The Julia Darling Room at Live theatre is being given a fresh lick of paint, in readiness for its new incarnation. It’s a low ceilinged space still with its original beams and chunky little iron pillars which look a bit like pit-props. It’s got a large window with a steel bar across it which is somewhat reminiscent of a ballet practice barre, but I think is there for safety (or as it’s three floors up – if the rewrites get too traumatic…).
The window looks into the large office building opposite (cue misty eyed reminiscence – ‘I remember when all this were car-parking’). Having never ever been an office worker, I’m always awed by how diligently the men all wear freshly laundered ironed white shirts. Having never been much of an ironer or indeed a man, I’m amazed at this simple phenomenon. Perhaps it’s meant to have that effect – signalling uber-competence.
Today, because of the paint, I am in the soon to be named Tom Hadaway room, which has been known up to now by the utilitarian but perfectly reasonable title of writing room 2. This room is bigger all round, although you can still bump your head as it’s right up in the eaves on what must be the fourth floor. Big chunky beams (oak?) hold the roof up over my head and I’m facing what I think is a winding gear from when these buildings were bonded warehouses and had to winch things up from the street into their storage spaces. The huge cogs have a helpful metaphoric look, hopefully aiding the brain work. One of the doors is utterly original too with a faint No. 12 still visible on its thick dark wood. These physical echoes of the Quayside’s former life have an appropriate resonance in terms of the room’s dedication to Tom, who started his professional life just up the river gutting then selling fish in North Shields.
The large wooden table I have the current privilege of working at, is a new piece of furniture crafted from some of the other beams, corten steel and a beautifully curve-edged honey-coloured wood. The chairs are high-end business class, chrome and black leather on casters. As there are several of them, I feel a bit like Alan Sugar before the candidates come back.
The reason for the large table and the slick chairs, also stands for the flip chart and flat screen TV, as both writers rooms, like most writers, have to diversify. This room will probably see as many corporate presentations as it will playwrights but if it earns the theatre’s keep and helps to sustain its capacity to stage new writing then there’s no point being purist. And in any case, it’s very nice to sit and be creative in swisher surroundings than usual and I’m sure the writers before me felt likewise. More NY loft than starving garret! The big table is very useful too for read throughs and production meetings, given the very collaborative nature of play-making. Great to have a space so adaptable.
Both rooms have a glass plaque citing their dedications and I hope it won’t be too hard for everyone to start calling them by their new names. It might take some getting used to as The Julia Darling Room started as The Gillian Dickinson room; named after the Trust which donated money to the building project. Gillian Dickinson herself was a champion of the literary, here’s a link to her Trust and her obituary:
As well as me, sitting here writing, the theatre is stuffed with rehearsals. Next door in the Studio theatre, lots of singing and music from the co-production with Monster – The Garden of Dreams; further along in the Rehearsal Room a strong cast of actors rehearse excerpts from Tom Hadaway’s rich pantheon to play in the theatre this week and later this week two further readings will be staged by the 2-4-1 initative the theatre has for new emerging playwrights. Count our very own Taxi Driver’s D; the verbatim theatre piece Here Come The Girls some female members of the Youth Theatre are creating, as well as the forthcoming musical Up There in Lights and there’s a lorra lorra theatre goin’ on – and I’m sure I’ve missed something out.
A little later I’ll get notes on the current draft and need to collate my own. To be continued…