My only previous contact with the National Theatre Studio has been two performances there of my play. Savage Britannia. in October I986 Nicholas Wright. the Nationals Literary Manager. saw the piece at the I986 Edinburgh Festival at Jimmy Boyle‘s Mandela Theatre. and through his auspices the play became the first outside show to be seen in the Studio. At the time. John Burgess. Peter Gill‘s associate. said: ‘Ifthere‘sanything else. get in touch.‘


The National Theatre Studio is the Nationals experimental wing. run by Peter Gill. lts work ranges from encouraging young playwrights and directors. to taking on unusual projects: Macbeth with an all black cast. productions of little seen plays like The Yorkshire Tragedy or Torqaam Tasso. commissions of writers such as Sharman Macdonald and Daniel Mornin. workshops with Theatre de (‘omplicite and others. The work is seen as complimentary to the work ofthe main building. Its most public explosion ofwork so far has probably been the New Plays Festival it mounted to reopen the Cottesloe Theatre after insufficient funds hadenforced its closure.


Now is the moment oftruth. I approach John Burgess: I‘d like to do something. either a large scale adaptation of a Jakov Lind novel or something small. personal. private. A two handcr which I want to write. but don‘t yet know ifI want to show. John says the intimate piece sounds interesting. he's not sure if there‘s space to do something. but he‘ll let me know. I suspect he wants time to talk to Peter Gill and Sue Higginson‘. the Studio Manager. to find out what money is available and what Peter‘s own plans are. ldon‘t feel particularly hopeful. A couple of days later he rings to say they‘d like me to start in two weeks. ‘But the play isn‘t written yet‘. I stammer. Perhaps I sounded over-confident when I talked to him. ‘Never mind.‘ he says. ‘call it work in progress.‘ So I‘m faced with the daunting process ofwriting a play and casting it in two weeks. as well as working full-time at the Traverse. where I am Scottish Arts Council Trainee Director. Work begins in earnest: I fire ideas. scenes. moments into the

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A new play opening in Scotland this month. came into being partly thanks to the National Theatre Studio. Playwright and director Jeremy Raison explains and tells the inside story of a sometimes difficult birth.

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Traverse computer when it is accessible. out ofoffice hours. After two weeks. during which I‘ve also been programming the Traverse Spring Season. I have what I call a ‘dossier of misinformation‘: not a play. but several pages ofcharacter notes. bits of plot. random dialogue. A start.

During this period I have also been casting in London. The man has been easy to find Ralph Fiennes. whom John suggests and is right. is working at the National. available and keen to take part in the project. Casting the female role turns out to be much more difficult. I‘m not quite sure what I‘m looking for not least because the play isn‘t yet completed.

And no one seems right. A familiar director‘s nightmare. (‘asting is not unlike trying to find the perfect lover impossible. No one can match up to all one‘s unrealistic ideals. The difference between casting and beginning a love affair is that casting has a deadline the start of rehearsals. and these are approaching rapidly. l have a week to go. and no joy. I have three days to go. and the situation hasn't improved. ()n the Friday before I start rehearsing. I am still not sure. I begin the worry that my association with the National Theatre Studio will end before it has begun. I arrange to see more actresses. and one of them. Lizzy Mclnnerney expresses severe misgivings: there‘s no script. she doesn‘t know me or my work. how does she know she won't be wasting her time" I offer her the part.

FIRST REHEARSALS NOVEMBER 1987 Rehearsals begin. As usual they are terrifying. l have nightmares that I‘ll be ‘found out'. that this play won't

work. Writing a play is fantastically difficult. Directing it as well is like compounding a sin. the only consolation being that at least no one else will be to blame if it fails. I have ' visions of the abrupt end of tny career. disgrace. exile.

To compound the difficulties I am writing something that is avowedly personal. It‘s difficult to tell ifit will interest anyone else. whether it will mean anything to an audience. At this stage I lean on the actors heavily to offer judgements. Lizzy proves extremely talented at editing. and being able to explain why certain pieces need to go. I'm faced with a rapidly dwindling script. I'm sure that we will be left with about six pages. We start to improvise. working out a whole history for the couple in the play. One memorable day begins with the first meeting of the duo and goes right through to their break tip ( I‘m not giving the plot away). It‘s extraordinary and very moving. even though it's just me with two actors in a rehearsal room overlooking Waterloo Station. I go away and write. The play begins to take shape. but we‘re running out of time. We've been offered two performances to an invited audience in the Studio. presenting the work as a play-in-development. Of course. when it comes to the day. it becomes a performance like any other. I don't know if it works. I find it a most difficult piece to watch because it has associations for me that are still extremely painful. I begin to wonder why I wrote the play in the first place. what drove me to it. But people are crying it has touched something in them too. One friend of mine leaves angrily and won't speak to me. I wonder if this play is worth her reaction. which I don't understand. The play isn‘t about her perhaps that‘s the problem. But equally it‘s not about tne once you start to write a play. divisions between fiction and reality become blurred: I remember moments happening to me. but it becomes a play about different people. a different situation. a different time.


Peter Gill has phoned me at the Traverse to ask if I‘d like to redo The Rain Gathering as {ING 3521 Studio Night in the Cottesloe. an event that happens about eight times a year when work from the Studio is seen in the Main House. I leap at the chance. and the actors are free.

The List 22 July 4 August 1088 49