Putting on your first show by Thomas Sparrow, writer of ‘blue bottles’

blue bottles runs at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre from November 4th-7th. We invited writer, Thomas Sparrow from Periphery Theatre to tell us more about the the play and the process of putting on his first show…

“Before I even begin telling anyone about my experience putting on a play in the real world,  I want to make something incredibly clear: I am by no means ‘well versed’. I have never put on a  play in a professional venue with my own theatre company before this. I guess I’m saying this to  begin with so you take anything I may say here as merely my experience and not necessarily the  absolute truth. If something I say helps motivate or encourage, then fabulous, but don’t feel that  whatever I say must be gold, because I am still learning everything about the process like any  other first-timer with a play. 

That being said, I feel like when more people talk about their various experiences, more  people will benefit from knowing that there is not “one-route” into getting a play on, and bits of  advice will work for some and not others. So what I hope to achieve here is provide whatever I  can to help encourage people to get their first play on whenever they are ready to do so (whilst  also advertising my own show, but more on that later)! 

I have received a lot of advice in regards to getting a show on but the best things I have  found haven’t necessarily been bits of advice but rather encouragement to just go out and give it  a shot. Having the confidence to show your work to those you trust once you have finished a draft  you are happy with is, in my opinion, one of the biggest steps. If I hadn’t psyched myself up to get  a couple of my friends to read through blue bottles, it never would have made it to a real stage. It  may sound stupid or obvious, but the best thing you can do if you want to get a play on, is let  people read it out loud with you (or even without you). One thing I believe the dreaded C-Word  has allowed the industry to do, is adopt ways of doing informal read-throughs from around the  country, or even the world, in online ways such as Zoom or Google Meets (not sponsored, but  open to discussion). In my experience with amateur dramatics focusing on new writing, every  production, whether that be an online stage reading or half a scene at a scratch night, will take the  script to the next level and should be approached with open arms. I was so lucky to have Megan  (now co-founder of Periphery Theatre) & Alice (now co-director of blue bottles) read through my  play and their input and perspective gave me such a great platform to redraft and then eventually  suggest for performance.  

On this topic of asking for help, I am so thankful for doing so, not just for the read-through  but in general. If you have a collection of people from university/drama school who want to get  into theatre or just anyone really, ask them to give you some thoughts on a scene. Having a broad  perspective from as many people as possible has really helped me feel more confident in my work  and has allowed me to develop my own skills through others knowledge.  

Earlier in January 2021, I turned to Megan and suggested making a company. Without the  support of Megan, putting my play on would have been incredibly difficult. Just having someone  to share the work load but double the passion is something I could not be more thankful for.  Asking for help when I knew I couldn’t do it by myself was the smartest professional decision I  think I have ever made.  

Once Megan and I had established Periphery Theatre and set out our goals for the  companies future, we had to decide who was to direct blue bottles. Everything I have written so  far, whilst at university, I had gone onto direct. I was under the impression that because I wrote the play, I must know it better than anyone I handed it to. My experience on this production  proved to me that this could not be further from the truth. I am so glad that we asked Ross Peters  and Alice Robb to direct blue bottles, as their unique pair of perspectives have brought the play to  life in a way I never could have. Quite often as a writer we put something on a page in one way  and struggle to see it from another angle, whereas an external director has a completely fresh  take on your words and so can bring another dimension to the text. I came out of our first full run through in rehearsals with the biggest smile because they had taken what I made and made it  better. Letting go of your writing can sometimes be a bit challenging and scary, but it is often the  best thing to do for the life of the play.  

As well as this, it provides opportunities for more people to get involved. For both Alice  and Ross, this is their directorial debut. This will give them a step on a ladder that will help them  find work in the future and it builds up their portfolio of creative work. This may sound very  obvious, but providing these opportunities is what theatre is about currently. We are in a  challenging world after the last [insert horrific number of months] and we should all be banding  together to bring the theatre world back with a bang!  

Now you may think this would be a great time to talk about the show more to get you all  excited and buy tickets, but I would like to offer a slightly more personal thing here. Meg and I are  keen to provide as many opportunities to early career theatre creatives looking to get started in  the theatre industry. Part of this is obviously meeting new creatives, be that writers, actors,  directors, producers, designers, technicians, stage managers and everything else I can’t fit into a  word count. So, if you are reading this and think this interests you, then please do reach out and  drop us a follow if you’re shy, or if you’re feeling bold, drop us a message. I promise we are very  friendly and absolutely love talking to new creatives.  

Finally, I suppose a great way to come and chat to us would be to come to the show  (couldn’t not do a bit of advertisement)! Our debut play, blue bottles, is on at the Lion and Unicorn  Theatre from 4th-7th November 2021 at 7:30 each night. The show itself is an absurd tragicomedy  which explores the possibilities of seemingly conversational banality told through the many eyes  of two unlikely characters… oh, by the way, they’re flies… those characters are flies! It may seem a  little strange to listen to some flies chat for an hour, but give them a chance, a fly can often be  more human than you think…  

I would like to finish by saying I hope if you are a playwright with an early draft of a play  and a desire to put it on, that at least some of what I have said allows you to feel confident  enough to show your work to someone, to get someone to read it and to ultimately get it on. If  you need any support in doing so (just to repeat, not a professional, just a fellow playwright who  wants to encourage people to be confident in their work) please feel free to message Periphery  Theatre and we will do whatever we can to help!”


Twitter: @PeripheryStage 

Instagram: @peripherytheatre 

Email: peripherytheatre@gmail.com 

blue bottles runs at the Lion & Unicorn from 4th – 7th November 2021

Book tickets for blue bottles here


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