On The Night: “We never do things easy”

Image source: Falling Pennies Theatre Company

Ryan Penny (founder of Falling Pennies Theatre Company) doesn’t do things by halves. In 2016 his fledgling company had two productions running concurrently at different London fringe theatres (Beetles From The West at the Hope and Remedial Remedies at Upstairs at the Gatehouse), plus he had also taken part in the Plymouth Half Marathon during preparations for those two productions – and last year he performed in As You Like It up in Ipswich, as well as Doomed Resistance as part of the Camden Fringe, only missing one performance of the latter (writer & new associate artist Simon Godfrey stepped in on that occasion). This time round he’s bringing back On The Night in a slightly different format, split over two Mondays this month, and heading straight down to Plymouth after the second show to debut Godfrey’s new play Beyond The Grave at their fringe festival. Most of us would need a nap just thinking about all that, let alone doing it!

I was delighted to get the opportunity to meet up with the man himself to chat all things On The Night, choosing the rather appropriate surroundings of the National Theatre as our venue. Upon meeting you immediately realise how he can take on so much and succeed: he is absolutely buzzing with energy, and his enthusiasm for his work knows no bounds. This creative restlessness is actually how On The Night was first born – the concept being your “15 minutes of fame”, neatly represented by the spotlit logo. Since it was first launched in 2016, the company has received scripts from all around the world, which is how Simon Godfrey came to be involved with them. His five-star play Doomed Resistance was a breath of fresh air last year, proving that farce absolutely has its place in the theatre landscape; “war is silly”, remarks Penny.

Ryan Penny in Doomed Resistance
Photo credit: Falling Pennies Theatre Company

After four events at the Arcola (you may remember reading my accounts of the second and third shows), Falling Pennies are bidding it farewell and heading to the Etcetera for this instalment of On The Night. After initially announcing a change to six short plays rather than the usual eight, they couldn’t ignore the quality of the applications they received and so have reverted to their previous tally. The theme this time is ‘Equality & Revolution’, and the chosen plays are:

  • Common Ground – Jonathan Skinner
  • Do Something! – David Hendon
  • Gross Capital – James P Mannion
  • Isn’t He Handsome – Jennifer Cerys
  • Mind The Gap – Jack Hesketh
  • Ones & Zeros – Benedict Smith
  • Sunny Side Up – Alan Hall
  • Testoestrogen – Charlotte Warner & Darren Latham

For the first time ever, musical theatre applications were welcomed, so it remains to be seen if anyone took them up on this offer… But for now, let’s find out a bit more from Ryan Penny.

On The Night
Photo credit: @AustinSelfTapes

What’s your favourite part of putting on an On The Night?

It has to be receiving and reading so many exciting new scripts, and getting reminded there are SO many talented writers out there. It’s also great seeing these short scripts come to life and seeing how the creatives we recruit put on such a remarkable standard of work in such little time – and the high standard is something we’ve always been proud of.

What have been your favourite short plays featured so far?

There really has been so many. I’m always very proud of Remedial Remedies who debuted at On The Night before going on to a full production at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and of course seeing Doomed Resistance start there and then going on to become a full production also. There have been many scripts we’ve watched captivate our audiences and, in all honestly, each of them had/have potential to grow and develop into full pieces. Quite a few have already.

Have you enjoyed preparing for this OTN so far?

We never do things easy. These nights are incredibly hard work and it can be a beautiful nightmare trying to work together with 30+ creatives. Working out availabilities and rehearsal spaces… You can have a few sleepless nights, but it’s always lovely to work with new people – and getting some OTN alumni back is always a joy. We have a solid, hard-working little team and when we see these pieces come to life ‘On The Night’ it’s all completely worth it.

On The Night
Photo credit: @AustinSelfTapes

Would you like to make this a more regular occurrence?

Always. The dream is this could happen much more. Time & money as always are the hurdles we continue to jump over. But we love creating new work and giving people opportunities, so as long as we keep loving the work we’ll keep producing them.

Can you give us an idea of your plans for Beyond The Grave?

BTG is another hilarious piece by our Associate Artist Simon Godfrey, who also wrote Doomed Resistance. It starts its journey at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth at the end of May, then heads to Etcetera Theatre for a week long run at the Camden Fringe – with possibly a few pitstops along the way… We’re bringing the fun and it’s going to be a fantastically spook-tacular production.

On The Night
Photo credit: @AustinSelfTapes

On The Night is at the Etcetera Theatre on 21 & 28 May 2018. Tickets are available online. Beyond The Grave is at the Barbican Theatre as part of Plymouth Fringe on 29 May 2018 – tickets are available online or from the box office.

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