be funny and comedies, but inevitably they go down well. We have had some very nice poignant plays though which have struck a chord.

In the past, winning entries have have come from established writers and first time writers. Pint-sized Plays I hope are as accessible for writers as they are to the audiences we get.  So it's a great way into drama if you've never done it before. It's also a great way to hone your skills.  The writing has to be good and tight when you've only got 5-10 minutes to tell the story!  Interestingly, two of our winners in previous years were from writers who had submitted the piece the previous year when it didn't get through.  They worked at it, tightened it, improved it - and the following year it won.  And one of them actually went on to become the Script Slam winner! 

To sum up, I think we're looking for innovative pieces that accept the restrictions of the space and the audience and connect with people. Also, one last thought, like a short story, these plays have to be complete in themselves and feel complete. We get quite a few which start off well and then kind of peter out.  So it's a challenge - and great, great fun at the same time.  

Derek Webb