Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Playing with a play

This weekend has been my most productive weekend in a long time. On Friday I had a one page outline of an idea, the idea was a very floaty one, a vague idea of a situation, a couple of blurry images, a sense of a character but nothing particularly concrete. By Monday I had worked my way half way through a notebook, created five characters, a story, a structure, a style, a theme, oh and a sub-plot too.

Now the most obvious reasoning behind this is to think I laid off booze over the weekend hence avoiding the subsequent morning spent on the sofa half-watching whichever soap omnibus I stumble across first, followed by devouring my body weight in KFC, followed by guilt ridden late dog-walking, followed by guilt ridden OCD style cleaning. Followed by an early night and locking myself in my study on Sunday to desperately try to catch-up the lost hours.

Admittedly for anyone that knows me, it would be a good guess. However this is not the case, in fact my alcohol consumption over the weekend was 2 bottles of wine and four large bottles of Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. And I specify alcoholic ginger beer because I’m still amazed every time I drink it that it is alcohol. Seriously? It's alcohol? But it tastes so nice, so refreshing! I really like Crabbies.

The very simple reason behind this productive weekend was the fact that I participated in the first instalment of my Writing for Performance Mentoring Project with Kaite O’Reilly. Unfortunately it’s not possible to go to Ty Newydd every weekend so I have to find a way, without the support of Kaite O’Reilly and 8 others writers, to do the same every time I have a new idea.

First of all question the idea, pull it up and hold it to the light, turn it inside out and give it a good shake. Or put it simply, ask - what the f**k?

I had to think why was the idea important to me, why did I care about it, what was I trying to say, what did I want people to think about my idea? What was at the heart of my idea?

Although at first I wasn’t sure about any of the answers I found that the questions stayed with me as I circled the idea in workshops. Some of the workshops were about character development, some were about structure, some about theme.

I thought about the world of my play, the characters, my protagonist, my antagonist, my secondary characters, the characters who will never be in my play but are part of the world of my play.

Looking back through my notes I drew lots of diagrams throughout the weekend, each with a word in the centre, each time the word at the centre was a different word. In fact on Saturday alone my central theme changed 4 times.

It was as though I was building my play with blocks but first of all I had to build the blocks. Some blocks stayed firm and others wobbled but slowly I had more blocks. All of a sudden things slotted into place and then I had answers to my questions. And then I had a play. It felt as though it had just popped up like magic but it hadn’t, I’d worked really hard but it felt as though I’d been playing.

All of the exercises we did though were about playing with ideas, not worrying about what we were writing, or if what we were writing was right but just writing, playing, having fun with words. Exploring our creative worlds, exploring our characters, exploring our themes. Most importantly I knew I had to get on with it, keep throwing words at pages, keep throwing ideas out, cutting things, letting things change.

The project means that in 2 months time I have to submit a first draft of the play to Kaite who will return it with notes then we have approximately another two months to re-work before we return for a weekend in September to work on the final draft of the play.

So, okay, this weekend was a well structured and well thought out workshop weekend designed by Kaite O’Reilly who is a brilliant playwright, a great teacher and a lovely women but I hope to be able to repeat the success of the weekend alone in my study. I’ll play with an idea, have fun with it. Though maybe I’ll keep the bottles of Crabbies.

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