Last week I attended a rehearsal for my play, See them rats.
It was getting dark when I arrived at the village hall where rehearsals were being held. The cast and Kath, the artistic director, were already there, getting themselves organised, pulling on their characters, putting out scenery. A table and a chair at one end, two chairs together at the other. Their cherry red covering seemed incongruous.
Muriel Romanes, artistic director of Stellar Quines, said at the question and answer session after the performance of The List at Heart of Hawick, that she had always wanted to do a performance with just a table and a chair. The List had a table and a chair…and a set designed by John Byrne.
So we in Odd Productions had our table and chair. All that was needed, really. Imagination, prompted by the words, supplied the rest. But I forgot the basin. A blue plastic wastepaper bin acted as basin. The List didn’t have a basin.
Tom had brought a woolly hat. He pulled it on and became his character. David looked serious as he unlaced his boots. Elsie introduced me to Andy who was one of the two who had come along to offer their talents as Gearchanger. The original cast member found time was not on his side. Work interferes with creativity.
Boyd decided to opt for prompting and stage management rather than acting, so things were all set. A bit of banter, some chat about the great photos taken at the previous rehearsal and Kath’s posting of some of them on the Odd Productions Facebook page. Notebook in hand, Kath takes her director’s chair. Well, just one the same as the others, but perhaps we should hang an ‘Odd Productions Director’ sign on it.
All props, table, chair and basin were in use as the action started. I watched, fascinated, as words I had written were taken up by others and with expressions and actions made their own, their character’s.
I laughed. Was I supposed to laugh? Something slightly peculiar perhaps laughing at my own words. But then I wasn’t really laughing at my words, I was laughing at how the talented four were interpreting them, portraying them. I laughed more at some of the actions, even when there weren’t any words. I am almost certain I shouldn’t admit to this, but I was enjoying myself.
Bang. I jumped in my seat. Boyd did great sound effects as well as being an ace prompter. More laughs, well perhaps giggles this time, as we swung towards the ending. A change of pace as Elsie got ready for the new ending I’d written on Kath’s advice. Did I actually write those words, I wondered? Bang. It was over. The ending works well. Elsie likes it and gives it everything she’s got. I almost, but didn’t, cheer.
Kath congratulates them all. Confirms the next rehearsal. And suddenly the hall empties, car engines purr, headlights sweep across the open doorway as I leave to walk towards my car in a smirr of rain.