The curtain on my first producing project, Routes at Hampstead Theatre, has fallen and for a brief moment I can relax. When I say a brief moment, I mean for one weekend. Casting for the next project begins tomorrow, but for now I can reminisce about the highs and lows of the show. Since beginning the writing process in January I have had an education in writing, filming and how to evade the park police, skills I am sure will come in handy in the future.
But let’s rewind to January and the start of the writing sessions. I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect; I wasn’t a playwright and was a little terrified that I would have to take part in lots of word exercises. I must confess to you now that I am the world’s worst speller, apologies to my editor [Ed’s note – that’s what I’m here for!] and thank goodness for spell check. Luckily my worries were unfounded and there were no spelling tests.
Instead I got to sit in on the writing sessions with playwright James Graham and listen to his advice. I began to realise how helpful knowing about the ins and outs of writing will be. Even if I never write a play myself, as a producer or a director it’s important to know how it all works. So after five writing sessions filled with character analysis, free writing and pie eating, the plays were ready and it was time to bring in actors.
Once the actors had arrived the rehearsals began in earnest. The quiet of the writing process was over to the dismay of some, as the squeals of excited actors took centre stage, but I was eager to see the stories take shape. Rehearsing six plays with only one director and two assistants was a little hectic, and it relied upon the writers and me to have a go at assistant directing; a situation which was a little hit and miss. There were a few hairy moments between writers and actors, particularly when it came to the subject of ‘the words’. Some of the writers had a vision of exactly what the play should look and sound like, and letting this go a little was hard. But learning that actors also need room to be creative is an important lesson for any theatre maker to learn. I also must add that I have learnt the art of programme making and that no matter how many times you have checked it there is always something you’ve missed…
Before we all knew it was opening night, the lights had gone down and the show had begun. Even though I’d seen the show many times it still managed to captivate and surprise me. Tom Hescott’s direction allowed the show to flow smoothly between the individual plays and all the actors remembered their lines, something I am terrified of not doing after fluffing my lines in my year seven assembly.
However pretending a show is perfect is probably the best way to make it a flop so instead I hope to learn from any mistakes made. I guess if I were to do the show again I would maybe change the running order of the plays and, at just over two hours, I felt the producers need to do some cutting or add an interval. But all in all it was a great success and I couldn’t be happier.
So tomorrow it all begins again, but for now we can all bask in the glow of a job well done.
Image courtesy of Hampstead Theatre