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Spring 2015 Tributes
If playwriting is a stand up row between an architect and an anarchist poet, then Greg Mosse understands how these binary strands of structure and instinct are inextricably intertwined; you can’t have one without the other. Furthermore, he has designed a course that teaches how to create the structure that unlocks the dramatic power dormant in your play. To develop your play with the Criterion New Writing group is to have five writers who are all experiencing the same technical challenges as you closely dramaturging your work, week on week. This is markedly different from getting notes from a literary department, because they’re all working from inside that creative process. This, alongside the actors who read the work, is an immense resource of sharing that pools all the experience, intelligence, and the problem solving dramatic instinct of a group of playwrights and performers. In addition to which, there is Greg; always guiding, but never prescribing, returning us consistently to first principles. Most vitally, the course generates so much material, as its designed around the production of work; there is no abstraction here, but plenty of hands on writing. Quite simply, it is the best course of it’s kind because the focus is on creating work, there and then, in the room. The result of which, of me, is I now have a play that didn’t even exist as an idea before the first session; the culmination of exercises, writing, reading, feedback, rewriting and deadlines. Superb.
What I really loved about this course was that it was the nearest thing I've ever been given in terms of a 'tool kit' for writing a play. The focus on structure and solid technique was exactly what I wanted from the course and on top of that the the skill of how to write on a big scale - which we're often taught to suppress as writers - was very useful and refreshing! I also think if I was to try and write for television or film in the future I would have benefited enormously from this course because of the focus on how you build good drama and suspense and hit certain key moments in a script.
The Criterion New Writing program as designed and delivered by Greg Mosse is unique, combining rigour and discipline in his teaching of technique with passion and enthusiasm for the possibilities of theatre - all taking place on a West End stage. It's fun, too. Working our way through opening scenes, character monologues, suspense, story development, Greg took us on a personal guided tour through the mechanics and architecture of writing complex plays for a big stage. He made us think, question, critique, write, and re-write. He made us do this to schedule, week after week, until around week three, something clicked. I've been a playwright for a long time but working with Greg definitely made me think differently about the way I build drama. Out of our group of six, everyone came out of the sessions with a new play in progress. The actors Greg brings in to read and discuss scenes are fantastic. Oh, and there are muffins and croissants, too. The Criterion Theatre should also be applauded for its generosity in offering this wonderful course. Long may it continue.
Greg’s course is a real shot in the arm. Most writers at a certain career stage have done the attachment groups; this is the first to offer the provocation to write for big stages. Greg was clear, concise and intuitive – his insight was spot-on. Unlike many venues in the West End, the Criterion is the only registered charity currently that offers accessible, holistic support for emerging artists. I found the experience informative, invaluable and refreshing. Highly recommended.
Greg’s course was an excellent opportunity to develop a script from scratch, hear newly written scenes read by a team of talented actors, and get instant feedback from them and fellow writers. This is something a writer does not often get the chance to do – especially on the Criterion stage! Each week we concentrated on different aspects of what makes a great West End play, including: the structure of an opening scene, the art of suspense, and the relationship between the writer, the actor and the audience. I hadn’t really thought about all of this previously, and had certainly never analysed it in depth. The course raised my game and challenged my preconceptions. I would recommend this course to aspiring playwrights looking to think big and write big, for the bigger stage – I feel a more confident writer for it. It was such a great group, which created a safe space for us to take risks, get to the nub of what we wanted to say in our scenes, and find the most effective route to get there. Greg created a collaborative and supportive environment, while really pushing us to create the best work we can.
The Criterion New Writing programme is a unique opportunity to discover, first-hand, the construction and demands of a successful West End play. Exploring and developing script ideas each week, Greg's insightful guidance and the invaluable feedback from both actors and writers alike allows each individual writer to learn how the muscles of their own writing can move in this truly magical space.
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