Preview: 24 Hour Plays - Celebrity Gala, Old Vic, London

Six new plays? That's all in a day's work
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A whirlwind of activity is about to engulf the Old Vic, as the latest round of 24-hour plays returns to the theatre. For this event, well-known writers, directors and actors have just 24 hours to write, direct and perform six short plays on the main stage. It's the ultimate theatrical challenge.

The gala will be hosted by the comedian Catherine Tate, with proceeds going to Old Vic New Voices, a programme that supports and develops young talent.

The writers, actors and directors - this year including Greta Scacchi, Clare Higgins, Patricia Hodge, Dominic West, Simon Farquhar, Bryony Lavery, Sally Wainwright, Colin Teevan, Josie Rourke and Nikolai Foster - first gathers in the rehearsal room on Saturday evening.

What is it like to have such a creative group coming together under the pressures of a time-limited project? "It's an amazing mixture of nerves, of calls to agents trying to find a way out, excitement, and anticipation for what the writers are going to come up with," says the Old Vic's artistic director, Kevin Spacey.

The actor, who is currently appearing in A Moon for the Misbegotten, says the fact that everyone is working towards one goal is what makes the process special. "There's no time for ego, no time for anyone to worry about anything other than putting the show together.

"Writing and developing a play [usually] takes as long as the writer feels they need - months, often years. Then there is the process of finding the right director, casting and bringing together the creative team. The rehearsal period itself will be at least four weeks. This project slashes that time in the most unbelievable manner.

"The mood during the day veers from an unnerving focus and calm to panic and fear," Spacey says. "I imagine it's a bit like being in the eye of a storm - knowing that something big is about to happen but not quite knowing what the consequences are going to be."

Sunday 8 October, 7.30pm (020-7981 0914;