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Behind the Scenes with 'Leaps of Faith'

The atmosphere was one of concentrated nervousness, strongly clamped down by the intention to perform well. In the wings and behind the scenes in the Merlin Theatre early on Thursday night, actors and writers were running through their lines, muttering in corners, holding their scripts to their chests as they closed their eyes and repeated their words. Theirs was the eponymous Leap of Faith – the hope that they could produce the effects they wanted to entertain and move the audience now beginning to assemble in the rows before them. We scriptwriters were about to test our words and ideas on real, live people.

            Debbie Beale, the director and organiser of the show gathered boxes with props and arranged them ready for the readers, then checked positions on stage and made sure the actors were happy with their set-ups. She soothed nerves when they threatened to overwhelm the performers, answered queries and talked to the technicians. She even found time to pat a few backs for encouragement.

            Lights were tested and music occasionally boomed out to ensure the effects, timing and volume were right. Crow stood firm on his lectern, practicing his flamboyant gestures, ready to announce each act through his very realistic beak. LPs were checked for David Bowie pictures, and chairs were positioned for in-car arguments. The tables were adorned with lemons for slicing, mugs for pretend drinking, and loud knocks demonstrated to enhance the tension as off-stage characters came and went. 

            The air of potential panic was quelled when Martin Dimery gathered the cast together to practise deep-breathing. By then, the brief run-through was complete and the audience had started to arrive. On stage, everyone assembled in their places on the sofa in a carefully agreed order. The first half of the monologues was ready to begin: we were about to be transported to the sunny landscape of Greece.

            Next, we laughed out loud as an argumentative wife worked off her grievances on her silent husband (who appropriately took the form of a dummy) till they eventually found a perfect spot to stop in a lay-by and resolved their problems most amicably.

            We listened to the quiet speculations of a patient wife, and the performances then flowed on to show how misappropriated parcels resulted in a new friendship. The strutting Crow then gave the audience leave to stretch their legs.

            People wanted to attend the Merlin for many reasons: some wanted to support the theatre and arts in Frome, but mostly it was friends and family who came to applaud the work of Frome Writers’ Collective (FWC) members and the Frome Drama Club. This was evident from the chatter and good humour in the foyer during the interval. 

            The music of the 1983 Bowie song ‘Time’ called us back to the auditorium. An older man was working through the memories of his youth by musing over the LPs he once played, while trying to explain to his grandson what life was like for him in his hippy days. He ends up dancing his way back there to the lyrics and tune of ‘Time’.

            This interchange between old age and youth was to be repeated later, after with the adventures of an early-retiree who wanted to bring excitement back into her life and became an Internet hero after climbing down the Cheddar Gorge and losing her wellies. This joyful piece was based on a true story.

            The final presentation was rather more sombre as we watched how an elderly man managed to reach out and touch a young teenager whose brother served in Afghanistan, and to discuss how sometimes death cannot be understood or explained.

            The writers and the players gradually relaxed as it became apparent that the whole venture had worked really well. The audience was appreciative and we all – players and writers – stood with Debbie at the front of the stage knowing that we’d done it. We actually took a bow! We had taken our Leap of Faith and it had been received with goodwill. The people at the Merlin were hugely helpful, and our self-confidence was at an all-time high when we left the theatre. Now we know that we can plan another event, perhaps for Frome Festival. Nothing succeeds like success, so… bring it on!  

            Sian Williams organises the FWC scriptwriters group and we meet monthly on Monday afternoons to share our scripts and ideas, and to improve our writing skills. We may eventually branch out into other avenues to extend our media choices, and FWC always seeks to have working connections with the many organisations and groups of interest in the town. The amount of support for Leaps of Faith – particularly from the Merlin Theatre and Frome Drama Club* – was tremendous. Engaging in co-operative efforts using everyone’s talents for a common cause is a great way to work and write!


Mary Macarthur © 2024


* Frome Drama Club: