So, somewhat soggy and laden with food stuff, your intrepid live blogger has arrived at Theatre41 just in time to watch the first rehearsal. If you’re wondering what Cold Writing is, let’s get you up to speed. On Monday we invited five writers into our shop to take part in a workshop, we gave them tea and made them do exercises and then sent them away to write a play in less than 48 hours. And now we’re rehearsing and staging them in under 12 hours. Because we like giving ourselves panic attacks.
12.50pm: Starting as we mean to go on there is talk of zombies. And what noises they might make. Because play one – a true first for WBN – has zombies.
12.52pm: “Let’s just try that again in relation to eating Steve”. A shopper is peering through the window seeming slightly scared. I don’t blame her.
12.55pm: There is some talk as to whether I’ve brought sausages in my picnic basket. For the entrails. I can offer up cheese and scones and orange juice but have failed entirely with the entrails. What can I say – I’m not used to ZOMBIES.
13.00pm: First complet RUN-THROUGH begins! Turns out these zombies are funny.
13.06pm: A performer who’s auditioning for a role in A Night At The Dogs turns up mid-scene. I break three bones in my foot attempting to get to her without disrupting the run.
13.10pm: Notes. “It’s hard to eat people script-in-hand”. Quite.
13.15pm: Second RUN-THROUGH.
13.25pm: We’re all happy – including the market owner who has popped in and announced that she likes ZOMBIES. It is a clearly a winner.
[This is where we have lunch. There is much joy over cartons of orange juice and how they remind us of childhood packed lunches and I don’t catch up with liveblogging because I have a conversation with Anja, who runs the coffee shop just down from Theatre41, about places people have been stuck.]
13.45pm: We start staging the the second play. This involves moving a bench. Or rather – the bench of Emily and I carrying it from Brixton to Streatham fame. I bloody love this bench because I can be righteous about it and I do love theatrical righteousness.
13.48pm: We’re still moving the bench.
13.52pm: The bench has been moved back to within 10cm of where it started. We conclude this job has been done well.
13.55pm: We start rehearsing. This play is more about storytelling than about ZOMBIES. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean that the actors are getting out of doing silly moves in full view of everyone using the market. We like making them do that.
14.00pm: Having been eaten by ZOMBIES Steve is now getting to enact his best knarled-witch impression. It’s convincing.
14.05pm: On a serious note it’s always interesting how different writers take the same theme and space and twist it. This one’s more poetical and enthused with fairytales, whereas ZOMBIES was resolutely about now and laugh out loud funny.
14.10pm: There’s a monster in the play and, helpfully, there’s a giant paper-dinosaur in the window of the shop opposite us. Cue shrieks and free advertising.
14.12pm – 14.21pm: I go out of the shop to talk about THEATRE SCHEDULING.You can tell from the capitalisation that it’s one of the recurring features of my life at the moment.
14.22pm: I return to discover one of the actors has developed an incredibly strong Geordie accent in my absence. Right.
14.27pm: Talk about pace.
14.30pm: An owl hoot is needed. Joe has a go. It is decided that Joe’s Owl is asthmatic.
14.33pm: Joe makes up for this with his wolf noise and we agree that owl noises are over-rated.
14.35pm: Possibly we are getting over-excited. Director Charlie has to step in re: ALL THE GIGGLING.
14.39pm: I realise, for no good reason, the last few entries of this blog have gone back in time. Hmm.
14.43pm: A young boy with a scooter is watching through the window. We’re debating health and safety of treehouse building now, so at least he will learn something.
14.47pm: And suddenly, after the storytelling and wolf noises and giggling, the tone of the piece changes entirely and there’s a lovely stillness in the room.
14.54pm: Stop run-through due to Charlie causing giggles.
15.07pm: Notes. We run some of the transitions again but everyone is happy.
15.10pm: We’ve misplaced the toilet key. This might be an issue.
15.13pm: Still no toilet key.
15.15pm: Stand down, toilet key located.
15.23pm: Trauma averted it’s time to start with play number three. This is a two actor piece so Joe gets to sit next to Charlie and “help” direct.
15.25pm: After ZOMBIES and fairytales we now have David Beckham (he’s local y’know).
15.28pm: Oof, one of those moments when you think a play is about one thing and then the writer flips it and actually it’s about something else entirely.
15.32pm: There’s a naturalness about everything with this one and it’s quite lovely to watch the actors.
15.33pm: I vow to stop being soppy.
15.35pm: We decide, since we’re in the grove, to continue onwards to piece four.
15.36pm: In the great prop-list of the day (a mirror, a vinyl record, a newspaper, a carrier bag) it turns out this is the piece that has three lighters in it. I don’t like to point out that last summer I spent an entire day having to complete risk assessments for one piece of touch paper in a fully protected theatre. Naked flames inside a shop-theatre which has tags and photographs hanging from the ceiling and audience in close proximity? HA HA HA.
15.38pm: The lighters are given to me and I hide them for ever more.
15.40pm: Steve gets over-enthusiastic and trys to stand on the bench. He almost falls through the window. RISK ASSESSMENT.
15.41pm: It is decreed no one is to stand on the bench ever again.
15.44pm: And now we’ve got some political theatre. This makes me happy.
15.48pm: Break for a talk about what the third person on stage does when they are neither storyteller nor main character. Suggestions are made but no conclusion quite reached.
15.50pm: EmilyWBN pops her head in to ask if she can run some tests for A Night At The Dogs outside the shop. This may possibly involve running around the outside of the shop.
16.00pm: Stage direction for a smoke machine. I’ve risk assessed one of those too. HA HA HA.
16.05pm: Sort of sad that no one is running round the shop yet.
16:07pm: Lovely change in pace in the piece.
16.08pm: There are now too 8 year old boys running around the shop. Their mother is, it is fair to say, not pleased.
16.10pm: Somewhat chastised a couple of theatre-makers run around the shop trying not to encounter the wrath of anyone’s passing mother.
16.14pm: More talk of FIRE. I see where the lighters come in. I check they’re still hidden.
16.30pm: This piece probably has the most complicated staging of the four. “I’ll try and be okay with the physical contact…”