I’m lucky to participate in the Literary Department of Royal Exchange Theatre to study the Top 100 plays of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2015. The Royal Exchange Theatre is an award-winning centre of excellence, and one of the highest quality producing theatres in Europe, while Bruntwood Prize for playwriting, – is the UK’s biggest national competition for playwriting held by The Royal Exchange Theatre and the Bruntwood Company. It is a search for great new plays and great writers. The Prize has received 1,938 submissions this year. My role is as Bruntwood Prize Casting Breakdown Research, and my main task is to analyse the information of characters, that is, deconstruct the identity of each character in the play, classify them according to their ages, genders, ethnic origin, healthy conditions and so forth, and carry out data collection, data analysis and some basic quantitative researche, to arrive at a relative objective conclusion – what do the playwrights want to convey to their audiences through the characters, and what is the relationship between the character, playwright and society.
My research is finished, and I can now reveal some ‘secrets’, for example,the TOP5 plays this year (Wish List, Sound of the Silence, Parliament Square, How My light is Spent and Almighty Sometimes, you could also Meet our 2015 Top 10 and Winners) all pay close attention to mental illness. The most common age of the cast is between 25 and 34, which is also the common age group for participating authors. Of course, it is interesting that many of the characters are not given a specific age, gender and even ethnic origin, which seems to leave the chance of interpretation to theatre directors, actors and the audience.
As a student of MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice, drama and playwriting is my interest but not my major. Thus the smooth running of my work has been inseparable from the patient guidance of my supervisors. They not only make up for my deficiencies in playwriting, but they have also taught me a lot about research skills. Although, reading a script is a process of enjoyment, finding details quickly through a lot of reading is hard and challenging work. However, data statistics and research is a milestone in the research, which is very crucial. For me, research placement is a process of learning by doing, which not merely improves my level of research and learning, but also encourages me to actively engage with other research activities. Of course, it is a very important experience as well. In addition, the engagement established by the placement is not short-lived, but continuous, and I can still have the opportunity to participate in future activities of The Royal Exchange Theatre and The Bruntwood Prize.
All in all, I am very grateful for this experience. It is like a bridge, it allows me to turn the theory of my knowledge into practice, and it also lets me enter society beyond the campus.