It was one of those quirks of timing that on the day that my (and indeed Charlie’s) results for our Masters degrees were released we found ourselves putting Reasons For Listing through its paces for the first time.
I’ll be honest – I love and hate first readings in probably equal measures. Maybe it’s just me as a writer but the desire to crawl under the table at some point is fairly overwhelming. Because – however witty or poignant or clever you think your words to be when you sit in front of your computer screen chuckling to yourself there’s nothing like putting them in the mouth of an actor to make you reach for the delete key. Or the rubbish bin, depending on which is nearer (the latter also being handy for the overwhelming desire to vomit). Conversely, when you’re not jabbing things into your eyes, there are also those moments which just work. And when you hear those for the first time – and everyone in the room stops and has the same feeling too – there’s a tiny (okay, a huge) amount of joy in that.
Aside from the time a few years ago when I got together a group of friends in the backroom of a pub, made sure everyone had alcohol in their glasses and got them to read the first draft of a play I was writing, the first reading of Reasons has probably been my most pain-free of first readings. It’s a pleasure really to sit around a table and know pretty much instantly that everyone is on the same page (literally and metaphorically). Putting a script at what is a relatively early stage in its development (in my strange numbering system the script for today’s rehearsal was labelled 0.75) is a new experience for me. But I felt very much when Charlie and I decided to start Write By Numbers it was because we (and other writers we knew) wanted to work in a different way. It feels entirely natural and liberating to open the script up at this point, a collaboration between all of the people sitting round the table.
And, wonderfully, it pretty quickly became apparent that we’ve got a bloody brilliant actor at the centre of it playing Joseph. Which always helps.
Now, after a day of imagining all the places Reasons could go, tomorrow it’s back to the computer and, word by word, getting down to finishing Draft 1.0.