Almost two years to the day since I last did such a thing
, I was down at TV Centre this evening doing a rehearsed reading for the Controller of BBC2 and other assorted high flying executives. Last time I did this the atmosphere was muted and strange and the BBC didn't commit to the project (which was of course then poached by ITV) - this time, I think, it went slightly better, though it is still an odd and dispiriting way to present a project.
But it was terrifically exciting to have an afternoon to rehearse the script up and have actual (and amazing) actors bringing the previously imaginary characters to life. I was very lucky to get some top thespians in to do this, including Henry Goodman, Frances Barber, Paul Putner, Julia Deakin, Natasha Redhead and Catherine Shepherd (with Jim "That's white man's electricity you're burning" Barclay
having cycled from Lewisham in order to deliver just three lines - but it was worth it. Plus he gave me some of his cheese and pickle sandwich, which he'd made using home-made bread. If only more actors brought sandwiches for the writer. I will definitely give him more lines if we get a series ). Naturally I was there too, bringing the average down, playing a character called Ian, as is traditional.
We were presenting my Scrabble based sit-com, "Absolutely Scrabulous"and my favourite bit turned out to be hearing Henry, Frances and Julia forced to discuss whether "refished" was a valid word. It isn't, in case you're worrying. But having such great actors delivering such a mundane conversation added some new level to it that I hadn't really anticipated.
We just had a couple of read throughs amongst ourselves before heading upstairs to a room on the 4th floor that helpfully had the hot evening sun shining magnified through the windows, directly hitting out small, yet important audience. The whole situation is not massively conducive to laughter, so making them uncomfortably hot probably did not help. Did God hate me and want me to fail? There was a choir singing somewhere in TV Centre (I think something to do with Songs of Praise), which did suggest Heavenly blessing for us. The whole thing is now in the hands of the gods that's for sure. And for their superior, the controller of BBC2.
Although the comedian and writer in me was disappointed by the lack of laughs, I did end up feeling positive. I think we had done all we could. Now we have to sit and wait.
I then had to drive up to Leamington Spa, with the sun setting right in front of me. It made driving difficult as it was hard to see anything, but it was a beautiful thing to watch and I had a sense of contentment and calm. Although heading off into the sunset if traditionally seen as an ending, with this and a few other things that are going on at the moment, it feels like it might actually be the beginning of something. It would be nice to think that all the hard work of the last few years, of writing in the day and gigging in the night, might be leading somewhere. But I've felt like this before and nothing major has come of it. This time last year I thought I might be on the brink of writing two major comedy drama series and yet that came to nothing, so let's not get too excited. But I think it is OK to feel slightly positive.
When I got to Leamington Spa, which I think I had always suspected was a made up comedy place, the location of a sit-com, there were ducks walking down the high street. It made me more convinced that Leamington Spa was not real and just a Truman Show style set, where the population were so committed to the sit com that they lived their lives as one. As a man whose life resembles a bad sitcom I fitted right in.
But honestly, ducks in the street. You don't get that in Shepherd's Bush.