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January 07, 2008

What I did over Christmas

A little confession. I have been writing creatively over Christmas. I should have been writing essays. Naughty naughty.

In fact, I've been working on a play-script. It's untitled, and it's at the first draft. I'm showing it around to readers for opinions (and in the hopes of reeling in a director - but that's far to the future) and if anyone wants to volunteer, then you're more than welcome. Here's an excerpt, from the very beginning -

Scene 1

A strange room. A spare bed is covered with a sheet, a human form distinguishable underneath it. There is a lot of blood, some dried, some wet. Paper, notepads, pens, rubbish, books, manuscripts, bottles of ink, magnifying glasses, paints, frames, sketchpads spill out from underneath the bed like surf. The walls are plastered with newspaper cuttings, journal articles, and hand-written scrawlings. We can hear how bad the room smells. A writing desk, similarly limed over with droppings stands to one side, and there is a wardrobe and a toilet at the other end of the room, together with a full-length mirror and a sink. The room is constellated with dozens of standing lamps, at different heights, seemingly at random around the room. Although there are very many of them, the room is still dim. There is knocking at the door.

Topski            Hello? Mr. Lewis? (a beat) Mr. Lewis? Fuck.

                       (Topski opens the door and enters. She is carrying a briefcase and is obviously unsure what’s going on)

Topski            Okay, so you’re not here – oh my

                       (She edges towards the bed and the body. She unveils it – V-girl sits bolt upright, and screams. Topski screams)

Topski            Oh, fuck! Fuck!

V-girl              Who are you?

Topski            I’m here- I was looking-

V-girl              What do you want?

Topski            I’m here to see Mr. Lewis, but-

V-girl              What’s your birthstone?

Topski            What?

V-girl              Favourite colour? What’s your favourite colour?

Topski            Yellow!

V-girl              What was your mother’s maiden name?

Topski            Deblorovich- but why-

V-girl              Don’t stop answering, I need to find out!

Topski            What?

V-girl              I need to know!

Topski            What?

V-girl              Have they got to you? Have they got to you too?

Topski            WHO!?!

V-girl              (V-girl gives Topski a poisonous look, before finally deciding she’s safe) Ugh. Fine. Grab a chair. You’re clean.

Topski            Are you okay?

V-girl              Grab a chair, woman

Topski            Could you tell me what’s going on?

V-girl              Get a chair, first

                       (Topski grabs a chair and sits. V-girl crouches in the bed)

Topski            Are you sure you’re quite alright?

V-girl              I’m fine. I was sleeping

Topski            You were screaming-

V-girl              You woke me up. You were screaming

Topski            I thought you were dead!

V-girl              I am dead

Topski            What?

V-girl              I’m a vampire

Topski            … okay. I’m a, I’m a handwriting expert, it’s nice to meet you.

Writing script is a very strange experience. Nothing but dialogue, you think! My goodness, but this is going to be easy.

Think about that though. Nothing but dialogue. Which means you have nothing else to work with. Well, stage directions. But no thought bubbles. No lengthy descriptions of intimate items. No "She read the letter..." If a character reads a letter, they either read it to themselves (and then you've just made a statement to the audience - you're going to find out what was in that letter, later) or they do it out loud - but why does anybody read a letter out loud? You'd better be justifying that, Mr...

Thinking about theatricality is very difficult as well. I want to write with performance in mind - a text that suggests interesting visual set-ups, interesting audio creations, and which is possible within a realistic performance space (I remember hearing from a friend that he wanted to set a play in a tank, underwater). "Crowskin", my previous project (plug o'clock! performance in week two, capital centre, and tickets are free!) is a globe-hopping play, with locations all over the shop - that's going to affect staging very heavily. With this one I've gone for the more traditional "three people stuck in a room" approach. But why are they stuck? What do they have with them? Will the air run out!? (Okay, that last one's not so much of a concern).

Conversely of course, I don't want to be too controlling. Theate is an interprative media - it is interpreted by the director, the actors, and then finally the audience (thankyou to James McPhun for that insightful piece of advice). The director has to give the actors leeway for their own interpretation - the writer has to give the director leeway. That's not just about putting ambiguity into the text, it's about suggesting your vision, rather than dictating it.

The only solid path I've found for this is to be a genius. I don't think I'm there of course, so I'm waiting on the opinions of several directors to see if they ring up those issues as a problem. Time will tell.

Characterisation is interesting. In truth, I'm not going to be characterising these people - whoever performs them is. But I have to make a text which suggests a coherent character. One experience when performing in "Dinner" was that my character (and arguably some of the others) wasn't entirely internally consistent. It made choosing a direction for the character exceedingly difficult. Nonetheless, as an actor I had the final call. It's very odd, writing characters, and knowing that the goal is to make them interpretable as people, not to make them into people.

Anyway whilst the buzz lasts I'm going to go write a short story and finish learning some lines! Toodlepip!

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