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Wednesday 13th December 2006

To RADA this afternoon for the first read-through of the 90 minute version of “You Can Choose Your Friends” with almost the entire final cast in attendance in front of the ITV executive who had the very great sense and intelligence to commission the show. I was, I think it’s fair to say, pretty nervous, but also pleasantly excited. The script has taken another leap forward this week and I was keen to hear how it would sound, but was also aware that there was a big section in the middle that I hadn’t had time to work on that might sound a bit crap.
ItÂ’s been a few years since I have been heavily involved in a TV project and itÂ’s been easy for me to forget how big a deal this is for me. But as I walked from the tube to the building the truth did start to hit me. After a lot of pain and heartache with this particular script over the last two years I think itÂ’s getting to a point where itÂ’s potentially very good. But until the words come out of the mouths of the actors then you are never sure.
When I arrived there were a couple of actors there already and there were some tentative, slightly awkward greetings. I know a couple of the people in it, but there are some others who I had only met at auditions, of whom I was a little in awe. And I would be meeting the actor who was playing my characterÂ’s dad for the first time (he is reuniting with an actress who played his on-screen wife for seven years in a sit-com a few years ago. I am not sure I am allowed to say, but you are welcome to have a guess). You never know how a group of actors will get on, or if someone will be a prima donna or difficult to get on with. And itÂ’s a big cast with a dozen characters, so thereÂ’s the potential for something to go wrong. But as everyone milled in and got chatting no immediate alarm bells were ringing. In fact everyone seemed cool and very positive about the script and I was enjoying the chatting so much that I didnÂ’t really want to get on with the reading, but we werenÂ’t here to socialise, even if we were all part of a pretend family.
And whilst the reading at the BBC had been a tense and mirthless half hour, this time, (possibly because there was not the additional pressure of having to convince anyone that the script should be produced) the opening scenes flowed freely and the cast and observers laughed easily and genuinely. It wasnÂ’t until we got to the scenes in the middle that I havenÂ’t had time to work on that things dipped slightly, but things picked up at the end and it was clear that it isnÂ’t going to take a huge amount of work to get things right. On top of the nervousness about the script I had had to cope with the added anxiety of acting alongside these accomplished and experienced thespians, but I think I acquitted myself reasonably well. The character of a 39 year old waster who is a bit childish and seems to be having trouble settling down was for some reason not a massive push for me.
So it was a blessed relief to have negotiated this first hurdle and I am very much looking forward to finishing off the script and then meeting up with my pretend family again and doing the whole thing for (pretend) real.

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