I said these were the toughest days. It’s been two days of going over every moment of the show as closely and carefully as I can, making sure it all does what it needs to, that it’ll all work the best it can. The work is very focussed and definite — identifying and solving the problems that come up in runs — and in a way that helps, but in another way there’s this big overarching terror. By the final days you’re totally committed to the overall shape and purpose of the show: what you’re trying to achieve, which was left open at the outset, is now decided. So what if you’re wrong?
By this point, I’ve got to believe totally in what I’m doing. All the work now, the big changes and the tweaks, are within this frame I’ve already set, so I have to believe that the overall concept for the show is right, that the audience will enjoy it, that it will do something artistically and politically powerful. That’s a lot to pile on a rehearsal! and you can’t avoid the doubts.
I’m writing this on the morning of day 11, the day it opens. This is my most hated 24 hours in all of theatre. It’s worse than writing funding applications, it’s worse than waiting for replies, it’s worse than 14-hour tech rehearsals. It’s the point where I’ve done everything I can: I think I know what that is, and what it’s for, and I think I’ve made the show as good as it can be, and I think that’s pretty damn good. But I won’t know until the audience arrive! and I think I’ve done everything I can to make sure they’re there, but that’s a big fear too. All in all, it’s a day of total and impotent terror. For me, anyway.
What I’m longing for is the moment in a few hours when the audience arrives and I get to start performing. As soon as it begins, I’ll feel great. I’ll be talking to them, responding to them, being live in the room with them, and that’s why I love doing theatre. the bit in the bar afterwards, the post-mortem, that’s just a little extra, and the feedback there is useful, but it’s really about that live moment. That’s what all the last two weeks of work have been about, getting there, and making sure the moment is great. I hope you’re there to share it.