14/48 Summer 2021

It’s been a week since the echoes of the 14/48 festival have dwindled so it’s time to do a bit of reflection. 14/48, for those that don’t know, is the creation of 14 plays in 48 hours. It’s immense fun and a massive challenge. Like jumping on your old Grifter bike and riding no handed down a pothole strewn hill of cobbles.

But the pandemic changed almost everything and 14/48 was in no way immune. This festival was across 2 cities with live audiences and everything web streamed. It shouldn’t be possible.

But we did it.

I was a director of two plays and I was lucky. The two scripts by Emma Penney and Emma White were both corkers. And the actors the 14/48 Gods granted me were perfect.

But this post rummages around day 2.

The script was angry, staunchly feminist and held up a mirror to the patriarchy. It showed toxic masculinity for the horror it is.

If this had fallen on my lap outside of 14/48 I’d have run to Fran Richards, Heather Wastie or even Emma White herself and said, “You should direct this.” That’s not how 14/48 works. The randomness forces you to get on your Grifter and ride. Like it or not I had to direct something which forced me to confront parts of my past I would sooner forget.

I was such a fucking coward growing up. No way was I strong enough to deal with all those bitter tastes in my mouth. In the script a nude photo of a girl gets shared and has horrific consequences. We didn’t have mobiles when I was a kid but I had to ask myself a question…

Would the 14 year old Dave Pitt have shared that picture on Whatsapp given half the chance?

Of course he would. He was a prick. And what would have made it worse is I’d have known it was wrong. I’d have known it was doing damage. But I’d have been too weak to not be the one who shared it. That makes me worse than the tossers who would have shared it and wouldn’t have thought about anyone else.

There is a male character in the script. I saw shades of grey in the boy. A weakness which was also about the toxic masulinity surrounding him. I didn’t want this to be an excuse for his behaviour. What he did was wrong and this didn’t justify it. Talking about it to my actors I could feel my hands shaking. I could taste the copper in my mouth.

As I said earlier, I was lucky. They understood and we worked through it.

Due to me getting the wrong phone number I hadn’t had chance to talk to Emma about the script. When she arrived at 11am we had already pushed through the script and was getting it on its feet. She watched a run through.

I watched Emma.

The copper taste left my mouth. My hands stopped shaking.

Me and Emma had a few conversations during the day. There was a lot of nodding and gentle squeezes of the hand. We stuck stablisers on each others Grifters. The downward slope didn’t look all that scary anymore.

It was also tough on the actors. Olivia Dean in particular who had a heartfelt monologue at the end which brought her to tears. It seemed like all I said was, “Are you okay?”

But this is the thing about 14/48. Are we okay? Probably not. We’re all big bags of emotion trying to ensure tomorrow is a little better than today. Sometimes things remind us of yesterday and it hurts us and scares us. But with 14/48 you suddenly find you’re at the bottom of the hill, you haven’t fallen off and things are okay.

And then, because this is who we are, we look for a steeper hill.

Dave Pitt
4th July 2021

14/48 #022: Last Message

I’ve been told there are “requests” to see this. 14/48 Leicester. This is my message to you:

 

Hang on, let me pester you.
We few came here to Leicester
The Shrewsbury of the East.
We came to feast on our creative juices.
Let us smile, consider what we’ve achieved.
Who’d have believed we’d get two coherent plays directed by Stuart Reid.
Okay, one coherent play.
Okay, we can barely call them plays
but here’s something you need to know before you start
we get special funding for letting him take part.

But let’s say this to all you actors
who beat themselves up after making a mistake
Think about the amazing things you create.
I understand you want it to be perfect.
But as an audience member I loved it.
Every second of it.

There is something you guys have to realise.

It’s not just about the perfect performances.

You know yesterday
when we saw Alison Dunne’s play
and Remi wore a costume too short for him.
Well that character was me.
And I don’t mean I wore a bed sheet
cut so short the ref and 2 linesmen popped from underneath.
All my life. Dave Pitt. Was made to feel like shit.
Voice all wrong.
Commas in the wrong place
To fucking profane
And what is going on with your face.

But the 14/48 community
gave me an opportunity.
I didn’t have to fight
they just let me come and write.
Now, where once I’d crawl,
I fly.
Those thoughts of failure pass me by.

And I know I’m not the only one.

This process of making plays
is changing lives for the better in so many ways.

So even when mistakes are made
you’ve changed lives for the better.
When perfection isn’t your grade
you’ve changed lives for the better.
When you think you’ve tripped
you haven’t. You’ve changed lives for the better.
And even if your lines have slipped
you’ve changed lives for the better.

And that leaves me to say
everyone one of you
to a person
is absolutely fucking awesome.

And I don’t mean to break this spell
but the blog was quite good as well.

 

Thank you 14/48.

Peace.

Dave Pitt
7th May 2017. 11:13

14/48 #021: The Final Night

There is a theory in 14/48 which speculates the second night will always be bigger than the first. The writers and director’s have seen what’s capable. The design team and tech teams have found their groove. The band are slicker.

The final night of this festival offered more proof this was true.

The comedy got bigger. There was plenty of scope for actors to get onstage and chew the scenery to their heart’s content. Conversely the darkness got darker.

And the love…

There is a lot of hyperbole about things like 14/48. In the depths of tiredness, group delusion and creative energy things appear better than they are. As this night lurched from huge laughs to crushing seriousness there was talk of how it would end.

“The play has over 50 lighting cues.” I overheard someone say.

I’d joked with actors all weekend. “You’ve got one job. Learn you’re fucking lines.”

“We don’t really have lines,” Hannah Smith said to me.

What?

The night rolled on. It was glorious. Then we reached the last play. Alison Dunne’s “Popcorn”. Directed by Lucy Ovenall.

It was a triumph. Yes, it probably did have a lighting cue every 20 seconds. But for the craziness of the lighting the tempo was low. Tales were told with tiny looks. It drew you in. It felt like there was nothing but the performers and you in a darkened room. I was sitting as far away from the stage as possible but it felt like I was next to them.

It didn’t go for a big laugh, a party atmosphere or a crushing low. It simply told a series of stories which came together to form a simple message.

If there is no happy ending, keep going.

And one tale stood out. Two people separated just needed to communicate. They got so close and failed. Then, for pay off, they do it.

I was physically stunned at what I’d seen. The phrase is “go big or go home.” This was a way of going big which I hadn’t even considered possible. I remember standing at the back, on my feet, clapping and cheering for all I’m worth. Yes, I was supposed to join everyone on stage but I had to show my appreciation.

Sometimes, there is no hyperbole. Sometimes what you’ve seen is just amazing.

It was amazing.

The second performances lifted everything again except for the Popcorn which hit all the same beats. Delivered the same emotion.

Then the audience were cleared. The company came together and hit the keg. Awards were given out. Not even Rob Thorpe realised how sexy he was. Jess Green and Dave Morris should realise how much they both bring to the festival in their disciplines. If they don’t, they have gordy tat to remind them.

And yes, The Paul Rogers is the worthy winner of the Christer Award. A man of many talents and disciplines who brings passion, energy and humour to the festival.

I had my own message for the company. Thank you for your show of gratitude at the end. I am uncomfortable with such things but it is appreciated.

Then slowly, people dwindle away. The numbers drop until finally, around 3am I leave. Salt fills my eyes. Every festival ends like this. Leaving on the last night means it ends. So you don’t want it to end. I’m so happy to have been part of it but upset it is over.

But as someone much smarter than I said, If there is no happy ending, keep going.

What this festival has produced is a happy ending. We all deserve to feel proud of what we’ve achieved. We need to do it again.

Hang on… we are… in Wolverhampton in June.

See you there.

Dave Pitt
7th May 2017. 11:07

14/48 #020: Matt Cawrey – Videographer

Matt Cawrey is part of the 14/48 furniture. He has photographed many 14/48 festivals and while he has his camera, stills are not on his mind.

“In the spirit of 14/48 and trying out new stuff I am filming this festival.”

While the jump from still to video may seem minor it’s actually a massive leap. Moving images in a frame and moving the frame to capture images is a whole new skillset.

“This is very much a test bed to see what I can do. It’s been alright so far. The difference is I don’t know how good the stuff I’m getting is until afterwards. So I’m just shooting lots of stuff.”

We talk about this difference between the moving image and the still image.

“I’m currently taking moving photographs which a lot of people do. But I was shooting a music festival last weekend and there was a commissioned freelance videographer. And watching him shoot was incredible. His movement was like dance and I was watching his footage on the screen and it just looked cinematic. So yes, I’ve got a hell of a long way to go.”

But this is why 14/48 exists. This is why 25% of the people who take part should be virgins in their discipline. It’s about stepping into new fields and trying them out. If you fall, people will catch you. But chances are you won’t fall. Chances are you’ll fly.

Matt continues, “when I photographed 14/48 two years ago I hadn’t photographed anything in a theatre before. I was a frustrated wildlife photographer. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it’s been life changing. Now I’m doing paid photography jobs for touring companies. People are paying me for this.”

This journey mirrors my own. 14/48 is one of those places where you are given a chance. When you take it and you fly good things happen for everyone involved. I have paid work as a direct result of 14/48 as does Matt and as do so many others. All because of 14/48.

Long may it continue.

Now excuse me, I think this blogger must pay a visit to The Keg.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 17:11

14/48 #019: Paul Rogers – Design Team

Paul Rogers is a man who has done a lot of 14/48 in a lot of disciplines. The only thing he hasn’t done is writing. This festival finds him on the design team. So why does he keep coming back for more?

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s just about the challenge of doing really good stuff in such a short space of time. And I love when you are working with a group of people who are obsessed with making it really good. It’s about the passionate response to make something amazing in a short space of time. You can make anything in 12 hours but it’s the dedication to get it just right which makes me keep coming back.”

Paul is usually a joker. It is difficult to be in his presence for longer than a few seconds and not find yourself laughing. But that quote… well it didn’t need humour. It just needs to sit there. Read it again.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 16:53

14/48 #018: The Keg – All Hail The Keg

While talent comes and goes at 14/48 there is one permanent addition to the festival. And it is the most important. Ladies and gentlemen all hail The Keg.

“David, I have missed you,” said The Keg.

I have a flutter of excitement that The Keg knows my name. I drink some of its sweet nectar. But not too much. Words have to be written and the nectar affects all who touch it.

I wonder if The Keg is lonely sitting in the corner of the main auditorium.

“David. I may be lonely but I am not alone. People visit me. They sample my nectar and they leave refreshed, joyous. Ready for whatever 14/48 has to throw at them.”

I give The Keg a tap. Mindful of its importance and wary of its power. It is a wild animal which will let you pat it, stroke it and love it but without warning it will bite your face off. Usually on Saturday night, after the last performance.

All Hail The Keg.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 15:59

14/48: #017: Emma Bamford

On the edge of the stage, swinging her legs, is Emma Bamford. She is dressed as either a bee or a fat wasp.

“Today I am playing a bee.”

That cleared that up then. What character is her bee.

“Stoned.”

I asked if she is method acting while I look for a man called Frank.

She is not method acting. Frank is not needed.

However, she is falling into some traits of her character.

“I don’t know my lines and I don’t give a shit. By tonight it’s going to be [she gives a wild scream following by a shrug of the shoulders] fuck it.”

As well as learning lines they also have to watch an episode of Eastenders to get the cockney accents they have. Or at least they should be cockney bees.

“We’ve gone a bit Boycey with it to be fair.”

Asking her why she does 14/48 gets the obvious answer.

“It’s fun. It’s interesting and you do stuff you’re never going to do again. In 14/48 I’ve played an elderly woman with a catheter bag which she drinks from. Either in real life or an acting role I don’t think I’m going to do that again.”

She has a point.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 15:35

14/48 #016: Jenny Hibberd – Band

Inside the main auditorium the band are on a well earned break. Sitting on her stool and plucking at an electric ukulele is Jenny Hibberd. The notes rings out and fill the air with harmonics. She is doing what musicians might call “noodling”. It sounded fantastic.

Electric uke is not her only instrument. Depending on what is required she can also be found on a djemba djembii a drum and a daboka darboka another drum or even singing. One thing we have to ask is how is this band who were thrown together yesterday able to sound so good?

“I think the fact is, all the people surrounding me are incredibly talented and I just slot in the cracks.” She gives an infectious laugh. I mention the multitude of instruments on the stage. Today the change overs aren’t too bad. Yesterday there was some very quick changes between a drum and another drum. I mention Dave on drums who at one point was playing accoustic guitar and drums at the same time.

“That is because he is a don. Dave the don.” She gives another infectious laugh. You get the feeling these laughs are helping anyone around her when the going gets tough.

But how did she find herself here?

“Last time I was asked to be a writer which I did and it was fun. I remember watching the band and thinking ‘I want to do that’. So for the next round I said I wanted to be in the band or be an actor because I wanted to be involved in the hubhub. I really enjoyed the writing but I wanted to enjoy the buzz of being in the festival in the day.” There is no doubt, as she sits in the centre of the bands riser she has her wish.

“It’s absolutely magic.”

I assume she’s talking about the festival. But she could be talking about the band. Either is accurate.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 15:00

14/48 #014: Rehearsals #3

When working with creatives it can be difficult to know what’s real and make believe.

So when you see Remi Legache giving James Kerr a head massage while humming gently it’s a good idea to not laugh. At least until you’ve checked they are rehearsing.

Fortunately they were rehearsing.

It’s a good job I found out because seconds later Alex Turner (Not that one) asked, “What should I be doing now?” Director Stuart Reid looked up, “Masturbating furiously.”

The room decends into laughter. Fortunately Alex Turner (Not that one) also realised it was a joke and didn’t get the old chap out. Still, Stuart Reid is directing so who knows what will happen come 8pm tonight. Remember, if you see it in your web browser it’s pornography. If it’s in a theatre… it’s art.

While the upstairs room at The Globe lives in a world of hippy culture across town at The Exchange things are a little different.

I walk in to find a quiet and serious room. There is no humour here. As the rehearsal plays out you can see why. This is creepy. Horrific. The taste of copper fills your mouth as you watch the performances unfold. Just a few seconds of performance leave me thinking about freedom, slavery and humanity. And darkness. Lots of darkness.

If you’re coming to the shows tonight (and why wouldn’t you) prepare for a roller coaster. This is going to be superb.

Dave Pitt
6th May 2017. 12:53