Went to London for a masterclass, theatre, and writing workshop - got a last minute cancellation place on a Royal Court writing weekend, then found out Sam West was doing a masterclass on Friday, so managed to get down in time for that - all a bit of a mad rush, and too tired to blog when I got home last night, but here's the first part.
The Theatre Royal Haymarket run some great masterclasses, aimed at 17-30 year old but not limited to that group. If you're over 30, you pay a tenner, which is absolutely bargainous. Friday was supposed to be Imelda Staunton at the Theatre Royal, but ended up being Sam at the Almeida. It was an acting masterclass, where Sam worked on scenes from three plays (Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber, Betrayal by Harold Pinter, and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill) with three pairs of young actors (sadly I didn't get their names, but they were fab). I can't comment from an actor's point of view, but from a writer's viewpoint, it was a fascinating insight into the directing process as much as anything. The actors first performed the chosen scene, then Sam would direct them to change things, either about the way they moved and used space, they way they delivered lines, or the way they reacted to the other actor's speech.
He asked the actors to think about what they wanted, both overall (their "super-objective") and in that particular scene, or even with that line - worth thinking about from a writing viewpoint, in that if you don't have the character want something in each line, the actor will have less to work with. Also, to think about what each person knows at the beginning of each scene.
Other, more actor-y stuff - play the action, not the mood; know the character's back story; do the play that's there - don't add punctuation etc that isn't there; find a character in the rhythm of their speech. And my favourite: "It's not up to you to feel, it's up to you to do - that's why it's called acting".
A ton of thought-provoking stuff to take away and reflect upon - I can't remember who it was who told me to do acting classes and workshops to become a better writer, but it's certainly true that an acting and directing masterclass like this really made me think about how what you put on the page is dealt with in getting the words up on their feet.
And not only do you get a 2+hour masterclass for your tenner (or for free if you're under 30), you also get to go in the bar for free career advice afterwards, if you wish! Like I said, total bargain: click here
to find out about future masters and their classes.
And after a quick drink and a chat, it was off to the Royal Court
, Sam to Rough Cuts
and me to meet up with the other weekend workshop participants and to see "The Vertical Hour
", David Hare's play which premiered on Broadway last year.
It was only the second preview of the play, so they were still working it in, and changing things in tech over the weekend; it was well acted, but on the whole disappointing, I felt. Anton Lesser was fab as Oliver, and Indira Varma very sharp as Nadia, but the role of the son felt very underwritten. Although there were some very funny bits, and some thought provoking material in there, it felt as though too many ideas were thrown into the air and inadequately developed. It would've been a lot tighter and punchier at half an hour shorter. But, as I say, its still in preview and hasn't had the press night yet, so things may change and tighten up.
Apparently on Saturday I managed to walk past David Hare himself without even noticing, but I did spot Sir Peter Hall in the bar so I'm not totally losing my grip.
More about the Royal Court writing workshop later; but their co-production of Caryl Churchill's play "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You" will be on at the Public Theater of New York
in March, with Sam playing one role in the two-hander - but I don't know if he's playing Sam or Jack. Not sure which would be most confusing!