|Ken O'Hara as Rab, The Price of a Fish Supper, Ayr Gaiety.|
This week, my play The Price of a Fish Supper finally had an Ayrshire production, with Ken O'Hara as Rab, and Isi Nimmo directing: three performances at the upstairs studio in Ayr's excellent Gaiety Theatre.
What a joy it was to see it.
This play was the first one I wrote for the Oran Mor's 'A Play, A Pie and a Pint' season in Glasgow. Even then, it had been sitting on my PC for a while, with scant interest shown, until it was passed on to the late and much missed David McLennan, by Dave Anderson. Almost immediately he contacted me to say that he wanted to stage it. That first performance was directed by Gerda Stevenson, with Paul Morrow as Rab, and was extremely well reviewed. It was produced at the Edinburgh festival fringe and went on to have a production on BBC R4 (although we had to cut out all the swear words for that one!) It was also published by Nick Hern Books as part of an anthology called Scottish Shorts and as an individual eBook.
Cue forward some years and Isi, who had directed Ken in a splendid version of Alan Bennett's heartrending A Chip in the Sugar, asked if I could recommend any more one man plays. 'Well, I might have something,' I said. And pointed both of them to The Price of a Fish Supper. That was some months ago. Eventually, we were offered space at the Gaiety and the play has proved to be more successful there than any of us anticipated - the tickets sold out quite quickly, and the Gaiety added a matinee, since there was such a waiting list.
The interest in this production was, I think, down to a number of things. Ken is very good at publicity - proactive and imaginative. It goes without saying that he's also very good at acting! The play is about the demise of the fishing industry, which means a lot to many people here, but it's about a lot more than that. I still find the central character heartbreaking: he's an alcoholic ex fisherman, but I think all the time, watching it, you realise what he might have been, what he could have been in different circumstances. I had Ayrshire in my mind while I was writing it, and hearing Ken perform the play with an Ayrshire accent, with the energy of the language of the place where I live and work, was something of a revelation, even to me. I suddenly realised that I had written it with the voice of the place I now call home very firmly in my mind - and here it was, on the stage.
Ken 'got' it in a remarkable way. So did Isi. I'd forgotten how much I like theatre when it goes as well as this. This is the first production of any drama I've been involved with for some time. I'd also forgotten that peculiar, nerve racking sensation of wondering what an audience will make of it - and the sheer pleasure of knowing that some combination of skills has made them 'get' it too.