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.
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.
Stand up and fight until you hear the bell. Stand toe to toe, trade blow for blow.
Saturday and the city buzzes as I head to the Belltable. A drum beats a tattoo in my head, dull, repetitive but consistent. I hope I can concentrate. We launch into work, beginning with Ballyturk. Intense discussion, rising drumbeat in my head. We move on to my peers’ work. Today we have matchmakers and gyms. We also have glam rock and Bowie. Workshops throw up all the bonkers stuff.
Keep punching ‘til you make those punches tell, show that crowd what ya know.
The drumbeat in my head is loud now. Too loud. The tribe gathers, I can feel it inside me. I am torn between this, the monthly playwright mentoring session and the theatre that will happen across the city in a couple of hours. Plato’s cave wanders into our discussion along with Sonya Kelly’s The Wheelchair on My Face and more glam rock. And Enda Walsh. Always back to Enda. I am restless now, eager to join my tribe. Chekhov’s The Seagull floats in for a visit. So does Amy Conroy.
Until you hear that bell, that final bell….
I wonder if Gavin can hear the drumbeat now? I also wonder why he didn’t do a Christmas bake for us. Myself and a colleague hatch a new TV show: Gavin in a bake off with a glam rock theme. The drumbeat is a roar now as I leave the Belltable. My friend is dressed in red, tribal colours. So am I. We walk over Thomond Bridge and our tribe swells. The river snakes through the city in watery December sunshine. The castle rises up behind us, like a protective hug. The tribe is hundreds, then thousands. I can see it now, towering over the skyline – the greatest theatre on earth. I can hear my tribe sing inside. We throng through the turnstiles in electric air. We take our seats. The drumbeat is on the pitch, the stage is set. We sing our tribal war dance. 26,000 voices. Plato would love this.