Skip to content

A rather nice going away present

April 26, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, as I was sitting outside Vancouver airport having a final fag before I had to go through to departures, a rather nice going away present arrived via email.

It was a message from Theatre BC to inform me that An Unhelpful Complication had advanced to the next round in the annual new playwrights competition.  (A professional actor friend had encouraged me to submit the play.)

This was lovely news indeed, but not as lovely as the critique written by one of the three judges, all of whom are professional directors and/or playwrights.

Allow me to share some of this with you.


The first thing that should be said is that this play is very well written with respect to plot, characterization and dialogue.

It has a strong structure. The sequences build. The audience is prompted to ask all the ‘right’ questions: Why is he delving into the past at this moment? Does Maggie have a hidden agenda as well as her stated one? Was her contacting him now purely the result of a coincidence on her side? and so on.

Your dialogue delivers plot points and develops characterization, which is something many who write plays can’t do.

The characters are individuals rather than ‘types’: Maggie is more than just a ‘Journo’ and Jack is more than just a Spook/Politico. Again, the majority of unproduced plays do not have this depth.

I particularly like the ramp-up in suspense with the deadbolt being locked—great trigger for the climax sequence—then the rolling up of sleeves. Nicely done.


The main challenge to this play being produced is its length—it’s too short. It is harder to get very short one-act plays produced than ones that are the length of a full act in a full-length play. At the moment, this piece would probably play around 25 minutes. If you decide to do a further draft, I would suggest that you create one more central plot point. Perhaps one more twist. Perhaps something of a more personal nature happened between them in Central America. Not saying both these ideas are correct—just getting the mental ball rolling. Audiences would certainly, I believe, be very happy to spend more time with these two people. It would also be good to give us a few more sequences of a bantering tone between them – perhaps where the sentences are shorter – with interruptives and overlaps, where the dramatic conversation is less ’high-IQ articulate’, more personal and moves quicker. Understand that I’m not criticising what is there, simply suggesting possible ways of your enriching an already good piece.

Well done. Write on.

Definitely some food for thought and, I am assured, fulsome praise indeed.

Exceedingly nice way to kick off my first trip back to London in five years.


From → Plays

  1. krysross permalink

    Great reviews. I haven’t read this play so can’t say whether I agree with number two.

  2. Catherine stewart permalink

    That’s awesome! Congrats on moving forward to the next round and on the excellent review. Well-earned. It really is a great play. Totally captivating.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. More than enough for me | Anne M. Holmes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: