Lenny Henry, Howard Brenton and Jonathan Harvey are among the 10 playwrights commissioned to write new plays for the National Theatre’s annual Connections Festival this year.
Celebrating high quality new writing for the stage and the energy, commitment and talent of young theatremakers, the Connections Festival involves 5,000 young people aged between 13 and 19 in performances by schools and youth theatres across the UK, before 200 of the lucky individuals from 10 companies are given the chance to showcase the plays on stage at the National’s Olivier theatre and in its new venue The Shed from 3 to 8 July.
Henry, who was last seen performing on the National Theatre’s stage in The Comedy Of Errors and is soon to return to the West End in Fences, has turned his hand to writing in order to present Soundclash, a tale about a group of friends who have been challenged to put together a reggae sound system to perform at a legendary music competition.
With his new play #aiww: The Arrest Of Ai Weiwei currently playing at the Hampstead theatre and his adaptation of August Strindberg’s The Dance Of Death soon to open at the Gate, Brenton has created a new play mysteriously entitled The Guffin, which tells the story of four young people who find a strange object in a derelict house.
Another Connections playwright whose work can currently be seen on the London stage is Beautiful Thing’s Harvey, who brings a new tale about homosexuality to the festival with Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy, a story in which a stranger journeys to a seaside town looking for his friend Darren, only to discover that he was murdered in a homophobic hate crime.
Other plays in the forthcoming festival include Anya Reiss’ Forty-Five Minutes, a tale about UCAS forms that need to be sent and futures secured, Jim Cartwright’s Mobile Phone Show, which is described as “a fully charged-up chorus line of chaos in a rhapsody of rap, text, tweet and gabble” and Morna Pearson’s Ailie And The Alien, a tale about a human’s encounter with an extraterrestrial creature.
Completing the line-up are Jemma Kennedy’s Don’t Feed The Animals, a tale about a family circus saved by acrobatic twins, Stacey Gregg’s story about exams, first dates and evil former best mates I’m Spilling My Heart Out Here, Ryan Craig’s We Lost Elijah, which is set against the backdrop of the London riots, and Lucinda Coxton’s What Are They Like, a play that asks how well we know our parents.