The play has developed almost beyond recognition from the first run out with the actors on Monday.
Working with performers from the first(ish) draft onwards has been such a learning curb. Things that we thought worked on paper, suddenly felt wooden or didn't sound convincing when read by professional actors. Similarly, lines that we hadn't considered as important seemed to hold far more relevance once a performer had breathed life into it.
So the long and short of it is we started with about 100 pages of script that amounted to about three hours of dialogue on Monday, and after about twenty hours of writing, rewriting and reshuffling, we eventually had something that looked a bit like a two-hour long play by Friday morning.
There are still holes and scenes that need to be written. The script isn't there by any means, but the story is coming through and it feels powerful and real.
That has been one of the hardest things with this whole process. How do you honestly represent the women we've been speaking to, who've shared their experiences and opinions with us? We're not trying to crowbar in all the stories that have been shared, but this play has to respect the themes. We can't be complacent or fall on cliché.
Some of the women who attended the Brighton forums came to the reading, which was fantastic and nerve-wracking in equal measure.
Luckily, the response was positive. The feedback session afterwards was really useful. The audience, which was entirely female apart from James, the Artistic Director at Greenwich Theatre, offered really constructive advice. The things that they thought worked, the moments that didn't ring true. But the general atmosphere was one of positivity and support.
Here is some of the feedback that audience members left on their feedback forms...
- Great- loved the ending and the storyline. [Middle section] moved too fast. Loved the play, funny and moving.
- Great- more polished that I was expecting. I loved the oral history, testimony element. Different voices in real lives. Excellent dialogue, and funny.
- It’s a brilliant play- funny and emotional. I cried a lot!
- Great. Wonderful plot line. Some confusion with voices.
- Think it could put off a mixed audience but obviously attract an intergenerational female audience- do you need to balance that?
- I love it.
- Does what it says on the tin, but perhaps a bit worthy? Maybe something less obvious like ‘Leeds Story.’
- Flashes of ‘[old] Elsie’ could be shown in her modern persona?
- The dialogue/ monologue worked will. The writing was very good/ acting was really good. Narrative was absorbing/ connected with characters’ stories straight away/ believable but surprising. Liked the friendships, well realised.
- The thing that worked less well was the ending felt rushed.
- Great- loved it. Could illustrate the ending in action- stretch it out a bit. Fab plot line. Some confusion with the various voices. Linear structure worked well.