Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Backstage at the National: Rehearsals for Nation

So, an exciting outing today, that began with meeting a lovely girl from the Guardian, and ended with me walking out of the National Theatre's Stage Door. As Some Might Say: squee.

I wasn't all that interested in the particular show that the rehearsal was for (Nation - Mark Ravenhill adaptation of a Terry Pratchett book I'd never heard of), more the fact that I was going to the National. Going backstage at the National. Going backstage to watch a rehearsal at the National. It's such an exciting theatre, I knew it'd be good.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find more than just the rehearsal itself to "get happy" about.

First, in the potentially awkward pre-event drinks, I was grinned at and talked into relaxation by a lovely girl called Sarah who worked at the Guardian. I managed to restrain myself from grabbing her lapels and screaming "take me with you!!" into her face, instead choosing to dwell on mutual friends (Hazel), the nice things about working at, and the coolness of seeing this rehearsal, before being accosted by brilliant aka girls doing their marketing thang.

(I now realise I should've asked her surname, but these things can't be helped...)

Sarah Guardianista as I'll now have to call her is responsible for this comp: let's hope it works.

Then, while going backstage and seeing the rehearsal itself was brilliant, I was also really drawn to the play, fascinated by Mark Ravenhill, and intruiged by Melly Still... I was expecting a director to be much more neurotic and stressed about however many journos and liggers sloping into her rehearsal. Instead, she was warm, witty and definitely interesting. Mark Ravenhill was also ready for a bit of a down-to-earth chat, rather than a performance of the tortured writer. Nine months of adapting a book you like into a play is kinda just a job when you're him, it turns out.

The one thing I'm less sure about now its later on and I've had "time" (ho ho) to read around the subject, is the humour in the play version of what's meant to be a very funny book: here's Frank Cottrell Boyce telling us what a comic masterpiece Nation is. From what I'd seen in that rehearsal room, comedy was the last thing I was expecting. MR himself quoted something from TP: "it's a book that deals with such serious themes, it could only be a book for children"

What I got from today was big issues, like death, paradise, morality, race, religion. Not funny. But then Frank says:
"Am I making it sound heavy-going? It really isn't. It's funny, exciting, lighthearted and, like all the best comedy, very serious."
All well and good. I just hope the Mark and Melly double-act haven't squashed the funny bits out in favour of drama, cos they might upset some of the big fans out there. We'll see...

Here's what I put together for the VL blog. I'm still looking for a better "voice" for that as well as this. Still unsure and sometimes feeling like I'm floundering in the dark with no / little professional / reader feedback, and all that.

Still, I think practice makes perfect, right? Eventually, at least.

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