Marie [Boylan] and I were delighted to receive a Belltable:Connect commission for our play ‘Red Army’ last June. Writers work in a void – we never know if our work will be commissioned or funded. We never know if it will make it onto a stage. Belltable:Connect managed to address both these issues in one fell swoop. We knew that the commissioned plays would be showcased to a public audience in November so we could finesse the script with that in mind. This is the best way to test a script. Prior to the showcase, we worked with the four actors and director for two long and exhausting sessions.
If the play was a car, then this was the garage, where it went through rigorous testing, adjusting and stripping. This was a brilliant learning process and watching a director (the wonderful Jean McGlynn) at work with the actors was a lesson in itself. Words on a page take on a whole new life when spoken and acted and the script shape-shifted accordingly. Actors ask very tough questions and we needed to be on our toes with the red pen. This was invaluable to us – to have actors, a director, a studio, tech time in preparation for the reading – what an incredible resource for playwrights to have.
The night itself was a great success. It was wonderful to sit in the audience and watch the work of our Limerick peers while we waited for our piece. After the first on cue laughs from the audience, we relaxed and enjoyed our own play (Is that possible?). The audience reaction was excellent. We left the Belltable, determined that the next time we hear our own words, spoken and acted, that it would be the full play. The whole story.