Thursday, March 03, 2005

Monopoly, Twenty One, Checkers, and Chess.

Monopoly, Twenty One, Checkers, and Chess.

None of the other performances of SSoB had anything to rival Jay's early exit for sheer panic value. Half an hour before the Thursday show, however, the projector decided that it wanted to break. Obviously at this point there was very little we could do with the doors to the theatre about to open and a very heavy projector which really wasn't having anything to do with the slides which it was supposed to be showing. After some incredibly quick thinking from Adam [Production Manager extraordinare] a table top projector emerged and we ended up projecting on to the set. Which looked rather deliberate and arty, if not quite so much when the projection caught one of the white seats and one of the actor's heads appeared gigantic on it. I'd always marked Thursday night's show, however, as the one which I could unreservedly enjoy and, projections and all, I had a rather amusing time in my usual seat. After the show I went to see Graceland one of the other shows in the festival which had the late slot at the Burton Taylor Theatre. Given that it was 30 minutes long and about Welsh factory workers it was probably as far from SSoB and its over-articulate educated artistic types as it's possible to be. It was absolutely hilarious but I felt rather unsatisfied with the overall product, as if it could have gone somewhere and ultimately didn't. I guess it simply didn't make me care enough.

Friday night marked the day when my family came to see SSoB. As I've said to people since it was rather worse than having the critics in. As it was they loved it, and I possibly got the compliment of the century so far from my 13 year old brother: "I thought it was going to be boring but I enjoyed it". Equally pertinent was the view of my youngest brother: "They drink a lot!". Friday night's performance definitely built on the work of the week so far and, to my utter surprise the projector held up and we had our duck projection in the right place.

Saturday marked my most manic day of the week. Gayle arrived in Oxford after something of a manic journey - which almost included a journey to the other place - and we both greeted Nik with a pom pom dance near the Ashmoleon. The plan had been to do the pom pom dance at the station but we - ok, I - got a little distracted with a large blue package which had arrived for me at the lodge. After collecting it I discovered that it was rather heavy and that carrying it to the station wasn't probably a good idea. So we had to take it back to my room. And given we were there it seemed that I might as well open it. Obviously this is a lot easier said than done and it was only ten minutes later, my having enlisted the key to my bikelock and all the brute strength that we could muster, that we finally managed to open the polystyrene to discover a bottle of pink champange. Of course the force exerted on opening the packaging, unbeknown to us, had caused the card attached to go flying and I consequently spent the next hour or so wondering who had sent it. It was only when I was at the matinee that Gayle discovered that it had been sent by Alix and the mystery was unravelled.

I'd always had the matinee down as the venue for utter-nervousness. Matinees never tend to be massively high energy and this one was bound to be compounded by it being the one which the festival judges were attending. Given that the projector was working and the judges hadn't arrived, I'd settled into my usual seat, singing along to REM and surveying the audience. As I saw the back of two men sitting down at the stage left of the theatre I did a double take. And then did a triple take. And then, without a doubt, realised that I'd just clocked Patrick Marber's back. And then I squealed. And then squealed to my Rachel [my Producer], who confessed that she'd had an email to say that Paddy was coming but hadn't been overwhelmed by the information as she didn't know who he was. Cue my filling in the edited highlights. And her still remaining underwhelmed. After I'd discovered that Paddy was in the audience the fact that the judges had turned up didn't bother me in the slightest. Instead I was more preoccupied with whether Paddy looked as if he was enjoying it or not. He spent rather a lot of time bent forward, head balanced on hands, which either meant he'd been drawn into the play or that he had to keep his head propped up to stop him falling asleep. You win some, you lose some.

I'd rather intended to beat a path to Paddy's door after the play, especially as he was with my personal tutor's husband but the judges clearly had other ideas. Thus I ended up in the pub across the road, sitting under a tv which was screening the Wales v France rugby match [and which meant that we had a random Welsh man behind us yelling at regular intervals], attempting to say meaningful things about SSoB. One of the judges asked some sensible interesting questions about the politics of the play, one of the other judges asked odd questions, such as why Harry went specifically to Greece. Again you win some, you lose some.

After a ridiculously quick change Gayle, Nik and I met up with Cat, Julie, Shona and Val to go for a meal at ASK. Having already pre-emtped that I wouldn't actually eat anything I ended up eating the entirety of my ceasar salad [and I never finish meals normally] and eating, more predictably, tiramisu. I also got some very nice presents [really I should write plays more often, I've had cards, free alcohol, champagne, flowers, a necklace, mini baileys, a soft-toy fox and a really cool coaster. I like this free stuff for minimal effort. I should probably add to this that Nik and Gayle gave me a bit of the paper table cloth at ASK. I think I was a tad underwhelmed]. Meal over I trooped to the theatre to discover that I wouldn't, as feared, be in charge of the projections that night. Instead I relaxed to REM and discussed a more prentious bit of the play with Adam before meeting Sam and Mark and Claire and Tom in the foyer [I know there are more ands in there than there should be but they're both part of so-and-so so the ands have to remain]. I then bumped into the ASK contingent who'd been amusing themselves with the discovery of a twobicle in the connecting bar. Yes, it was a cubicle with two toilets. They also managed to discover a stage in the bar and hence the suggestion that Griffin should appear there. It would certainly give a new dimension to his assertion that he was going to do a toilet tour.

And then SSoB's final performance [for now] occurred. And for once I unequivocally enjoyed it. I wasn't waiting for lines I'd change, or for missed cues, or for anything squiffy. I just enjoyed hearing my words in a theatre, in seeing what the characters had become over the past few weeks. And it was a wonderful experience. People have repeatedly asked me if I'd change things in the production, and I know that James especially thought that the play's direction went against its rythm. In some ways I agree. As he said, it wasn't Pinter and the first act was too awkward and downbeat. Having said that the Director had an over-arching vision which embraced the play's true spirit. The music, the set, the projections, each bit built up and worked on something which is emphatically there. Yes, I'd make the play more political and slightly less bitter, but SSoB on stage went past what I could ever have imagined. And for that I'll always have incredibly fond memories of this entire experience.

After posing for photos on the set, my last glance at the fully constructed SSoB experience was my taking in the set as I took my momento - Jay's whisky bottle. Fittingly it was still half full of apple juice and I had to poor its contents into a bin outside the Odeon cinema on the way to the pub. After a couple of hours in the Goose, with lots of random talk, some of it about SSoB, some of it not, we went to the award announcement ceremony at Oriel. Which was a bit of a bugger to find but which did yield free wine. I was thrilled that Kate won an acting award and even more so that the design of the show, which really I love, was rewarded. I even felt pleased for Graceland when its writer won the Cam Mac award. It was, however, lovely to have Rachel and my cast tell me how good they thought SSoB was afterwards. I think that for all the more bruising aspects of the experience I've had more than enough of those moments to sustain me. And for all those people who, throughout the run, have taken the time to tell me what they liked about it, what moved them and ask about what happens to those pesky characters after the fade to black, I have one thing to say - thank you.

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