When is a new play born? When the writer first dreams up the idea or when it starts to germinate and becomes something more? When that first draft is finally completed – or perhaps even the glamour of opening night (with or without heccles from the likes of Sir Peter Hall)?
In many ways the answer is somewhat irrelevant but on the evidence of today I’m going to make the case for the first read through!
Read throughs are a key communal moment in Eastern Angles life. Everyone who is in gathers in the auditorium to hear the first airing of the script. A microphone is rigged so that the whole thing is ‘broadcast’ into the box office. Acting company and permanent company say hello formally for the first time and then clutching coffees, water bottles and well thumbed scripts we’re off on the first steps of a journey of discovery into the thing they call a new play.
Today (Monday 5 November) was the first read through of @easternangles seasonal offering Dial M for Murgatroyd (#DialM on twitter). I’d read the script of course before. Twice in fact. Once when we only had a first act and then (a month or so later) a draft of the whole thing which I read in the comfort of Colchester’s Hole in the Wall!
But funny as it was then it was today that for me it really came alive – voiced by the cast who in a little under four weeks will be performing it live to an audience for the first time. What seemed like an everyday stage direction suddenly become hilarious funny – the plot despite as many twists as turns as you would expect from a murder mystery come brilliantly clear and direct. Characters begin to poke their head from behind the page and gags appear and disappear at a frenetic rate – its clearly going to be a criminally funny Christmas.
Thats not to say there werent uncomfortable moments (and no I didn’t drop my phone in a mug of tea). When my home town of Wivenhoe met a grizzly end I felt something of a loyal pang of guilt , then there was the joke that everyone found hilarious and I just sat there stoney faced. It would appear that I’m the only member of the Uk population whose not seen this:-
But for me the most difficult part for me was the emergence of a character called dubois. Nothing wrong in that I hear – but for me this was beyond traumatic. My brothers wedding. I’m master of ceremonies. The brides family name is Vanden Bos (pronounced Van den boss) only I announced the parents of the bride for some reason only known to my last remaining brain cell as Mr and Mrs Van Du Bois with a floral french accent never heard before in America’s Grand Rapids. The silence was deafening…
And now thanks to Julian and Pat’s brilliant script I’m going to be reminded of that humiliating, dreadful, God awful moment every day for the next – oh 15 weeks.