What a pleasure it’s been to have worked – as script consultant – with BAFTA-winning Emmerdale writer Karin Young on her play ‘The Awkward Squad’. This was my first time working with a theatre script and it turned out to be quite a learning experience. I am very used to the importance of prose description in film scripts and was at a loss with the overwhelming amount of dialogue in the first draft script. “But who are these people and what about the visual” was my cry.
Fundamentally many of the basic tenants applied to both forms of story telling. Did the writing on the page reflect what Karen was trying to express? Were the characters and scenarios credible and engaging? Was the structure coherent?
The experience was extremely intense spread over 18 months. The first step was sorting out the structure, again too many characters, too confusing to keep track of with unclear roles. This is a passionate play that speaks about the history of three generations of working class women in the North East.
Finding a way to express the heartfelt politics of the piece without simply expressing the views of the writer through the mouths of their characters meant creating living, breathing, sometimes complex and flawed characters. Karen is a talented comedy writer and this shone through the whole piece. I sometimes played the role of serious backstop, together it seemed to work.
The play opened at Customs House South Shields to a packed audience and later transferred to the Arts Theatre in the West End. It is such a big moment to see a piece of work gain a life of its own in performance. The all female cast and crew brought the play to life with witty and credible performances from all four main players Libby Davidson, Charlie Hardwick, Barbra Marten and Lisa McGrills.
It was fascinating to see how the director Fiona McPherson had staged the play, scenes that I had been unsure of suddenly worked extremely well giving me plenty to think about on future projects. In particular the role of the director in theatre and what a lot they can bring to a well written script.
The play has been published by Aurora Metro Books. More information about the play here.