Vera Shrimp – week #2

So, where were we?

Last time we met, Rosie and I had just finished our week at Live Theatre and I had a script to re-write.

Well, re-write I did. Or tried to. Because sometimes I think I can do more than I can. I forget that my days can’t be 100% devoted to writing; that I have to do things like eat and wash clothes and sleep; that I am not an automated ideas-machine (how I wish I was an automated ideas-machine … sigh)

In the end, I managed about half of the script during a week that turned out to be extremely frustrating, tiring and generally a bit crappy. On the plus, the work that was done was the work that most needed to be done – fleshing out the opening and the character of Dad, as well as introducing new characters and hearing more of their voices.

So we arrived at ARC on Monday morning armed with what I had got done. I’ve worked there before with Rascally Scoundrels and they’re a lovely team who are hugely supportive, always very helpful and accommodating. We were shown to the Studio, our home for the next five days, and off we went.

Because the script is still in its relatively early stages, a lot of time was still devoted to studying and talking about it. There’s little point in starting to get it up on its feet if it’s going to change massively again. This meant a couple of late nights for me cutting/re-writing what I had re-written the week before, and continuing re-writing the second half that I hadn’t gotten to yet. It’s not ideal but needs must, and sometimes having a very quick-turnaround stops you agonising over every line and just getting on with it.

The other main thrust of our week was starting to think about my telling of Vera’s story, my performance. I have always known that this would be the harder side of this endeavour for me. I have ten years experience as a playwright, safely hidden away, writing words for proper actors to say using their proper actor training. But now I am asking to step out from behind my desk and putting myself centre stage.

I – how do I put this? – struggled. As I knew I would. But knowing I would struggle and actually being there, struggling, are two quite different things. It made for a difficult week for both me and Rosie.

We now have over a month until our week at Northern Stage. Of course, things don’t stop just cos we’re not in a rehearsal room – I have to write Draft 3 based on all of the work done so far and we have to start approaching practitioners such as designers and technicians, start thinking about things like props and music.

I’m trying to resist the temptation to run away and hide and am thinking of it like rolling down a (steep) hill in a barrel. I have stood at the top of the hill, climbed into the barrel and away I’ve gone. And there might be moments on the way down that I don’t like or make me feel sick, but there’s no stopping now. And when I’m at the bottom, only then can I decide if I want to climb up the hill again and get back in the barrel for another go.  

Me & Chekhov hit NE1 …!

Just a quickie to say that tickets are on sale NOW for ON THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO / CAN CAUSE DEATH at Northern Stage.

The dates are Wednesday 16 & Thursday 17 February 2011, 8pm. You can book via the [website] or call the Box Office on 0191 230 5151.

For more details on the play, click [here]

Suffice to say, it would be super aces if there were more than just me and my folks in the audience, so do come along if you can …! xx

Blood & Money debuts …

Well. There we are. Blood & Money got its first public airing last night. And it was goooood. Phew.

A while back we (as in Rascally Scoundrels, not the Royal ‘we’) applied to First In Three – a monthly event at Northern Stage that gives artists the chance to showcase new work or work-in-progress. In January we were told we’d been selected as one of five performances on the February bill. Yikes! No cast, still on early drafts. But, nothing like a performance in front of the paying public to get the ball rolling!

A casting call was put out. We were lucky enough to audition a great group of actors and it was a very tough choice. In the end we plumped for Anna Bolton, Jill Dellow and Mat Hobbins. We are having the same cast for both plays, so the trio will play two roles each.

Jump to a rainy Sunday in mid-February and we all get together at Live for our one rehearsal day.

We read both scripts in full, but the focus will be on the extracts we’ve selected for First In Three. With about 15 mins each, we’re doing from the beginning-ish of Roz’s and from the middle-ish of mine. The extract I have chosen is too short so am duly dispatched to a computer to work up the piece from an earlier point. I try not to panic and eat an egg sandwich.

Ably led by our director Degna, the day goes well and we all disperse feeling confident. Kind of. The nerves are never far off.

Jump to a rainy Wednesday (at least it didn’t snow) and we find ourselves at Northern Stage. Luckily for us, the group scheduled in before us haven’t turned up – so we get a whole hour in the space to rehearse on top of our allocated hour for tech rehearsal. This is a good sign, surely.

Word is it’s a sell out. I hoover up Anna’s chips (she didn’t want them) and try not to lapse in to a coma of terror. Actually, I am uncharacteristically calm. The cast are great, Degna’s done us proud, the event organiser as already told us how much she enjoyed the pieces in rehearsal.

But. I am never calm. I decide to worry about not being worried.

In the end it goes a dream. They split us up, so my Blood opens the night and Roz’s Money closes it. The audience seem happy. They laugh in the right places. Don’t laugh in the right places. They dutifully scribble on their feedback forms.

We presented the pieces script-in-hand, just to cement the fact that these are works-in-progress. The night gave food for thought, so I’ll squirrel the script away for a bit and (hopefully) emerge with a new and improved version in the not too distant future …

Thanks to Degna, the cast, Roz and the team at Northern Stage.

BELOW some [slightly blurry] photos taken during First In Three reheasals:

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Elle (Anna Bolton)

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Chris (Mat Hobbins)

'Blood' - Elle (Anna Bolton) sees the light!

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Elle (Anna Bolton)

[photos kindly taken by Roz on her swish-swoo BlackBerry cos we are both rubbish and forgot our cameras]