For those of you who are not lovers of the theatre, a short play might seem like an excellent idea. In fact, "the shorter the better," I hear you say.
Well I must admit, I have watched my daughter perform in many plays that I thought I could have edited for the greater comfort and convenience of the audience.
For instance is Lady Macbeth really that important in Macbeth? I say chop her head off in the second scene and you're cropping a good 15 minutes off the action. Everybody is happier.
A short play is a good play. But, on the other hand, a play can be just a tad too short.
In my university days I took to the stage from time to time. Once, as I am about to reveal, with disastrous consequences.
It was not a long play, about 20 minutes I think. I had two lines.
On the first occasion, about three minutes into the performance, I would march onto the stage and say, "Good people, the king is alive and well".
And on the second occasion, with the tragedy now drawing to a close. I would return to say, "Good people, the king is dead".
Unfortunately, nerves got the better of me, and on the big night I waltzed onto the stage after about three minutes, and said: "Good people, the king is DEAD."
This was a great disappointment for my friend John, who played the king, and who had about 300 lines, but hadn't actually made it onto the stage as yet.
Now, in hindsight a bit of ad-libbing might have been useful... the Earl of Wiltshire might have said, "surely you're mistaken. I have heard reliable accounts that the king is ALIVE AND WELL".
But no, that didn't happen, the Earl of Wiltshire's muscle memory kicked in and he went to the line immediately following the word "dead", which was, "Alas, all joy ends for us" and stabs himself several times, a cue for the curtain to fall. Play over... total duration three minutes and 43 seconds.
Now you might think that is a bit... well, tragic. But it ended well.
A young man came into the theatre and took a seat. John, who was also the director, ran out on stage and said, "Ah, I believe that young man seated up the back may have missed the performance, I think it's only fair that we start from the beginning. In this encore performance we will flesh the action out a little more".
A happy ending you might say, but in the foyer afterwards the general feeling was that the more concise version was actually the superior.