24 Hr Plays: Limerick's Belltable to showcase cream of local theatre talent

Jess Casey


Jess Casey

'Time-limited theatre': Marketa Dowling, programme manager at the Belltable

'Time-limited theatre': Marketa Dowling, programme manager at the Belltable

ALMOST 30 theatre Limerick makers are to create five short plays in one venue which will be written, rehearsed and directed in one 24 hour period.

Belltable:Connect is about to embark on an ambitious time-limited challenge that will see thespians write, direct and star in five original plays across the course of one day and one night. 

The  concept of The 24 Hr Plays: Limerick originated in America, according to programme manager of the Belltable Marketa Dowling. 

“There is the 24-Hour play company, which is an organisation based in Manhattan, and they did the 24-hour play for the first time, I think, in October 1995 in Manhattan,” Ms Dowling said. 

The company patented the 24-hour play format after it found great success, she added. 

“In short, it is time-limited theatre. If our show starts at 9pm on Saturday January 20, we start at 9pm on the Friday. On the Friday at 9pm, the whole team is going to meet in the Belltable Hub. Everybody brings a prop and a piece of costume which then goes into a general store so to speak.

"We’ll do the introductions then we’ll take photos of the actors and then everybody leaves apart from the production team and the playwrights.” 

“The five playwrights stay in the Belltable hub and their task is to write a short play by 6am. By 6am on the Saturday morning, we then deliver a short play that has been written for the actors that they have drawn from a hat. 

“The playwrights know who they are writing for and we have a great spread of actors. There are some really experienced ones, there are some mid-career artists.

“We’ve younger and older actors, actors with different looks, which is important as well in terms of casting. The decision on the cast is kind of by luck in a way, which ensures that writers can’t really come in with a preconceived idea of a play because they don’t know who they are writing for or even how many they are writing for.”

“The writers write overnight, which I think is the hardest shift. At six in the morning, they go home and they hand over their brand new, newly written plays.” 

“At 7am the directors come in to read the newly written plays. They know who the cast is for each play, but they don’t know who wrote those plays. Then they battle it out for which play they want to direct. At 8 o’clock in the morning, the cast then comes in. They are given their scripts and their casts and their directors. Basically the rest of the day is given over to actors learning lines.” 

“Our stage technicians will also be in from 8am that morning as well. It’s a lot of concentrated energy that creates that atmosphere that creates a sense of urgency and the unknown, but that can be quite exciting at times.”

Each playwright, director, actor or production member taking part has a connection to the city and county, she added. 

“We’ve asked people who are from Limerick, or who have a strong connection with Limerick or who had engaged with the Belltable:Connect actively for the past two years.”

There is also a good mix of seasoned professionals, mid-career artists and those who are just starting out taking part in this production, she added. 

Audience members can expect to experience five short, original plays, as new and fresh as they could possibly be, as well as an evening of energy and fun showcasing the cream of local theatre talent. 

Tickets are available for the finished plays at 8pm on Saturday, January 20 for €8. Book online at www.limetreetheatre.ie or by calling the box office 061-953400.