Between the lines / Writer Billy Roche on the smell of the greasepaint

Billy Roche
Tuesday 25 August 1992 23:02

It's like flowers that smell. We'll bust a bag tomorrow. I'll bring you some.

From A View from a Bridge by Arthur Miller

'Eddie Carbone, the longshoreman, is telling his wife and niece about the beautiful aroma of coffee that drifts across the neighbourhood whenever a 'Brazil ship' is unloaded. It's a lovely, simple and effective line and the whole audience is immediately transported to the New York waterfront. It came to my mind now because we are rehearsing my play Amphibians at the RSC and the rehearsal room smells not of flower or coffee but cockles and mussels. Which brings me to the whole notion of smell in the theatre and how and why this particular sense has been confined to the sidelines. Let's be honest, what smells like roses to you might sicken me. A writer has to rise to the challenge and capture in words the smell of a snuffed-out candle or the bitter-sweet smell of the boxing gymnasium or, as Arthur Miller puts it - and this is how I hope my play will smell on the night, after the cockles and mussels and seashells have been washed and dried - 'the green scent of the sea'.'

Billy Roche's 'Amphibians' starts previewing tonight at the RSC's Pit in London and opens on 3 Sept

(Photograph omitted)

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