Apart from our monitor breaking down on the opening night and a few wonky props that had a habit of falling to pieces during the performances, the six-week run went off relatively smoothly. We played to several full houses and received some favourable reviews. Ray and I were convinced that we were now destined for better things! That meant that our play needed to be expanded. It was even suggested that it should be turned into a full scale musical.
All sounded very exciting except for one minor detail. Again, I was expected to be the producer. A fringe theatre was one thing, but the prospect of hiring a three hundred seater central London venue, together with a bigger cast and a much more elaborate set, was a step too far. I had nightmares of having to sell our family home and moving into a bedsit above a Fish & Chip shop!
What were we going to do next? Ray still had aspirations of directing on the West End stage. I told him that we would be better off trying to repeat our initial success and persuaded him that we should write another play. He reluctantly agreed and we came up with the idea of ‘W For Banker’, a story about a sorry chap who loses all his money in the financial crisis and then won’t leave his bed!
Being an old hand, I had no hesitation in booking the same theatre. Wanting to avoid a repeat of the losses that I had incurred on our first production, I insisted on a shorter run and a smaller cast. Foolishly, I convinced myself that this time we would make a profit. Although, the play was well received, we still found ourselves out of pocket and no nearer to receiving our break on the west end stage.
Not wanting to give up, Ray suggested that we turn our latest project into a screenplay. He explained that since there was basically only one location, it would be a low budget film, which we could easily get funded. I had rediscovered my enthusiasm and was eager to start learning another new skill. Basically, it meant being able to tell our story through visual scenes rather than relying purely on dialogue and stage directions. A few months later the script was complete and we started looking at budgets to make our first film.
The trouble was I had lost the support of my family to put any more of our hard earned money into another speculative pursuit. I had to redouble my efforts to find another producer. Several months and a few near misses later, we still hadn’t managed to sell our rights for our Hollywood Blockbuster!
A third play was written, followed by some successful readings but still no producer prepared to give us a commitment. Something had to change!
Ray needed to start earning some money and had other creative skills to fall back upon. I needed to find out whether I could write on my own!
I found a tale with a difference. It concerned a famous sage in the third century Roman Empire, who was purported to have started life as a gladiator. Without any specific end in mind, I busily started formulating a story and developing the characters.
A chance phone call gave me the direction I needed!