“Have you ever had to make a decision?”
A question asked of the audience in Scribble. A question that is stuck in my head this week. We are in the process of making decisions, a lot of my job, as director, is making decisions. There’s lots of decisions to be made when making a play – some are “true” decisions where others are following rules I’ve started to make about this work and the work I make generally.
The most significant decision, for me, is who. Who am I going to make this play with? These decisions started a while ago, when Andy and I started building our team, and continues now as we start to finalise our list of actors who will be appearing for one performance over the fringe.
I have a cast of 1 and a cast of 24.
Scribble is fundamentally a one-man play, a story about a cosmology PhD student, called Ross, who will be played by Alan McKenzie. However, the play also includes a Supporting Role which represents multiple people in his life, amalgamating to be Ross’ intrusive thoughts, that will be played by a different actor every performance.
…I should start at the beginning of this idea.
As you may know, we did a reading of Scribble at the Traverse Theatre last November, as part of Hothouse. We spent about three days beforehand with two excellent actors (Alfie Wellcoat and Clare Ross), debating, questioning, trying and playing with the play. What excited me most about the work that was presented was that it was raw, unfinished, still questioning, everything was new and still up for grabs in terms of meaning, experience and understanding.
The script was also more than just the lines in the actor’s hands, it was a prop, a character itself - draft 48 of this script had its place as a chunk of paper on the stage. We’re in a theatre culture of staged readings/works-in-progresses, and sometimes the most exciting part of a play’s journey is the first time those words are spoken to an audience, by actors who are relying mostly on their instincts. In my opinion, our work-in-progress of Scribble worked particularly well because it’s about mental health, our understanding of our own and each other’s mental health is raw, unfinished and still questioning. The content of the play reflected the form in which we told it to our audience.
After that work-in-progress performance Andy and I debated how we keep that form alive in a staged performance. Nothing seemed right until we landed on having the Supporting Role played by a different actor daily. This actor wouldn’t see the script beforehand or have any rehearsals; they would simply sit at a desk and read the script aloud. Our hope is that it will allow us to present unique and multiple interpretations of the work and our mental health. Sometimes the actor will be very different from the character of Ross, as sometimes our mental health can seem so different from us. Other times the casting may be similar, or suit the voices of the multiple people in his life.
To put it simply:
the play will be different every day because our mental health is different every day.
This idea is not a new one, and I have been inspired by some excellent work that challenges form, including Nassim Soleimanpour’s Red Rabbit, White Rabbit, Tim Crouch’s The Oak Tree and David Leddy’s Horizontal Collaboration. All exciting and thrilling work that bring something new to this type of theatre and our experiences of being a live audience witnessing a unique performance.
I’ve also be inspired by recent work I’ve been involved with, both as an assistant director or director, where we’ve had to recast for a variety of reasons before the performance. It’s always sad when you lose a cast member and their performance won’t be seen by an audience, but their presence is still there, it leaves an imprint on the rest of us making the work. As I hope it will in Scribble, each new voice brought to the work will leave an imprint and add to our conversation.
So, I’m sitting in my kitchen, making lots of decisions and basically doing admin to make this idea become a real thing. I don’t know what each performance will be yet, it’ll be a new conversation, sometimes with actors who I have worked with before, sometimes with actors I admire and hopefully with some that we meet along away whilst at the Fringe.
Scribble is going to be different every day- a different actor, a different audience; and we’ll keep asking the same questions.
Written by Amy Gilmartin (Director).