First time playwright Rebecca Callard won a Commendation for her Bruntwood Prize shortlisted play A BIT OF LIGHT. As well as winning £4,000 A BIT OF LIGHT went on to have a rehearsed reading at the NT Studio, directed by Abigail Graham and featuring Jo Hartley , Alan Williams, Abdul Salis, Susan Wokoma and Michael Ajao. Below, she catches up with us on the what the Commendation has meant for her.
I spend most of my time writing now. It’s a dream really. Meetings. Actually properly being a writer meetings. Since the Commendation people have requested to read A Bit of Light and I’m working with those people on projects now; developing A Bit of Light as a film/screenplay and I’m developing a series with Hillbilly Films. We’ve been meeting and working consistently on an idea since the awards and I’m writing the first episode at the moment. I’ve finished the screenplay and making that transition was interesting. Every time I’ve written a new draft I’ve cut more lines because on screen that volume of dialogue won’t work and we can use images or scenes without any speaking or any characters or even just a shot that can set up the story. The film has been optioned by a respected producer and they hope to shoot within a year…
The reading was a mixture of joy and dread. Joy that it was actually happening and trepidation that it wasn’t going to work aloud or I’d be confronted with too many flaws. I was worried an actor would ask a question that I just didn’t know the answer to. And in terms of functionality there might be things in there that just weren’t fixable. When I walked in the room 45 mins before anyone else and saw my scripts set out it was a wonderful rush. Then the duality of panic. It seems to be the process with (my) writing. “This could be good! This is really awful!”
Meeting with Abigail in our own time I found that she and I had a shorthand. With casting we imagined the same people. She would be great at cutting the sentiment and the repetition of emotions and I’d try and cling on to my words. I suppose because they’re the first words I’ve written. I’m getting better at that. I hope.
The actors couldn’t have been more perfect. In their casting. With their instincts. I wrote Alan for Alan Williams so that was a gift for me that he could be there. They all brought a beautiful balance of understanding what was meant and posing new perspectives. I believed in them and when you have that you can hand it over and not be so protective. Hearing those actors saying my words for two days, and actually not just that, the amount of feeling and substance they injected was more than I could have hoped for. In the reading they lived those lines in those two hours. They didn’t hold back.
And of course the parts that didn’t work have been spectacularly revealed now! When you’re reading the play over and over you can’t see the stuff that’s crying out to be cut or changed. It was emotional to hear it. I tried to be nonchalant but you write a play expecting nothing and then you’ve got five of the greatest actors there are giving purpose to your story and a director sitting next to you that believes in you and the play. It is bloody emotional. My twelve year old son came to the reading and he said to me the next day. “You know you just sat there crying at your own play?” I’m not cool. I do cry a lot. I was crying at the performances, not what is written… just to make that clear. Of course I wonder now if A Bit of Light has come to its end as a play. I hope not. I hope it will find a home but that reading was truly something special.
I met some writing agents and I went with someone that I could just completely be myself with and she liked the play (it makes it easy when you’ve got work to show someone, rather than just ideas in your head) and we seemed to be on the same page as to where I would go next and what sort of things I want to say. We laughed a lot too. I spoke far too much because I was so nervous when I met her but it didn’t put her off. I need to try and get rid of my worry about being an imposter. I’m working on it.