Next Wednesday we have the read-through of my script for The Dress Circle. The read-through is a kind of Waterloo for the script writer or at least, the night before Agincourt. The moment when you hear an actor speak the lines and sometimes, inevitably, think, ‘Well that’ll have to go.’
I always attend the read-through. It isn’t at all obligatory but if you’re a control freak, and I am, you don’t want anyone else fiddling with your work. It’s an exciting moment anyway, as well as stomach-churning. Plays need to be performed, not hugged to the writer’s perfectionist chest. I hear the lines as I write them and I have a pretty good ear, but the actor brings something else to the mix. We shall see. Or rather, we shall hear. It’s an exercise in listening.
There’s nothing much to see at a read-through. Just a bunch of people sitting around in some cold, grubby rehearsal room reading the lines at a good clip. No emoting, no stops or pauses, although spontaneous laughter is always appreciated. With radio drama you then go straight into the studio. With a stage play the party may disband for several weeks until rehearsals begin. Sometimes there’s coffee. Oftentimes you wish for strong drink. Professionals talk earnestly about The Business. Who’s up for what, and where, the jammy bastards. Amateurs tend to be more interested in their costumes. ‘Can I show you what I picked up in Oxfam? ‘
It’s altogether a funny way to spend an evening. Beats watching the telly though.