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Here we go

October 30, 2020

First read through with the cast and director last night of The Christmas Project. The director is also the playwright and in spaces when I knew I didn’t have a line for a while, I was watching him. I could see on his face the same delight I’ve experienced when I hear the words I’ve written come to life for the first time.

The very first time was back in the 1980s when I tried my hand at writing a radio play for a competition being held by the BBC. The play had to be half an hour long and the only way to know if A Divine Comedy was the right length was to have a table read. I invited my friend John and my friend Annie, an actor, who offered to bring another actor, her friend Danny. It was absolutely amazing to hear my lines being spoken – particularly by the professional actors. Nothing quite like it. (Rather disappointingly the BBC did not choose it as the winner.)

By the time I wrote That’s Nice in 2014 I was an actor (of sorts) myself. I wrote the play (as I’m sure I must have mentioned previously) after Donna, another member of the local theatre group, and I had searched unsuccessfully for a one-act play we could do together. Eventually I said, “Or I could just write something.” Charlotte and Emily (yes, the two main characters, editors at a publishing house, were deliberately named after the Bronte sisters), Millicent, Greville, Ralph and Zoe were born. Not only did I get to hear my words, I got to speak them! How cool was that?

I was barely halfway through An Unhelpful Complication before I had to hear it read out loud. Invited myself over to Donna’s where I thrust the script at her and her professional actor partner Garry. Yes! It sounded great. They agreed. Garry asked where I was planning to go with it. I honestly had no idea. The pages I had so far had practically written themselves. (Sadly, the last time that’s happened.) He pointed out that, as it stood, Maggie held all the cards, which was a bit one sided. I took that on board, came home and almost magically the IRA element of the story appeared.

There’s the thrill of hearing the lines you’ve written spoken out loud, but what’s a play without an audience?

Which brings me to something about An Unhelpful Complication that delighted me more than I can say.

In 1994, when Mike and I were visiting my cousin Michael and his wife in London, the four of us went to see a play one evening. It was a Tom Stoppard. I can’t remember which, although I’m pretty sure it was Travesties. At one point Mike and Michael were laughing uproariously at some jokes delivered in Latin, while Doris and I just looked at them and shook our heads.

When I was 16 my Latin class (yes, I went to the sort of school that actually still taught Latin) adopted a juvenile class motto. All these years later, the only things I can remember from those classes is that motto and the first few lines of the Lord’s Prayer. (“Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum…”)

In the second half of An Unhelpful Complication Jack spouts Latin a couple of times and Maggie responds with an attempt at humour to lighten things up.

Now here’s the moment I loved about the show. At two of the four performances audience members laughed before Jack translated semper ubi sub ubi. I was so chuffed. It felt as if Mike and Michael were there.

Anyway… It was a good read through last night. It’s a fun play and I’m going to have a lot of fun with my character. Now all I have to do is learn my lines. (Easier said than done.)

Oh, and, in case you missed it when I first posted the link, if you’re interested you can watch one of the performances of An Unhelpful Complication. Unfortunately not one which got a laugh before the translation.

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One Comment
  1. Donna permalink

    🙂 xo

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