Friday, September 10, 2004

Matthew Friday's diary (2)

On 5 October Martthew Friday's first play, Che Guevara's Motorbike or How I Found My Father, which he is also directing will open at The Rosemary Branch in London. You can read the background on the Writers' Guild website and follow his trials and tribulations here each week.

Week 2

I'm tired out. Exhausted. Knackered. And we've only done one rehearsal.

It's the early starts. Every day for a month at 7am. That's because I have to get up that early for my part-time job as well as rehearsals.

The first part of the rehearsal was dedicated to line cuts and editing of the play. Everyone was very patient with me, and it at least meant that we were all agreed about the script. Of course, there will be many minor changes ahead. I must have made twenty further small alterations when the play was rehearsed and that will happen right up to and usually into the first week of performance.

It's not until your hear your words said out aloud that you begin to understand if they work or not. Some pieces of dialogue become less or more functional depending on the way they are acted, and, of course, the response of the audience can change it all.

For now we rehearsed the first half of the play. This involved setting out the room like a stage, establishing the exits and entrances, and performing the play within that space. Being in a classroom, there are limitations to this. The stage is an artificial environment at the best of times, but a crude reproduction of an artifice can never be as effective as you plan.

Because the actors are still reading from their scripts, you can't properly direct the physical use of space. This early part of the process is more about getting a feel for the characters, establishing the tone and pace of the play, and laying down the foundations for the characters' actions and interactions.

Promotion is the hard part. The part that can make or break a play. Of course, packing out the theatre one night and putting on a bad show won't keep the audience for long, but if no one knows about a play no one will come to see it.

I made a grand total of £3 when we did the preview run. Not bad, considering I personally paid for the theatre-hire and we were sorely let down by promises of promotions from our sponsors at the time. I did get an article in the local press, but it got the dates and actors names wrong. If you take away friends and family, I think we got eight complete strangers of the proverbial street. So, a profit of £3 is pretty good.

This time must be different. The financial commitment is greater, but this is balanced with the Rosemary Branch being a recognised and respected member of the Fringe theatre community.

Obviously, I want the show to get the best promotion, reviews, and word of mouth possible. I also want my writing and directing to get some recognition.

That is for the future. Right now, I have to get on with working through my list of important theatre critics, national publications, local papers, listing organisations, etc, etc.

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