I went to a reading of a play of mine this week. I had been warned by several friends that the people running it would tear the play to shreds.
Some friends were suggesting not to the rock the boat as these people are ‘industry’ and to experience the evening for what it is. Some went so far to say my career would be ‘over’ if I didn’t eat the shit sandwich.
The reading itself was useful, but I had deep reservations about the whole thing – which essentially was a takedown. When you are treated with contempt for simply paying for the experience of having your play read you do wonder if you’d ever countenance being in a room with that person again. The evening was a kind of narcissistic feed for that chap. He hated me. Christ, he went after me.
I have to say they had done their homework, they recontextualised info about me and my work that is available on the internet. They stole identities, denigrated the work of the fringe (it’ll never get off the fringe they said. I happen to love the fringe.) They trashed the play before suggesting its only hope lay in Dedicated Black Theatre Only. Talawa can have it that’s certain, I’d be delighted – Pat Crumper gave me one of the best notes I’ve ever had in my life when she was there and I made a little radio piece with them.
In a really surreal moment of contrived bullshit, they suggested my play (which has Faith as a theme) had ‘no place’ (topos – yes it does, it really does) – I have to say the guy’s take on an angry innkeeper as I optimistically tried to take my little play to the Bethlehem of their hearts wasn’t the best moment of my career. He was trying to put me in a manger. I can tell you unequivocally he can’t tell a wise man from an ass.
But for all of that, as I listened to my recording of the play and the feedback afterwards, I have to say it was a brilliant experience. Sorrow has been said to instruct the spirit and sometimes a bit of argy-bargy and a bit of bracing criticism puts hairs on your chest. Christ, I was so happy to discover people want to bring me down. Now I know I’m doing something worth your time.
It’s worth noting that my play genuinely didn’t appeal to some of the audience (in case you hadn’t gleaned that yet) – all I can say is thank you for being bothered to be there. Being bothered to try something keeps the world spinning round. I hope they continue to take a chance on plays, and I hope they get some pleasant surprises.
Also, I would like to thank the people who left feedback. Some of it was very invigorating and you can’t help feel something akin to happiness when you get a sense of connection. That’s what story is for – connecting and sharing and getting the hang of being in the world with other people.
So thank you to the director and the cast – the cast especially who came in at such short notice and committed to the play in the time that they had. It was beautiful watching them grapple with the play, and I know that when I begin work on the next draft they will have given me a bit of clarity and help.