LeanerFasterStronger – a playwright in the rehearsal room








Archive poster of 1948 London Olympics on wall of Centre for Sports Engineering Research, Sheffield Hallam University.

Companies working with new plays have to be flexible, patient, and with steely nerves. Unlike second productions, or reinterpretations of Classics, a new script is not tried or tested, but neither is it necessarily set in stone. Having the playwright in rehearsals means the script can be malleable, responding to the other creatives in the room.

This, however, does not mean that the script is devised or co-created. In the case of LeanerFasterStronger, the script I’ve written over the past eighteen months is solid and highly developed, in its fourth draft. It is a complex script, with multiple characters to be played by a small ensemble cast of four.

One of the joys of being in the rehearsal room when completing such an ambitious script is the potential for engagement. If an actor has a question about the script, the writer is on hand to answer directly – and the playwright has the pooled imaginations, skills, and intellects of the company at work on the script. Here is where true collaboration happens, with all involved responding and reacting to each other, the production growing organically. It is demanding, exciting, and joyful.

Previously, the central characters in the play have been disembodied voices in my head. Now they find substance, psychology, a past. Andrew leads the actors in a series of exercises which create a chronological history of their characters from birth until we meet them in the play. As the play is not naturalistic, during my own process I haven’t created ‘back stories’ for the characters. Individually, the performers make life stories for their central characters: siblings, parents, experiences at school, at college, in work; they build a psychological and emotional profile for these figures, mapping their dreams, fears, hopes, ambitions…

I observe all this, fascinated, as the background material dovetails with the details in the script. There are no contradictions, only discoveries: the identity of these central characters, their accents, their emotional baggage. This is all grist to my mill, as I polish and make the final tweaks to the script.


A Sheffield Theatres and Chol Theatre Co-Production

Wed 23 May – Sat 2 June http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/leanerfasterstronger-12/

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