Why? Because there’s something utterly joyous about honest hard work giving way to MASSIVE FUN! And that’s just what last week was. It was the culmination of my Barry Reckord Bursary. And the Daughter’s 18th. On the very same day! Which, over the course of a week, meant several days of very intense planning and preparation, followed by one day of it all being worth it :)
So it began with my heading down to London on Monday to meet director Ola Ince. Ola would be directing the staged reading of TREADING AIR and, though we’d exchanged a few emails to identify the extract we would share with the audience on the day, this was our first meeting in person. We met in the BFI on Southbank, talked over a couple of hours and got to know more about each other’s working methods. This was an invaluable meeting, as knowing these things makes all the difference to communication, specifically how you communicate to someone to ensure that you both end up on the same page.
I gained a much clearer understanding of Ola’s script requirements for the reading, and Ola learned that all she had to do was ask for any edits, and I’d make sure she had them before the day was out. It meant we could speak frankly with one another and cover a lot of ground very quickly; so by the time rehearsals came around on the Wednesday we were pretty well prepared.
Read-throughs were broken up by game playing.
(One that went something like this:
Aa-a tat tat, aa-a tat tat,
Gilly gilly gilly gilly, a tat tat.
Oh aay oh, oh aay oh,
Gilly gilly gilly gilly, a tat tat….
And another called Zip Zap Zoom, which was much harder than it looked, and is definitely one for Christmas Day!).
Question were asked to provoke a deeper understanding of the script. And mood-map exercises used a clever combination of thinking and doing to further cement the actors’ empathy with the characters. It was extraordinary to witness. Real skill in action. I felt very privileged to be a part of the process; and it meant that the following morning, when we arrived at Bush Theatre for the reading itself, we were ready and raring to go.
Next I gave a speech about the playwriting journey I've been on as I’ve been working on TREADING AIR: the difficulties I’ve encountered, the compulsion to overcome them, and the satisfying moment when things finally started to come together in Draft 2. Ola then introduced the reading, setting the scene and providing context for the extract. And the actors took the floor….
I don’t think I breathed for the full half an hour. I was so gripped by the performance, so nervous as to how the audience would respond, so excited to be there, so terrified at the overall outcome of the reading: would Bush and Talawa decide to take the play further, or wouldn’t they?
After the applause had died down, Talawa’s Michael Buffong and Bush’s Madani Younis both stepped up to share their perspectives on the bursary and its outcomes. It was inspiring to listen, and to hear the passion in their voices as they talked about the need to give emerging artists the chance and space to develop their work, the celebration due to women playwrights and directors (especially when they make such powerful teams!), and the legacy of Barry Reckord himself.
We ended the event with Ola and I taking a Q&A session chaired by Madani. More explanation of the script, more exploration of how Ola and I had worked together, lots of mutual admiration, and lots more laughter. The whole morning was wonderful.
It was definitely one of those ‘How do you juggle career with family life?’ weeks. Trying to stay one hundred percent focused on TREADING AIR whilst being one hundred percent committed to Nori having a brilliant time on this particularly special of her birthdays. But somehow, as tends to happen with good things, it all worked out :)