Helen in India

Catherine Wheels is very lucky to have forged some close creative relationships with organisations from all corners of the world.

This January saw one such relationship develop in an exciting way as Scotland-based playwright, and Catherine Wheels Communications Co-ordinator, Helen Shutt worked with Think Arts, Kolkata to deliver a playwriting course for teenagers.

Throughout January Helen worked with a group of aspiring writers aged 14-17 to introduce them to the ‘tools of playwriting’ and to begin to experiment with writing their own play.

Helen says, “I was so impressed by the focus and dedication of the group and the scope and ambition of the stories they wanted to develop. Sharing your writing can be quite a scary thing yet the group quickly became very close and we created a very supportive environment. It was great to see how ideas and issues they were grappling with in their own lives were then explored in their writing, making for some very personal stories.”

The course culminated in a public performance at the prestigious Victoria Memorial Hall in which each of the writers had a short piece of theirs staged.

Helen, who is writer and co-producer at Leith’s Village Pub Theatre, directed and hosted the evening of ‘Pint-sized Plays’ employing the “VPT model” to produce the evening’s event. The night comprised of eight short plays with the young writers performing in each other’s work.

“As with a typical VPT night, all pieces received about an hour’s rehearsal on the day of the show and were performed bare set, script-in-hand. It was really exciting for the writers to see their work on its feet and discover how vividly and imaginatively they were able to bring the stories to life despite the lack of props and set. It made for a very energetic evening with a real sense of camaraderie as everyone worked together to present each other’s work.”

The performance was part of the city’s inaugural Children’s Literary Meet, a weekend long festival of literature and arts events for young audiences, organised by Think Arts and Kolkata Literary Meet. Think Arts Founder Ruchira Das says:

“The wonderful thing about the playwriting course was that, spread over a period of 3 weeks, it gave enough time to the participants to reflect on the sessions and then develop further. The fact that it also included a chance for the participants to perform pieces that their peers had written, made it even more special. Their writings were crisp, mature and moving – many thanks to Helen for nurturing the abilities of these teenagers and providing them the right impulses.”

This is the second time Catherine Wheels have collaborated with Think Arts. In September 2015 Artistic Director Gill Robertson and performer Michael Sherin conducted two-week long workshops on making theatre for young audiences. We are delighted to have worked together once again, not least because 2017 has been declared a UK-India Year of Culture.