Wednesday, 23 May 2007


So, tonight is the first night of my new show, which is why I've taken most of the day off to add friends on facebook and create a new blog. Having not had a day off for three weeks, I feel like I've earned the right.

"Wait until after the show before you say that", you cry. Quite. I'm not so much resting on my laurels as struggling to find anything else to do with them. The show is a youth theatre piece, which might cause some of you to conclude that it therefore doesn't matter a great deal. Not so. When there's talent in the room I enjoy making youth theatre pieces just as much as I do working with professionals, not least because so much of the production crap surrounding the professional process is completely cut. But more importantly, working with a group like this one where there is talent in the room, I love the opportunity to do stuff I wouldn't necessarily get away with in the real world, to try out things I don't know if I can do.

So five weeks ago we had a notion that we'd be doing a seventeenth century piece probably about witch-hunts. We had a cast, a director, and a musical director. Now we have a full-length play with a text by me and songs by John (my MD), loosely based on improvisations by the group. We worked Friday nights and Saturday daytimes, a total of about 60 hours rehearsal. As a creative process, that's clearly unworkable, consisting of little more than careering downhill in full knowledge that the brakes don't work. It's an exercise in holding your nerve. No sensible professional would submit themselves to that. It's been one of the most exhilirating rides of my career.

I should point out that the preposterous timescale is not something to which I'd ordinarily subscribe. Work clearly benefits from a period of incubation and this week's performances will undoubtedly reveal several ways in which the script could be improved radically. But in itself it's been a terrific way of incubating work. I undoubtedly would have written nothing at all if I'd not been doing the project, much less something so visually and theatrically alive. It really is the only viable way of producing a first draft. Maybe in the future I'll create work in this way, with the opportunity of redrafting... how did Anthony Nielsen first persuade someone to let him do it?

So along with the fun I'm having developing Can of Worms and the new, improved Silver Tongue development process, I'm becoming less and less interested in working on shows where we have a script before the first day of rehearsals.

If the show turns out to be shit, I'm sure I'll rethink all this. I'm writing a hasty post while I'm still optimistic.

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