Alecky Blythe

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Plays by Alecky Blythe

Cruising

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's Cruising is a verbatim-theatre comedy about pensioners going in search of love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in a co-production between the theatre and Recorded Delivery on 7 June 2006.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery, and first seen in her previous fringe show, Come Out Eli (Arcola Theatre, 2003). The play is composed entirely from recorded interviews, edited and replicated on stage with meticulous verisimilitude.

Maureen is a pensioner in search of passion. After 33 blind dates, 12 cruises and one broken heart, she is still determined to find Mr Right. On the other hand, her best friend Margaret has had no shortage of suitors. Jim, Jack and Geoff were all in the running, but it’s Geoff from Shrewsbury who gets her to the altar. But Maureen has her doubts. Is Margaret just on the rebound and, more importantly, what will happen to her pension?

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Matthew Dunster and designed by Anna Bliss Scully. The cast was Jason Barnett, Alecky Blythe, Ian Dunn, Miranda Hart (playing Maureen) and Claire Lichie.

The Girlfriend Experience

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's The Girlfriend Experience is a verbatim-theatre play about a seaside brothel that specialises in services to an older clientele. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 18 September 2008.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery, and previously seen in her plays Come Out Eli (Arcola Theatre, 2003) and Cruising (Bush Theatre, 2006). The play is composed entirely from conversations recorded inside an actual brothel, edited and replicated on stage with meticulous verisimilitude. (Some names and place names in the script were changed.)

Tessa has set up a business: a brothel where mature women specialise in offering the ‘Girlfriend Experience’, a surprisingly caring and sympathetic service for their clientele. As the women (Amber, Poppy and Suzie) stoically strive to make a living in a competitive market, their personal lives start to crumble. The quartet reveal their thwarted desires, including a chance at a real monogamous relationship and their feelings about being ‘girlfriends’ themselves. There is a short introductory voice-over spoken by a character called Alecky, which serves to explain the verbatim-theatre technique used in the play.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and designed by Lizzie Clachan, with Debbie Chazen as Tessa, Esther Coles as Amber, Lu Corfield as Poppy, Beatie Edney as Suzie and Alex Lowe as Man (playing various punters).

The production transferred to the Young Vic, London, on 29 July 2009 (previews from 24 July).

Little Revolution

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's Little Revolution is a verbatim-theatre play about the London Riots, a series of related disturbances, including widespread looting and arson, that took place in several London boroughs (as well as in other towns and cities in England) in August 2011. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 26 August 2014.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery. It is composed entirely of material drawn from recordings made by Blythe, who personally interviewed many of the participants and witnesses of the riots. Those conversations, in edited form, are then reproduced by actors on stage. The script is a transcription of the final selection of material, although in rehearsal and performance the actors work from an in-ear audio feed to ensure that the original conversations are replicated with meticulous verisimilitude. Some names of interviewees have been changed

The play focuses on responses to the riots within an area of Hackney in east London. Blythe puts herself into the story and shows how she was tangentially caught up in the riots as they happened: in one episode, a group of looters catch her taking pictures and ask to inspect her camera before moving on. The main focus is on the response of two disparate groups in the aftermath of events. Middle-class residents who live around Clapton Square start a fund to come to the aid of a looted local shopkeeper and hold a street party to bring people together. Meanwhile, female activists on the adjacent, much poorer, Pembury estate start a campaign against the scapegoating of young people, stop-and-search police tactics and the social inequalities at the heart of the problem.

The Almeida Theatre premiere was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins with a set designed by Ian MacNeil. The main cast, which included Roni Ancona, Lloyd Hutchinson, Imogen Stubbs, Rufus Wright and Alecky Blythe herself, was joined on stage by a community chorus.

London Road

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

London Road is a verbatim-theatre musical with book and lyrics by Alecky Blythe and music by Adam Cork. It is about the impact on the community around London Road in Ipswich of the series of murders carried out there by Steve Wright in 2006, and the frenzied media interest that ensued.

It was developed by the National Theatre, London, and first performed there in the Cottesloe auditorium on 14 April 2011 (previews from 7 April).

The musical traces the impact of the murders on the residents of London Road over a period from December 2006 until July 2008. The community had struggled for years with the soliciting and kerb-crawling that they frequently encountered in the area. As Steve Wright, the occupant of number 79, was arrested, charged and then convicted of the murders, residents grappled with the media frenzy and what it meant to be at the epicentre of this tragedy.

The book and lyrics are based on Alecky Blythe's extensive recorded interviews with the real residents of London Road, and composer Adam Cork’s score is a response to the melodic and rhythmic speech patterns captured on those recordings.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Katrina Lindsay. The cast was Clare Burt, Rosalie Craig, Kate Fleetwood, Hal Fowler, Nick Holder, Claire Moore, Michael Shaeffer, Nicola Sloane, Paul Thornley, Howard Ward and Duncan Wisbey.

Critical reaction was generally favourable with the Evening Standard describing it as ‘a startling, magically original success’, and Time Out declaring that 'this is something very new for the musical form, a powerful, beautiful and unsettling articulation of the ambivalence that underpins all communities'. Less enthusiastically, Brian Logan in The Guardian reported that 'the inarticulacy gets frustrating' and complained that 'the conventionally dramatic parts of this story are [often] happening offstage'.

London Road won the 2011 Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and the production was revived in the National Theatre's larger Olivier auditorium with performances from 28 July 2012. This time the critical response was even more favourable, with Michael Billington in The Guardian reporting that 'This miraculously innovative show finds a new way of representing reality [and] opens up rich possibilities for musical theatre'.

A feature film version of the musical, written by Alecky Blythe and again directed by Rufus Norris, was released in June 2015. It starred Olivia Colman, Anita Dobson, Tom Hardy and the entire original cast of the National Theatre production.

Picture of Alecky Blythe

© Idil Sukan

In 2003 Alecky Blythe founded Recorded Delivery, a verbatim theatre company. Their first production, Come Out Eli, premiered at the Arcola Theatre in London and subsequently won a Time Out Award before transferring to the Battersea Arts Centre. The company went on to make the musical London Road, about the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006. Co-written with composer Adam Cork, London Road premiered at the National Theatre in 2011 and was revived at the same venue in 2012. The show won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and was included as part of the National Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Gala celebrating the best shows in the venue’s illustrious history.

Alecky Blythe’s other plays include All the Right People Come Here (New Wimbledon Studio, 2005); Strawberry Fields (The Courtyard, Hereford, 2005); I Only Came Here for Six Months (KVS and Les Halles, Brussels, 2006); Cruising (Bush Theatre, 2006); The Girlfriend Experience (Royal Court and Young Vic Theatre, 2008); Do We Look Like Refugees?! (National Theatre Studio/Rustaveli Theatre, Georgia at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2010 and winner of Edinburgh Fringe First Award); Voices from the Mosque as part of Decade (Headlong, 2011) and Where Have I Been All My Life? (New Vic Theatre, 2012).

Alecky’s film and television work includes The Riot: In Their Own Words, a documentary on the London riots for BBC 2 and the film version of her musical, London Road (Cuba Pictures) starring Olivia Coleman and directed by Rufus Norris.