Updated: Feb 23
Rehearsal footage: boyfriend stroke husband.
Rehearsing at Terrace Bar, NQ, Mcr
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been in rehearsals for my new play, boyfriend stroke husband. It’s a taut and tense affair - based on a true story about an unconventional family.
I won’t share too much about the story it’s based on as it will give away valuable plot points.
But it’s an unlikely set-up, with inevitable repercussions. You’ll watch the characters struggle to maintain an unwieldy secret; and the resultant misunderstanding complicates a lie that’s threatening to reveal itself.
One of the most fun tasks of the playwright is to make decisions about how you’re going to tell your story.
You get your basic premise, and explore the possibilities that that scenario provokes.
You develop your characters so that you can feel how they feel. You literally put yourself into your character’s boots, and follow them around while they try to work their way out of the dilemma.
The playwright makes decisions about what information to drip-feed and what to hold back. And getting that balance right is vital: hold off for too long and you lose your audience; give it away too quickly and there’s not a lot of story left to explore.
So, plotting a story is about the information you provide to the audience - and where.
Anyone who has participated in a WriteForTheStage course will know that information - in itself - is not dramatic. At least, it’s not dramatic if it’s just spelt out through dialogue.
Information is the ammunition in your storytelling arsenal. We use it - alongside the classic tensions - to keep an audience guessing.
Rehearsals so far
You can only ever bring a theatre production together with the assistance of a team. And we really lucky to have a great team behind us.
Maureen O’Neill - our producer.
Maureen has completed most of the WriteForTheStage courses, including Producing (our whistle-stop guide to going from page to stage). In a short time, her theatre company, Viaduct Theatre, has achieved a lot: nominations and wins at Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, and they’ve also run a pop-up venue in Stockport.
Jenna Sian O’Hara - Actor, Liv
Jenna trained in Musical Theatre at Rare Studio (Liverpool), graduating in 2017. She‘s also trained in Strasberg’s Method and with the National Youth Theatre. Other stage credits including Achy Breaky Bride (St Helens Theatre Royal), Lost Boys (Unity Theatre), and Blue Lines at Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.
Kivan Dene - Actor, Brendan
Kivan has worked extensively in theatre, TV, and film. His enormous versatility has taken him from Shakespeare to panto, as well as lead puppeteer in The Gruffalo and a narrator for BBC Schools radio. His recent TV credits include Peaky Blinders (BBC, Tiger Aspect), Fred & Rose (Nine Lives Media), and Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories (ITV).
Nicole Evans - actor, Janis
Nicole is a Manchester-based actor with a varied career on stage and screen. Film credits include Blackbird (starring alongside Michael Flatly, Raindance Film Festival) and Into The Mirror. She was a featured role recently in Hollyoaks, and has appeared in Sticky Times and Soulmates. She has also appeared in various theatre roles, including Blue Lines and A Fine Life (GMFringe), and in Patrick Marber’s Closer.
Maureen has been running this profit-share project.
What is a Profit Share?
If you get funding for a project, you have a budget at the beginning of the project. If you get your funding through Arts Council England, it means that everyone gets paid at industry rates. You have a budget for set, costumes, to cover expenses, and for marketing.
But it’s really difficult to get funding. You can apply for funding and not get it. But you should never allow a lack of public funding to stop you from producing your work.
Which is where profit-share comes into the equation.
Profit share projects work backwards - you do all the production tasks, then present it to your audience. You get your budget from ticket sales. So, making a profit on the box office is essential to ensure that everyone gets paid.
Most of the time, you don’t earn enough to equal what you might get paid during a funded project. But if you can sell enough tickets, then you get something to share out at the end of the project.
The Challenge of Profit Share
Getting your funding gives you lots of freedom. It means that you can run a full-time rehearsal process, because everyone can afford to put the time aside to work on the project.
Rehearsals for a profit share is a balancing act. Obviously, you still need the same amount of time in the rehearsal room. But you’d be very lucky if everyone can clear their diary for a two-week full-time rehearsal window.
You work with availability - and it’s hard to co-ordinate. You have to negotiate times and dates when everyone is available. You have to work around people’s working lives.
It’s absolutely possible, but it’s more of a challenge. Nonetheless, if a project is worth doing, then you find a way. You try to find cheap or free rehearsal space. You try to make sure that rehearsals are accessible for every member of the cast.
The quality of the resultant production is the same - it’s just that the route to getting there is a little trickier.
The most important aspect of any successful profit-share project is transparency. A good producer will be careful about how they spend their funds during the production process, but they won’t accept bad production values. They’ll find a way to produce a professional production with innovative ways of pulling things together.
They share their records; they show the entire team how much they’ve spent. And they make it clear how the profit will be divided.
boyfriend stroke husband @ The Kings Arms
The debut production of boyfriend stroke husband is running at the ever-popular Kings Arms Theatre, in Salford. It’s where almost all of my work has debuted. I love the space, and the venue has been an extremely supportive team.
Check out the rehearsal footage at the top of this blog. We’re working hard to bring this piece of work to life, and we hope that you can join us.
Tickets are on sale right now. Mon 16th - Thurs 19th March, 2020.