It was always going to be a great evening. It started with Tom Waits.
Everybody knows how much I love Tom Waits, right? I’ve been to see him in concert four times, I have loads of his albums, I even went backstage to meet him once (something I never do).
So, yes, when the first play opened with the Tom Waits song, ‘How’s It Going To End?’ from ‘Real Gone’, I felt I was in good hands and indeed I was.
The theatre space in the Riverbank Arts Centre is a fine one and there was a great crowd in for the two plays. As I sneaked in, I got a fabulous welcome from the MAD Youth Theatre crowd who had come to spend the weekend with their friends at Griese Youth Theatre. High fives and grins all round, like old friends meeting again. Theatre does that to you – makes friends for you. Then the Griese cast all came and said hello too and how cool and confident they all looked right before the show, I wish I could do that.
Tom Waits was playing in the first of the two plays, which was ‘Cloudbursting’ by Helen Blakeman. The second one was mine.
But let’s not run away from ‘Cloudbursting’ too quickly. I thought it was a really great play and really well performed by the entire cast. The production was imaginatively done with deft and well co-ordinated scene changes and a lovely short film sequence elegantly setting the scene. The bullying theme was deftly handled and managed to elegantly side step the normal route this subject matter takes. As I said, the entire case played together wonderfully well. Caitlin Smith, as Sam, was required to carry a considerable part of the narrative and she was superbly authoritative and sensitive by turns. Nigel Barrett, as Davey, brought a striking combination of vulnerable soulfulness and resilient steel to the role. He had a ‘Billy Elliot’ quality which made his performance memorable. It was a thoughtful and quite moving play and I enjoyed it very much.
Then, after a short break, we had my own play, ‘Midnight in The Theatre of Blood’.
What can I say? I loved it.
The play is deliberately written without any breaks or scene changes, it just keeps going. What it needs to carry it through is energy. Every single member of the cast brought their own energy to the performance and all of those energies were different. There was cool energy and funny energy and sad energy and romantic energy and spooky energy and all this energy carried the audience along with it as if they were on a wave. It really was very well done indeed.
I loved the staging too. In the script, I say that the stage can be completely bare but Griese, didn’t settle for that. Instead, we came back into the theatre, after the break, to a wonderfully evocative ‘backstage’ setting, replete with costume racks and theatrical paraphernalia. Later there was even Disco Balls. Not one but two Disco Balls and I love Disco Balls nearly as much as I love Tom Waits.
Two of the characters went from being girls to being boys and this was one of my most-favourite things of the whole evening. The actors who turned the girls into boys did such an exceptional job of it. It was like two whole new characters had erupted into my play. But all the characters were brilliantly realised. It’s a large cast and nobody was hiding behind anybody else. Everybody stepped up and made their role their own.
The ‘dream disco’ sequence was brilliantly done with the most outlandish costumes and most fabulous dance moves being thrown by the cast. It was great fun but it also opened up the scope and reach of the play in a really eye popping way. You could see how the audience went with it and enjoyed it.
Both casts got deservedly rapturous receptions at the end of their performances and rightly so. They gave us a really great evening of theatre and I am so proud that I was able to provide them with some words to work with.
It was also so great that MAD Youth Theatre had come in force too. They had given their own superb production of the play in Dundalk a few weeks before and it was such a treat to see them being so positive and supportive for their friends at Griese.
It was a treat to meet Alan King from NAYD at the show too. Alan's the reason I'm having such fun with this play this year and I'm very grateful for that.
I sometimes find that my thoughts come clearer to me off the back of a question. I can spend hours trying to think how I’d like something to be said and then someone can ask me a question about it and, presto, the thing I wanted to say is right there.
After the play, one Dad asked me what it’s like to see all the young people perform my play like that. Off the cuff, I said something like this to him and I think it’s right.
Mostly, it’s a sense of gratitude. I write the words and, really, they’re just like dry dust on a page. They sit there and wait and, like me, they hope. They hope that someday a great group of young people will come along and rain on the dry words and make them burst out with colour and noise and life. That’s what Griese did for me, and MAD before them too. They poured their energy and their personality and their life experience onto my dry powdered words and, by doing so, they added hugely to the value of them. How could I not be grateful and, yes, ever-so-slightly in awe?
(Now that I think of it. I didn’t really say half of this to the poor Dad who asked the question but he got me thinking that way and that’s what counts.)
A final huge 'thank you' to Leish Burke at Griese. I have no idea how you pulled all that together, Leish, but it was simply brilliant.
Thanks. K x
At the gateway to the theatre service area, at about ten o’clock in the evening, an elderly man stands trying to figure out how to text on his mobile phone. A middle aged guy with glasses comes and stands beside him and waits. They don’t speak to each other but the older man glances at the other guy warily. After a time, a large bus pulls out of the backstage gateway and drives past. It is filled with young people on their way to their after-show party. Much to the surprise of the elderly man, the middle aged guy stands up straight and loudly applauds the bus as it drives past.
Then he turns and goes home.