15 November 2005


Lawks a mercy, it worked.
Five plays, two showings. Full house for each, and the good people drank the bar dry, served by me and B and Jason and Ellen on a sort of ad hoc rota.
I opened the building at 10, closed it thirteen hours later, and the only mishap was a broken wine-glass at about ten minutes before closing.

Pompeian Mark Dymock worked five one-hour tech rehearsals during the day, with unflagging good will, to shed light on the plays (and he threw in the sound cues for free).
Maria Spitaliotis and her assistant Laura stage managed (count 'em) ten set-ups and ten strikes. Maria also helped me manoeuvre the heaviest kitchen table in London from the stage to the green room and back again.

In the audience: Alison Pettitt, Fiona Victory, Janet Whitaker, Svetlana and sons, Tassos Stevens, Charlotte Gwinner, Sebastian Backiewicz, Julian and Lara and friends, Rebecca Nesvet, Ben Yeoh, Suzy Kemp, John Burgess, UrbanChick, my In-laws, Christopher Oxford, Nina Steiger, Siv Janssen, Kath Serkis, Steve Hollingshead, Rachael McGill, Austin S-J, Kate R-S, and lots of other people, you know who you are.
Nice to remember the faces.

The performers were outstanding, of course. Actually, there's no 'of course' about it, it's not a given. But they were. Clever people like: Ray Lonnen, Helen Jeckells, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Cook, Dominic Burdess, Suzanna Hamilton, Rob Crouch, Genevieve Swallow, Paul Prescott, Tabatha Williams and Lucinda Cowden.

The directors Matt Peover, Lucy Skilbeck, Sally Wainwright, Rob Crouch and Corinne Micallef created distinct atmospheres for their pieces, each with their own take on how to play with the space. And when I had to make a request or an injunction, they listened to me.

The only person involved who couldn't be there, playwright Vanessa Bates, sent a rousing good luck message by email from the other side of the world.

I liked her play best, I think, though comparisons are daft. Possibly because I knew it already, almost as well as my own, so it was just a huge thrill to see it played on the Playhouse stage. PETUNIA TAKES TEA is a nightmarish piece of suburban horror - we meet budding ballerina Petunia (Lucinda Cowden) shortly after she's cut off her own legs below the knee, just to spite her long-suffering, and viciously dominating, Mother (played by Paul Prescott). Pet's friend Lyndel (Tabatha Williams) drops by to see her friend Pet, and casually mentions that Mother's sister Janet has just been the victim of a fatal car accident. Mother then sends Lyndel back to her satanist parents, to eat 'left-over sacrifice' for tea... Vanessa's play manages to be hilariously funny, but each time a laugh rises in your throat it's accompanied by something else - a bilious unease. The combination is unsettling, to say the least. Lucy Skilbeck and the cast did the piece proud, and Petunia's bloody stumps didn't smear the stage, you'll be no doubt glad to hear.

Sally Wainwright committed the cardinal directing sin of changing the ending of my play without asking me. And thank God she did. She did ask me, I'm only kidding. HELL AND HIGH WATER was all the better for it. She gave it the punch at the end that it needed, and the outcome she tweaked is actually the more natural resolution to the story - it's just that bit braver. Dominic Burdess as Judas was extraordinary, Suzanna Hamilton as Helen McCaffrey, yachtswoman, hilarious and touching.
And all brought together beautifully by SW. She's a v gifted storyteller, if you didn't already know (her TAMING OF THE SHREW is on BBC1 next Monday in the 'ShakespeaReTold' season).

In Beverly Andrews' play DARROW, about the famous 1920s US defence lawyer, Ray Lonnen in the title role was mesmerising. V charismatic. It's a piece that could do with some expansion, I felt. It was straining at the miniature leash. But this is one of the benefits of the night - to see your piece in front of an audience, feel how it plays. In its present form we're tempted to feel we'd like to see a dramatisation of Darrow grappling with opponents in court - the play is almost a monologue. My hope is that BA will take her material further, it has great potential, D's a fascinating character.

Glyn Cannon's short was nasty and brutish. THE FLOOD is a two-hander with one speaker, set in New Orleans. Actor (and director) Rob Crouch mouthed the words attributed to him by his spousal murderer, played with shiny determination by Gen Swallow. Glyn's formal device works brilliantly, the dead husband hovering, listening to the story of his own demise with a look of disgust and contempt.

Samantha Ellis's play CAT IN A SIEVE took us off to a dank cell in 16th century Scotland, with the unfortunate Geillie being interrogated by a witch-obsessed James 1st. In a nice irony, James was played by Rory Kinnear, on his night off from playing Mortimer in Mary Stuart (James's mum). Miranda Cook brought lovely qualities to the part of Geillie, and the piece was darkly poetic and strange. A quintessential miniature.

I've got a date pencilled in for the next show. So in three months time I hope to do it all again, with five more plays from five new people. Wonder who they'll be?


Urban Chick said...

i greatly enjoyed the evening (if lucy is reading this: hi and thanks for inviting me!) and it was good to meet you too

garthur said...

am still slightly dreaming of turning into australian mad mother, actually put arthur down halfway into hugging him into doing something, so your favourite play has obviously had a good effect - mine however was yours, which I loved and made me laugh outloud ...

Ova Girl said...

Cheers and applause echo from over Sydney way sbs, you have done a bloody amazing job. Well done!

sbs said...

thanks, people. 'preciate it. and OG - looking forward to a production from you in the near future. wink.

thewebloge said...

Sorry I missed this... Where was it on?

sbs said...

it was at the mighty Southwark Playhouse, M.