The actor, writer, director and theatre critic Paul T. Davies writes his third and fourth in a series of blogs for Keep Colchester Cool about his new play ‘Play Something’
Play Something 3 – The Song About You.
“Side one, track two. That song is about me.”
We all have the songs we love, the songs that remind us of friends and times past. People we don’t see anymore and places we haven’t been to for years. But a song comes on the radio, or you find it on your playlist, and you’re transported back in time. (Breakout by Swing Out Sister- I’m back at University doing my BA!) Then there’s the song that, somehow, you know is about you. They looked into your soul, and those lyrics, well, that’s your story. That melody, that’s you.
In the play I use one particular song to begin humanising the character of M. He is sex obsessed, completely denies any emotions or feelings, and, as a policeman, he is perhaps a bit too used to locking his emotions away. He is good at his job, professional, is shown having a caring side to members of the public. But when F crashes into his life and tries to find out who M is, barriers remain fixed. As a guy into leather, he wears his leather gear as a suit of armour, locking the ‘real’ him away. We all have our armour, right? But the audience have to know about him, they need an explanation as to why M is, quite frankly, a bastard in his youth.
Hence the song about him. It’s a scene I called The Record Collection, when M actually invites F back to his flat. I feel record collections and books reveal a lot about a person. And M’s record collection reveals a lot about his upbringing and past- things he never meant to say, but THAT song releases him, and he talks to F, for the first time, about his emotions. Of course, the armour is quickly retrieved; he puts his barriers up and treats F appallingly for another couple of years. Being in the closet, younger M has far too many secrets to let them spill.
The skilful performance of Jacko and Ben in this scene is really bringing out the universal aspects of the story. This is the first time M talks about more than sex or his job, and it’s a revelation that surprises F, and haunts M until F encourages him to close the circle in his older years. It’s certainly a challenge trying to tell their story through music and acting alone, but background information is being developed partly through our imaginations and partly through shared experiences. The story is created from an anecdote I was told about a friend of a friend, and partly because we all have THAT song. The one that is, without doubt, written especially for us.
And what Is M’s song? Well, you’ll have to book to find out! I begin to think that mine is I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, but truth is, it is, and always will be Dancing Queen!
Play Something 4 – Like The Actor!
At what point does an actor become the character they are playing? Is the actor cast because they already have the right qualities for the part, or does a happy coincidence occur during the rehearsal process, when the actor looses him or herself in the role?
It’s been a question of much debate during Play Something rehearsals, as I wrote the play with no specific actors in mind. We work shopped with several excellent actors who all helped push the play forward. The casting was made before the summer, but then, through no fault of their own, three actors had to withdraw from the project due to pressure of University life and fatherhood. It wasn’t a problem, as I had a pool of actors to draw on, and we contacted another actor we had seen on stage. So the cast changed… and, with no disrespect at all to the other actors, it turned out to be the ideal cast. But amazingly, they clicked into the roles without me writing a single part for them.
The characters are simply labelled F and M, (the audience can speculate what they stand for), and older versions of the characters take up their story years after they split up. I had never met Jacko until he came along to audition, and he actually stayed to rehearse. Put simply, he plays a young M who loves Motorhead, Meatloaf, and edgy music and detests the likes of Kylie Minogue. Jacko has exactly the same musical tastes. His opposite number, F, is played by Ben Maytham, who loves Kylie, Britney, dancing and pop- and that’s exactly his character’s tastes. Neither of these actors was cast originally.
Shane, who plays older F, was originally my co-director, and we had done some initial sharing of music, art and stories to shape the topics I wanted to write about. His musical tastes did influence some of the choices, but now he is playing the part, accidentally we have found that some of the tunes I selected resonate with his experiences. The sole survivor of the workshop, Matt, has found that older M contains some of his attitudes and experience, and Matt has suggested music that has really sharpened his character.
So was it fate? Luck? Or, more likely, four actors who are open to exploring their characters and experiences and share them in rehearsal that have made the script and roles chime? It is strange that it now looks as if I wrote each role for each specific actor, and I’ll take that! Hopefully you will believe in them too, and maybe we will play something that means something to you!
PAUL T. DAVIES.
Play Something performs at the Mercury Theatre Studio on February 26th/27th.
Read Part 1
Read Part 2