I’m not ever going to ever see Avatar. Up to three hours of iffy storyline and worse dialogue propped up by hyper-technicolour-3D-pyrotechnics? Bleurgh. Lucky that Belfast theatre has declared 2010 The Year of the Rehearsed Reading. Give Avatar an Oscrap™ for ‘achievement in special effects’ and give me ‘recession theatre’ any day.
Rehearsed readings should be a part of any well rounded year, but they seem to have especially charmed us in this era of the ‘credit-crunch lunch’. There’s been fantastic fare at the Black Box lunchtimes and the Ulster Hall Sundays. And the bundle of new script submissions I sat down to read for Accidental last year has turned into a string of rehearsed readings of six new plays by six very good – and very different – writers.
Michael Shannon’s The Writers' Room. Jaki McCarrick’s Leopoldville. Margaret Irish’s Ravine. William Patterson’s Some Kind of Stranger. Neil A. Edwards’ School of Thought. Donal O’Hagan’s The Kitchen, the Bedroom, & the Grave. I’ll admit, I do like sixes. But there’s a solid kind of symmetry to the plays beyond that: the stripes of humour and anger through them, and the way their various settings act as traps. A single room with a box of props. A pub in the Irish borderlands. The bottom of a steep ravine. The Belfast vs. the Bangor crowd at Queen’s. A secondary school. A kitchen, a couple of bedrooms …
A lot can happen in constrained spaces – and when theatre productions are pared down to a reading of the words on the page, too. Austerity aside, it’s feeling like we’ve got some good months ahead. Six of them, at least.