All three members of the Descent Company are involved artistically in Now We Are Three – Steph is acting in Blind Date, Faye is directing Penpals and Keziah wrote Thornaby. So in the run up to the show, we’ll each be writing about what it’s like returning to these plays and working as Descent, three years on.
Keziah on the strangeness of revisiting past work and discovering a new play in an old script
Thornaby is the only one of the Past Plays that has an entirely new team this time around, so as soon as we decided to do it again I knew that in many ways it’d be a brand new play.
Last time I had an idea of two men trapped in a swimming pool and about half a script when we started rehearsals. The actors were my friends, Jon Paul Rowden (who has a gig in Munich the week of our Southwark run) and David Kirkbride (who is currently appearing in Othello at the National), and as we improvised, scribbled and drank our way through several late night rehearsals, the play that was then Thornaby took shape. The three of us directed it together and I think that direction, along with my constantly mutating script and their brilliant northern grit, made the final performance raw and brutal. It was exactly what we wanted.
Reading the script again three years later I found a lot of it surprising. At the time I’d wanted to test myself to see if I could write two convincing male characters, in this case, coarse and occasionally violent ones. Hearing it back there were quite a few lines that made me think “I’m glad my mum never saw this.” I’ve never gone back to a script before and it was strange reading this thing with my name on that I couldn’t remember writing. The script was unpredictable and funny and a little unhinged.
So I was excited and nervous for my first meeting with new director David. He got it straight away but also had a lot of different ideas about the characters’ personalities and motivations. A couple of redrafts later and a new story began to emerge; one more about friendship and boredom and lying, than just plain one-upmanship. It’s still very much about masculinity, but more about what it means to be a man than hormone-fuelled displays of bravado. It’s definitely a more polished script this time but the characters still have an underlying sense of danger and volatility. It’s been brilliant being able to play god with these ready-formed characters and also being able to delve deeper into who and what they are.
With redrafts done and a couple of rehearsals down, I’m visiting my first one tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear it out loud again and see a brand new set of actors bring their personalities to the characters. If you came to see Thornaby three years ago I can definitely promise you an entirely different beast, but a beast nonetheless.
Now We Are Three is at Southwark Playhouse, 20-24 August More info