It’s my play and I’ll cry if I want to

With one day left to go, the theatrical drug is working it's magic. Here's why it's hard to kick the habit.

This Saturday, Blue Fruit Theatre Company’s first show, Agnes of God, has an audience. That means all the work that has been done intensively over the last four weeks, as well as the months of thinking and planning before that, will be judged, critiqued and discussed. Depending on the applause and the atmosphere in the bar afterwards, as a director, I will know whether we have crafted something that deserves to be enjoyed as great theatre. Although no lives are at stake, no wars will be started, the pressure of putting on a good show right now feels huge.

In just over two days there’s still a lot to do; some bits are little, others are bigger. Lines must be tightened, characters polished, scenes rejigged, pace upped, lights and sounds plotted, technical set ups trialled, props bought, costumes hemmed and more. And all must be done without panicking or worrying the actors that we’ve only three runs left, including a dress rehearsal, until we have a living, breathing, ticket buying audience.

As I’m running round juggling life, three children, creative ideas, rose petals and rosary beads, I often wonder how I became so enveloped in this world and state of being. It’s a very strange form of drug, the theatre. And whilst it’s totally legal it does have the potential for some terrible side effects. At this stage, probably like many drugs, I’m not sure it’s that healthy and I’m rather liable to overdose. However, the reality is I just can’t stop myself. And this is Fringe time; there are a lot of similar cases on Adelaide’s streets right now.

My father, who has never understood why anyone would ever put themselves close to a stage, let alone on it, recently drew my attention to a great piece of insight by Alan Bennett. It was how to talk to an actor (or a director or a designer) about their show after having seen it. His advice is: “always say it’s marvellous!” Because it really doesn’t matter what you think, the important thing is that an actor is a fragile being, and can’t always cope with being told the truth.

I started Blue Fruit Theatre Company because I love theatre that questions conventions, fuels conversations and stays with you, long after the lights come up, and hopefully into a good bar afterwards with friends. I can’t wait to hear what people make of Agnes of God. I have no doubt, given that it addresses a range of issues from religion and love to murder and psychosis, many discussions and debates will happen. But alongside all of that, I’ll definitely be holding out for a “marvellous”.

Agnes of God plays Adelaide's Holden Street Theatre, February 23 - March 9

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It’s my play and I’ll cry if I want to
Shona Benson
Shona Benson is a freelance theatre director and actor from the UK, currently based in Adelaide.
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