Reflections on Stagewrite 2018

Sputnik is about encouraging Christians to make great art, but we are also about encouraging Christians to serve our arts communities. The church has been known in recent times for criticising, lambasting and often misunderstanding artists and we’d love to change the tone of our conversation with the artists in our villages, towns and cities. Phil and Harri Mardlin’s Stagewrite new writing festival is a wonderful example of how practically to do this and it was a great pleasure to have been able to support this year’s Stagewrite through our Sputnik Patrons Scheme. Here are Phil’s reflections on this year’s festival:

It’s been a few weeks since StageWrite took to The Place Theatre benefited by the lovely people and patrons of Sputnik so I figured it was time to share some thoughts with you about it. 

If you didn’t know, StageWrite is LifeBox Theatre’s annual new writing festival based in Bedford.  We received scripts for most of the year, closing to submissions in January this year. We took a few weeks to read them all as, once again, we had a good glut of submissions – around 63 this year.  We selected 4 scripts, and put them on script-in-hand over 2 nights followed by a Q&A session with the director, actors and the writer.

We had a great selection with the first night kicking off on May 3rd with Little Shining Eyes and Twistfinger.  Little Shining Eyes, written by local Bedford writer, Poppy Hollman, is about a pest controller, Nathan, who one day has an epiphany and decides he can no longer exterminate the animals he’s supposed to so, instead, he collects them up.  All good until his girlfriend discovers the colony of rats living in his attic and demands to know what’s going on.  Exploring themes of loss, this light hearted comedy was a real hit with the audience.  Twistfinger, by David Howgego followed; on psychic night at the Dog and Duck, we’re introduced to Mary Smith, a famous medium and her ‘spirit guide’, Twistfinger who is actually an evil demon! Another comedy, with influences from The Screwtape Letters, was again a big hit receiving some great feedback from the audience.  

On the following night we saw Keeping by Simon Marshall and 42 Times around the Sun by Chris Pike. Keeping, set in the heart of Derbyshire, saw Suzanne, a divorced hairdresser, taking it upon herself to cater her ex-husband’s mum’s funeral.  Her son, Jason, is back from University and isn’t sure what to make of it all.  A moving and well crafted poignant comedy, it explored themes of grief, loss and mental illness.  Hugely well received by the audience I know that Simon took away some really positive feedback and will be working on the script to develop it further.  Finally, 42 Times around the Sun, a slightly futuristic piece that saw Samuel, who has never set foot outside of his front door, celebrate his 42nd birthday, with his imaginary friend, Ramone, much to the frustration of his Aunt Ena and cousin Brendan.  We we were lucky with this script as, not only, were we able to have a little bit of extra time with it for StageWrite, the money from the Sputnik Patronage scheme allowed us to take it, a few weeks later, to a scratch night at OSO Arts Centre in London where we performed the piece in full production.  I can’t tell you what a bonus this was for us, especially as the script was hugly complex with many layers that the actors worked really hard on to explore.  In both performances I couldn’t have been more proud of them and I know Chris, the writer, felt the same way. Again, there was excellent feedback from both performances that is allowing Chris to develop the piece from a 30 minute scratch piece to a fully ready one hour festival piece. I, for one, can’t wait to read the finished product and, hopefully work with him to realise its potential.  

Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Sputnik and its patrons so, from all of us at StageWrite, a huge thank you for your support both financially and to those that came along and supported us at the festival.


To support projects like this, sign up to our Sputnik Patrons Scheme today for as little as £5 a month. In return, you’ll receive new art from around the Sputnik network.

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