I've been rewriting A Walk through the End of Time, my two-hander play introducing the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time. It's needed doing for a while. Forever, really. But it is now nine years since I first wrote it and one thing that happens in real life that doesn't happen in books is that people get older; and sometimes that needs to be reflected in theatre pieces that are happening, supposedly, now.
The couple, Christine and Paul, are consequently nearly ten years older than they were, and if we're to accept that her father was of Messiaen's generation and she has grown-up kids, a few things needed a rethink. It's not only where Christine and Paul are in their own lives and those of her children that changes; one's priorities and attitudes do start to shift with the passing years. Things that seemed of all-consuming importance when you were in your twenties can start to look laughable with the benefit of hindsight. And of course, a little tightening up never did any script any harm.
So now A Walk is leaner, clearer, sharper (I hope). It's about six minutes shorter, depending on how the performers pace it. There are more jokes, but also more sense of the threat of loneliness in age. Old rituals are recalled, hair is shorter or gone, tastes have evolved. And some things haven't changed at all - but we can deal with them in new ways.
Tonight A Walk is at the Crossing Borders Festival in Brighton. 8pm at The Latest Bar, Manchester Street, Brighton BN2 1 TF, performed in a rehearsed reading by the excellent Brighton-based actors Beth Fitzgerald (Christine) and Michael Sheldon (Paul). The Messiaen Quartet will be heard in a concert tomorrow; the second half of tonight will be tunes from Best Foot Music. My immense thanks to festival director Siriol Hugh-Jones for including the play in a programme of artistic events of many hues that seek to cross borders, physical and mental, in every possible way.
On 24 July, A Walk goes to the Ryedale Festival in gorgeous Yorkshire, where words&music events are a big part of the programme. Here it will be at the Helmsley Arts Centre at 5pm and the Messiaen is in a concert the same night played by members of the Chilingirian Quartet with Ian Fountain (piano) and Andrew Marriner (clarinet). This time the reading of the play will be given by Dame Janet Suzman and Michael Pennington, two actors I have admired all my life. I'm deeply grateful to them for being able to take this on.