Last night, as part of the Enough Project Pan-Pennine Playwriting experiment Cathy and I invited the public to come to the King’s Pub, have some wine, read our plays, and then tell us what they thought of them.
If I’m honest I did spend most of yesterday prior to the event thinking – ‘Why the hell are we doing this?’ Because I wouldn’t usually dream of sharing work this early on, unless it was with really trusted friends.
So, why do it?
Having survived the experience – here are a few things that now make me think it was worth doing…
It was quite beautiful to peep into the pub’s snug filled with people intently reading with their glasses of wine and their best ‘concentrated’ faces on. How often as adults do we get to do that? It was lovely.
One of the readers, Jimmy, said afterwards that he had loved the feeling of sharing what is usually a solitary experience with a roomful of people.
Another reader, Pete, looked me in the eye and said ‘Your script is like Abigail’s Party on acid’ and that made me feel girlishly happy.
Another reader (whose name I didn’t catch, I’m sorry) wrote notes all over my script. She wasn’t convinced by some of my decisions. But the way she shared those thoughts was honest and supportive. I’m still thinking about what she’s written. I’m not sure if I agree with her yet or not, but the spirit in which she shared those thoughts is something that means a lot to me.
Another reader called Lucia asked one of the most important questions of the night for me. She asked about whether the two plays were designed to ‘always’ be performed together? And how much Cathy and I knew about one another’s plays as we were working on our own?
I found these questions really pertinent. While on the surface our two plays are stylistically very different and both could stand up on their own, both Cathy and I feel they are stronger when experienced in conjunction. And yet it’s strange that it has worked out this way. We both knew nothing about each other’s ideas as we were writing. All we knew was that we were responding to the word ‘enough’ and that we had 4 characters to play with. And yet what we have both come up with resonates as a ‘whole’ somehow. My play ‘Good Enough’ is a surreal dark comedy about family life and how personal choices impact on others and ultimately ‘the world out there’. Meanwhile Cathy has written ‘Worms’ a naturalistic comedy drama about how political ideas impact on the individuals in a family and the choices they make about what is important in their lives. The differences between the plays create a kind of symmetry and I find this really exciting. We’ve always loved each other’s work despite our differences, but now it feels like our work together is better because the differences have become its strength…
And to me that is why last night really mattered… in these frightening days of cuts where artists are being asked to justify their existence, the temptation is to try and safeguard our own position by undermining others. It’s called divide and rule and while it’s tempting, we all go there at our peril. Because the ONLY thing about art that really matters is that it creates windows of understanding between people. And so surely it follows, the more voices there are, the more understanding there has to be. Surely? And the more understanding there is, then the more we remember that for all our differences we are all one… Remembering that stuff feels really important at the moment.
I had an amazing conversation at the end of the night with Jimmy who said something I’ll never forget. He said ‘When people say we’ve no need for subsidised art, tell them to go home and strip the wallpaper off their walls, and take the lampshades down too. Tell them to throw all their clothes away and to put on a boiler suit. Tell them to turn the telly off and never go to the cinema again. Tell them that’s the price of not supporting artists.’
So, yes, last night mattered. It mattered to me on a personal level. The feedback about Cathy’s work and mine was so useful. The positive energy in the room. The interest people had for what we are doing. The challenges and questions. The doubts about whether some of our ideas will work or not…. All of these things are fantastic.
But for me, the most powerful thing about last night was that I got to share a moment of communication that was fragile and beautiful with a room full of strangers. And in doing this, in coming together in this way it feels to me that we’ve already experienced something incredible. It’s something to do with the generosity that was generated. It felt caring and real. And right now that generosity feels like it matters. It feels the right way to go. It feels like it could be where that elusive thing called ‘enough’ might actually be hiding?
Thank you to everyone who came last night. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. It is really appreciated.
Upcoming Enough Project events
Friday 9th September, 7.30pm
Tickets to this event are free and can be reserved from the TiM box office by telephone 01274 233200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (remaining tickets will be available on the door on the night).
Directed by Tom Hogan, this rehearsed reading of the two new 45minute plays comes hot on the heels of a twin event at Studio Salford and is a unique opportunity to grab a preview of these two new works.
The writers will be propping up the bar after the reading to talk about the work and discuss what happens next with the production. Join them for a glass of wine and to put your two-penneth into the conversation.
Stage one of the Enough Project and has been supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts.