As we head towards opening night of Campion Decent’s irreverent, life-affirming and deeply personal Unholy Ghosts, Campion reflects on seeing the play come off the page for the first time.
I recently sat in on the first few days of rehearsal for Unholy Ghosts (or UG as we affectionately call it). Some people asked me why. ‘Isn’t your job over? Don’t you get bored?’ No and no are the answers. With the first production of a new play there is – at the very least – tweaks to be done. Not until you hear it in the mouths of actors do you realise the rhythm of a line needs adjusting. Or another is no longer necessary and better played through an actor’s gesture or loaded silence. And so on and so forth. And, if you’re really lucky, an actor comes up with an irresistible offer that immediately betters a writer’s clumsy choice. As for the boredom part … Nup, I find the psychology of the rehearsal room endlessly fascinating. And who wouldn’t enjoy watching actors the calibre of Anna Volska, Robert Alexander and James Lugton strut their stuff?
James Lugton during rehearsals
It’s been a kind of double-edged sword with UG, however, because the story it tells draws heavily on my own experience. Accordingly, the actors have been hungry to hear the back-story to the story of the play. And I’ve relived it for them and then watched them layer that in and relive it for our astute director Kim Hardwick. By day four I have fixed up enough of my own stupid mistakes and seen enough to know they are on the right track. And I’ve whispered a few key thoughts to Kim as they come to me (like ‘monster’, ‘rage’ and ‘vaudeville’). And we’ve all sat around and shared anecdotes about the love/hate realities of parents, children, life and loss. But ultimately – as valuable as hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth is – the cast and creative team need to be free of me so they can make it their own. After all, respect and concern for the writer is commendable in the rehearsal room but awfully dull on stage. So I leave them with advice to ‘let it rip’. Oh, and a suggestion to James who has the unenviable task of playing the son/the writer/me, ‘Don’t be afraid to play him as a [expletive deleted]. He was. Believe me, I know.’
Unholy Ghosts runs from 27 of August – 20 September. For more info and to book tickets, click here.