As writing projects go, Rain of Blood has been dead good. Writing for a community theatre company is extremely liberating - hardly any professional companies can afford to allow a writer to write a play for a cast of 20 people. That said, it was also extremely challenging - Castaway is an egalitarian company, and there's a strong ethos therefore everybody should have a reasonably sizeable part to get their teeth into, without there being one 'star of the show.' However, it being a community show, there's also an awareness of the fact that real life people have lives, other commitments, and different levels of experience, and a play therefore has to provide for these different requirements.
When David asked me to write the show, the initial idea was to apply for the rights to adapt one of the Hammer Horror films. 'Pshaw!' I said, possibly rather too scornfully. 'You need to do something new…like a Hammerified adaptation of Titus Andronicus or something.' Initially, he was unconvinced. A brainstorming session over our respective poisons of choice (him: wine, me beer) convinced him, and gave me some ideas. For a start, it would be called Rain of Blood.
It is a little considered fact that theatre brochures have to be prepared several months in advance of the writing process and the rehearsal process. Accordingly, the publicity says that this play is set in the 1950s. It isn't. The publicity says it is set in a boarding school. It isn't. If you were expecting Fair Isle and schoolgirls - I'm sorry to have to disappoint you (quick - go next door, you might catch the second half of Little Shop of Horrors in Theatr y Werin!).
It is however based very loosely (very, very loosely) on Titus Andronicus... in the sense that Lavinia is the central character... and that's about it really. Now, I think that Lavinia is a bit of an interesting character. A woman silenced. Hah! We'll soon see about that! My train of thought therefore departed from "How do you get a character whose hands have been cut off, and whose tongue has been cut out to speak?" and arrived at "Well, obviously, you have other characters to be her voice and hands, and you call them... I don't know... Left and Right." That will do for now. Or maybe... or maybe...hang on... Cleft (as in palate) and Wright (as in play...wright)...now we're getting somewhere. Next up was a trot to the library to stack up on research (always read more than you can lift) - what do you need in a horror? An evil doppelganger? Check. People dying in characteristic ways? Check. A ludicrous number of bodies? A possessed Pierrot Doll? A mad professor with a sinister mind control machine? Check. Check. Check. Zombies? Ooh yes, got to have zombies. Some elements of rather camp (one of the books I read said 'pawky') humour? Well I'll let you be the judge of that. Eventually, the play you are seeing tonight emerged. People died. People were resurrected. Other people died. Good job this was a horror, I say. You don't get away with this sort of thing when you're writing for children.
The best thing about theatre however, is that once the writer has finished writing it, a whole bunch of other add their wondrous creativity to it - the actors, the filmmakers, the musicians, the set designer, the costume-finders, the props-builders, and of course, the director. I hope you enjoy this, my first full-length play written for a large cast, as much as I have enjoyed the process of writing and rehearsing it.
I think Catrin has said most things! I would just like to add that this has been a very exciting venture for us. As Catrin has said, our original concepts were very different from what has emerged in what you see tonight! It has been extremely interesting watching this process evolve. With a new play one has nothing to compare with - no previous productions and no previous directorial concepts. This is exciting because nobody has ever seen this before - which is also quite scary!
During our twenty years, Castaway has always insisted on producing cutting edge community theatre (although we have done the odd 'Allo, 'Allo!). Rain of Blood continues this policy and I would like to thank Catrin for writing us such a challenging roller-coaster ride of vengeance and murder! This has been a hugely enjoyable process and I must take this opportunity to thank the entire company for their undying enthusiasm.