John Finnemore had decided that, with Season 4 of Cabin Pressure likely to be recorded in December, he wanted to try out very early drafts of episode scripts on a bigger audience than the six friends to whom he had presented Season 3! He therefore made arrangements to premiere some of the scripts to a small “friendly” audience so that he could gauge their reactions.
After major shenanigans during the online seat-reservation process which had shown both the best and the worst of the show’s fans, almost 90 people squeezed into quite a tight area in a pub in Kilburn, north-west London. As always, despite having started arranging this a couple of weeks ago, John confessed that he had still been writing the episode at 3 p.m. this afternoon even though it was already over forty minutes long and would therefore need serious cutting before it would be fit for broadcast. The audience expressed some surprise at the news that there would only be one episode premiered, as we had probably all assumed that – with three sessions arranged – each one would premiere two episodes. “Well, yes,” said John, “but this one’s really long!” “It’s Cabin Pressure: the Movie,” said one of his friends.
The roles of the other characters were played by friends of John’s, and I hope they’ll forgive me if I’ve spelled their names wrong but I wrote down what I heard from the back of the room.
Simon Kane – Martin
Matt Green – Douglas
Margaret Cabon-Smith – Carolyn
And Carrie Quinlan and John Dryden-Turner played other characters – sometimes more than one.
And yes, we were told the title of the episode. And no, I will never reveal it. I will say only that it was the “W” episode but you’ll get no more information from me! And for all I know it could have been a huge bluff and John will not only rename that episode but give it a different letter, so I’m not going to make an idiot of myself by yelling, “Hey, everyone, the W episode will be called ... and it’s about ...” And John Finnemore asked us not to tell. And when John Finnemore asks you not to tell, you don’t tell. Because he’s John Finnemore. Nuff said.
He’s lost none of his talent, though, I’ll tell you that. He knows his characters so well that, despite them being read by different actors, you could still hear the original voices, and there were many many occasions when I was just dying to hear Roger or Stephanie or Benedict say particular lines because you know that (a) they will crack up laughing when they first read them and (b) they’ll deliver them brilliantly. I’m really having to bite my fingers here because I’d love to say more, but I absolutely mustn’t. But a couple of very general moments:
At one point Carolyn said something so cruel about Arthur that the audience as one made a really loud protesting “Aww!!” noise. I have a feeling that that line may be cut from the final version!
Despite already running over the allotted 30 minutes, there were still a couple of moments that John hadn’t written yet, and he paused the performance on these occasions to explain what was going to happen in the final version. One of these produced such an affectionate “D’aww!” from everyone that John said triumphantly that he was going to do the same in the final version – just go on and tell the audience what would happen next because it would get a much better reaction, and it would save him having to actually write the scene!
There was a glorious moment where John – as Arthur – threw in an extra unscripted, “Brilliant!” and Margaret, playing Carolyn, said without hesitation and totally in character, “Hush, dear,” which got a huge shout of laughter from everyone.
It’s going to be a great episode when it’s finished and there are some moments which – if they stay in the final version – will go down as classics, especially the latest word game that Douglas starts in the cockpit, and another one that springs from that. John was really grateful to the audience for coming and said that our responses had been hugely helpful to him and he now had a stack of notes in the margins of his script.
Edit, 24 October: I am taking down the rest of this entry, which was a report on the Q&A which John did after the script try-out. Sadly there are some moronic people out there who call themselves ‘fans’ but are so pathetically obsessed on Benedict that they think they have the right to actually contact John Finnemore and tell him that he isn’t allowed to have his own mental image of what Martin Crieff looks like. These are probably the same people who stole tickets from other fans in order to attend these try-outs.
While Tumblr and Twitter have gone a little ballistic with comments arising from John’s observations on Monday night, the majority of people have had fun with the concept; but like I said, there have been the few morons who have taken the whole thing far too seriously and John has had to resort to writing a blog post about it – it’s here. I think it’s outrageous that the poor sod has had to write and defend his own internal process (though of course he has phrased it far more charmingly than that). Anyway, he has also asked – totally understandably in the circumstances – that people don’t write up the Q&A; and I suspect that he might not even do a Q&A at the future two sessions. So, jolly well done, idiot obsessives. *sarcastically applauds*
Don’t it make you mad? Why can’t people just think?