In the eye of the storm and after…

It’s taken a little while to process…

This time last week Cathy and I were in the last throws of the rehearsal period for our plays.  And we were sweating because three days to rehearse two 45 minute plays is a huge ask.  A huge massive ask which our director Tom Hogan and actors Julia Nelson, Josh Moran, Zoe Iqbal and Abdullah Afzal took on themselves and excelled in.  But it took nerves of steel all round to get there.  So the first thing I’d like to say here is a huge thank you to them.  The second thing I’d like to say is that next time we’ll budget for more than 3 days!  Because, at times, the process was stressful.  It was particularly difficult to find ways to represent the world in my script because so much of what happens needs a budget to make it happen.  So in the end after much exploration we went for a ‘read the stage directions out’ approach.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that the point of this evening was not to envisage the text but to represent the script.  That was hard for me and Tom – we wanted to do more but it just wasn’t’ possible. I want to say a huge thank you to Cathy here too, who showed incredible generosity.  My script took longer to rehearse and she never batted an eyelid.  She just smiled and said ‘we’ll be fine’.  There are not many people like Cathy Crabb.  I feel lucky to be working with her… But I am not calm like her.  I always get scared before shows.  I always find myself in the toilet staring at the cubical wall telling myself that this is the last time I will write a fucking play. That this is the last time I do something so stupid as to write down all this secret stuff that is in my head and which should stay there.  “From now on” I tell myself  “It will, because really, what the fuck were you thinking Emma?”  And the fear goes round and round my head.  Only last week it was even worse than normal.  This time I was thinking ‘HELLO?! So you and Cathy have invited tons of people to come and see work that isn’t finished and the actors and director have had a tiny amount of time to sort it and WHAT?  Have you lost your mind?”

I’m paraphrasing, but this is roughly the kind of thing I was thinking as audience members began to arrive at the theatre…  These are the second lot of people I would like to thank.  We had an amazing turn out.  Just over 60 people came.  That’s a lot of generous people.  And they were a great audience.

So the lights went down… And somehow all my fears faded because between the actors and the audience an energy flowed and both plays got to take flight.  It’s the strangest thing to see your work living in other people’s minds and bodies and voices… I learnt so much from seeing the plays up on their feet.  I learnt so much from watching them in rehearsal.  There are lines which I loved on the page, which as soon as I heard them spoken I suddenly knew they were WRONG.  Why does that happen?  Why can something look right on the page and be so wrong in the mouth?  It’s a mystery but the process threw up plenty of that kind of thing to help my along the way with the rewrite.

But then there was some stuff I hadn’t thought about too.  Some incredibly useful thoughts came up in the feedback session after the show… I loved the vibe at our Q+A it was gentle but also critical.  It felt safe but challenging and that is a real gift.  So thank you to everyone involved in the audience for you thoughts and also Iain Bloomfield AD at Theatre in the Mill who chaired it and really did such an ace job of keeping things flowing and making it feel like a conversation.

I got up the next morning and sat in my jimmies writing down all the points I could remember from the night before.  And all through the morning I was getting tweets, texts and emails from people who had more thoughts about the plays.  As I write, a week later today I received a postcard in the post too with thoughts about ways forward.

There are two many thoughts to write everything down here, but something heartening which came up over and over with people’s feedback was that they loved the journey that Cathy and I are on and they want to see the plays develop into a full production.  So many people said ‘can’t wait to see what you do with these plays next’… That doesn’t mean that they all thought everything was finished and fine.  But to go into a rewrite feeling that kind of positivity is something special.  It feels like we have a reason to keep working hard.  It feels like there is a good reason to fight to find the funding to take this work into production.  That feels good… That’s the thing I’ll remind myself of next time I’m in the toilet cubical wondering why the fuck I do this to myself…

Because we haven’t had enough yet.  We’ve just started…

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