Little Thorns is a new play written by undergraduate English and Creative Writing student Peter Cant as part of his final assessment. Under the tutelage of the Warwick Writing Programme and RSC/CAPITAL International Playwright-in-Residence Adriano Shaplin, Peter's play was generated within the CAPITAL Centre, which gave him the opportunity to explore it through performance as well as on the page.
At the CAPITAL Carnival in May 2007, the play received its first public read-through. Through the CAPITAL Centre, RSC Associate Actor Richard Pasco was brought in to read the part of Marcel, the old man of the play. After rewriting, the play received its first full production at the CAPITAL Centre, this time with established actor Jeffery Dench taking over from Pasco. From conception to final performance, Little Thorns was the CAPITAL Centre's first fully-embedded production and a sell-out success at all performances.
Pete Cant, writer and director of Little Thorns.
In my final year at Warwick 2006/07, I was lucky enough to write, develop and direct a play, ‘Little Thorns’ for public performance, with the full support and backing of the CAPITAL Centre. I know of no other institution in higher-education that offers the level of practical assistance and intellectual encouragement towards creativity and learning that CAPITAL provides. From the early writing stages all the way through to the final production, CAPITAL assisted me with a mix of expertise, enthusiasm and resources that one would expect from the in-house writing programme of a professional theatre.
My year with CAPITAL began in lively style. Tutored by professional playwright, Adriano Shaplin, I began the writing process for my personal writing project, or PWP. The regular one-on-one meetings and feedback I received from Adriano were indispensable in shaping my play and my approach to writing for theatre. It was also helpful to have other Warwick writers and tutors at hand to offer fresh perspectives on the work. CAPITAL supported me early on in my desire to eventually stage the play and in spring 2007 the panel committed to funding the project for performance at the studio complex in June as the first embedded student production to be staged there.
‘Little Thorns’ required an older actor to perform along side a student cast of three. I conducted a reading with a mature student and various workshops with student actors. One of the most exciting experiences for me was directing a rehearsed reading of the play with RSC associate actor Richard Pasco, which was performed at the inaugural CAPITAL Carnival in May. By this time I had cast the student performers - Oliver Turner, Kate Richards and Rory Gill - who worked brilliantly with Pasco. Previewing the play in this way was extremely encouraging. I was finally able to see the form and structure of my play and how it looked, sounded and felt as a piece of live theatre. It was very helpful to gauge an audience’s reaction to the text I had been working on for months. I was subsequently able to rethink, redraft and reassess the work from a fresh perspective before submitting it for my dissertation.
In June we staged the full production of the play with a fantastic Shakespearian actor, Jeffery Dench. It was an amazing experience to have in the lead role a mature actor whose craft had been honed through years of practice. We admired him for his warmth, generosity and rigorous professionalism – having agreed to the project less than two weeks before the first performance, he arrived at CAPITAL with full makeup and costume, meaning we were able to go straight into filming for a pre-recorded element of the show. He was a joy and an education to work with. We rehearsed together for two weeks in the CAPITAL rehearsal room, with the original student cast, whilst an ambitious set of working television monitors was assembled in the studio space to accommodate the video-element of the play.
‘Little Thorns’ was performed over three nights in the theatre studies studio to packed houses. The response was tremendous. I was particularly pleased with the scale and scope of the production and the amount of publicity we were able to achieve as a student-written production developed outside of Warwick’s mainstream theatre spaces. I was honoured and proud to be the first person to direct a production that linked Warwick’s student talent with veteran RSC actors from the local area. I hope that collaboration between students and professional actors will continue at Warwick and that CAPITAL’s in-house projects go from strength to strength. I also hope that funding will be kept available to enable other new writers and directors to develop original work from page to stage.