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Tuesday 8th July 2014


Not quite today, but definitely tomorrow.

To be fair I have finally completed a script which runs from start to finish with no gaps, but when we read it through this afternoon it took 97 minutes. We only have an 80 minute slot in Edinburgh and of course the script will take a bit longer to act out then it will to read, which means that I probably need to cut 20 pages (of the 98 in the script). But it's a lot easier to cut stuff than it is to write it, even if occasionally it is a bit of a gut wrench to get rid of funny bits that aren't totally necessary to the plot, but it's time to kill some of my babies so that other of my babies can live. That's what all parents do right?

It's a delicate balance, but hopefully cutting some of the exposition will help things move on and I can reinstate bits if we do the play again after the Fringe. The tennis playing Tsar Nicholas has gone, and so has a nice bit about a magical hat. Today we cut my absolute favourite bit, where the Prince details what the bizarre ways he dressed up his childhood dog. But I think I might put it back in.

There are still a few repairs to do, but there was nothing that felt excruciatingly embarrassing for me (which is an occupational hazard for the early drafts as half thought ideas are read out by proper actors). The cast had some suggestions and some criticisms and looked only mildly fearful about how much work they have to do in the next three weeks. We've got a really good team on this and everyone is mucking in, making suggestions and working hard. Interestingly two of the cast have appeared in previous plays about Yusupov (I had no idea anyone else had written about him and I think one of them was a student play, but apparently there was a  musical about him) and another has played Emperor Alexandra on stage, so there's a lot of knowledge about the subject. And we're all pushing in the same direction. Sometimes you can get a prick or an ego in the cast, but if we have one they haven't made themselves known yet. I mean all actors are fairly egotistical, but they are all keeping those egos within acceptable parameters. Maybe it will turn out that I am the prick. But I don't think so. I am taking their suggestions in good spirit and allowing them to own what their characters would and wouldn't do. Sometimes they are picking up on the deliberate subtleties in the script and sometimes they are spotting things that I never intended. But I have a lot of time for actors (for good ones at least) I like the way they search for motivation and demand that everything is justified. And also the way that a good actor can use some information that hasn't been able to make it into the script and still suggest it via their performance.

This is a funny play (hopefully) but I think it will also surprise people with its examination of serious themes. And the character of Yusupov (and indeed Rasputin, who he is very similar to) is a fascinating mixture of conflicting attributes which Nichola is already getting across brilliantly.

It's impossible to know how it will be received and I can't tell any more if the script is good od bad. But wouldn't it be wonderful if it's good? For now I am just happy that this mini-Hell of pain and pleasure (maybe I am like Rasputin and Yusupov as well) is nearly over for me. And I can hand this over to everyone else and hope they polish it up, rather than smash it.

I might have been able to finish it tonight, but I had earned a night off and went out for some sushi with my understanding wife who has put up with my stupid working hours and dashing around for the last month.

The link for the discount ticket offer for Edinburgh is now working. If you want to see both my play and my stand up show on the same day you can save a fiver by buying the tickets here. Please spread the word.

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