Reading your work aloud with friends is always helpful. Reading your work aloud with a room full of strangers who don’t always take your feelings into consideration can be even more helpful for the work.
I took part in my second Progressive Playwright as a writer last week at the Tron. Previously I found it useful to complete my Playwrights' Studio Scotland mentored piece and discover that the vast, sweating, cast iron palm house I had imaged was coming across as your granny's greenhouse where she grows tiny tomatoes from a Grobag.
This time, I brought the hashtag-resistant There is a light that never goes out and it's called hope, the title lifted from the lips of the World's Most Famous Asexual, Morrissey. I shared a prologue to what I hope to be a full length piece where to teens are stuck playing Seven Minutes in Heaven at a party.
The play is working on ideas about people who feel "broken" - what does it mean to be sexless in a sexualised society. About not even being Olly-Murs-20%-one-thing-or-the-other. On another workshop with the piece, the director told me blankly that asexuality isn't even a thing, as if I was writing about talking lions and wizards. Get tae France. It is a good feeling when you get people coming up to you afterwards as a couple did at Progressive Playwright and whisper that they know what you’re talking about.
Oh no, loves, you’re not alone.
The actors assigned to my piece are people whose work I adore and filled the air in the piece with beautiful sparkle. I came away with my notebook and my head full of questions and ideas after the feedback session with the audience and listening to the other writers' approaches.
Excitingly, the piece was selected to be progressed. I need to take my teens out of the cupboard and put them in amongst the big scary party of life. Progressing means I've had a very helpful mentoring session asking me lots of questions about the script, many of which I don't have answers for. Sometimes saying "I don't know" is exciting because it means packing a knapsack and heading off on an adventure with the character to find out. I'm looking forward to sharing my findings with more beautiful strangers.
There is a light that never goes out and it's called hope will be at the next Progressive Playwright in a Limited Edition Extended Version on 14 April at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. MORE INFO & BOOKING
(James Anthony Pearson in Cock at Tron Theatre, Feb 2016. Photo by John Johnston.)
It’s always a good sign if you can listen to a play multiple times a day for multiple weeks and still feel like your heart is being ripped out everytime.
I’m been working as an Assistant Director on Cock at The Tron. Mike Bartlett’s play about relationships and (lack of) sexual orientation has been a favourite since I listened to Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott going at it on Radio 3 whilst I did my ironing in 2011. Well. It had been high on my radar since its Royal Court premiere in 2009 due to its content and how funny its title sounded in a sentence on Twitter.
(I’m still pissed off that it took my living in the South East for three years before I started going to the Royal Court regularly.)
But it was listening to Cock that really shocked me. The radio drama had so much air around it. And where were the clinking glasses sound effects in the dinner party scenes? Surely the playtext would prove to be chockablock full of stage directions and faff?
Get a copy of Cock and look at it on the page.
It is beautiful.
The play is full of half thoughts and half thought through thoughts and sentences that never seem to
It’s a tricky play to read because the text so closely mirrors the patterns of IRL speech with all its hesitancies and meandering anecdotes. The text invites you to put this most naturalistic of speech on a bare stage with no props and suddenly it becomes exposed, alive, raw.
Watching actors navigate this thinnest of blueprints was remarkable. But no wait sorry but I’m sorry it isn’t thin. The gaps on the page and in dialogue are huge and massive and tell the story of what’s happening in the play.
Working on Cock showed me the elegance of a light touch. Of letting a play really speak for itself and letting brilliant actors get on with being brilliant.