How to approach a script

…Theatre is most of all about going into the dark: to be enthralled, frightened and moved; so there has to be a huge animal unconscious below and above the text, shifting and surprising us each time we venture in to read, rehearse or watch the play.Charlotte Keatley

You’ve decided to act out a scene or perhaps you have a production to stage or you have to do a scripted performance. Where do you start? What’s the difference between devising a performance and performing someone else’s words?

Your starting point is looking at the script. Take your instructions from there.

What a script tells you

You’ll be given the dramatis personae or cast list. Generally that will include a brief note, indicating any crucial contextual details such as a character’s age and their profession.

The cast list from Charlotte Keatley’s play, My Mother Said I Never Should, looks like this:

Doris Partington

Born: Oldham, February 1900. Engaged 1923, married Jack Bradley in Oldham, 1924. (Age 5 in child scenes, as in 1905)

Margaret Bradley

Born: Cheadle Hulme, April 1931. Married Ken Metcalfe in London, 1951. (Age 9 in child scenes, as in 1940)

Jackie Metcalfe

Born: London, July 1952. (Age 9 in child scenes, as in 1961)

Rosie Metcalfe

Born: Hulme, Manchester, September 1971. (Age 8 in child scenes, as in 1979)