Longlisted Playwright Corey Bovell and director Kwame Asiedu on CHICKEN BURGER N CHIPS

Corey Bovell is an Actor, Playwright & Producer from Lewisham, London with an interest in social commentary. Corey’s short & long plays have been performed at Pleasance Theatre, The Vault, Tristan Bates Theatre, Oxford House and Ovalhouse.

Corey’s play CHICKEN BURGER N CHIPS was longlisted in the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and will be on at the Brockley Jack Theatre, London, 10th – 14th March 2020.

Six years ago, while sitting in a drama studio warming my body and voice up, my teacher announced that the group will be writing their own monologues for an immersive theatre show later on during the year. I sat up and stared into his eyes worryingly as I’d never done “Immersive theatre” or “wrote something for an audience bigger than my parents”. Before the class started I walked up to him and explained my lack of writing experience and he gave me some wise words he probably found on Google “Stop worrying about being a good writer and just write”. My first short play was selected to be performed by me during my drama groups Immersive Theatre show at Ovalhouse and I’ve been developing my craft ever since.

Being a writer never seemed possible as prior to Errol John and Michaela Cole all the plays I’d read and seen where written and performed in the “Queens English”, however, Moon on a rainbow shawl by John and Chewing Gum Dreams by Cole completely changed that narrative especially as the latter was also performed by Cole, sparking a natural curiosity into what my one-man show would look and sound like. Thus, Chicken Burger N Chips was born. This show was my first full-length play idea, but not my first play. That play is buried deep in my archives and I’d like to thank those who sacrificed their free time to come and see it.

CBNC has been a work in progress for 5 years and prior to the submission, the play underwent various workshops and re-drafts with the help of my mentors, Tyrell Williams & Gbolahan Obisesan alongside my insanely talented friends Aaron Pierre, Lauren La Rocque, Niyi Akin, Sadé, Nicole Jacobs, Elijah Baker, Justin Marosa, Steffi Novia, TD Moyo and Kwame Asiedu. Their time and inquisitive thoughts surrounding the play, the world and the story I was trying to tell helped me shape the play into the draft version I eventually submitted in 2019.

After submitting CBNC I closed all files relating to the play on my laptop and started planning for 2020. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and by September I had completely lost track of when the Longlist will be announced. On the day of the announcement, I happened to have a conversation with a friend of mine also a writer who had scanned the list earlier during the day to see her own name listed. At the end of our phone call, she said “Congratulations I see you made the Longlist” my response was nonchalant as I weren’t sure what she was referring to. After clearing the air and checking that there wasn’t somebody with the same pseudonym as me I was able to congratulate myself. The feedback given was clear, insightful and helped me address some issues I had found causing a block within my mind, so. I took them on board and worked on the new drafts.

Gbolahan once said to me “Take as long as you need” and that’s exactly what I did following the feedback from Bruntwood. Before writing any additional words, I went back to the beginning of my writer’s process which is; writing short stories, watch plays, read plays and read books on how to write plays. This part is the longest part of my process but at the same time, it’s imperative I carry out these task as it makes writing easier making my understanding of the world and central character became much clearer.

Prior to the Post-Bruntwood draft, I decided to reach out to Brockley Jack my local theatre to see what their policy on unsolicited scripts was like and sent an early version in. The artistic director Kate Bannister emailed me a few weeks after reading the script, to say that she enjoyed the script and was interested in the play. The joy during that moment in time unbeknown to me was matched months later after checking the Longlist, installed a new level of confidence in me and my writing. That the same guy 5 years earlier who had no writing experience was on the verge of writing, co-producing & acting in a one-man show in his local theatre, just 10 mins from my home.

I’m hugely grateful to the Bruntwood Prize for selecting CBNC, regardless of winning I feel like a winner as my work has come a long way already, but I still have a long way to go as a Playwright.

If anyone is reading this and don’t know where to start, I’d say “Don’t worry about being a good writer, just write!” Your first play may not win an award immediately, but it’s a piece of work you can call your own, and with that, you’ll learn with each script, each draft, each piece of feedback ways to improve. So let the process take you on an exciting creative whirlwind.

So if you’re considering submitting this year but erring on the side of no, I urge you to send in your play. It might not be doing a world tour this time next year, but you will learn so much over however long it takes for your play to be staged.

 

Kwame Asiedu is a director inspired by narratives that defend marginalised voices and recognises their identity and contribution where it may be removed or denied. He is a reader for the Bruntwood Prize, Talawa Theatre and Royal Court where he has also worked as their dramaturg.

He has worked at the Young Vic, Unicorn, Hammersmith Lyric, Tristan Bates and the Cockpit Theatre and his work embraces new writing, devising, community and participation work with young people and adults.
He enjoys collaborating with artists on projects that have the intention of using story to empower disempowered groups and engage audiences through challenging ideas on identity, power and history.

In a sweltering office at the NT Studios in Southwark, Gbolahan Obisesan, my theatre mentor, asked, ‘So what are you currently working on? You should reach out to Corey Bovell, he’s working on something really good!

I reached out to him and realised our paths had crossed before. He auditioned for me in my first ever play as part of the Evolution Festival at Hammersmith Lyric Theatre three years earlier. We didn’t end up working together but his talent was on my radar for future projects, and here we are.

Early emails back and forth would give guidance on each version of the script. Through which Corey acknowledged that I understood his one man play and officially asked me to be the director. From version three to nine, the script is now locked, and we are two weeks away from rehearsals.

Directing can be an extremely giving process and as a result, I give a lot of thought as to what I can contribute. Before I accept any directing project, I ask myself, why do I want to take this on? And what can I give to this piece? Directors can direct whatever they want, however I think the intention behind the acceptance is important. Therefore, the last important question is always, does the script tap into my ultimate reason for making theatre? And Chicken Burger ‘N’ Chips did.

If you are an aspiring director or a director starting out, I invite you to buy a pocketsized book and call it your Directors Notebook. See plays at least once a month and take a note of each member of the creative team. Write down their full names and one thing you liked about their work. I do this on the train journey home as soon as I’ve seen it! When you are ready to collaborate, you have talented individuals to reach out to and potentially work with. This helps you to get to know some people in your field and the work and style you like. Finally, I would like you to know that your difference is what makes you unique. Your experience, background and insight are all the things that will make your creative interpretation and therefore direction special. Don’t doubt yourself, there’s no such thing as a mistake, not really, just an opportunity to grow.

 

 

Chicken Burger N Chips runs from Tuesday 10th – Saturday 14th March 2020 at the Brockley Jack Theatre:
https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/chicken-burger-and-chips/

For more information about Corey Bovell and his work please see

6 Feb 2020

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