Steve Blackham, a director I had the chance to work with earlier this year when the SSA did The Venetian Twins, sent me an email the other week telling me of a new play, written by a local writer. He asked if I would be interested in doing a read-through, and naturally I said yes. He would be playing a sort of directorial role in the exploration of the part, and once Steve has directed you one time, you’d jump at a second chance. He has a knack of bringing out the best in each actor, giving them the room and freedom to explore their character on their own terms and play with the characterisation, encouraging them to delve within and see what they bring back up to the surface. Often, the results can be both surprising and extremely useful. He watches and listens intently, and can pick up on the tiniest of things that you never even knew you did, and then help you to incorporate them into the part. If it works, you keep it, if not, you let go of it and explore some more. Experimentation and fluidity is encouraged throughout the rehearsal process, a directing style that I find to be the most conducive to getting the best creative results.
Anyway, enough of that – Steve’s a rather modest chap and would be horrified if he read all of this adoration babble. The script for the new play arrived in my inbox and I eagerly started reading. I devoured it in one sitting and sat back, breathless and moved and in awe. One word could sum it up: beautiful. I read a lot of plays and to be honest I read a lot of crap (though it’s a little unfair to make a proper judgment on a play until you’ve seen it performed), but this was just so bloody good it was a pleasure to read. I mouthed a silent ‘thank you!’ to the empty room.
We had the first group read-through of the play last week, sans the writer so that we had a chance to work through any questions the play arose ourselves, as actors, rather than simply referring back to her straight away. One should do a little thinking for themselves! It was wonderful to see two other members of the SSA family – Patrick (Pat) and Sue – on board, who are always a pleasure to work with, not to mention great fun. With a few glasses of Hardy’s at hand, we read through the play twice, getting it on its feet the second time, which naturally makes it more alive. Just from that session we uncovered so many new elements that we hadn’t noticed when just reading it through privately, and the energy in some of the scenes is already beginning to build.
Steve ended the session with talks of a performance in the near future, which got the excitement buzzing through me – the thought of being able to bring this script fully to life is a thrilling prospect. We left the read-through with thoughts of our characters, the new discoveries and the next step in the journey. Excitement all round!