Does the play actually work?
November 23, 2012
Well we had the first preview of Boris Godunov. Very weird. It felt like another rehearsal. No usual panic about performing in front of people. No butterflies to raise the level a little. Just adrenaline, fear, sweat and mental notes ticking over like an old-school train station timetable.
Boris Godunov is a very intricate and delicate play to get right. For one, it's brand new. So we have no idea what people are going to respond to. What they'll like, what they won't like. Maybe that's why we have 13 previews on this one.
But if the houses are anything like tonight then we're in great shape. They wooped and they hollered. Brilliant to hear.
New writing can be such a difficult and thankless task to get right. When you perform Hamlet or any other play that's been done before then you have a framework within which to present your piece. Not so with new writing.
'Does the play actually work?' you have to ask yourself. You don't need to ask that when you perform a Shakespeare or any other classic. But with a brand spanking new play - sure, ok, the moments are rehearsed. It may be funny, it may be sad, it may tug at the heart strings and grip you in suspense at times. But does the play itself work? Really? As a play from beginning to end?! Should it have been a book instead? Or a film? It's a very big, knotted and tentative question, and the answer can decide the life of the play for the rest of its shelf life.
At this stage of the game, the tiny changes that are made to the script here, there and everywhere, as well as the multiple changes made to our work on stage everyday is quite possibly deciding what will be done with this play after we're finished.
Will other theatres want to put it on? Will people buy the play and read it? Big stuff!
I'm reminded of a quote I once heard when I first started out as an actor…13 years ago! (phew) It's from a hymn I came to find out, and was misquoted in a film I rather enjoyed Romance & Cigarettes. James Gandolfini stares wistfully into the distance and whispers 'Will there be any stars in my crown, when the evening sun goes down, will there be any stars in my crown.'
I imagine it to be completely possible that even our ever changing script asks itself that question. Not just us actors.
by Youssef Kerkour
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