I approached the White Rabbit on a balmy Thursday evening with a little trepidation for the first instalment of Plays in the Pub. The new OUDS initiative is a way to give plays written by women a much needed airing – a very good idea – but I must admit I was scared. Reading aloud in front of strangers is never my forte; enforced friendliness (‘let’s meet at the pub!’) makes me squirm. Will we be forced to act? Will I have to express an opinion?!
On entrance, I am instantly calmed. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed; no cringy ‘get ’em, girls!’, but just a bunch of people sitting around a table with drinks and scripts. This week, we’re reading Top Girls. Everyone chats and chips in with the reading; there is a genial air to proceedings, with cigarette breaks and pauses for questions. Mistakes are made, accents attempted, laughs had, and by the end even the shyest are reading. People come and go, more drinks are bought, and parts change round. It helps that the pub itself is a lovely one. The only thing I would ask for next time would be for some kind of introduction to the play before reading begins, or a semi-formalised half-time discussion to pool opinions: it could only add to an already fun discovery of great writing.
Katie Ebner-Landy, OUDS president, tells me the initiative is a way to make drama more accessible, and it seems to me the perfect method. Around the table there is no sense of the ‘in-crowd’ which non-thesps can fear so much; nobody is trying to network. I go away relaxed, having read a new play, met some new people, and genuinely enjoyed myself. You know those classics you always mean to get round to reading? This might just be the best way to do it.
PHOTO / OUDS