Imagine seeing your favourite play in the early stages of its development. What if Romeo and Juliet had originally ended differently? How would the extended draft of Joanna Murray-Smith Honour read? Did the characterisation of John Proctor in The Crucible change much from Arthur Miller’s early drafts?
At the opening of our Cybec Electric last week, MTC Literary Director Chris Mead spoke about the daring nature of play readings. We thought he spoke so eloquently about this fragile and exciting moment in the creative process that we wanted to share an excerpt of his speech here;
While it may be true that MTC has no problem these days with four letter words (thank you Mike Bartlett) I’d like to talk briefly about a scary eleven letter word: play reading.
With changes coming as late as 5.38 this evening, play readings seem to give actors shelter – the script is in their hand – but the actors are still expected, and are busting a gut, to act, not read – no looking down! Working with what seems like a finished product but with many discoveries still to be made, we ask that you meet the ambition of the work with the dynamism of your imagination.
And finally, I often feel terrible vertigo before a play reading – it’s the fertile but awful tension between the planned and the accomplished, the moment and the whole, the remembered and the real, the living and the dead – especially when history is so present in these plays.
This Cybec Electric series confronts us with something deeply shocking, stories all the more shocking for their truth, stories where the ones who survive are faced with a painful dilemma: how to give voice to the unutterable and how to comprehend the inexplicable – Colonisation, civil war, de-colonisation, the bio-ethics of biotechnology, and, errm, online dating.
Theatre privileges the voice, voices, of reckoning, of dignity, of power – in all their ingenuity, silliness, contrariness, fury and joy. Here, we fail again, we fail better. And we’re doing it together.
So, grab hold of a neighbour, and enjoy the ride.
You can use the links below to learn more about each of the five playwrights included in this year’s Cybec Electric.
Jane Harrison (The Visitors)
S. Shakthidharan (A Counting and Cracking of Heads)
Sue Smith (In the Kingdom of 茶)
Kylie Trounson (The Waiting Room)
Declan Greene (8GB of Hardcore Pornography)
Cybec Electric runs until 22 February. Tickets start at $5.