Saturday, May 04, 2013

Play number 2: an improbable birth

Play no 2: The House with two doors Translated from “Casa con dos puertas, mala es de guardar” by Calderón.  3f, 4M. 
Written in 1980. First performed by Merlindene Theatre Company in 1980 Festival Fringe. Directed by Robert Livingston.

So. The story so far:

My partner happens to meet a man at work who happens to have recently graduated in theatre studies from Glasgow University and so happens to be one of the few people in the country to have heard of and enjoyed the work of the Spanish playwright Calderón. One of whose plays I happen to have translated. Without any conscious intention of getting it staged. 

This man, whose name is Robert Livingston, happens to have an elderly relative (I think it was an aunt) who happens to have recently died. She leaves him a thousand pounds in her will. He happens to want to spend the money on putting on a play in the Edinburgh Fringe.

And he happens to decide it would be good to stage the world premiere of a Calderón.

And because we just happen to have met, he happens to have found a translator.

So I started working in the theatre through a wildly improbable chain of coincidences that totally makes me understand what Hamlet meant when dear Mr Shakespeare has him say:

“there’s a divinity that shapes our endsRough hew them how we will”.
Something was happening, divinity or not.

And how good to be reminded of the fact that it might possibly be true.

We form a theatre company called Merlindene Productions after the house where me and my partner and good friends have been living in a commune. 

We decide it would make more sense to stage a comedy. So we choose Calderón’s House With Two Doors.

Reading it again, it’s obvious we made an excellent choice. The play is just a joy. It has an incredibly ingenious comic plot written in verse that’s witty, ingenious, and truly compassionate about love. 

And I think I instinctively found a good idiom in which to translate it:

“It was like going down to the sea, when the sun is shining,The waves are laughing as they splash against the shore,And there’s a boat, and it is so gaily coloured,So in you get. You never guess and you never suspectThat the storm will rise and dash your little boat to pieces.Love looked like that. It seemed so easy to be happySo simple to be free...”
It was a great production with some fabulous ex-student actors and beautiful music from Edward McGuire and it would be so good to say it was a huge success.

But it wasn’t. We’d chosen a rotten venue to perform in - the old St Thomas of Aquin’s high school - awkwardly shaped and out of the way. We were an unknown company putting on an unknown play and we had no marketing strategy except to rely on the Scotsman review. 

Which wasn’t an especially clever idea, because the review came out late and was unfavourable.

Mostly audiences hovered around 10, except for the last night when they were closer to 25 and from some points of view the whole thing was a bit of a failure.

But on another it was a huge success. It was a groundbreaking show that brought a beautiful and sadly neglected play out into the light of day.

I went along every night, usually with my tiny baby daughter in a sling, and so proud of her, and so proud of my play.

Because even though the audiences were tiny, they always laughed. Laughed at jokes that I had crafted.

To hear that laughter completely hooked me.

And from that moment on I knew without a shadow of doubt who I was. I knew I was a playwright.

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