The art of listening

The craft of acting fascinates me.

In pretending to be someone else actors reveal so much of themselves as to be naked in front of us.

It takes genuine bravery and that is especially true of those brave souls who tread the boards.

There are no second takes and when they step out there is no going back.

I have been associated with actors for over a decade.

My first full length play ‘the flight of the earls’ premiered here in Donegal in 2005.

That was a professional production, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

The play then toured the west of Ireland in 2007.

Once more the thespians were paid professionals.

However at the non-professional level in Ireland there is a rich vein of talent that treads the boards just for the love of it.

This island is very well off for amateur theatre groups who produce work of very high quality.

In my father’s town in Mayo there is a seriously brilliant theatre group and all of them could make their living in theatre if they so wished.

This summer I had the good fortune to meet up with another bunch of very professional ‘amateurs’ in Glasgow.

The Sweet for addicts group put on ‘Flight of the Earls’ and out of the three productions of the play this was easily the best.

Like my old boxing gym in Ingram Street the company uses both trained professionals and amateurs, but I have found the quality is equally high.

After ‘flight’ I took an idea to them in August and their director thought it had value and was worth pursuing.

So over the last two months I have been sitting with only my imagination for company and tasked with the challenge of creating something bespoke for them.

‘Flight’ was written as a project for me and then I looked for a company to produce it.

It is a strange process to sit and create fictional characters that somehow can speak a greater truth than you yourself can muster, but somehow it happens.

I am clearly able to do this, but I don’t understand it.

Perhaps if I did comprehend the process then I wouldn’t be able to.

Next March you will be able to judge for yourself if you’re in Glasgow.

The piece will run for a week as part of the Saint Patrick festival in the city.

For now I am taking a collection of ‘people’ on a journey. Many writers, whether their work is destined to be viewed on the page, the stage or the screen talk of ‘finding their voice’ as a writer.

However for me it is about listening.

Moreover the journey can take directions that were not originally envisaged at the outset.

Sometime over the week end a character that I had originally created to serve as a minor plot device started to speak to me.

The penultimate scene in act one she unlocked something that will play out significantly in act two.

This also happened when I was writing ‘flight’.  A character (Daragh) I had created to support the central storyline turned out to have something truly significant to say in the drama.

That only became apparent when he had the first reading-an al fresco event at Port Na Murray in Rathmullan.

That historic place featured in the first draft, so it seemed appropriate.

A deadline is a deadline and last night I had promised the theatre director that he would have the first rehearsal draft of act one.

He is now in receipt of 42 pages of dialogue and stage direction suggestions.

More importantly he now has real characters and he can cast them from the ranks of his repertory company.

As we spoke after he had read through the first act we both realised that we had something here.

Act two will be with him in the first week in January.

I hope you will be there when the curtain is raised in March until then I have more listening to do.

Leave a Reply