House on Fire gets a Rapid Read
Sometimes you finish a play on Saturday, and it gets presented the following Friday.
The fantastic thing about Rapid Reads Festival is it gives you a deadline to work towards, and Jordan Shea and the team have enough faith in me to meet that deadline that I’ve done Rapid Reads twice now. Last year it helped me finish Duckpond, this year I wrote House on Fire.
Getting an original play through to production stage is a lot of work. Getting it to a stage where there’s a chance of remuneration can seem like an impossible dream. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of having plenty of ideas but never seeing them through. Plays stuck in notebooks, either waiting for the perfect ‘someday’ when all other responsibilities fall away, or cast aside as too difficult to realise under the usual constraints of indie theatre.
I love play readings. You can write a scene where a character gets eaten by a giant loaf of bread. You can have a character dive into a flooding basement. You can have animals, and complicated AV, and all sorts of things falling from the sky, because it’s all in the audience’s imagination. You can write a designer’s/director’s/stage manager’s worst nightmare if that’s what you want.
Events like Rapid Reads aren’t necessarily about preparing a play for production. It’s about developing writers, giving them a deadline or a goal to aim for, and a supportive space. Having the chance to gauge audience reactions this early on in the process is priceless. Having a director and actors respond to your piece is another fantastic leg up when it comes to the mountainous task of the second draft.
House on Fire got its first public showing last Friday, less than a week after I finished writing. It was directed by Melissa Hume, with a cast of Suz Mawer, Lucia May and Rizcel Gagawanan. These phenomenal women brought their all to a play that is, let’s be honest, still a work in progress. Suz even jumped around in a giant (faux) fur coat when the weather was 25°C.
I’ve been inspired by my research, and the conversations we had in the rehearsal room. Rapid Reads helped us over the first creative hurdle, but it’s not the time to slow down. This play is important, and it’s relevant. I want to refocus the way we think and talk about climate change. Hopefully in 2020 we’ll see an even bigger movement of environmental awareness, and House on Fire will be a part of that.
* Find out more about the philosophy behind Rapid Reads in this Audrey Journal article about last year’s festival.