Our Shaun – Updates

It seems so strange that Scott won his pitch just three weeks ago, and now we’re counting down the days to the final performance! Since the last update, Scott has been working super hard, sourcing authentic props, costumes and furniture to create the McDonagh’s family home including some hideous ornaments which are perfect for Mammy’s collection, framed photographs of the cast in costume and lots of empty whisky bottles. The set looks fantastic once everything’s in place, and I’ve been enjoying handing out wooly socks, tatty cardigans,  dresses, braces and flat caps to the cast and the enthusiastic team of extras background artists who attend Shaun’s funeral in a medley of ragged neckerchiefs and mourning bands lovingly hand sewn from one of Scott’s t-shirts.

I am so so pleased with it. I can’t take credit for any of the writing or direction (or anything really!) but I still treat it as if it is my baby. Albeit a darkly comic, foul-mouthed Irish baby which is soon going to grow up and become a proper play which proper human beings will come to watch and (hopefully) laugh cry and applaud at…

I’m surprised Scott even has time to eat nowadays, but he managed to spare some time to come and chat about the progress of the play and the recent Scratch (a pretty threatening way of saying ‘dress rehearsal’)

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Scott: We had the first read through, which was the first get together, and as everyone was reading, it, I was just thinking it was awful, mainly because I’d never heard it read out before, but since then, working with the characters in more depth, it’s become easier to like it. I feel more comfortable with it, knowing I can trust them to do the characters justice. The first proper rehearsal we had was with Tommy and Mammy, and the dynamic between the two of them really worked, so I’m glad we got that right.

The second rehearsal was mainly focused on Mark (who plays Johnny) trying to figure out what kind of man Johnny (Shaun and Tommy’s father) is and Mark really hit it on the head in terms of understanding the character and bringing things to it which I hadn’t thought of myself, which is exactly what I wanted. 

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Instead of full cast rehearsals, because everyone is so insanely busy, we decided to rehearse in smaller groups and get the essential scenes sorted first. We started off with the opening scene between Mammy (the hilarious aged grandmother) and Tommy (Johnny’s son, brother to Shaun, whose funeral everybody is irreverently making a scene at), trying to get the dynamics of that relationship right. Mammy is a character who is onstage throughout so we wanted her to be a strong character and build up other relationships from her. We used Mammy as the starting point for exploring the relationships between Mammy and Tommy, Mammy and Mrs Giles (a nosy neighbour with a penchant for gossip and whisky), Mammy and Helen (Shaun and Tommy’s mother) and Helen and Johnny. 

As a director, and it felt weird even calling myself that (!), I didn’t want to come in and tell them exactly how to play the role, exactly what to do. Instead I wanted to just point them in the right direction and let them discover the character for themselves, which is what I think we’ve done, hopefully. The actors soon began telling me things about the characters that I hadn’t previously thought of myself. All this meant that when it came to the Scratch they knew their characters well enough to improvise even when things went slightly wrong! 

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When I was designing our set I had this idea that I wanted to create three separate spaces that we could go between, using lighting, to avoid moving everything around on one single set. so we would have a set for Mammy’s bedroom, and then next to that we would have a kitchen/dining/living area, predominantly constructed from props, and then next to that using projection we would have an outside space. With that in mind, we went to find props and costumes. It was actually surprisingly difficult to find good charity shops in London, in my home town every other shop is a charity shop but in London you have to travel to the ends of the earth, (or, the end of the central line, which is basically the same thing) I’m going to have to write these costumes into every play I write now that I’ve got them!

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For about a week, we were organising everything in my flat and we ended up with three suitcases and a box full of stuff. We lugged it all down to the theatre and set everything up and I think we managed to get the mood of everything just right. Between  then and the scratch the one thing we’ve been complimented on the most is that the set looks really good.
Once the set was made up, I met up with my tech team and we spent, I think, close to three hours making up the lighting for the entire show, and once it was finished we flicked through what we had done, and we saw that it was good. 😉

For the scratch, I began to feel very nervous for the first time. We were running around trying to get the set up and ready and we were running late, (which we all expected) so we didn’t have time to go over anything, we went straight into the performance. There were a number of things that went wrong, the best of which was probably the unwanted attention brought onto a bread bin, it was sitting on top of a shelf with a golden light shining down upon it. The light was supposed to be going behind the shelf but ended up making the effect of some kind of holy bread bin descending from heaven to bless the McDonagh family… not really it’s role, and it kind of stole focus from the cast (but I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen). The cast made a few mistakes due to stage fright but generally they gave a really good performance and made a solid base that we can work up from. I am proud of them – they did really well.

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The week leading up to the performance, we need to tidy everything up, sort out the projection, (because that went horribly wrong before), bring in the violinist, sync the music and lights, get all the props in the right place, and work on cues! Yep, that’s all we have to do! Um… 

Agh! One week to go, tickets to sell, tech to arrange, nervous breakdowns to avoid… wish us luck!

(and book your tickets here!!) Here’s a picture of Scott dressed as Scooby Doo, (with some other crazies) if that will help to convince you…  DO IT…

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Big Love, PV x