Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cold Chicken etc, The Farquhar Play part two

We read through the second act of Cold Chicken and a Fresh Gale this afternoon. Lovely experience, far more fun, the momentum really beginning to build up under the script as we moved towards finishing what is the first full read through of the script.

It felt pretty emotional, because the character, George Farquhar, does live and breathe and suffer and laugh and it feels like I've always known this man, even though he died in 1707. I can see it coming together and dancing about the stage. I can feel that hunger to bring it alive, as does Stephen who talks of 'when' we stage it, rather than 'if'.

I've started to be more hands on in suggesting how I imagine sections or speeches or scenes might run and really enjoying it. It's more than 20 years since I directed a play and there's a little itch in the palm of my hands to start moving and blocking this out, to play with various ways of using the audience and the character and the props...

I won't be the director when it heads onto stage but for this reading, it's just Stephen and myself so I can bring whatever I can to the table. Some of it will work and some won't but at this stage, he is still a character I have created. I must know him better than anyone else!

But what is great about working like this with Stephen is that he brings a huge amount of emotion and understanding of the character to the lines I've written. And if there are parts I comment upon, by the time I have clarified or elaborated on some part of it, and sometimes as much for myself as for the interpretation of the script, I can see what's missing on the page. It might be as simple as a bit of clarification, a single stage direction, the addition of a 'beat' that adds weight to what come next or what came before or some way to bring out what lies buried under the words.

I think it was Scott Fitzgerald who said 90% of writing is swimming underwater.

But isn't it fantastic when you come up for air and discover how far you've gone - and see how interesting the scenery has become!

But what also becomes clear, from reading it like this, scene by scene, is whether the momentum and the pace work; if the character progresses in the way I want him to for maximum emotional and dramatic effect. Sometimes characters run before they should be walking or forget how to walk when I want them to be able to run in two scenes time.

Now I have the opportunity to digest the lessons of the read through and, having tested the script, to take the play apart in safety, experiment, brainstorm, love it a little more, try not to throw out stuff that will work with the stuff that just isn't good enough, and then put the limbs back in place.

So I'm putting the script aside to let it all germinate. Just for a little bit. Like I'm giving George a chance to drink a few flagons of wine and slumber. He worked hard this afternoon!

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