“Do you want to direct a play with a load of teapots?”
So asked the writer of A Bed Of Shards, Jane McNulty. I’d LOVED her short play A Hairline Crack, seen at JB Shorts and Re:play Festival, and was excited about the ‘sequel’, especially when I found out the same 2 actresses had been signed up. So even with the prospect of being swamped by teapots (and packing boxes!), I jumped at the chance.
Button and Ronnie are not your average couple, yet in many ways theirs is a very typical long term relationship; one more dominant, one more caring, and both trying to make the best of their lot in life. We have discovered lots of new things about these characters and what keeps them together, and re-visiting them for Cathy Breeze (Button) and Tigga Goulding (Ronnie) has been like wearing a favourite coat or cardy – it’s still comfortable, but perhaps a little snug and itches a bit more! If you saw A Hairline Crack, this story is an extension of that, but it’s a stand-alone piece, so you certainly don’t need any prior knowledge.
During rehearsals, we have also seen many contrasts with a certain recent referendum: one of the characters wants to leave the flat they have lived in for 14 years; the other wants to stay. With such extreme views, the stakes are understandably high. We had quite a sombre rehearsal the day of the actual results but we concentrated on certain aspects of the play, and released a lot of tension. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the play.
As a writer, I like scripts with minimal set and props. As a director, I want to best serve the needs of the play. So we started with a few boxes and teapots (well, more than a few!) and have added as we’ve gone on. The props list now includes everything from novelty cowboy hats and two identical washing up bowls to bubble wrap and orange stickers. Lots and lots of orange stickers. Oh yes, those innocuous bits of coloured paper lead to one of the play’s more extreme moments. Rehearsals certainly haven’t been dull.
One of the joys of the play is how real the characters feel, even in their more heightened moments. We have had great fun playing with the pace of scenes, adding light and shade to moments, and just letting rip at other times. These make the quieter, somewhat reflective moments more poignant and, I hope, more powerful.
We’re all looking forward to bringing the next part of Button and Ronnie’s story to life at The Lowry. At the time of writing this, scripts are about to be abandoned, props and costumes are being added, and lighting and sound are being plotted, plus the kettle’s on.
It promises to be a smashing evening…
Written by Ian Townsend, Director of A Bed of Shards.
A Bed of Shards comes to The Studio at The Lowry Fri 1 July – Sat 2 July. For more information on the show visit the website or call box office on 0843 208 6000.