HATCH online - The Marlowe Society ventures into quarantine theatre
Updated: Jul 12, 2020
It has quickly become a global trend to take our planned events and slap on the prefix of ‘Online.’ In Cambridge, the typically bubbling, bustling, buzzing theatre scene is out - Theatre Online is in. Of course, what this actually means is that many thesps have been learning the skills of filmmaking and radio in lockdown, becoming adept in cinematography, sound technicalities, creating pacing without being in-person and more, all with characteristically admirable energy.
In peacetime - I suppose that’s what we must now call it! - HATCH is an experimental space, for writers and actors to practice their work as part of a curated selection. It’s a stepping stone rather than a final destination, particularly for those that are extracts from longer scripts. This Easter’s iteration, becoming HATCH Online, was no less experimental, as the usual tasks of assembling rehearsals and harnessing the energy of the stage had to transform into long-range Zoom calls and, thereafter, exciting edits. Like the rest of Cambridge Theatre, it’s the first time we have ever done anything like this. It could’ve been a disaster...
But it was not! That the writers stepped up to the task with remarkable skill is testament to the talent of Cambridge Theatre. In just a matter of days, directors were hired, actors were cast, scripts were learned, recorded, edited and broadcast to the world. The Marlowe Society is resolutely committed to platforming new writing; it was wonderful that, for some of the writers, this was their first time ever penning and performing a script.
Lockdown seemed to have imbued a fervour for writing, too - more scripts were submitted for consideration than ever before! As this was my first outing as the producer of HATCH, I was slightly taken aback by the volume of submissions but nonetheless thrilled to get to read so many wonderful scripts. There were so many that some genuinely difficult choices in selection had to be made.
The curation of it was a really key lesson for me; maintaining a sense of common themes between plays in a line-up night is obviously paramount when performing on stage, and, with online work, there is a temptation to skip over that part of the job. It’s no longer a one-night-stand but something on YouTube forever. Unlike at the ADC or Corpus Playroom, nobody is obliged to sit through the shows in order of performance, or indeed to watch them all at all. But I was nonetheless quite determined to put something together which felt cohesive in tone and style, because HATCH is as much of a show as those scripts within it - though this, of course, has its drawbacks, opting for lighter scripts which could play nicely alongside instead of darker dramas.
This was new territory for all involved, but I’m really pleased with how HATCH Online turned out. I am deeply passionate and committed to promoting new writing across Cambridge Theatre, and really proud that seven excellent writers got to publish their creations. The morning after, we ran a video call to talk about what we learned, what we would do differently in hindsight, and where everybody is thinking of going next (it was less cringe than it sounds). As exciting as HATCH always is, it is a step into a bigger universe of writing and performance - and at the end of the day, a bunch of people are one step closer to it.
But I really, really hope we’re back at the ADC soon.