It’s 00:14 on Saturday night, leaning over into Sunday. I had a terrific evening seeing My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding in the very darkest corner of Kidderminster – Kidderminster isn’t dark but we got there and the venue was another hour further on into the countryside.
But now I’m home and on the good side, the smell of roasting chicken coming from the kitchen is rather grand. I’m roasting one ready to make up into lunches and suchforth tomorrow. Wish I’d remembered earlier or really just been around my home long enough to do it earlier. Still, it’s a nice smell and it’s nearly enough to keep me awake while I wait for the oven timer to go off.
There is a bad side.
I’m listening to the sound of seven leaks, seven rhythmic drop drops of water in our hallway. They’re close enough to one another that I suspect there’s just a single leak that is sending water running out all over the place. But the plumber I rang isn’t close enough to do anything about it tonight. The certainty that I woke him up coupled to the triple certainty that anything with the word emergency in it costs triple means I’m officially happy waiting for the morning. I’m not really.
You can tell from the way I’m writing to you. I’m using the fact that I’m too worried about the water to sleep yet too tired to stay awake. I’m using it to give me time to talk to you, time to roast a chicken.
If nothing else, I’m using my time.
Here’s the thing. George S Kaufman read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when it was published in 1937 and immediately commissioned him to write a theatre version of it. Reportedly Kaufman said: “I don’t know if there’s a dollar in it, but it’s got to be prepared for the stage and Steinbeck’s the man to do it.”
Not only did he buy the rights and commission Steinbeck, he put the writer up at his ranch.
Fine. And especially fine since at some point around then Steinbeck announced: “I don’t go to the theatre much and I don’t know a darn thing about actors.”
But he may have been telling a pork. Like all writers do when necessary, like you need to do a bit more often. Don’t seem needy but do be ready.
For in correspondence with George Albee the year before, Steinbeck said: “It is a tricky little thing designed to teach me to write for the theatre.”
So he was planning a stage version long before he was commissioned. (Does that sound familiar to you at all?) You have to admire his chutzpah but you also have to admire his stage play, which in this 77th year is being revived all over the world – including a production at my favourite, the Birmingham Rep.
Where he may differ from a lot of us is that he didn’t go to see his play. It opened in New York City, it opened on Broadway and it opened to immediate rave reviews and big business, but he didn’t go. Reportedly, he believed that his script was perfect and that any actual production would necessarily be a let down.
Ah, we all think that about our writing.
Don’t seem needy but do be ready. And maybe a bit more modest, I don’t know.
Of Mice and Men is coming to the Birmingham Rep from 10 October to 1 November and you can buy his perfect – I do agree with him – playscript from Amazon here.