In the end, you see the beginning.
The final week before any production is the most important, because the show will be undergoing its biggest transformation during this period. A work takes shape, you finally find out what it’s about, and whether you got it right or wrong – or usually, both. In the end, you see the beginning. It is a little like dying; you finally see why you started this whole thing in the first place.
But unless you're a tortured genius bent on achieving nirvana one sell-out show at a time, this is going to offer little to no consolation. There's shit to be done, and as with most things, there is nothing like a deadline to inspire productivity. You turn on the espresso machine and go into full-frontal physical and creative overdrive. With my recent shows Yesterday, The Marriage of Kim Kand Queueue, there was invariably yet more material which had to be written at this stage. On all these projects, I was lucky enough to be most fortunate person north of Tibet in having a cast easy-going enough to be ok with this. I mean, having unwritten songs a week before the opening is pretty (bloody) incompetent. I like to call it an important artistic process of creative mellowing. Most people like to call it incompetence.
We're just cutting open something inside us and letting it bleed, hoping that at least one person in the audience relates to it.
But then I suppose incompetence is one of the most important things in a writer's arsenal. We don't have to save lives, we don't have people's welfare in our hands. We're just cutting open something inside us and letting it bleed, hoping that at least one person in the audience relates to it in some way. Usually in our work we're actively telling people how we're all incompetent and isn't that great. In most theatre, whether it's Shakespeare or Stoppard, someone makes a mistake, shit hits the fan and a lesson is learnt. This is precisely what happens in the week before opening night. It's a messy, intense, testing process that often ends in something quite extraordinary. Your show probably won't be anything like what you imagined it would be. And you're about to find that out.
Photo credit: King Lear (O'Reilly February 2015); taken by Oliver Robinson