Peter Whittle, Chair of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle, has been entertaining Chudleigh for a long time with his funny and often highly irreverent songs; and with his musical performances. In the past few years, he has branched out into plays where he writes the lyrics, the music and the script. He produced three comedies: Float Yer Boat, Cankerbury Tales and What A Way To Go, before turning to a more serious work with the heartbreaking and thought-provoking Mind The Gap. This week he tells us about progress with his new play, Edna’s Emporium, which will be performed in Teignmouth at the end of November.
“Rehearsals for Edna’s Emporium are now in full swing. This is an exciting period during which the characters gradually come to life and hopefully you witness a show beginning to take shape. You discover whether or not the dialogue, written many months ago in the quiet of your own secluded writing den, actually work in the ‘real world’. You also find out if you’ve got the right balance of stage directions in the script. Too many and you cramp the style of the actors as they strive to follow each of your detailed demands; too few and the nuance of a particular line gets lost. I’m told that, generally speaking, actors don’t like having the writer present during such rehearsals. Their presence can be constraining. As a writer you’ve got to be prepared to let go of your text and trust the actors and the director. Luckily having already done a few of my shows in recent years, we have now effectively formed a repertory group in which we all work together as a team and the actors feel free to bring staging ideas to be considered in the rehearsal process. Apart from anything else the rehearsals themselves are such fun.
The story of Edna’s Emporium follows the exploits of Edna and her not so able sidekick, Mavis, in their bid to save a struggling bric-a-brac shop business from collapse. I find the whole idea of trying to write comedy fascinating. How on earth do you judge what other people are going to find funny? Acerbic wit to one person may appear to be cheap and tawdry to another. Generally speaking I admit to using myself as a testing ground. If a plot twist or specific line still makes me laugh after the third re-write then I figure it must have some legs and keep it in. Having said that you never really find out until the first night. How are a group of fifty or so individuals going to react when they witness the finished result for the first time? There is a certain concentrated atmosphere of shared experience that is peculiar to the theatre and, it seems to me, particularly to smaller studio theatres such as The Ice Factory in Teignmouth where I tend to put on my shows. If it is going well, it can be very powerful and of course for the writer can be very rewarding. On the other hand, if not going so well, you become painfully aware of the need for further adjustments or even back to the drawing board itself. The stakes can be high!”
Further information about this new play, and all Peter’s work, can be found at: www.arnehouse.webs.com