It started when I spoke with an old friend who worked for a film PR agency. She looks after major Hollywood stars when they come to London, and sometimes her job, which seems glamorous, turns into a living nightmare. I made notes, changed names, and wrote her indiscreet tattle out as a short story. Some time later, trapped in development hell, I thought I might try to write it as a play. I’d had some advice from a theatre director and an actor, knew a casting agent and had a little knowledge about what to do, so I sat down and wrote it as a one-act comedy.
In films you show, don’t tell. But plays are the opposite, which in a way is easier. Dialogue is not conversation, and many things you hear in actors’ mouths are unlikely to be heard on the street, because ordinary people haven’t had months to prepare what they’re going to say. Reading play scripts is tricky, but hearing someone say them back to you with ALL the WRONG emphasis on words is very peculiar. I wrote a play for Radio One a couple of years ago and it sounded completely different to how I had written it.
My director, Amber, is an old friend, so I’m going to have to trust her. The first thing she explains is that the assembly of a play is upside down to that of a film. Instead of getting the producer first, you get the venue and the cast, then the producer, which seems all wrong to me. Anyway, she read the piece, suggested changes, and we did a read-through, where more problems came to light.
Now I have a sixth draft, and it’s making sense. So we’ve been to see a venue, The Phoenix fringe theatre, underneath the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Rd. It’s a good space, small, atmospheric (ie smelling of beer), with good sightlines. But the stage is shallow, which means I’ll have to cut a climactic scene – unless we can find a way to stage it. The venue is available on the last week in November, which gives us eight clear weeks – very little time when not everyone will be available at the same time (day jobs).
Amber has a list of things to do that runs into many pages. We’ll all have to double and treble our duties. It’s a good start, though. The casting call goes out next week.