My first play, Some Girl I Used To Know, is about to hit theatres, opening at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on January 29th before touring the UK throughout February and March.
It’s a bit of a buzz to say the least, but a nerve-shedding prospect. The whole experience feels diffrent to the other things i’ve undertaken during my chequered career, because with theatre the reaction is so terrifyingly immediate. If you’ve penned a tune that gets played on the radio or had a novel published, you generally don’t get to see other folks’ reactions to your work up close and personal – good or bad. If they think it’s a pile of old shit they can either just chuck the radio in the bath or mutter a few obscenities under their breath before tossing your literary masterpiece in the Dr Barnardo’s shop pile with that old VHS box-set of Howard’s Way. You don’t have to witness it. With a book, for instance, you might get a two-star review on Amazon or a few unkind words from an acid-tonged journalist, but you can always put that down to personal taste or the fact that the writer of said review is a bitter old troll wearing underpants and a fleece, anonymously spitting bile from a bedsit in Thornton Heath. Now i’m not saying it’s easy to take criticism for anyone who puts themselves out there creatively (far from it) but sometimes that criticism is a bit easier to avoid or ignore if you’ve a mind to. I’ve certainly done it. Sitting amongst the audience on the opening night of a show, however – where every word uttered from the stage has come from your head/ heart/ fingertips – can be quite a sobering experience. Grisly, in fact. What if the bastards don’t laugh in the right places? What if they get bored and spend the whole show rustling noisily through a bag of Haribo Hearts and Rings? I have playwright pals who’ve had their work performed on numerous occasions, and I wonder if it ever gets any better. How do they do it? On the night we first put Some Girl up in front of an audience (we did three nights in November at the Leicester Curve Theatre) I was a blathering wreck: convinced that I was having a heart attack throughout.
What made it worse was that my co-conspirator (and the show’s leading lady) Denise van Outen, was just as anxious. We couldn’t even look one another in the eye after the final run-through before curtain up. Sure, she’s an old hand at stepping out on stage in front of an expectant audience, but as co-writer she was feeling my pain that day. I wanted to watch from another room, or perhaps from space. In fact, while the director and other members of the creative team mingled stealthily with at the audience during the interval, eager to overhear their thoughts and observations, my instinct was to lock myself in the shitter.
And now I’ve got to do it all over again when the show opens in Leeds next week. Look, don’t get me wrong: I’m not going in for major surgery or burying a relative. I’m absolutely over the moon to have been given the opportunity to do such a wonderful thing. I’m very excited, despite the fact that it scares the bejesus out me…far more than anything I’ve ever done.