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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Play-writing: the Value of Group Readings

To all script-writers who are wondering what to do next or questioning the value of a group reading, my advice is to go for it.

When I completed my latest stage play ‘According To Claudia’ to the satisfaction of my wife, Caroline, who acts as my editor and harshest critic, the time came to test drive it with a group reading.

I approached seven of the best actors in Newport Playgoers and to my relief they agreed to do it. Then terror set in. Showing your work to people who have performed in some of the best plays ever written is a big gamble. What would they think of it?  Was it good enough?
A group reading of your script can be invaluable
So, I was very nervous when they turned up at our house for the reading. Luckily, Caroline had prepared a range of delicious canap├ęs and other tasty bites to ensure the evening was a success. After assigning parts, the reading began. It was a slow start as the actors found their way but it was soon moving at a cracking pace, with lots of laughter and “Oohs” and “Aahs” from the cast.

At the end, there was much debate about the play and plenty of positive feedback. Two of the most useful comments were:

 “What happened to my character? She just sort of faded away in the second act.”

“The main character is very strong and quite nasty – but you must give her one redeeming feature.”

There were also several suggestions about the characters’ relationships and how they could be developed. All in all, very useful – and it gave me lots of food for thought. So, copious notes were made and I’m now re-writing like mad. Next thing: another reading, and if that goes well a rehearsed reading in front of an audience in the Dolman Studio Theatre.

So, my advice is: have faith in your work. Don’t rely on the opinion of friends and family – they’re going to say it’s great as they probably won’t want to upset you. Put it to the test. Get some local actors round a table and give it a trial run. You’ll learn a lot about what you’re doing right – and where you’re going wrong!

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