Last Friday, Westminster Reference Library hosted “The Restaurant” by new playwright Neil Turner. Comprising eight vignettes all set at a single table in a restaurant, the play was both ambitious in scope and intimately compact. From the emotional brutality of an estranged father and daughter trying to reconcile their relationship to morally bankrupt TV producers searching for the next big hit, the individual one act plays differed greatly in genre and tone had something to offer everyone.
The production was a big hit with the large audience that attended the library. Afterwards, I caught up with Neil to hear his thoughts on creating the play:
How did you come up with the story idea?
I wanted to write something that would work in the space provided so I decided to set it at a table in a restaurant. The individual stories within that setting were to varied in theme to show I have some versatility as a writer.
Tell us about your writing process.
I write quickly. Most of the scenes were first drafts when the actors got them and it’s not until they have read it in front of me that I will make some grammatical changes or switch some words around to make it more natural sounding. This particular production was quite hectic in scheduling so I didn’t get to rewrite anything, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
How easy was it to take the play from an idea to the stage?
As a new writer it’s hard to get a production off the ground unless you do it yourself. I’m not interested in entering the 3 or 5 minute play competitions, to get exposure, so I try to produce what I can practically put on. The moment the actors get involved the process becomes collaborative and becomes easier and everyone who saw what I was trying to do were onboard and never got off. Some actors hear the word library and think it will be an amateurish production, but I’m very proud of the way it turned out.
The Restaurant features 14 actors playing 19 characters, what were the challenges of directing such a large number of actors?
It was hard to get certain actors together due to their schedules, but the fact that most of the scenes were two handers meant I did not have to get all 14 together at the same time. I could work with individual scenes. The amazing thing is that even though some actors were not available until only a few days before the show, they still got involved and made it something special. Confident actors do not set obstacles for themselves and it shows in their performances.
As for directing, I was the director purely because my original choice was tied up and I couldn’t have expected someone to put in the hours and legwork to get to all the rehearsals anyway. It was a good learning experience, but was probably the one neglected area.
The play had a really good turnout, were you happy with the end product?
We had a nice sized crowd and my co-producers can take the credit for that. They put in a lot of time promoting it. There were a few bumps in the show, which I only noticed because I’ve spent so much time with the texts, but overall it was very enjoyable. The actors were great and Sarah Boughton on the violin was a great addition.
What are you working on next?
Several of the scenes are from larger works, so I am finishing some of those off and possibly recording them as audio plays at first. I’m looking for a venue to accept my play Deeper And Deep, which the final scene of The Restaurant was from. It is the one people want to see the most, so I’m plugging away with that.
If the library will have me back I have started on another multi cast play called The Wedding Buffet, which is the sequel to The Restaurant. I was disappointed that the whole thing was over just as it got started and I would like to work with the actors again, so this would be a good fit.
I’m also looking to film the scenes from The Restaurant, as well as my collection of monologues called Loners, so I hope to be busy.
The Restaurant starred: Mark Savage, Meena Rayann, Nicky Diss, Jemma George, Diana Katis, Victor Konstantine, Tom Judd, David Hemstead, Carole Trangmar-Palmer, David Foster, Keith Chanter, Terry Burns, Matthew Hendrickson and Jennifer Jane Hooker. Artwork by Tom Pearce.