Backstage at the Fringe: The Writer


Swan Song began in a pub in Oxford as a solution for curing some angry thesis
blues. An initially very embarrassing digging up of respective poetry ensued,
plans for a two-woman show in a taxi were floated and an eventual decision
was made to go for Edinburgh. Two women’s poetry, a couple of pints and a
characteristically bold attitude left us with Swan Song – a play with four actors,
two Edinburgh venues and no taxi.

I have directed two pieces of my own writing before, but this was definitely the
most challenging. Before starting I decided to take a rather different approach to
this play, due to the nature of the script and the length of both the rehearsal and
performance processes. I really wanted the cast to feel that the script worked for
them as we would be with it for such a long time; I tried to encourage as much
flexibility with the script as possible, chopping and changing lines and modifying
scripted aspects of characters. It was fascinating and mostly very enjoyable to
hear what the cast thought certain lines meant, particularly when it differed with
my intention; I tried to keep my reserved interjection of “I don’t think that’s what
the writer meant at all” to a minimum.

The Edinburgh Fringe is both a wonderful and a very tricky place to try out new
writing. On the one hand, it is a festival with one of the widest ranges of theatre
available and punters are generally looking to see something new and exciting.
On the other, those very punters are aware they are at a festival with that range
and want to see something good. New writing is not tried and tested, it’s not safe
and it’s not guaranteed to be good. So it’s a risk.

I knew that Swan Song would be a risky choice but it was a risk that I wanted
to take. Yes, we’ve got four very tired actors, a hungover crew, a stressed out
director and two thousand origami swan flyers left to fold, but we’ve also had a
lot of fun, seen some very good and some hilariously bad theatre and sold some
tickets on the way.

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