Lucy Avery, 26 January 2014

Lucy Avery @LucyAveryWrites convenor

Alex Lehman, Chloe Mushiter, Marianne Powell, Julia Yevnine and Sophie Besse


We started by discussing writers who write dark plays, for example Sarah Kane and

Artaud and we decided that there is an audience for this kind of work. I explained that

so far the plays I've written have included a play on sex abuse and paedophilia, a

woman killing her family by accident in a tsunami and religion and exploitation and that

all those are interesting subjects but are subjects that I find hard to sell to producers,

venue and audiences which is why I called the session.

One action would be for me to research venues who have worked on similar subject

matter in the last year and look at how they sold their shows and who the producers


It maybe better to take the shows to a festival first rather than starting with a 3 week

run as audiences are more prepared to be challenged as they can see a variety of

work and are more prepared to take a risk.

'Mucky Kid' about a child killer was a recent show at 503 and they had q and a nights

with experts that also pulled in a different kind of audience.

I explained that my work tends to be quite magic realist in style, and we decided that

this is what would make my plays a distinct experience which is an important way to

sell the shows. For example at the end of the 1st performance at the Royal Court of

‘4:48 Psychosis’ a curtain opened at the back of the stage to reveal a window onto a

scene outside the theatre. This emphasised the human connection of the bleak

subject matter and gave the audience a light at the end of the work to be able to focus


'Unscorched' is a recent play at the Finborough which was about sex abuse which won

the Papa Tango award. It had a distinct style which helped to sell the piece, as did

‘Foxfinder’ another recent play.

We decided it would be a good idea to focus on the questions behind the work as a

way of selling it, for example I started ‘The Birdcatcher’ by thinking ‘How does

someone become a paedophile?’ and this is actually an interesting question that

audiences would also be interested in.

Dark plays can also be very funny and a way of purging emotion, for example,

everyone has had a fantasy about killing your boss… what would happen if you

actually did it? This is also a sell.

We also discussed how sometimes the genre can also sell the show, not just the

subject matter and audiences look at both these things when choosing a play to see.

They are looking for something that can give them a different kind of experience. The

company who produced ‘Unscorched’ (Percurious) tend to work on more humourous

work and this was a play they really had to produce, because of the way the story was


Finding the right producer is key. As is the story, the way it's told and the timeliness of

the subject.

It maybe more helpful to talk about writing Drama rather than Dark plays, and to focus

on the human aspect of the story you're telling. Sophie has written a play about

women in prison called ‘The Woman Inside’, and rather than pitching it as a prison

drama, she pitched as ‘A Touching Story of Two Women’.

Dark plays can really connect with an audience in a deeper way than other kinds of

work. Sarah Kane is successful because she's original and provoking not because she

is dark. It's important to mention when pitching or selling a show that ‘I’m not here to

shock you, I'm here to explore this subject with you'.

For my work ‘magic realism’ maybe the golden word and may be a way for me to find

my brand, for example Sophie's work is ‘Touching in a poetic way’.

By empahsising the human story within the work rather than the subject matter, this

will make the plays sound more accessible.


Writing, writing, plays, dark, selling a show, Plays

Comments: 1

Lucy Avery, 9 September 2014

Since #DandD9 I've actually created a website to help promote my work, using some of the suggestions I was given from

this session. Take a look here: