I think you have to fully enter into the spirit of things, whatever you do. So when the opportunity arose to put on a short play at Manchester ADP’s Scripts Aloud, I put forward a new piece that had only ever existed in my mind and on paper, never spoken out loud. It’s often said that a play cannot exist without an audience, and that was really brought home here.
I was blessed with a talented director, Esther Dix, who understood exactly what I wanted to say, and two fantastic actors, Paida Mutonono and Gavin Shankland, who took the characters I had written and made them three dimensional. There’s only so much you can write into a ten minute play, but I find it endlessly fascinating how much character they could find. They took my play without any changes and made it come alive. The three hours of rehearsals went much too quickly.
There’s something about watching your own work in the midst of the audience; you can feel what’s working and what’s not working. Slightly scary at the time, but looking back it was a rewarding experience. What was most interesting was the opportunity for audience questions; it gave a real insight into how those watching had seen the play. Because it’s not what you write that matters, it’s how your words are interpreted.
It was clear from audience feedback that what I had seen in my head wasn’t always the same as what the audience were seeing. My play was about male identity using gambling to boost self esteem; many in the audience saw the play as being about gambling addiction. I’m not sure the subtle distinction could have come out in any other forum. It’s given me some strong pointers on how to rewrite what I have, and how to take the play forward.
ADP’s Scripts Aloud night gives the writer a unique chance to see how an early stage work performs in front of a knowledgeable audience. For the writer it’s a chance to clearly understand what works and how to further develop the play. For the audience it’s a chance to engage in the creative process. And it all carries on into the bar afterwards. It’s been a fantastic experience.