I was in London’s trendy Whitechapel district last night, just down the road from the Whitechapel Art Gallery at the Toynebee Studios’ cool and friendly Arts Bar and Cafe where I arrived late, after a misguided set of directions from a friendly drunken lady with a mouth fool of hamburger who asked me for £2 in exchange for some well meant misdirections. Luckily I was too mean to part with my money and she was too nice to take offense when I walked off in the opposite direction. The friendly policeman was more accurate but, in the end, I was treated royally when I was rescued by Gareth, one of the actors from White Rabbit, the theatre company who were rash enough to want to perform one of my short stories.
I was the last to arrive, naturally, and I walked into a sold-out house which meant, I would guess, well over a hundred people sitting round small tables with cake stands laden with colourfully iced cakes and biscuits.
White Rabbit is a theatre group founded by the impressively pink haired and clad Bernadette Russell who was one of three actors performing a series of short stories including one of my own, Midnight Snack which was apparently selected from an entry of 80 submitted works. It felt good to have been just one of seven chosen from so many. Their monthly show is called Are You Sitting Comfortably? and it is well worth you going along if you are ever in London.
It was good too just being a part of this lively and highly professional event where each story was treated with real respect by the readers who had obviously put thought and imagination into each text. They held the audience enrapt and amused for two hours in the great story-telling tradition where all ears are focused on the power of the human voice. Whether we know it or not, we all love being read to.
I have read this story a couple of times, on-line and once to my very enthusiastic neighbours over dinner last weekend (they are very supportive people and I love them dearly) and I did pretty well on both occasions, I thought. I am not an actor but I did know what I had written so I thought I knew how it should sound. Hearing Gareth reading my words was an inspiration. He had obviously really concentrated on the meaning of every word as well as finding every possible nuance and effect. We can be guilty of under-estimating the craft of acting, these three actors last night demonstrated just how much work goes into making a text come alive.
I am not making any claims about the quality of my writing but I like mixing humour, irony and sadness and, even though I never spoke to Gareth about interpretation before his performance, he found every iota of meaning in my text and more besides. I was particularly excited by the way he managed to get all the laughs whilst holding the central poignant core to the tale. When writing alone in a small room at the top of the house, I have no idea how a reader will react, last night it was wonderful watching an audience intent on every word and laughing at every ironic aside. They also went quiet when the mood switched to pathos. I owe Gareth Brierley a lot for this.
Afterwards, the audience lingered and chatted over more than a few beers and wolfiewolfgang met his first audience, a lively, intelligent and very London mix of trendy enthusiasts mostly in their twenties and thirties. As an incurable show-off, it was great but there was an important lesson here for the Wolf. Fun though it was talking to these folk, there is something even more satisfying than taking centre stage, I found out, and that is when a White Rabbit speaks with your voice and runs with it.
Sometimes taking a back seat can be very comfortable indeed.