It has been a wonderful journey working on this play with Get Over It Productions, the all female London based theatre company who famously perform Shakespeare with female only casts. I was therefore thrilled when I met Velenzia, the producer, in a networking event a year or so ago and we had an instant rapport as I told her about an all female play that I had written in response to an actress who complained there were never enough good parts for women on stage. I had developed it as far as I could and had had a couple of professional readings, then ran out of steam and passed it over for more pressing projects.
I always felt it had great potential but that there was perhaps a scene or two missing and a satisfying ending, so I was seduced by the idea of doing some development workshops with the company and improvising around the script to see what would come out. Then they surprised me by jumping the gun with the idea of a showing at the Camden Fringe Festival to see if we could get a producer interested and on board with the project.
It also gave the company something to work towards since they have been faithfully bringing a show to the Camden Fringe Festival for the last eleven years, almost since its inception.
During workshops the cast appeared to embody my characterisations with remarkable ease which was a great relief as I was concerned they would be criticised as two dimensional stereotypes- the usual easy put down- but they assured me they were fully rounded with clear development to their journeys and lives of their own. It’s sheer joy watching consummate performers inhabiting these characters and bringing them so perfectly to life as I envisaged when writing them. But watching them improvise around the script was fantastic and I filmed the resulting scenes and began the painful process of annotating every word they uttered across each other in a flurry of exchanges.
I was excited to try and incorporate some of these scenes into the existing script so set about the time consuming cutting and splicing of improv with my original. The script swelled to another twenty odd pages or so and was far too long for our ninety minute slot. So I waited patiently and exhausted whilst the team slashed most of the added scenes from the script back to largely how it was before. But the penultimate scene worked much better with the added improv material as I knew I had been too heavy handed and sentimental in my original. Now it was a tender scene with real heart between a caring Gillian and the young model, Leanne. The final scene also worked better and was much cleaner and more focused without the added material.
The tough process of editing has continued in rehearsals as I’ve had the privilege of hearing actors speak the lines and heard where they are sounding a little wordy or holding up the action and then edited in consultation with the rest of the team.
We searched for the right venue and decided it could only be The Cockpit Theatre for what could potentially be quite a big show with a live televised catwalk to stage with a cast of six, costumes and enough space to allow it to breathe. We’ve gone for the 9pm late slot as it has that slightly risque, rude, Burlesque adult body positive vibe in parts.
What, you still haven’t booked your tickets? I also wanted to give centre stage to a leading role for a black female actor who is the designer finalist of the title reality TV show who is hell bent on promoting her collection. But everyone has their work cut out to compete with the celebrity girl about town, Sloane ranger, Monaco, who’s fronting her own show, A Day In The Life of a London Socialite. Though our Burlesque girl, Candy Peel is taking no nonsense from her and is the one voice of reason who is not afraid to tell it how it is.
The young and vulnerable Leanne is a fish out of water and is proving something of a liability on a live catwalk with very little training as a green and fresh faced model from the Agency. And what a day it proves to be with the World”s First Supermodel, Gabriella Sodenburgh, giving her hard boiled, hard won wisdom and words of advice to the wannabe models. Gillian is holding the whole show together just about until events begin to spin out beyond her control but she seizes back the show from the depths of despair to give Monaco a role she can be proud of at last.
This had been a great process and I’m thrilled to have finally finished this play and had the opportunity of bringing it to life with such a talented cast and company for the 2017 Camden Fringe Festival.