A Better Woman: The Writer’s Tale

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Simon Mendes da Costa, the writer of A Better Woman, tries not to worry (and fails)


Getting a play produced is harder than writing it in the first place: I’m not sure if that’s totally true but it isn’t far off.

It certainly comes with a completely different set of anxieties which I have embraced wholeheartedly. If there is something that can be worried about then I will, and no doubt I get involved in areas it would be far better for me not to. However, staff at The Marlowe Theatre have been very patient, up to this point at least, and have embraced a writer who likes to be part of the process. They even put me on the poster (it was because I was cheap, I believe).

Having worked at The Marlowe for a couple of years as their Literary Associate I thought knowing the direction they wanted to take the theatre, I would suggest that I wrote a play for them. I was delighted when they not only agreed but became as excited by the prospect as I was. This, after all, fitted straight into their long-term vision. I had various ideas on the go and eventually one came to the fore which The Marlowe liked, and having gone through a number of drafts, it is where it is now, in rehearsal with a cast I am delighted about.

The casting process has to be one of the most crucial but excruciating exercises anyone could wish to go through. The decision making, not something that sits comfortably with me, is not only painful but, by its very nature, there are winners and losers.

It’s not the X Factor with people feeling that this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, but it is painful nonetheless. It was lucky that my Director, Tilly Vosburgh, had such great instincts and ultimately it’s her decision anyway.

If you’re not careful the whole process can be filled with worry: worry in the writing process, worry about getting the right director and creative team, worry about getting the right cast, worry you won’t get audiences, worry reviewers won’t come, worry if they do that they won’t like it, worry worry worry. You could end up missing what is fantastic and exciting and a bit of a bare-knuckle ride.

Of course, the worry points to caring and to what is at stake, but it’s managing that and enjoying the journey, a bit like life.

I’m really hopeful that this production does well, not just for the people involved in it but for The Marlowe too – they have put everything behind this and the place is buzzing with anticipation. No pressure! More worry.

It would be lovely to see The Marlowe Theatre on the map as a venue where new plays started and were discovered. With home-grown productions it gives all the people within the theatre a sense of belonging and being part of something. I’ve said this before but it’s the life blood that makes the theatre more than just a venue, a home rather than a house.

I hope this opens up the possibility of future productions with local writers and actors. There is an abundance of talent in this area and I see no reason why The Marlowe cannot become a creative force: Chichester is just a town outside of London and look at their record. We have to start somewhere, it won’t happen overnight but with the right energy anything’s possible.

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