Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The importance of a first reading...

Sebastian Born, Associate Director (Literary), National Theatre gives his thoughts and  advice about when you read a script for the first time. 
"Approach the play expecting it to engage and entertain you. Try and clear away any preconceptions about what you might be looking for and respond to the play for what it is and not what you hope it might be. 

Remember that a play is a blueprint for a performance, not a description of a performance – so allow yourself to visualize the play in your own way (no two readers will have the same image of any character). Try and allow the play to come off the page and into your own unique three-dimensional imaginative space. 

Try and experience the play as you read it, try and let it happen to you. Interrogating your responses as you go along risks erecting an obstruction between you and the feelings which the play can generate. Read key stage directions, but don’t get bogged down in too much extraneous detail - a sense of where and when the action is occurring is all you need. Read the character descriptions, but again don’t get distracted by too much detail – who the characters are should be revealed (or not) as you read. 

Try and read the play at more or less the speed it will be performed. This will give you a sense of how the action of the play unfolds in real time and whether it holds your attention or not. Don’t expect to understand and appreciate everything about a play from your first reading. Great plays never stop revealing new insights every time they are read or performed.

The importance of your first reading is to discover whether the play keeps you turning the pages until the end (does the story grip you?); and whether it engages your emotions (do you care about the characters and their predicaments?)"

Sebastian Born
After gaining a degree in philosophy from Cambridge University Sebastian worked in theatre as a stage manager, then director. He became the Literary Manager at the Bush Theatre from 1981 to 1985, before becoming a literary agent. He worked as an agent for 18 years, latterly founding The Agency in 1995. He lived abroad for 2 years, before joining the NT at the beginning of 2007 as Associate Director (Literary). His  principal job at The National Theatre is to identify and develop work that can be considered for inclusion in the NT repertoire.

For more information about the National Theatre's Literary Department please click here

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