The Turning Point
It’s safe to say I wasn’t in the greatest frame of minds for this, perhaps the most important of our sessions so far. You see, I’d had a show with Quirksome Theatre the night before, over in Leicester – a show that I’d been working on for quite some time and had me fairly preoccupied. So I wasn’t all that prepared – I didn’t make it home to Nottingham after the show, and ended up being driven to New Perspectives early in the morning by one of the actors (Quirksome had ‘lent’ some fabulous female actors to STEP UP for the day) without a clean shirt, shower or anywhere near enough coffee inside me. Still, I was determined to make the most of the day. Because today was the first official reading of the winning scripts from the DREAM UP Writing competition, and my own script, Mel’s Leaving Do, was amongst them.
I’d had the phone call from Tilly a few months before to say I was a runner-up, and I think I just about managed to disguise the true level of my excitement over the phone (I’m quite good at that). For someone who considers himself to be, first and foremost, a writer, yet has never had any real recognition in this capacity, it felt like a real coup. Also, out of the three scripts I entered for the competition, Mel’s Leaving Do was probably my personal favourite. Being involved as both an actor and a writer has made me even more excited about this project, and I was very eager to hear my little piece read aloud by some actors who I’ve got to know pretty well over the last few months. I’d also read the scripts by the other winning writers with great fascination – I was really interested to hear how they sounded, and what the writers made of it all.
It is fair to say that when I arrived at the New Perspectives office, the atmosphere was one of vaguely controlled chaos. The ‘production team’ for the day (Charlotte, Emma P and Elanor, who did a spectacular job of holding things together) were scurrying around printing scripts, while actors gradually trickled in – Sylvia, one of the actors who I was supposed to be bringing, had got lost in the snow and I had to try and guide her to the office over the phone (naturally, I was no use whatsoever). There were a lot of new faces in the building – actors and directors who had been drafted in to help out, and despite the initial frenzy, it was clear that everyone had a shared goal – to rehearse and perform seven great scripts in the space of a day. It was one of those beautiful moments you sometimes get in theatre when you realize that something is happening which can’t possibly be stopped.
Before long we all made it to our respective locations, and started rehearsing the plays we’d been given. I was part of a small group along with Theresa, Debs and Kath (from The Gramophones, who had kindly given up her time to assist with the day’s festivities), reading Until Then, a play by Rick Briggs. I was reading the part of Liam – a far more dramatic role than I’m used to in a fairly intense, serious play. I have to say I really enjoyed working with a piece of new writing, as I always do. It feels like a privilege to be the first person to explore a character, especially when the writing is this polished and subtle. Afterwards I read the part of The Assistant in Michael Pepper’s The Audition – this was a much smaller part, with only a few lines at the end – but it was great fun to be so delightfully impassive, and watching Ellen and Debs get to grips with the horror of ‘Cyril’.
So, that was the morning. After a delicious buffet lunch (the caterers somehow managed to forge a path through the blizzard), the rest of the writers started to trickle in* and introduced themselves to an increasingly nervous ensemble who were about to perform their beloved scripts. Before long we got started.
The afternoon session was a long one (we had seven plays to get through!), but it seemed to be over in a flash. I put this down to the quality of the scripts and the following feedback sessions, which were extremely easy-going and helpful for everyone concerned. Everybody in the room (and it had grown to a mighty throng over the course of the day) had some useful insights surrounding the plays they had just seen (and, in some cases, spent the whole day working on), particularly Jack, New Perspectives’ Artistic Director, who had formed part of the judging panel for DREAM UP. I suspect the writers were every bit as nervous as the actors when it came to having their play performed (I know I was a bag of nerves when Emma H, Chris, Jen and Sam stepped up** to read Mel’s Leaving Do), but all the readings were so well executed that I doubt anyone came away disappointed – I certainly came away with lots of helpful feedback and plenty to think about. In fact, the whole day was so flawlessly executed that things are looking very promising for our final show in July. I can hardly wait to get started.
Dickie Garton, performer and writer, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013
*Although two of them were sadly unable to make it.
**Pun sort of intended.