Little Pieces of Gold is back for 2018, eight new plays in one evening at Southwark Playhouse. Daniel Perks catches up with three of the directors for this festival to hear what they were looking for in their chosen plays:

When I caught up with Suzette Coon, Artistic Director of Little Pieces of Gold, I was struck by the amount of ownership she gives over to her directors for each festival. Aided by a team of readers, Suzette shortlisted a series of 16 plays for the upcoming evening at Southwark Playhouse. And then she gave that list over to her chosen eight creative leads and let them have the final say.

This is how new writing showcases should be – a chance for the director to creatively connect with one work above all others, an opportunity for them to collaborate with the writer and bring the text to life on the stage.

I caught up with three directors who are bringing work to the next festival, which plays on 4 February 2018 – James Ronan, Alistair Wilkinson and Anthony Houghton:


James Ronan

James is an actor and director, who over the last year has directed short plays, readings and workshops, culminating in the full-length show Dirty Word, which played at Live at Zedel in December 2017.

Little Pieces Of Gold Suzette Coon

James Ronan

What do you look for when you’re choosing a play to direct in a new writing festival such as this?

I always search for a play that will leave the audience with something to consider or wrestle with, rather than giving them an answer. Also, anything that is innately theatrical, hopefully funny and potentially moving. But mainly provocative.

How important is it that new writing opportunities such as this are available in the current theatrical climate?

Opportunities like Little Pieces of Gold are utterly essential. If you don’t have festivals like this, where would people dip their toe into writing, or start to build confidence, or find further expression? Where do directors find those early chances to interact with an audience? Where would actors who can’t afford to do longer unpaid work and can’t get auditions actually act? If it wasn’t for events like this, the industry would mainly be the children of the established and people from Oxbridge.

Do you approach directing new writing, by a new playwright, any differently to work that could be a revival or work that has been already realised on stage?

I don’t really approach them any differently – the only thing with working on classic text is to try and strip away the perceived interpretation of the piece and really look at what is in just the play itself. That’s also what you do with a new play, find out what the writer has actually written, just with less baggage.

James is directing The Blue Dress by Rachel Tookey. To read more about the play, follow Rachel on Twitter (@RachelJTookey) or visit the Little Pieces of Gold website – www.littlepiecesofgold.co.uk


Alistair Wilkinson

Alistair is a theatre practitioner from Manchester, now based in East London. He is an associate for National Youth Theatre and the artistic director of WoLab – a working laboratory for artists to create. WoLab’s aim is to give emerging performance makers the opportunities to try their ideas out.

Little Pieces Of Gold Suzette Coon

Alistair Wilkinson

What do you look for when you’re choosing a play to direct in a new writing festival such as this?

Some of the questions I ask are: Does it relates to us as contemporaries? How reflective of today’s current social, political and cultural climate is it? Is it important for this story to be told now?

Also, and this may seem obvious, but can I actually get to the end of the piece without being distracted or becoming disinterested? If the writing holds my attention all the way, then I know that there’s something there worth exploring.

I’m also on the lookout for what would be a challenge to stage. If the play’s set on a cruise ship that’s about to crash into an iceberg, and lots of sharks are circling ready for a meal, then that’s exciting to me. How am I going to bring this piece to life, when all I may have available to me in terms of tech is a few basic lighting effects, a speaker and a couple of tables & chairs? I love design – ambitious new writing gives me a chance to be creative in my staging.

Finally, and this is probably the most important thing to me, you just know in your gut when you’re reading a script that works. You’ve got to trust that feeling.

How important is it that new writing opportunities such as this are available in the current theatrical climate?

It’s vital. There’s so much talent out there, but how would it be showcased it if these opportunities didn’t exist? But it’s not just about simply staging new writing evenings – they have to be curated to the same professionalism as you would expect at a mainstream theatre, to ensure that the writers, directors and performers’ talent gets showcased in the best way possible.

These types of events allow creatives to take risks – they can be bold and try things that perhaps would be censored at a larger establishment. To be able to fail, then to learn from that failure in an environment where you’re not under too much scrutiny, is a luxury we sometimes take for granted.

Do you approach directing new writing, by a new playwright, any differently to work that could be a revival or work that has been already realised on stage?

It’s definitely different. If it’s a piece of new writing, it’s probably relevant to what’s happening in the world today, meaning there’s a lot more responsibility to be had when producing it. No one knows what to expect when going to see new writing – you can really be bold in your creative decisions.

Alistair is directing The Kill List by oakley. To read more about the play, follow Oakley on Twitter (@OakleyFlanagan) or visit the Little Pieces of Gold website – www.littlepiecesofgold.co.uk


Anthony Houghton

Anthony originally trained as a theatrical designer before going on to train as an actor. He has worked for over 25 years in theatre, film and TV and in the last few years has begun directing – everything from new writing and one man shows to big commercial pantomimes.

Little Pieces Of Gold Suzette Coon

Anthony Houghton

What do you look for when you’re choosing a play to direct in a new writing festival such as this?

I look for a human story that connects with my heart.

How important is it that new writing opportunities such as this are available in the current theatrical climate?

Opportunities such as Little Pieces of Gold are invaluable for emerging artists to explore, create work and develop their process. They are also a wonderful networking opportunity in what can be a very lonely job.

Do you approach directing new writing, by a new playwright, any differently to work that could be a revival or work that has been already realised on stage?

For me, the difference in the process is that the writer is often involved in collaborating in the rehearsals for new writing and therefore the script can sometimes undergo quite radical changes. It also comes with no baggage and preconceived ideas from previous productions.

Anthony is directing First Time by Zoe Mace. To read more about the play, follow Zoe on Twitter (@ZoeMace) or visit the Little Pieces of Gold website – www.littlepiecesofgold.co.uk