Tuesday, 21 May 2013

That strange moment when you see your writing acted out - in a pub

Over the past month or so I’ve participated in a scheme called Pens In Pubs that encourages writers from North Somerset to meet up and work together. Whilst we met in pubs to write and learn new writing skills the climax of the scheme was to have our work performed in a pub.

Drama and poetry hit The Kings Arms in Easton in Gordano (just south of Bristol) on the 20th May and surprisingly enough it was a big success.

Let’s put this in context: this was no red carpet show, the actors were refreshingly normal - sometimes they even had to change sex. They read from scripts they had only received a few days before and had to cover 16 separate pieces in two hours.

It was fair to say that some of the pub locals looked bemused by an invasion of people who dutifully followed the actors and their scripts around the pub. I wondered if one local might leave but he had a full pint in his hand and was not to be moved.

It was testament to the surprising power of this occasion that this man found himself chuckling during a sketch. His friend was left slack-jawed by the ending and ended up following the actors as they moved on to the skittle alley.

The work ranged from a rousing pirate shanty, to funny bar room sketches, via moving pieces reflecting on death, old age or missed opportunities. There was even an appearance from a slug fairy. Yes, a slug fairy!

I watch very little television these days. Sit-coms seem contrived and don’t make me laugh, I’m bored of reality shows and the news depresses me. Yet there I was laughing out loud or being moved almost to tears by these short pieces of work.

It’s the first time I’ve seen actors perform my work. I’ve published books and had some film scripts optioned, but have never heard my words coming out from someone else’s mouth. It gives a new perspective on how other people see or interact with your work and makes me want to do it all over again.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the evening was during the recital of a long (and beautiful) poem about an apple tree. The actress was reading it outside the pub and a couple with a child were heading home. The lady was in a hurry to get home and so was the child but the man wanted to stay.

Eventually they left him behind and he reluctantly drained his drink and trudged slowly off.  He looked more suited to watching footie in a pub, but as he left he was straining to hear the last words of an actress pretending to be a tree while standing in a wine barrel full of earth.

One for the road?

This is not the end for Pens in Pubs and there are all sorts of plans for new groups, performances and general creativity in North Somerset. If you want to join in the fun drop Becky a line at Theatre Orchard  or me here and I’ll make appropriate introductions.

I’d just like to thank…

While I’m having a luvvie moment I’d like to thank the Theatre Orchard team, David Lane for his fab guidance and writing exercises, Emma London for giving up her free time to help run the sessions and my fellow writers who surprised and amused me every week.

Also thanks to Felicity Peries who directed our little show and the actors who had to cover such a varied selection of scripts: Roger Hockedy, Lis Jeffrey, Margaret Hobbs and Mike Parish. They all volunteered to help our scripts come to life.

Finally The Kings Arms in Easton in Gordano (and its locals) who let us do strange things in their pub and even gave us some tasty food afterwards.

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