To quote David Prescott, our esteemed Artistic Associate and authority on new plays: ‘I haven’t come across a play set in Plymouth, although there has been an opera’. (I Puritani by Bellini, should you be interested.)
This is all set to change however. The last play the Drum will produce prior to going dark in April is Forever House by first time playwright and West Country boy Glenn Waldron, which is, rather appropriately, set in Plymouth. Glenn’s play landed with us just a few short months ago, sent on from Paines Plough, and he has since embarked on the whirlwind process of having his first play professionally produced.
On Tuesday, we decamped to Soho Theatre to hear the play read for the first time. For Glenn, the experience of the readthrough was akin to ‘turning up at a party naked’: incredibly exciting, nerve wracking and revealing. Luckily Joe Murphy, the director, brings an air of calm as well as his clear enthusiasm to the room, which helped settle any nerves. We were also fortunate enough to have on board a really talented bunch of actors and spent the day interrogating the script for the first time, asking all the questions it sparked to really get under its skin. With a new play, it is only when it is read aloud that you really begin to understand what it is; to hear its rhythms and feel what is underneath them. Working on the play with actors and then hearing it read in front of an invited audience offered Glenn (and us) a great opportunity to get a flavour of the play and to discover what needs tweaking before going into rehearsals. Joe will now be encouraging Glenn to dig deep into the ‘guts’ of the play and define what the play is saying before we go into rehearsals.
Still, as we enter a re-drafting period, I was struck by how complete a play it is at this early stage. The actors felt held by the strong characters and dialogue in a script which eases between comedy and tragedy with remarkable aplomb for a first time playwright. The play also evokes an incredibly strong sense of place. Plymouth has its own unique character and Glenn has captured quite beautifully its flaws as well as its appeal.
Despite never having been part of a professional rehearsal process before, I am pleased to say that Glenn is a natural. Not only was he eloquent and revealing when discussing the play and answering questions about it, but he also turned up with the most exquisite pecan pie I have ever tasted. The advice he had to always ‘bring some kind of cake’ to any rehearsal will stand him in good stead I feel!