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Albion Unbound

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the reading [Aug. 14th, 2010|02:35 am]
Albion Unbound


Many stressful factors in the run-up. Firstly, the aforementioned personal crisis, which in addition to frying my brain also threatened at one point to result in not being able to take time off from work. (Which also meant that the planned rewrite was left until the last five days before we were due to begin; sleep became a very rare commodity!) Then there was the ongoing silence from the director, Tom, who hadn't replied to a single email I'd sent about the reading since originally agreeing to it, and indeed seemed to think that we were working on a different play (Matilda) - but I have to say a situation I contributed to by not actually being brave enough to raise the subject in person during the many times I saw him at work over the intervening months. If it hadn't been for Cath, the theatre tech, acting as go-between, it would have all gone tits-up. The confusion about the play meant last-minute panic about extra actors, casting, and worries about over-ambitious demands for staging. Then it was decided that due to everyone's commitments, we could only work on it for four days, not five; that it wouldn't be a staged reading as Mick had requested (a major concern, if it didn't meet the formal requirements of the PhD, but I wasn't in a position to argue); and rehearsals were limited to a few hours each day. Plus there was considerable unease on my part when we did start work on it with the actors - particularly the first act, the overblown, pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue sounded dreadful on first reading, made me think that it was cheesy rubbish and that I'd set myself up for a public fall, embarrassment, and potentially torpedoed the whole project...

I quickly decided that there wasn't much I could do about the first act, especially as a straight reading removed the physicality of the violence between Albion and Stinkwit, so my attention turned to the second act, which hadn't come out well with the time pressures on the re-write - indeed, for the first couple of days it didn't really have a proper ending, just petered out (either no-one else noticed or were too polite to say so). I don't think I was very popular introducing changes on the Thursday morning, but it had to be done, and I was a lot happier with the ending, and the pressure of time actually helped me solve (or simply avoid) some of the fundamental problems that had bothered me throughout the development of the play, namely the nature of John's madness. The reading also made it blatantly clear that Miranda's character was under-written, serving a narrative purpose more than anything (further emphasized by Leah's obvious talents as an actor; I felt I'd let her down) - and there were still problems in the major (only) scene between her & John in the 2nd act, which I failed to fix satisfactorily despite the re-writes.

So it was with some trepidation that we came to the performance. I had invited a select audience, friends and family making up the Supporter's Club, Val Hill, and of course Mick (whose late arrival at the station caused the only moments of real, visceral panic!), plus some friends of the actors came too, which I hadn't expected. Bex from work had agreed to document the performance, another formal requirement, with assistance from Jeanette. I actually missed the very start of the performance due to the last minute arrival of a couple of friends, but by that point it was too late to worry about it much anyway BUT

all the theatrical cliches about being all right on the night were proved correct - the actors really came to life and the performance went really well. The audience seemed to enjoy it - there was laughter in the right places, something that honestly surprised me, having long forgotten that elements of it were actually supposed to be funny. Performance lasted about 50 minutes, no post-show discussion as Tom and the actors vanished for emergency fags, and then those that could or would decamped to the Whitefriars, where I did my level best to ply everyone with alcohol.

Overall, a definite success and all the various stresses were forgotten. I still have reservations about the play, but I was left in no doubt that I'd fulfilled the criteria of the practical element of the project and given myself a good basis to proceed from with the thesis - so I have to again offer my sincere thanks to everyone involved, especially all the actors and Tom who did a brilliant job.