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Opening its doors on lst V” h ’ August 1988, the New Age / bookshop with its feet on the \ ~ /f
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Well. nearly: Ralph Fiennes is in the process of leaving the National to go to the Royal Shakespeare Company. and consequently seems to be rehearsing in Stratford with the RSC and seeing out his contract with the National in London at the same time. We fit in two weeks rehearsal around his availability which seems to amount to about six days possible work. I start frantically re-Working the play. but then decide to concentrate on fine tuning what we already have since the original rehearsals were so rushed.
STUDIO NIGHT— FEBRUARY 1988
We have about three hours to do all our technical work — it reminds me of going to countless Edinburgh Fringes. A man wanders through the auditorium hoovering. and seems surprised that we'd rather be left alone. I feel as if I'm here by default. rehearsing in the (‘ottesloe where I‘ve seen some extraordinary productions. from Peter (iill‘s In The Blue and Mean Tears to Bill Bryden‘s productions of The Mysteries and David Mamet‘s Glengarry Glen Ross
There‘s a childish thrill at being here. trying to make sense ofthe National’s curiously labyrintine corridors. star spotting in the Canteen. lend uptalkingto Alec Mc(‘owen. without being quite sure what to say. Sir Peter Hall rushes past on the way from one rehearsal to another (he's directing three plays. the late Shakespeare’s. simultaneously). 1 wonder ifl'll ever be here again after tonight.
It’s now evening and the Cottesloe is full — of agents. producers representatives ofother theatres. and my family who have turned out in force. For some'reason I suddenly feel quite nonchalant. Perhaps it‘s because it’s too late for me now to do anything about it. It‘s tip to the actors. and I don't envy them the pressure: there can only be one thing worse than a first night. and that's knowing that it’s also your only performance. One chance only to get it right. But it seems to go well. People are complimentary. but then they always are on first nights. Useful suggestions always get made months. even years. later in chance remarks at off-guard moments. ()ne's only defence is to have one‘s own standard and listen to one‘s intuition. To know one's own worth. And try to be brave and original.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING—JUNE 1988
Once again I am casting. The Traverse has taken the play as part of its 25th Anniversary season of new work. And the National Theatre Studio. with whom it has been developing a relationship. want to be involved. Last year it presented Nick Ward‘s highly succesful Apart From George at the Traverse Theatre in assocition with the NT‘s Education Department. lam more than happy
at this arrangement. But once again I am casting. The original two actors are unavailable sol am back to square one. This time my ‘daytime‘ job is Artistic Director of the Traverse‘s Scottish Accents ‘88 Season. which features twelve writers new to the Traverse. l have pushed for this season. to encourage the next generation of Scottish writers. and it‘s important that I make it work. not just for my own reputation. but also to ensure that the project will happen next year. Underfunding has a direct result on new work. The work that is seen is of an inferior quality: playwriting is a craft. and writers need a chance to learn it. My play would never have been written without the National Theatre Studio‘s direct input. Today fewer and fewer writers have their work produced as a direct result of cuts in arts funding. And there's no point being a writer if your plays aren‘t produced. nor much chance of development.
So I attend to Scottish Accents ‘88 while I should also be casting. l despair ofhaving any time to find the right people. lsee some wonderful actors who I make a mental note to use in the future. but they're not right for this particular piece. Once again dealines draw near. The last man I see. Ben Daniels. turns out to be the one I’m looking for. He‘s a brilliant young actor who‘s just finished playing the lead in a BBC film. Then I find the girl Geraldine Fitzgerald whereupon a nightmare ensues. Richard Eyre. the National's new Artistic Director offers her a part in his production of Bartholomew Fair. The dates clash by two weeks. (‘an she do both? Richard Eyre disappears into board meetings. press conferences. more casting sessions. The National's Head of Casting goes off to Wimbledon for the afternoon. and I begin to panic again. It‘s Friday afternoon. l'm startingon the Monday. Finally at halfpast four on Friday afternoon the agent rings to say it's all fixed up she can do both if the National has first call on Mondays (the Traverse‘s day off) and ifcalled she will have to fly down for evening rehearsals. I agree. At this stage on a Friday afternoon 1‘” agree to anything.
All this time I have again been rewriting. thistime in earnest. And so I‘m back at the beginning: a new cast. a new script. another rehearsal period. Once again I feel like a beginner. l‘m hoping that at the end ofit all the play will have a resonance — it‘s an emotional piece about class.
about living in Scotland. about love. lt‘s a love story. I hope you like it. Radio 4 have just phoned to say they want to commission the play for radio in the Autumn. And they‘ll have to have a new cast since their dates clash with the run at the Traverse. I promise myselfthat this time they‘ll be doing the casting.
The Rain Gathering opens at the Traverse, Edinburgh on 27July. See Theatre Listings.
50 The List 22 July — 4 August 1988