THIRTY Little Plays About Life are "micro-plays" or "bite-sized bits of theatre" in the York Theatre Royal Studio, each based on the enigmatic, emotional and exuberant adventure we call life.

They add up to an evening of conversations seen through the lives of a multitude of characters of varied ages and backgrounds in varied situations, performed by students of the Theatre Royal's adult acting course under the director of course tutor Michael Lambourne, the vivacious repertory actor soon to be seen in Victorian-bewhiskered Chief Weasel mode in The Wind In The Willows.

"It's now 31 new little plays; the same plays each night, tomorrow and Saturday this week, 40 minutes each way," says Michael.

"The initial idea came from A Million Tiny Plays About Britain, though actually there are only 96 in the book, and The Guardian's weekly feature in The Guide on overheard conversations.

"My remit to each writer was to ask for 'duo-logues' [dialogue in duos], but non-gender specific as I had no idea who would turn up for the acting classes."

Each play had to be no more than 500 words long.

"As a writing exercise, it's been about opening up the possibilities of the written word. We said, 'if you provide the words, we'll provide the play," says Michael. "So I hope it will be empowering for the writers to see what we've done with their words.

"I had between 70 and 80 submissions for the project, which was really, really amazing, and I do hope to do the project again in some form because of that response."

Among the writers selected by Michael and his students are Hannah Davies; Steven Elder; Alison Carr; Tim Hibberd; Paul Guest; York performance poet Henry Raby; Alex Ferris; Bryony Byrne; Paul Harrison; Louise Rennison; Julie Marshall; Sarah Sturdy and Ann Crossley.

"Some of the pieces are gone in a blink, like Henry Raby's work, because he's a poet and you can really feel the rhythm. Even in only 500 words, you can see how the story and the rhythm changes," says Michael.

He had set the ball rolling in the workshops with some short pieces of his own.

"That was a starting point for the students to rip open, as I didn't put any emotional choices in there, so the actors are empowered to feel brave enough to make choices when they're acting, which is the thing that actors often hold back on and end up with 'vanilla acting'. But I want my students to make choices."

Each member of Michael's workshops will perform in two plays, playing 60 characters between them.

"They've worked on this project for eight weeks as part of a ten-week term. Some of them have never performed before; some have, but that's kind of why I run these session as I like people to explore the possibilities they have within themselves; what they can trust themselves to do as first-time or inexperienced performers."

He looks forward to his students experiencing the intimacy of the Studio space.

"It should feel like the audience are part of the story straightaway," says Michael. "I've had to say to them that of all the places you could play, this is one of the most exciting, intimidating ones."

He believes that not only are micro-plays a good format for actors finding their way on stage, but they are a powerful theatrical form too.

"I do think there's room for really quick stories, espresso shots of theatre, whether in a pub or a theatre," he says.

"All you need are the bare bones. No set. Two chairs. A bench. Modern-day dress. Just a suggestion of character.

"All I will do with these plays is project a title that says where a scene is going on, such as a family home; a caravan site; a city-centre Starbucks; at the edge of a remote lake; a quiet room; a coastal path; a gym; the headquarters of MI5; a hairdressers; the Houses of Parliament; the Lake District; a park bench in Scarborough; and a spider's web, the only scene in our show that involves non-human characters."

In a nutshell, the message of Thirty Little Plays About Life will be that "life is chaos", suggests Michael.

"Hopefully, each play should feel like something has happened before; something will happen afterwards, but why are we showing this particular scene now?," he says.

Logistically, putting the show together, deciding the order of plays, has been "one of the hardest things" Michael has done for a stage show. "It's like sharing a big pot of ingredients with people I hardly know and saying 'Let's go'. But that's great because a lot of life involves saying 'No' but in theatre the greatest thing is saying 'yes' because you continue the story you've been given."

Inspired by the invigorating response to this debut project, Michael foresees extending the Thirty Little Plays shows to other themes: "If I do another one, maybe it will be Thirty Little Plays about love, death"

Thirty Little Plays About Life, York Theatre Royal Studio, tomorrow and Saturday, 8pm. Tickets: £5 on 01904 623568 or at