Melli Bond: Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator 2016 opens

Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 14 seconds

Everyone has a story. Park Theatre’s Creative Director Melli Bond, explains how the Script Accelerator is a unique way to get new stage work ready for an audience. Interview by Nicola Baird

Melli Bond at the Park Theatre (c) Chris Stokes/Age UK Islington

Melli Bond at the Park Theatre (c) Chris Stokes/Age UK Islington

“Our Script Accelerator supports, discovers and encourages writers and theatre companies,” says Melli Bond discussing Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator programme, which began in 2013, the year Park Theatre opened.

Park Theatre, just by Finsbury Park tube, has two stages (Park200 and Park90) and in just three years has become a critically acclaimed theatre. Recent hits include The Patriotic Traitor with Tom Conti and Laurence Fox and Bomber’s Moon with James Bolan. One of Melli’s favourites was Daytona starring Maureen Lipman. “It was a beautiful, rich performance. If I’m in the audience I can feel the energy coming off people. Success is not just the moments of applause. You can see it, hear it, smell it,” she says with the passion that has turned a derelict office block into a gem of a local theatre with West End quality performances.

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In a bid to help new writing the Script Accelerator selects six pieces. These must be submitted by producers or theatre companies, who will be offered four weeks of development time. This year this includes scheduled space at Park Theatre, creative feedback group share session, professional advice sessions from 24 October – 20 November, culminating in a 20min extract from the play performed on the Park200 stage in front of an audience, followed by a Q&A.

“The pieces are all different. It might be a concept or a full play,” says Melli explaining how the month gives, “the space and time to develop and push towards production. The goal is to give a platform for emerging talent, boosting the quality and the team’s experience.”

Godfrey’s looks set to open a new butcher shop in Finsbury Park by 2018. “I’ve added this model of a bull to the factory so people know Islington’s history,” says Chris Godfrey. “It’s an Aberdeen Angus – a replica of the prize bull Frank Godfrey bought in 1930 for Maxim’s of Paris* and then marched down the Champs Elysees.”

Outside Godfrey’s factory at Finsbury Park is a model of a bull . “It’s an Aberdeen Angus – a replica of the prize bull Frank Godfrey bought in 1930 for Maxim’s of Paris* and then marched down the Champs Elysees,” says butcher Chris Godfrey.

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Places Melli Bond likes in Islington

Hazel from Park Theatre. (c) Ed Sykes

Hazel from Park Theatre. (c) Ed Sykes

  • There’s a little tiny park near Park Theatre that doesn’t even have a name. It’s completely quiet. I love it and go there with my dog, Hazel.
  • All our Park Theatre neighbours are really lovely. The butchers give bones to Hazel. I like eating soup and salads at Park Theatre café and anything at My Cottage Cafe, 10a Clifton Terrace which serves Lebanese food.
  • Seasonal Kitchen, 53 Stroud Green Road, is really lovely.

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In this 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death it’s fitting to know that Park Theatre was set up partly thanks to Melli’s passion for Shakespeare. Melli lives in Berkhamsted, Herts now, but she grew up in America and went to Hull to do an MA in theatre production after being inspired by a rare cloudy day in South Carolina to study Shakespeare in England. At Hull she met Jez Bond and together they developed a five year-plan to set up a theatre, which eventually opened as the Park Theatre, in Finsbury Park.

Rehearsing Happy To Help (c) David Monteith-Hodge

Rehearsing Happy To Help which was picked for the Script Accelerator programme at Park Theatre in 2014.  (c) David Monteith-Hodge

Happy to Help – which played at Park90 during June/July 2016 – is one of the Script Accelerator’s success stories. Writer Michael Ross, who was selected in 2014, says: “It was a real incentive and gave us a goal. It was really encouraging when we did the performance and got a good response from the audience Q&A.”

A four-week run is a big step change for new writers who may have only been involved in very short runs. “Park200 needs a little more experience – you’re a bit more exposed,’’ says Melli who programmes a year in advance. Currently Park Theatre is programmed up to March 2017.

“The Park90 is a smaller, safer place,” she adds pointing out that Storm In a Teacup (Hot Coals), which got excellent five star reviews, and World Enough And Time (Fluff Products) both played to packed audiences.

“We hope that Happy to Help could have a future life, and for Michael as a writer we hope the Park90 gives him that boost to create at the next level. His next task is to taken his next play to Park200 and then to the West End,” she adds with her powerful smile, making Michael Ross laugh.

With Melli’s ability to mix up creativity, talent and hard work there’s a strong chance that having your play accepted on to the Script Accelerator will speed up that talent journey – as well as giving successful applicants an amazing development opportunity.

  • Script Accelerator 2016 submission deadline for producers is 7 September. For mentees looking for experience in a professional theatre the deadline is 3 October. Please see website for more information.
  • Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace has a café, which serves delicious food, and two bars. By day the café crowd is a mix of writers and talkers. In the evening it’s busy with theatre goers. https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/
  • See Interview with Michael Ross, writer of Happy to Help for more about the Script Accelerator.
  • See Interview with Hazel the Park Theatre dog

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

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