Tuesday, 31 January 2012

James Bond, post-its, and behaving very badly…

Almost three weeks ago, I wrote that I intended to track the process of producing 'Brightest and Best' on this blog. So the reason I’ve been completely silent is slightly ironic – the process of producing 'Brightest and Best'.

I suppose there’s been some other stuff going on, with the start of the Westminster term and seemingly endless marking. But the challenges of mounting a fringe production are pretty overwhelming all on their own.

My last post was just before auditions – which ended up spanning a week. We saw fantastic people, but after a while you feel you’re going snow blind. Still, we managed it and have now finished week #1 with an amazing team. And not just of actors. In fact, almost the most exciting moment for me was the first production meeting where I sat in awe listening to the designers and stage managers talk logistics. It’s such a privilege having all these people working to make the play a success. And hearing them chat about the technical kit they need to do it makes me feel like I’m in a James Bond film.

Now I’m taking more of a back seat. All playwrights make negotiations with directors over their involvement in rehearsals. It’s certainly true that vital re-writes come out of the experience of seeing actors test your scenes. But I think you have to put your trust in the expertise of the people you work with. Not everyone will agree, but I’m not sure a writer necessarily has the clearest vision of their own work. (Natalie is certainly able to describe 'Brightest and Best' much better than me.) Of course, it may be possible for a director or actors to misinterpret a play, but I’d rather take that risk, knowing that there’s a much greater chance their take will release new energy and ideas.

When I have been in the rehearsal room (barn/shed?), one thing I’ve noticed is that the wall is becoming increasingly plastered with bits of paper: the cast’s research into the play. It reminds me of the moment a colleague arrived at Westminster to share my office. The first things he noticed were post-it notes everywhere – my first attempts to plot out the structure of the play. It seems like the achingly painful process of writing can be summed up by the movement of small bits of paper stuck to one wall, to slightly bigger bits of paper stuck to another.

Another thing that happened on the bus home last night was that I bumped into my old French teacher. We had a lovely chat, although I guiltily remembered that I was one of his most annoying pupils. I was only eleven at the time, but I think I remember him sending a letter home to my parents about my terrible behaviour. That trauma aside, I'm hoping the meeting was a good omen..

So now it’s back to work on another crucial aspect of putting on a play: getting an audience. With that in mind, here’s a link to an article in today’s Guardian about how the fringe really is the place to be (and thanks to @peter_raynard who tweeted this earlier). Oh, and there's a link to tickets too!:

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