Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I travelled up by train from Oxford in time to see the preview.
Usually I enjoy train journeys, but this one I loathed.
Both trains were overcrowded, lacking in facilities, chaotic in their feeling and seriously slow.
The slowness must have been in my imagination because neither was actually late: and I guess this was to do with my mounting tension.
I've never been away during production week; and while in theory this was a good idea, in the sense that I didn't sit in on rehearsals where there was nothing I could usefully do and worry, in practice it all somehow left me feeling seriously exposed and vulnerable.
It's like the feeling you get when you hand in an essay, say, or a piece of work you've invested much time and effort to get right... only worse, I think, because this play represents about a year's hard work on my part.
And the exposure of some very raw and very private parts of my self.

It was hard for the cast, too, having spent weeks and weeks performing to a blank wall, to suddenly be confronted by a crowd of people instead.
They seemed very visibly nervous, and they lost quite a few of the words sometimes.
(I've just performed "Leave to Remain" in a small meeting room in the theatre; and the last place I performed it was St John's church; and the geographical, emotional, and somehow vibrational contrast between the two venues knocked me off balance. Enough so i got some of the words wrong. Even with script in hand. So for them it would have been worse)
At the beginning, when she has to introduce herself, Kath's character asks: "What would you say?".
This was intended to be a rhetorical question; but at the preview a voice came down from the balcony: "I'm from Dundee".
Kath, bless her, said: "Well, that's not a bad idea. But you're out there and I'm up here and I think I'll just stick to the facts..." and there she was. Back in the script.
At the end of Act One the audience all looked a bit pole-axed, and I was convinced none of them would come back.
But they all did...
And at the end was applause that I felt was tepid, but which friends told me was enthusiastic. After sitting amidst a crowd of sobbing people.
I had a dreadful moment of futility: a moment when I could see all the effort I had gone into making the play right, and couldn't stop myself from wondering if it was all in the slightest worthwhile.
But that moment quickly passed.


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