When opportunity knocks, fling the door wide open, kiss it on both cheeks and invite it in for a drink or two. Or three. So: I wrote a play.
I had an idea. A conflict. A detonating moment. Like writing a book, or telling a joke in the pub – the currency of storytelling is accepted across the globe. Across all mediums. And to a point that’s true. And then you have to think of who the audience will be. Where the audience will be. Reading a book in bed? Sitting in a cinema? On a night out with friends at the theatre? And then you have to learn.
I took a playwriting course at speed and under the influence of coffee and fear. Fear is a great motivator. And then I had it. This play. This one act. This story about three people and a mattress. And that’s where it got interesting.
Listening, with the director, to an initial read by the actors was both terrifying and electrifying. Would they like it? Would they hate it? Would they write everything off as a pile of crap?
In the right places. I exhaled. I hadn’t realised I was holding my breath. Then they laughed so hard I worried I’d really screwed up. Done something so stupid they couldn’t stop giggling. Something ridiculous, like using the wrong punctuation to indicate a pause. Well, actually, I had done that. But they said they weren’t chuckling at that. Hopefully they weren’t ‘acting’ about the whole ellipses thing…
I was welcomed to the rehearsals by my director. It’s an incredible thing to see the words you’ve written brought to life. To see a section played one way and then the same section played another way was mind-blowing. I didn’t know you could do that to words: to make them sing, and laugh, and cry. To build into them a resonance, a significance, a history that was far beyond my one imagined scene.
I’ve always thought acting was a physically challenging career, but I have a new understanding now of what it takes. What they give. And right there with them, breathing every breath, feeling every emotion, is the director who somehow manages to know both where they’ve come from and where they’re going to. It’s close to magic. And you feel it: the raw emotion. I know those words, I know what they’re going to say, but it doesn’t matter: each time is like a punch.
And I promise tomorrow I won’t dash across set and hug one of the characters to comfort them. They don’t like it when you do that.
You can find out more about my debut play The Legacy, including how to attend rehearsed readings on the 16th & 17th December at the Tristan Bates Theatre, WC1 here.