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Following May's sold-out online Playing with Prose workshops, we are now staging a second series, open to university students - join us for a series of virtual sessions held over four days, where students will explore ways of adapting novels for the stage and have the opportunity to write their own short plays and have them performed by actors.

Led by actor Jack Tarlton (Outlander, 8 Days: To the Moon and Back, The Imitation Game)

Adapting novels for the stage

Reading a novel and watching an adaptation of that novel in the theatre are two very distinct experiences. The first is private, the reader using their own imagination fuelled by the writer's words; the second is communal and collaborative. But both are imaginative acts that move us and make us think in a variety of ways.

Why adapt a book for the stage and how do we adapt a book for the stage?

Jack's workshops draw on his experience of creating and performing in a variety of plays based on novels at leading theatres including the National Theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith and Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, as well as the highly successful workshops he has led at the University of Oxford, East 15 Acting School, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of Buenos Aires.

In this virtual version of Playing with Prose, Jack will lead a series of online workshops (accessed via Zoom) on Tuesday 28Wednesday 29 and Friday 31 July, culminating in a read-through of new work created during the workshops on Tuesday 4 August.

Feedback from participants in our May workshops:  

"This was my first experience as a student of an online course and the long-distance interaction has had nothing less than the ‘real thing’ except for the time shared at meals when you attend a course of this sort on site! I am incredibly grateful to Jack and the actors who staged our plays in the last class, and to the other students, for one of the best learning experiences I had in my life. At times like these, it is really something to be cherished." 

"This workshop is a must. A hands-on and immersive approach to reading out loud for the theatre, understanding dramatisation and taking the first steps towards creative writing. Jack Tarlton is an expert actor, interpreter and guide with a natural skill at making theatre alive and accessible." 

"It was exhilarating to see how the adapted play came into life when Jack and five other professional actors performed it. Not only did the workshop provide the opportunity to learn from seasoned performers, it also provided a venue for a great diversity of people from around the globe to join together in times of difficulty, and engage with alternative perspectives."


Tuesday 28 July: 10am-12:30 (BST): Coram Boy | 1:30-4pm: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time 

Wednesday 29 July: 10am-12:30 (BST): City of Glass

Friday 31 July: 10am-12:30 (BST): The Death of Ivan Ilych

Tuesday 4 August: 10am-12:30 and 1:30-4pm (BST): Sharing of completed scripts and read-through by actors

The workshops will draw on Jack's unique perspective of having collaborated on and played lead roles in the original productions of Coram Boy, City of Glass and The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Coram Boy 
by Jamilia Gavin, adapted by Helen Edmunsen & directed by Melly Still
for the National Theatre, Broadway & Bristol Old Vic 

Coram Boy is a book for young people, set in 18th-century England. First published in 2000, it deals with child slavery, poverty, class divide, faith, love, families and the formation of the Coram orphanage.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 
by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens & directed by Marianne Elliot 
for the National Theatre, West End, Broadway, UK & US tours & international productions 

Published in 2005, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells of Christopher Boone, a 15 year old boy on the autism spectrum who finds his neighbour’s dog killed by a garden fork and decides to discover the murderer. 

City of Glass 
by Paul Auster, adapted by Duncan McMillan & directed by Leo Warner 
for 59 Productions, HOME Manchester & the Lyric Hammersmith

City of Glass is the first novella in Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, and was believed unstageable and unfilmable for many years. A metaphysical neo-noir detective story, it follows Daniel Quinn, a writer of mystery novels who is languishing and isolated after the death of his wife and child. 

The Death of Ivan Ilych 
by Leo Tolstoy, adapted by Stephen Sharkey & directed by Jonathan Humphreys 
for Attic Theatre Company 

First appearing in 1886, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is Leo Tolstoy’s bracing account of one man’s life, illness and death, terrifying in its description of physical decay and mental and spiritual turmoil. Stephen Sharkey adapted the linear nature of the story so that Ivan could tell his own story from the point after his death.

The workshops are suitable for university students from any discipline with an interest in creative writing, performance, presentation and language skills, and for those keen to explore ways of transforming ideas from one medium into another. It will be very helpful if students are able to read the four short texts before the workshops.

Playing with Prose is free to attend but places are limited to 20 participants, so booking is essential.

Organised by the Institute of Modern Languages Research. It is part of the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community, Translingual Strand.

Photo credit: Claudia Marinaro