Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Too Intense

To Emma's home yesterday to meet her and Robin for the first read-through of two of my scripts for the July SoloFestival. Robin is one of the performers and Emma will be directing both him and me. We sit on comfortable sofas and chairs in a pleasant living-room in upmarket south-west London, and I knock back several mugs of instant coffee and too many biscuits from a variety packet. I also talk too much - it's a bad habit I have in small gatherings, particularly when it's my own work being discussed - for which I apologise several times.

We discuss admin issues - the overall title for the plays we are presenting, how many slots each of us will take and on what days. Our third actor is Barry Clarke, whom I will see later in the week, and there is still a possibility that a woman will join us to perform a fourth play I have written. Then, these details aside, we start on the readings.

First is Los Feliz, the story of a man in Los Angeles who has been unlucky in love and who is taking the audience into his confidence. Robin's accent is very close to the General-American-with-a-hint-of-New York that the part requires and, although he reads too quickly, he clearly conveys his character and the situation he finds himself in.

He takes twenty minutes, which suggests the piece when performed will be about thirty minutes long. We briefly discuss the script - the only problems are the typos which I will rectify in the next twenty-four hours - and move on to the character as a whole. Listening to Robin and Emma's evaluation of the (unnamed) man's character, I realise that, in this case at least, I am a better writer than I gave myself credit for, for they see and describe depths to his personality that I was barely aware of when I created him. At times, they attribute characteristics to him that I do not think he has (yes, he has a stereotyped view of women, but I'm not convinced that he's a total misogynist), but while the story is mine, the performance belongs to the actor and director and I want to see their interpretation, not my own. Whatever they do with it, Los Feliz is, I tell myself with as much modesty as I can muster, is an excellent little play and I am convinced that Emma and Robin will make it a half-hour to remember.

Robin leaves; he'll be back later for a project that he and Emma and other actors are working on. My hostess tops up my coffee and  settles down to listen to me read Angel. This piece about a tormented priest (no, I've told you before and I'll tell you again, it's not about paedophilia) takes thirty minutes to read, which probably means forty minutes on stage. Although the general structure and much of the detail is fine, it's clear to both of us that the script still needs some work. As Emma points out, one section has too many lists (it's a habit of mine when I'm being pompous and arty) and overall there is not enough light and shade. This is partly a factor of my reading - I started intense and maintained that level until building it even higher near the end, but it is also partly the piece itself. There is definitely a need for a lighter and easier touch, particuarly in the first half.

This is not a serious problem. The script needs some correction, not need a complete overhaul. I'm more concerned about my ability as an actor. I got into the part towards the end, but at the beginning, my voice sounded to me thin and fake. I always knew acting the role would not be easy, but until now I have tucked that knowledge away at the back of my mind. Now, reality is upon me and I am beginning to feel nervous. Can I carry this off? Can I, having acted very little on stage before, hold an audience's attention for more than half an hour? Now that I have read the play aloud, my confidence in my ability is hovering around the 80% mark instead of the - very naive - 100% it was before.

Still, on the way back home, I'm in a good mood. Robin's piece will definitely do well. And my own piece? Well, I can make it happen. I will make it happen - and even if I don't, I'll enjoy the experience. Now all I have to worry about is Barry's Ben and Joe's.

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