The highlight of last weekend’s page-to-stage workshop at The Berry & The Point was the staged performance in front of a paying audience on Tuesday night. The team putting together the production had just two days rehearsal and in that time they had to find props, costumes, sound recordings and in my case, even a recreated archive recording. As well as that, the two actors playing the part even did the accents and bearing in mind that they were playing characters from the 1940s, they even managed to get it about right for the time period. David Pearce’s West Yorkshire accent and Anna Carr’s South Australian performing voices sent chills down my spine for one particular moment as I imagined myself back in the world of the characters.
Each writer had selected one or two scenes to be performed and while the majority of the writers had quite sensibly chosen the first couple of scenes, I had opted for the final scene. Brave or foolhardy, I’m not sure which, in hindsight, probably the latter but given that a play is only ever a blueprint, like a screenplay and doesn’t come to life until it’s staged, I figured that this might be my only shot at this and I really wanted to see if there was enough here yet to engage an audience.
The three questions I posed to the audience were:
What stood out for you?
Is there anything here that engages you, so that you might want to find out how Vivian and Kingsley got to this point in the story?
How relevant is this dramatic story, set 70 years ago, to a modern audience?
It is the third question that is the most crucial at this point because period drama is a hard sell and it’s crucial to bring something new to a story in order to make it work today. Our tutor on the course, Simon Eden said I still had some way to go on this aspect, which is a fair comment. The audience, though, were terrifically supportive and if I do take this project further I shall have their comments sitting on my desktop, reminding me that for one night at least, it was thanks to their support that one part of this story came to life on stage.
1. What stood out for you?
- The arrival or the jeep and getting on the jeep and potentially final journey together.
- The sound really took you there.
- The relationship between the two
- The fear / uncertainceny
- Fear, pain and how friendship can be formed in dreadful circumstances
- The underlying tension and their friendship
- The touching script and inspiring relationship between Patrick & Vivian
- The extreme situation the characters found themselves in. 2 different accents – why were they together…?
- The relationship between the two characters was really lovely.
- Very sad story. Their journey thus far had obviously connected them
- A charming relationship developing into a romance
- Vivian’s devotion and obvious niceness
- Their resolve and fortitude in dire circumstances; their mutual support and caring
- The story of their arrival
- Support for each other
- Curry – a short[?] symbol of a missed opportunity.
- The bravery / friendship of the characters in a hopeless situation
- Turn / development and arrival of the patrol- became quite dark
- Kingsley assuming he’d die – telling V. to speak to Elsie but then backtracking and implying he’d like to speak to Elsie
- 2. Is there anything here that engages you, so that you might want to find out how Vivian and Kingsley got to this point in the story?
- Some back story – which we have in the synopsis. Flash backs on stage?
- Oh yes! They are quite different character & class
- The situation that they were in made me interested
- How they bond in horrific situation
- Yes, I’d like to see what had happened and what happens next
- Yes. I would like to know how they come to be here
- I would like to see the back stories of both characters
- I would have liked to have seen more dialogue in the car and more context to allow me to understand who they are and what’s happened to them
- Kingsley’s war wound and Vivian’s story makes us want to find out how they got there
- I’m more interested now in where they end up
- Yes, I (the audience) care a lot about each character. I would like to know more about the future than the past. Where do they go from here?
- Their relationship
- The “budding” relationship
- The dialogue hints at interest in events earlier
- The light /house – perhaps to obvious – a symbol though?
- I would like to find out more. Several things engaged me.
- Yes – I would like to see the development of their relationship from past meeting
- Didn’t K & V explain how they got here? Or did I misunderstand?
- 3. How relevant is this dramatic story, set 70 years ago, to a modern audience?
- It’s a timeless story about strength of character. Surviving together. Human endevour
- Very. These things / stories are still happening
- It was good to show what situations were like in places during war time
- We are all still at the whim of others – for mercy / life
- These feelings and emotions will always be relevant it’s just the circumstances that vary
- Still relevant and engaging
- I think that people can connect to the relationship between the two characters and the struggles that they face
- People will always have something to fight for, challenges to face – and we’ll always need someone else to lean on.
- I think very, especially considering that although a very different one, we are in a war at the moment
- Loss and friendship is always relevant, the story was more human – the historical background is a good stage for that but history is not interesting
- It’s the themes that are relevant, so the setting doesn’t alienate a modern audience. A story of how / why people connect is timeless. The setting works as it intensifies the stakes.
- Relevant – particularly to anyone who has at least some knowledge of history.
- This story is timeless. We can learn from peoples’ way of coping in such a situation
- Very relevant – relationships, history..
- I think the core, survival, is always relevant
- NHS came out of this kind of experience
- Very relevant – relationships are always relevant
- It’s still about human relationships and fears – so still relevant
I’m not sure – maybe too short a clip to decide relevance
Finally a big thank you to all my fellow writers – Tom Pinnock, Caitlin Sanderson, Anna Haines, Steven Allen, Jonathan Edgington and Matt Beames. And of course to Director Daniel Hill, Writers’ Workshop Leader Simon David Eden, Page to Stage Assistants, Sean Tyler and Rob Iliffe. And of course to the Theatre Technicians – Ashton Patridge and Marie Castleman. But the biggest thank you of all must go to Anna Carr as Vivian and David Pearce as Kingsley who have a fine acting future ahead of them.