I’ve suddenly realised now that I’ve decided to share with you, and upload a photo of, every book I own, along with an admission as to whether I’ve actually read it or not, I’m going to out myself as something of a fraud. Or, at the very least, an idiot. You see, I’m not sure that I’ve read enough ‘important’ books.
Whatever ‘important’ means. I’m not even sure I’ve read more than a couple of Dickens. Perhaps that’s why I’m doing this; to embarrass myself into finally reading that copy of Wuthering Heights that’s been sitting in my bathroom for the last few months. As opposed to the copy of Calvin And Hobbes that’s on top of it.
Today’s book, however, I have actually read. By coincidence, like the first book I uploaded, it’s a play, but this time, it’s a play I was in, as opposed to directing. This would be at least fifteen years ago now, and I was playing Wisehammer, a failed writer who was mournfully in love with a woman he had no chance of succeeding with. That’s worth mentioning, since it’s a role I seem to have found myself cast in with alarming regularity in recent years. It’s probably best not to focus too much on the whys and wherefores.
This copy isn’t the one I used in that original production, back with CYTO (that’s the Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation to its friends, and I won’t go into too much detail about it right now, since I’m fairly confident we’ll get the chance to do that before too long).
I picked up this copy of OCG in a charity shop in Hove a couple of years ago, because I genuinely liked the play, and it has a number of good scenes in it. At the time, I hadn’t acted for a while; I had completed a BA in Theatre, and that had almost entirely extinguished any desire to perform, and any belief that I was in any way talented.
However, I had heard that the NVT (the New Venture Theatre, and, again, we’ll get into the details at a later date) were producing Our Country’s Good, and I felt that I might have something of a head start on finding a character, having played it (albeit possibly weakly) years before.
In the event, however, I didn’t really have the courage to audition, and so delayed my joining of the NVT by a couple of years (that theatre degree had really damaged my acting mojo) but what I did notice is how many really great parts there are, even the walk on, growl, and leave ones. Each character is written with such wit and economy that you’d be happy to play a part of just five lines. Each character seems real, and breathing. As a (always delaying) writer, it’s a master class in how to create rich characters in just a few short strokes.
It’s a good lesson to learn, no matter what type of story teller you are: writer, director, deviser (and I’ve had varying degrees of success as all three). In short, as many How To Write books – and a character in ‘Spaced’ – will tell you: “Skip to the end.”
So I will.