Bysshe Coffey, Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Scholarship student.

London entertains new playwright from Plymouth

The stage is set to receive dynamic young playwright and scholarship student Bysshe Coffey’s wickedly entitled ‘Catastrophic Sex Music’ at a London venue famous for programming brave new theatre.

Originally from Morice Town in Plymouth, Bysshe returned to the South West to gain a special scholarship from the University of Exeter, where he is currently an English undergraduate.

Bysshe, known previously as Michael Whiteway has taken the Romantic poet Percy Shelley’s middle name, reflecting his interest in classical writing. His creative writing is achieving significant attention from UK theatre directors. This talent is being nurtured and supported by a prestigious University award designed for students who combine high levels of academic achievement with excellence in extra-curricular activities.

As a fervent writer throughout his time at Tamarside Community College, Plymouth Bysshe gained the attention of established playwright Mark Ravenhill during a week intensive mentor scheme at Theatre Royal 2. The experience enabled him to branch out of writing solely about local issues and stories focused on the academic aspirations of a young man from a working class background, a reflection of his own life in Plymouth.

Bysshe recognises that the financial security and requirements demanded by the scholarship assists his writing process, he said, ‘The University of Exeter has invested a lot in me as a scholarship student, there are high expectations which makes me consider my writing even more and provides a helpful structure which gets me through writers block.’

He added, ‘I have gained considerable confidence from my academic studies, which has helped me to find my voice. My course work in Critical Theory has fed into my current play and the Renaissance and Modern Literature module has informed my next play ‘Glory Hole’.’

Following a successful run of ‘Catastrophic Sex Music’ at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester the play is being performed at Theatre 503 in London. The play is pitched at a young audience who appear to respond well to Bysshe’s boundary-free style of theatre. The style is described as ‘CCTV theatre’, as it involves the observation of a single situation viewed from different angles and from a range different view points. Evidence from an initial pilot audience of young people to ‘Catastrophic Sex Music’, showed there was great interest in this short, sharp and shocking new piece of theatre. The Mercury Theatre were so impressed with the response they have commissioned a series of the play to be explored in different formats over the next two years as a means of engaging younger audiences.

There is no stopping this creative outpouring as Bysshe’s latest play, ‘Glory Hole’ being considered by the innovative and critically acclaimed theatre company Frantic Assembly. They are regulars at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth and often grip the imagination and interest of new and younger audiences with their ability to draw on new writers as well as exploring historical plays in a contemporary style.

Professor of English, Tim Kendall said, ‘The Department of English in Exeter has an impressive record of encouraging young writers. Bysshe is hugely talented, and we're delighted that at this early stage in his career his work is already finding an appreciative audience.’

Bysshe is keen to explore a broad range of texts and his ultimate aim is to translate ancient Greek texts such as Trojan Women. Already fluent in written French, he is currently learning ancient Greek in his spare time to make his dreams of ancient Greek plays a reality.

Rounds of applause and standing ovations may be the future reaction to Bysshe’s writing for theatre, especially if this initial reaction to his work is anything to go by.

Date: 31 March 2009

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