Playing ON Theatre Company celebrates their 10th anniversary in a year like no other. Originally founded by Jim Pope and Philip Osment, Playing ON marks this milestone by looking to the future, providing new training and education schemes and developing their community of associates. A newly formed leadership structure will deliver the company’s vision over the coming years with Jim Pope as Artistic Director and CEO supported by Producer Rhian Davies.
Over the past 10 years, the company has nurtured their associates to grow as facilitators and writers – mentoring emerging practitioners, delivering training and leading intensive devising programmes. Philip’s legacy will be honoured with a formal writing opportunity in collaboration with his long-time friend, collaborator and literary executor Lin Coghlan as well as formalising their facilitator training with a two-day course available from March.
Playing ON have produced three full-scale theatre productions to date and worked with prisoners and prison staff, mental health service users and NHS staff, hospital patients, drama students, those in recovery for addiction, young people in care and youth offending teams. Their work is only just beginning.
They are in development with UNshore, in partnership with Rose Bruford and their Masters students, and Lewisham College. The show is a verbatim exploration of gender fluidity, non-binary identities and sexuality through the prism of fish in an aquarium. They are also working with the East London NHS Foundation Trust to deliver a project about coproduction mental health contexts, working with service users, medical and non-medical mental health staff, as well as developing their partnership with Drilling Diamonds, working with young Black Londoners. Playing ON’s amazing work with children has also seen them shortlisted for Children and Young People Now’s Art and Culture Award.
Artistic Director Jim Pope comments, Philip and I had a vision to create a permanent theatre company, which would enable disenfranchised people to have their voices heard in community spaces and in theatres. A lot has happened since we started in 2010… Philip is sadly no longer with us having passed away last year; he left a powerful legacy of theatre practice as a tool for transforming people’s lives. As lives become more isolated and the gap between rich and poor widens during the pandemic, the need for our work has increased. We have made it to the ten-year mark and I am now convinced that we will be playing on for many years to come.