Down to London for casting. The initial sift for the cast of The Tide Jetty was done by Director Scott Huran and Ivan Cutting of Eastern Angles a week or so ago. I’ve now been invited to Toynbee Studios in London to watch the recalls. As the writer I have no special authority in this process. Ivan and Scott will be interested in my take on who does what, but my voice is just one more in the mix. For me this is the start of the process of handing the play over to the production team. Theatre is a collaborative activity and its time for others to start bringing their expertise to bear. Waiting in the wings is a team of set and costume designers, composers, sound designers, musicians, set builders all preparing their own input for the show The Tide Jetty will become.
During the course of a long afternoon a selection of Tuckys, Mortons, Annies, Nudds and Elizas are all put through their paces in extracts from key scenes. For the actors this is tough. At their initial audition they were on their own. This time they are working in small groups. Scripts are handed out, parts assigned, and Scott leads them through each extract in turn – an initial cold sight-read sitting in a circle, followed by standing the scene on its feet. The actors are given minimal direction and the freedom to move around as they improvise the scene. For me it’s the first time I’ve seen the whites of their eyes.
The atmosphere is friendly and co-operative but everyone knows the actors’ livelihood for the next five months depends on the outcome of this session. It’s not just the prospect of earning a crust that is on the line. The lucky ones will join a closely knit team in an intense, exhausting, exhilarating collaboration that will see them criss-cross the county in a van laden with props, welcomed and applauded (we hope) in a different venue every night. The rest return to pulling pints and the day to day hustle that is an inevitable part of an actor’s life.
It’s exciting to see scenes start to come to life – a glimpse into the way things might work. I find myself moved unexpectedly by one of our Eliza’s confrontation with her daughter. Then delighted as a Tucky nails the earthy nous of a marshman. At this point we’re not necessarily looking for the best actors. The challenge for the casting team is to judge how these different personalities work in combination. It’s not a soloist we’re looking for but the full quartet.
As yet, I don’t know the outcome. Even when decisions are made there are agents to be contacted, availability to be checked, the outcome of auditions with other companies to be balanced. Does the actor’s agent recommend the security of a four/five month tour in the regions or does he suggest his client hold out for the possibility of some lucrative telly work? It’s all up for grabs. But somehow from somewhere within this group of talented individuals the final cast of The Tide Jetty will emerge.