Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken: on cuts and motivational deadlines

Met with Patrick Sutton of Smock Alley Theatre today and we’ve settled, provisionally, on the week of June 21st to hold the rehearsed reading of my play on Farquhar in The Boy’s School, Smock Alley. It’s a fantastic and unusual venue; a version of theatre in the round where the viewing area is a ramp that ascends around the space several times. It almost feels as if you’re observing a play from the terraces of a tenement building in the 17th century.

Smock Alley is where Farquhar performed before he went on to become the most popular Restoration playwright based in London. It’s also where he nearly stabbed a fellow actor to death on stage but more of that on the night!

Since arranging last week to meet Patrick, I’ve re-written the first act, based on our at-home reading in March. It’s fantastic to be back under its 17th century skin, to be bawdy and bold as well as poignant and witty! Oh and keep the narrative and all the threads flowing freely.

Of course, when I type it all into the computer, some of it will work and some of it will be far less exciting than it appeared when I was scribbling in the margins, but it’s good to have something tangible to put in. Deadlines are fantastic, if occasionally vicious, motivators.

I have agreed to cut the play down from a full length one-man show (we were aiming to follow Simon Callow’s footsteps with his Dickens show) to one hour 15 max. A tall order, but then haven’t I spent the last month crafting seven minutes scripts?!

In some ways, it feels really refreshing. I have been given the freedom to cut everything that isn’t essential, gripping and entertaining... But then I haven’t sat down to try and do this yet, so the pain threshold hasn’t yet been breached.

Since I have a gut feeling the script currently runs close to 100 mins... this means cutting at least 25%. I put the expected pain on a par with the extraction of one, possibly two wisdom teeth and the squashing of seven particularly healthy and shiny cockroaches with my bare feet on a tiled floor in the dark.

It may be a case of keeping two drafts so I don’t feel I’m abandoning favourite sections or speeches. I’m just putting them aside.

But I can’t wait to start. I’ve had a chat with Pettigrew, the Creature of Small Stature, Minimal Dialogue and Varicoloured Shell. She has agreed to assist. The idea is I place her on the script and she’ll mark what needs to go with a gentle slime trail.

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