I am now redundant. I have been for the best part of a week.
On Thursday of last week, the project which has eaten my life for the last 12-18 months finally opened to a paying public. I arrived, nervous as hell, hoping against hope that people would like it, wondering if it was just me who thought I’d come up with something good. I lurched between narcissistic self-congratulation and crippling doubt, right up until curtain up (and quite honestly, all the way through the show).
One of the hardest bits of directing has to be the end – the final handover. Entrusting what has been your baby to other people. Very capable people. People YOU’VE chosen to do this. People who in rehearsals have learnt lines, hit marks, been exactly where they should be, run like clockwork and made you smile, laugh and get something in your eye at the opportune moments in the script. But that small voice of inhibition that you pushed to the back of your mind is now very present, very loud, and it’s asking difficult questions. You start second-guessing your every decision, wondering whether you got any of it right, from music choices right through to whether you were actually the best person to direct it. It’s terrifying.
The difficulty is that in the last few rehearsals, the whole production suddenly stopped giving you those butterflies and that punch to the guts that it always used to. It’s having the presence of mind to remember that your cast are delivering it exactly as prescribed and that it’s YOU who has become desensitised through repetition. It’s trusting that it’ll have the desired effect on an audience who are hearing and seeing it for the first time. It’s the sadness that you’ll never completely get to enjoy the play, because no matter how hard you try to block the last 2 months of rehearsal from your mind, you cannot help but anticipate every single line, pause, move, entrance, exit, lighting and sound cue.
But a week in, while none of it is new, I’ve slowly been able to relinquish some of that. Audiences seem to have enjoyed themselves, they’ve laughed in all the right places (plus in a few spots where it doesn’t leap out as being funny, but turns out to be). I’ve been able to relax a bit and laugh with them – I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by all the little nuances my cast have found in the script since performing in front of more than 3 people. But I’m also having to resist the sudden flood of ideas that have sprung out of having an audience. There is a terrible urge to tinker with a few things – but I can’t. They’ve already got enough to concentrate on, never mind me adding more in. I’ve discovered the trick is to not watch every single performance – otherwise I will just drive myself crazy.
I’ve had lots of lovely feedback about the play itself: “nice”, “lovely”, “charming”, “heartwarming” are the words that keep cropping up. A fellow blogger has given me a glowing review (no bribery/blackmail necessary!) Others have been impressed with my staging and set-design. If I’m allowed to be completely self-indulgent, so am I. I’ve derived a huge amount of inspiration from various 2014 professional theatre productions and hoped to emulate some of their methods. I like to think we’ve pulled it off. To say that I am relieved that people like it would be an understatement.
But above all else, I am exceptionally proud of my cast and crew – they’ve worked hard and done everything I’ve asked (and more) with unfaltering patience and good humour. As much as it’s been a bit of a wrench to hand it over, it’s a given and it has to be done. Overall, directing has been an enjoyable experience and I think I’ve coped quite well with this whole “pretending to look like I know what I’m doing” lark.
I fell in love with this play on first read 18 months ago. All the ideas came at once, fully formed. What I wouldn’t give to have a memory-wiping machine (like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and be able to watch the show with fresh ears and eyes. You all get to do that – I don’t. So with 4 nights left to go, please come and see it (partly so I can enjoy it vicariously through your reactions).
A Fine Bright Day Today is on until Saturday 14th February at the Miller Centre Theatre, 30 Godstone Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6RA. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.millercentretheatre.org