Courting Drama – Bush Attic, 23rd March 2013

Yesterday morning I woke up my housemate by playing fifteen different types of old sounding telephone rings.

For you see, after a few intense weeks, the slimmed down version of Ayodhya was to go on stage as part of Theatre Renegade’s Courting Drama night in the attic of the Bush. We’d not seen the space before, it was probably going to throw up a few issues, so I wanted to get all our tech perfect before hand, hence the plethora of phone noises.

As sure as I was that this scene was solid, you’ll never know if it’s working like it’s supposed to unless you throw it up in front of an audience. I can give excuses about how I had to fillet the scene, and it’s just not the same without the intended set and such and such, but really last night was an opportunity to see if the basic drama of the piece worked out. The shaky dress run, in which the lights inexplicably went out for a few seconds, felt a little ominous. The energy of the rehearsals was gone, and the director had a long chat with the actors before the audience were let in. This one was looking like it could go either way.

On a scratch night, I always look for the least impressed person in the audience and gauge their reaction. In one of the earlier pieces, I saw a bored-looking old man, reading the back of his ticket. Bingo. I had my barometer. He didn’t shift much, except for when the play before mine came on, and he was drawn in by that. It was a witty, energetic number and definitely the stand out of the night. So at least I knew he wasn’t just going to the theatre as a masochistic experience.

Then came the moment, Team Ayodhya, up last. I couldn’t really see much of the action from my seat right at the back of the space, so most of my focus was fixed on the old man. Now, my scene is nowhere near as dynamic as the one before it so I wasn’t expecting him to be out of his seat, clapping and enraptured, but there are signals you pick up when someone’s interested. And…five minutes into the scene…he leaned forward. That doesn’t sound momentous, but that’s when I knew it was all going to be alright and it was. The actors (mostly!) nailed it, the smashed records didn’t land in the audience, while the jokes did. Some parts I didn’t expect to be that funny tickled the audience – never sure if I should be worried by that, but rather have it that way around. Certainly there are weaknesses in the writing, not helped by the repetitive nature of the argument the characters are having. One is very stubborn and is used to having the power in the relationship, and so more inclined to use brute force (figuratively) rather than switching his tactics to accommodate his subordinate’s attempt to wiggle free. Come May I will revisit it, but for now I will put Ayodhya to bed knowing that at least one scene is in a watchable state.

I feel pretty terrible at the moment, lots going on in my personal life, so I am both relieved that it was done with, whilst also being happy the work everyone put into it paid off. To collaborate closely with a director on my wavelength was an absolute dream, and I can only hope that my experiences with HighTide and the Brockley Jack turn out similarly.

Moving on, today I aim to do a large chunk of my rewrite of Twenty Million Shirts, dripping in the slight mystery elements, without trying to push it too far, and strengthening Anna (Jordi’s ex, turned producer) as a character by clarifying her motivations.

This week I also wrote a very silly short film called The Very Short Ballad of Katherine and Katy Kilworth – an empty nester running for local council discovers that she shares a name with a self-employed businesswoman with a sex-toy start-up and attempts to get her to change her name. Yes. It’s very silly. But a refreshing tonic to Serious Ethnic Drama TM.

Next week – well, after Tuesday when I’ve submitted by script to the BBC Writersroom – things should calm down a little bit. I’ve slacked off my running a lot, primarily out of schedule pile up, but I can’t ignore it anymore unless I want my feet to fall off during the marathon. I also need to rediscover my empathy, and treat the people around me better when I’m in stressful situations. Socks up, Patel.

Courting Drama
Left to right: Eben (playing Ravi), Hari (playing Jayanthi), Georgia (Director) and Chumpy McGee.

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