It’s Sunday, 10th April, my first day off from rehearsals this week obviously having just done a six day week. I say, “day off” but as those of you who work within this fantastic profession will acknowledge, once the rehearsal period begins the Director doesn’t really get a day off, as waking up to emails from the superlative writer Paul Jenkins, and the industrious producer Kate Perridge would testify to! Not that I’m complaining, I was swept away by the tsunami of vision, ambition and wit the very instant I picked up Paul’s play (the guy installing my Skybox at the time would attest to this as my laughing while reading, caused him to give me some very furtive looks).
Fear Of Drowning is a lovely piece of new writing; and as new Welsh writing is proving harder to be produced nowadays, although I have to add this has more to do with arts budget cuts than lack of ambition to produce it – there’s only so much Rachel at The Sherman and Kate at The Other Room as admirable as they are can do under these current circumstances.
Having been the Associate Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, before relocating to Canton, one of my responsibilities was overseeing the literary department and reading solicited, and unsolicited scripts which landed on my desk. I LOVE new writing, there are few things more exhilarating than picking up a script and discovering the potential brilliance which lies within it if nurtured, supported and encouraged. Fear of Drowning is one of those gems. It’s like you’ve been drilling for oil and striking out but then you find it all your frustrations are alleviated, you’re energised and you want to run around screaming to everyone what you’ve got.
At this point I should actually apologise to everyone whose asked me in the last year, “What you up to?” and I’ve pleasantly smiled, reeled off what I’ve got in the pipeline and then inevitably rambled on endlessly about the vision of this play…BUT I’m not going to apologise. “What you up to?” is such an uncreative question to ask anyone so you got the rambling you deserved! (Sorry to the magnificent Press representative Alice Baynham who I know is shaking her head at that, while imploring me to inform you lovely readers about the play).
Personally I dislike theatre which speaks down to the audience. In fact, like most people, I dislike anything which patronises, is misleading, or “sneaky” with its intentions; so to be upfront and to get the pitch out-of-the-way – Fear Of Drowning at Chapter Arts Centre, is a play which you should support and come and see. It was runner-up in the inaugural Wales Drama Award, it’s directed by me whose last play in that venue Love and Money for Waking Exploits was voted Best Studio Production in the South West by The Public Reviews and received three nominations at the Wales Theatre Awards (Brilliant Night). In her role as casting director, Leigh-Ann Regan has produced a group of actors who have developed into the brilliant ensemble their talents reflect; Lee Mengo, Keiron Self, Sarah Jane Hopkins and Mike Humphreys have proved to not only be marvellous actors but also incredibly nice, conscientious and supportive of one another, qualities which I find essential in creating a successful company of actors.
One of the most exciting things about directing any play for me is collaborating with the actors and creative team on the journey of discovering what the play means to us, and how we’re going to interpret the piece. This requires a rehearsal space in which the actors feel free to contribute their thoughts, “there is no wrong” and having an environment in which the actors are inspired, open and trusting with each other and me to try scenes countless ways. We’ve made some amazing discoveries and the play has taken us to places and grown in ways I could never have imagined. It’s been an exciting, compelling experience and has made me fall deeper in love with this play than I thought possible.
I have to say that I’ve loved every moment of my involvement in bringing Fear Of Drowning to the stage, it’s been a wonderful experience, and I’ll be sad when the play ends its run on the 23rd April. Hopefully see you at Chapter.
Ryan Romain, Director.
Pictures: Kirsten McTernan
Fear of Drowning runs at Chapter Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 April at 7.30pm with a Saturday Matinee at 2pm. Tickets are available form Chapter’s Box Office on 029 2030 4400 or by visiting www.chapter.org