Saturday, 27 February 2016

The experiment is over

So, this evening our show, Beyond the Fence, officially opened at the Arts Theatre in central London. It's been a struggle, but we made it! Tonight's performance was a gala which was filmed in its entirety for Sky Arts. The audience were hugely receptive. Many stood at the end. The applause was good and long. Most cried. My mother, sitting next to me, sobbed for most of act two. The show took her right back to her days with CND. She wore the CND logo on a pendant around her neck. The cast were well-focussed and full of energy. Everyone raised their game.

Nathan and I had mugs made for the cast and crew with the show's logo on them. We handed them out to everyone and I think they went down a storm.

The after-show party was well-attended which is always a good sign. People slope off rapidly if they think a show is a turkey. I don't think the press will be kind, however. They tend not to be particular gracious about new musicals (only time can decide if a show's score is a classic) and I think the scientific/ computer aspect will mean that reviewers will feel the need to "spot" something wrong.

The debate rages on about whether we've under-played the central relationship in the piece. This evening I felt we'd got it right. There's a wistfulness. A subtlety. An elegiac "will they, won't they" quality which doesn't undermine the Greenham Common backdrop of the show. The last image you see is the women protesting against nuclear missiles and that feels right.

I hope the show lives on. I really do.

At the end of the party, Nathan and I were taken into another room for our final camera interview for the documentary. It was a deeply emotional moment. Nathan revealed that the scientists had told him Clarissa, the word cloud lyricist, the computer system which we've battled with, hated and resented over the last four months, was being taken off line... The computer equivalent of euthanasia. For some reason the news hit me like a brick and I burst into tears. I was laughing and crying simultaneously. It's so strange. I realise that I've needed to humanise every computer system in order to be able to farm it for emotional material. Somehow, I've needed to feel that a system wanted me to feel something specific rather than merely offering me a random selection of zeros and ones which I've interpreted in my own way. The idea that Clarissa is dead signifies that the experiment is over: the experiment which has engulfed us for four months. And that's a both a great relief and a great sadness.

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