I spend quite a lot of time on my own. More so since I recently left seven years of flat sharing in favour of solo living. I’ve named my plants (Nick, Tiggy and Valerie) and spend a fair amount of time looking out of the window from my desk watching the cat over the back (who I have named Seymour) in lieu of being allowed a pet of my own. This is not a bad thing, by the way. I like it. And I need to be on my own, in the quiet, to write. I’m not one of these who can have the telly on or music blaring.
I am my work. If I don’t sit on my own at my desk in the quiet then it doesn’t get written. The reward is having the play done – in the hands of a director, in the mouths of actors, an audience there watching and enjoying it.
I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year. So it was with much excitement that I peeled myself away from my desk to head up to Edinburgh for the Traverse Write Here Festival.
As one of the Traverse Fifty I’d had the opportunity to pitch various ideas and was delighted to have my play Fat Alice amongst the lunchtime readings, my audio short Noise in the Headset Play line-up and my Hidden Play secreted somewhere in the building.
I only had two days up there – 28 hours to be exact – so I was going to have to make the most of everything going on. It’s safe to say I spent the time up to my eyes in theatre and I frickin’ loved it.
High points included finding all of the plays around the building – scribbled on the walls to scrolling across the till displays – the Lunchtime rehearsed readings by some of my fellow 50 and hearing my audio short Noise performed by Gabriel Quigley. Because you listen on an individual headset but can see other people around you listening too and hearing the same thing at the same time, it’s both a collective and personal experience. Not an unpleasant one, just different.
“super charged with energy and invention …
… small audio plays – including a superb foyer piece called Noise, by Alison Carr, brilliantly performed by Gabriel Quigley …
Among the hightlights so far … Carr’s extreme comedy Fat Alice in which the obesity crisis suddenly and literally intrudes into the new love-nest of an adulterous couple …
… explosion of creativity” ★★★★ – Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
The day rounded off with the unveiling of the Writer Pictures exhibition. The photos had been hanging in the bar since the previous day, I’m not sure if people had to walk around with their eyes closed until the ‘official launch’ but anyway, here’s mine …
The highest high point, though, was rehearsing Fat Alice.
This is why I do what I do. This makes all the worry and self-doubt and solitude worthwhile – to be in a room with the director Zinnie Harris and two superb actors, hearing and working on my play which I wrote at that desk by the window in-between naming my plants and watching the neighbours cat.
Whether it be a development day, a reading, a fully blown production or anything in-between, I love this bit – the process, the chat, hearing the characters, seeing it getting up on its feet for the first time. There were questions and some cuts and small re-writes on the hop, and bits that weren’t working and bits that were – but that’s the point of sessions like this. Three hours to rehearse a script-in-hand performance of a twenty-minute play, you’d think it would be more than enough time but it flew by.
Fat Alice was a bit of a risk. It’s a black comedy in which a lot of physical things happen. This can be tricky in a rehearsed reading as those things aren’t going to happen. The event that kicks the whole thing off, for example, the foot that comes through the couple’s ceiling – well the audience are just going to have to use their imaginations.
So while it was a reading, Zinnie got the actors on to their feet as much as possible. She also got them up on their chairs and down on their bellies, so hats off to Gabe and David for being so game. And when it came to the audience watching the performance the following day it all paid off, they got right with the story and the characters – they also laughed lots and said nice things afterwards, which never hurts.
So I head home. And back to my desk. I wonder if Seymour’s missed me …
I nearly forgot, my Hidden Play. Very hidden!
For those of you without super-sonic vision, it reads thus …
YOU TOO? by Alison Carr
I sometimes feel, you know …
And do you feel …?
All the time.