Daragh Carville and Timberlake Wertenbaker Workshops

Daragh Carville and Timberlake Wertenbaker Workshops

Image above is the cast for the third series of ITV's The Bay by Daragh Carville  

Daragh Carville

I've done some more workshops through Theatre 503 and I've more to come. You can find the current list of Masterclasses here. The first one to summarise was by Daragh Carville. He was born in Armagh and is an Irish playwright and screenwrite. He co-created and wrote the ITV crime drama The Bay, first broadcast in 2019, attracting an average audience of over seven million viewers. 

He was an engaging speaker and began by explaining that he felt there were no specific requirements to be a writer. Each story he tells must have dramatic imperatives and should consiste of:

  1. Characer
  2. Plot
  3. Narrative
  4. Objectives and Obstacles

Daragh studied drama and film in Canterbury. The course also coverd playwrighting. He wrote Grandfather Grave that was given a reading at the Royal Court followed by Language Roulette that played at the Bush and Traverse theatres. His first feature film, Middletown, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. He said that plays tilt towards the metaphysical whereas screen is more literal. Plays have to enunciate thoughts wheras screen can use close-ups to achieve the same outcome. Plays prioritise words over images, films images over words.

Daragh worked on a few well known TV series such as Being Human and The Smoke. He mentioned that he though the pilot of The Smoke by Lucky Kirkwood was brilliant. He talked about the work of a writer, where a year's work on 1-2 pilots can lead to rejection. In his series The Bay, the start mirrors the end, something common in movies e.g. The Sound of Metal. He spoke about genre and how few shows can escape it. I May Destroy You is a recent exception. Popular genres include medical, crime, legal and costume.

His idea for The Bay was unique in that in centred on a Family Liason Officer. From his research, he found they have high empathy but also tough as nails. Shows have titles based on three options:

  1. Character - the lead character usually such as Luther, Sherlock
  2. Place - Coronation Street, Fargo
  3. Theme - Succession, Breaking Bad

When Daragh researched where to set The Bay, he realised that Morecombe Bay was in a dead spot for TV series. He also found a Producer with knowledge of the seaside resort. He talked about how scene length can help to define a show. Line of Duty had long interview scences. The scene length in Succession tends to be long. When pitching for TV, an hour's pilot script is usually 52 pages and the plan for future episodes is 1 page per episode. 

We examined the pilot script for Happy Valley through three filters:

  1. Who's scene?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What's stopping them?
  4. What do they do?
  5. What happens at the end?

We repeated the excercise with a scene from Breaking Bad. He spoke about John Yorke's theory of the fractal, with the smallest element e.g. a scence being related to the episodes, series, story. 


Timberlake Wertenbaker

(Wiki) Timberlake Wertenbaker is a British-based playwright, screenplay writer, and translator who has written plays for the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and others.

I'd been on the reserve list for this talk so was excited to get a place. Timberlake gave us a talk on Time. Time is layered and and unique to theatre. There's interaction between a live audience and the performance. It can be geological time or immediate. There several types of time:

  1. Mythological - not recorded
  2. Historical - moment of history
  3. Present - nebulous

When you write an historical plays you bring your contemporary perspective to it. But shouldn't a contemporary play also be considered of as historical? Checkhov's plays was not so temporally precise that they don't resonate today.