For a second year, the Old Vic aims to develop six new plays – through the entire process from writing to casting, rehearsing and performing – in a single day (See News, 6 May 2004). This year’s “24 Hour Plays” will culminate with a gala performance at 7.30pm on Sunday 19 June 2005.

No participants have yet been announced, but those involved in last year’s inaugural event, which raised £50,000 for the theatre’s Old Vic New Voices developmental work, included: playwrights Kwame Kwei-Armah, Abi Morgan and Catherine Johnson and actors Penelope Wilton, Alex Jennings, Rosamund Pike, Ray Winstone, Emilia Fox, Paul Nicholls, Catherine McCormack, Meera Syal, Neil Pearson, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Sophie Okenodo as well as Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey.

Proceedings begin on the Saturday evening when six writers, six directors and up to 24 actors gather at the West End theatre, bringing no more than a prop and costume each. After working overnight and through the next day, the event culminates on Sunday evening when the resulting six ten-minute plays will be premiered before a live, gala audience.

This year, the concept will be extended to budding actors, directors and writers who will be able to take part in a second event, sponsored by coffee chain Starbucks, on 31 July. Application forms for potential Starbucks participants must be submitted by 22 April 2005.

On taking part in the main “24 Hour Plays” event last summer, actor Neil Pearson commented: , “It can take years to know for certain if you've chosen the right profession; 24 Hour Plays will tell you in roughly twenty-four hours. The usual months-long process of selecting, casting, rehearsing and presenting a play is condensed into a single weekend, at the end of which you will either have been given an electrifying reminder of why you wanted to be involved in the theatre in the first place, or you will have decided that you would rather stick needles in your eyes than put yourself through something like that again.”

Due to last year’s demand for tickets, which were priced from £50 to £250, tickets for this year’s “24 Hour Plays” gala on 19 June will be allocated via a ballot system only. For information on prices and to request a place, email the organisers.

- by Terri Paddock