Tuesday, 23 March 2010

When a project sprouts legs and runs


As so often happens with a project, Dirty to Me has evolved into something very different. Obviously this is a good thing. If a project doesn’t evolve then it ultimately ends up going back in the drawer (metaphorically and organisationally as I have my folders structured as On The Table, On The Mind, In The Drawer and In The Attic). Take First/Second Person?, for example, which has unfortunately gone back into the -In the Drawer - folder. I’ve done masses of work on it, the characters are developed, the idea strengthened, the different threads have emerged, the synopsis has been written and the plot has been developed but it just hasn’t started to form into something beyond the idea in my head. It hasn’t sprouted legs and run away with me in pursuit trying to keep up with it. The characters haven’t started to talk to one another, the story hasn’t started to hammer itself out, the plot hasn’t formed. The epiphany moment when themes and metaphors materialise is missing. After the epiphany point then usually the moment when the whole thing crystallizes follows but with First/Second Person I still need to help it find its legs. For now though it will go back into – In the Drawer.

Dirty To Me however has been a very different creature. I set out with it, as my first venture back into writing for performance, determined to approach my writing from a very different place. Because this is what I’d learned about my writing from my week course with Kate O’Reilly at Ty Newydd last year. The course was a brilliant week of a great tutor whose enthusiasm for writing was infectious and inspiring sessions that provoked ideas from very different sources than usual for me. I knew that if I wanted to write the kind of theatre that I enjoy watching then I had to work in a very different way. With Dirty to Me I set out with a fragment of an idea which was to explore how a relationship can reach a sexless relationship stage within a society where we are supposedly able to talk about our need for sex, talk during sex and discuss in lurid detail our sex lives with those around us.

I then very specifically set about working on the idea whilst restricting myself from thinking about characters, story, plot, dramatic moments – most definitely and determinedly not a narrative structure. All of them barred.

I asked friends to answer some questions about sex, noting down their words and images. I wanted to create a mass of unlinked thoughts and ideas. I found myself with random words, figments of characters, brief moments, all swirling around. I researched the subject of sex; sex in myth, sex in religion, sex in literature, sex in film, sex in the media. It was going to plan, figments, abstract conversations, images, film, music – unstructured chaos as I’d so carefully planned swirled faster. The swirling turned into a very definite dizziness and then suddenly the whole thing sprouted legs and ran off, characters started to talk amongst themselves with one character in particular emerging, then somehow dramatic moments started to hammer themselves out into a story and a plot, and then the epiphany moment of themes and metaphors spewed out into a ………..

-oh no, how did that happen- a linear narrative structure.

What can I say? I guess I’m just an old-fashioned narrative-structure girl at heart and no matter what I do there’s no avoiding it. Apologies Ash, I tried really hard.

I’m not quite at the Crystallize stage yet but getting very close at which point I will actually be able to do some writing.

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