And so the posters and flyers arrive… so this really is happening, then!
It’s the start of the final week of rehearsals and Gaitkrash’s production of ‘Cosy’ for The Cork Midsummer Festival 2019 is shaping up…
We’ve been finalising the script, making sure that the vocabulary, references and syntax are Cork-specific and sit comfortably in the actors’ mouths. I might be unusual in this respect, but as the playwright working on a new production, I’m happy to change dialogue that trips the actor or goes against the dialect. I remember from years ago when I was still performing, I could get a mental ‘block’ about a certain word or particular phrase in a speech. I would become self-conscious, knowing that word was coming up and with the loss of focus would invariably come a ‘trip’ of the tongue. One of the pleasures of being the writer in rehearsals is problem-solving, and having the power to amend text, if appropriate. By this I don’t mean changing the actual content, meaning or politics of a line – it’s the actors’ job to ‘get’ that, however difficult to grasp – I mean the ‘musicality’ of the text, the tempo-rhythm and construction of a line.
Quite a few times this just involves moving a word around in a sentence – where ‘well’, or ‘just’ appears. It might be changing ‘Mam’ with ‘Mum’, or vice versa. ‘It’s more ‘Cork’ to change the order of this sentence around,’ I’ve been told several times today, and this is a detail I embrace. It’s essential. We want the drama to revolve around three generations of women in a Cork family (plus a strange ‘sidekick’ from West Wales – Sara Beer – bringing her own vocal musicality), so as my mother used to say ‘God – and the devil – is in the detail’. I’m enjoying this lesson in dialect.
As a playwright, the sound and rhythms of each beat within a scene is important. I’ve often described my way of working as ‘composing’ rather than writing, as so much depends on the sound and flow of the words and the dynamic. I will read aloud a sentence or exchange between characters several times, ensuring it has the pace and movement I want. With that tempo-rhythm comes the tension or ‘atmosphere’ in the moment.
I want the words to dance off the actor’s tongue – and there is always more than one ‘dance’ going on – I want variety in pace and tone and musicality. Thankfully, when working with such a talented cast, there is skill and variety a-plenty.