Saturday Night Forever is a journey that started for me in late 2015. I auditioned for the piece in London with Nicola Reynolds who was the casting director, Kate Wasserberg the director, and Gareth Lloyd Roberts the producer. It was one of the best auditions I have been to – they all made it such a lovely, comfortable, safe room to be in. We had an absolute ball!
In a world which is filled with self-judgement and worry about if you’ve done a “good job”, I think it’s so important to have creatives like them in an audition room – people who enjoy the audition process and each person they meet. It felt like they were championing me from the beginning. Anyway, it must have gone well because I was called to Cardiff for a recall a week later (where I also met the writer, Roger Williams) and the next day they offered me the part. I was absolutely thrilled! We rehearsed in Aberystwyth in September, opened there at the end of the month and then toured Wales as well as heading to the Leicester Curve until December. As far as I was concerned that was the end of the show. But a few months later an email came through from Gareth saying that the show had got funding to go to Edinburgh, and did I want to come back on board. Obviously, I said yes!
This was the first time for me revisiting a show. It’s a whole new process. Starting from scratch is more or less the same every time, but this was different. I’d already performed the show lots of times eight months ago, and we’d had an extensive rehearsal period with it. This time we were rehearsing for five days, then having four previews of the show at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, before heading up to Edinburgh to start the four-week run at the Underbelly.
When you go back to rehearsals for a show you’ve previously done where there are other cast members, I’m sure it feels odd. But when you’re doing a one-man play and you go back into a room with two creatives sitting in front of you (Kate and Bethan, the stage manager) it becomes very surreal. It was like going back in time. The last time I’d performed the show was to a theatre full of people, so to take it back to rehearsals was quite the experience. Kate, Bethan and I had also developed a great bond of friendship since the shows first outing, so I wasn’t just standing in front of the creatives by myself, I was performing to my two mates! The first couple of days were spent running it, getting new notes from Kate and getting comfortable with the piece again. Halfway through the process everything seemed to click into place, and I suddenly remembered the feeling and the journey of the show. From that moment on it all felt much easier.
The show has slightly changed this time round. Last year it felt like a much bigger piece, but Kate has simplified it, and it makes so much more sense. The screens (designed by the amazing Zakk Hein) don’t move this time, whereas last year they created different tableaux around me. I used to move around the stage quite a lot, but now I stay in my central spot. It’s been interesting to see how the little change of not moving has made such an impact on the show. By not moving, the conversation between myself and the audience is more cemented in place – more than ever it feels like we’re on the journey together. It’s also meant that by the end of the show people are far more affected by the story, and there are a lot more people getting emotional this time round.
Bringing the show to Edinburgh has been a wonderful experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy – far from it! But I feel so lucky to be able to bring Lee’s story to people outside of Wales, and bring a bit of Cardiff to their lives! An actor’s life is very strange. You wait a long time for a job (well, if you’re me you do!) you go into rehearsals, then you tech the show and perform it once, maybe twice, a day. That can involve being on tour and moving from place-to-place, or being stagnant in a theatre near to home. Then the job is over and the cycle starts again. But during the Fringe Festival it’s different. I’m lucky because I’m alternating the show with Alix In Wundergarten, which was at The Other Room last Christmas. They do all the odd dates, and Saturday Night Forever does all the even dates. So I have a “day off” from performing every other day. But that’s not a day off; it’s spent getting together flyers, printing off reviews, sticking/stapling reviews to flyers, walking around Edinburgh to the billboards of the show and sticking reviews to those, spending a few hours every day standing on the street handing out the flyers and talking to the public, trying to get them to come see the shows. We are all in it together, actors and creatives alike, and we’re all involved with marketing the shows as much as we can and trying to get bums on seats. There is something like three thousand shows up here, so as you can imagine, there’s quite a few people flyering around us! If you ever see me, ask me to do an impression of the man who flyers the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets……….ooo he’s annoying.
There’s still a week left of the show up here. We’ve had some lovely responses from the audiences that have watched it, and hopefully that carries on for the last five shows. It’s been a fantastic journey of the show over the last year, and it’s been such a wonderful experience to see audiences reactions to the piece. I feel very lucky to have been chosen to tell Lee’s story, and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has come to watch the show. Onwards and upwards!