Kicking off the New Year, I had to resist the urge to write about resolutions, or latest projects, or review the failures/successes of 2011. Well, if not those, what? By far the most popular viewing on this site is the gallery of pictures for “A Time for Farewells“. Not my first play, maybe not even my favourite play, it’s nonetheless very popular around the world.
Before getting into WHY it may be so popular, let’s have a brief summary of the plot for those who haven’t read it (and if you want to read it, you can find it HERE).
Alex is a batchelor lad until he meets Sarah. She’s not looking for love, she’s looking for a mechanic to fix her car. The play features episodes from Alex and Sarah’s life, interspersed with the couple themselves discussing their relationship. It’s clear there’s some sort of ending here, that this isn’t a loving nostalgia session, but an autopsy on a finished relationship. The play covers high and lows of their life together before bringing the audience up to date and letting them in on the event that Alex and Sarah are preparing for.
I like to think it’s a positive play, that the underlying message is hopeful. But I don’t think that’s what brings people to perform the play. There are some very practical reasons why this is a good one to pick, particularly for One Act Play Competitions.
Firstly, the set is simple. In the original set we had three stage blocks on the left hand side of the stage that could be rearranged to represent whatever location was needed. On the right hand side of the stage we had a bedroom set – actually, just the bed. The right hand side is where Alex and Sarah are when the play opens, that’s “now”. Everything that takes place in the past occurs on the left hand side. We had a doorway between the two, but I don’t believe that’s really necessary. So the set is simple, and doesn’t require any special effects or furniture moving during blackouts.
The cast is small. Aside from Alex and Sarah, there are only two other characters, and they really only appear in cameo. It’s essentially a two-handed play, and those two actors get to really stretch their acting muscles as they run through the life this pair have had together.
There’s comedy. I think that’s inevitable in the plays I write, since there’s very little I can take seriously, but in this case it’s important. Alex and Sarah make each other laugh, and the play is about recognising the valuable parts of their history together and holding on to them – the laughter and the tears.
Finally, it’s about people. The proof that this play is universal came with the success of Alan Leung’s production in Hong Kong. Though we had to have lengthy email conversations to sort out the peculiarities of English idiom (Alan was translating into Chinese, an unenviable task. Apparently the Chinese don’t have an equivalent for the phrase “Under the thumb” when it comes to henpecked husbands…) The Hong Kong production did so well in the competition that it was restaged later on, a tremendous complement.
And after all the positive things, what about the flip side? Is there anything I would like to change? Well the one thing I hadn’t considered when I was writing the play was costume. Alex gets by well enough in a variety of shirtsleeves, but poor Sarah has to go from “stranded business woman” to “bride” to “holidaymaker by the pool” and so on. Most groups have found their own ways around my lack of vision there – in the original production Sue Fox managed to find herself a simple business-style dress that unbuttoned quickly, and went for and equally easy to don wedding dress. There have been other, equally inventive solutions, as the pictures show.
The relationship between Alex and Sarah seems to be one that people can believe in. Perhaps it’s also one they can relate to. Of course, I’m delighted that the play is so popular, and hope there are many more performances of it around the world. If you have a production planned, or if you’ve taken part in one, please let me have some photos to add to the gallery pages.
If you have any questions about “A Time for Farewells”, either about the writing or the staging of the play, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read “A Time for Farewells” and all my other published plays at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk