August already. We’ve had rain, grey skies and cool winds up here in Western Scotland since April. The sun hasn’t hung around for more than a few hours but summer seems to have arrived now, for a day or two at least.
The last few months have been busy but the highlight for me has to be Professional Theatre Director Jacqui Crago’s visit to our local tiny Swallow Theatre to give a weekend workshop and that I was invited to write a a ten minute script and take part. Recently Jacqui has been working as the voice and dialect coach on the National Theatre’s production of War Horse. Here is a bit of her in action with students.
I had never written a script before so I spent a couple of weeks hmmmng over an idea and writing my script. It only had to be ten minutes but I kept taking out bits and putting them back again. Seven A4 pages later I found I had only reached 8 minutes in real time.
Jacquie joined us for the first weekend August. There were five playwrights and eleven actors. On Friday evening it was read and commented on and actors were given their parts. On Saturday, actors and writers worked together to get a feel for the story, the characters and mood. Bits were taken out or put in elsewhere. Jacqui taught us how to maintain energy and how you can lose an audience without this, how changes of tone and rhythm works on the emotions…and so much more.
On Sunday lighting and sound effects were added and all the ‘plays’ were performed in succession towards evening. It was exhausting but great fun and I learned so much. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see your creation come to life in front of your eyes, your words interpreted sometimes quite differently from what you expected and accompanied by actions, movements and expressions that lift your character off the page and turn them into a credible human being. I wish I had taken some photos but I was so absorbed that it didn’t cross my mind.
The photo above left shows the buildings that form the entrance to the theatre, the ticketing office, toilets, a space for the audience during intervals and a small cottage to house visitors. The theatre itself (photo below right) is a restored and converted byre (barn) that lies behind these buildings and seats just just forty-eight people. All the lighting is powered from renewable sources – four solar panels and a wind turbine.
I was told my script would make a good one Act play and encouraged to complete it, which is very gratifying. I don’t know though, at the rate I write a script, that might take several years.
All the rain and the short intervals of sunshine has made our garden explode in every direction and it will need some serious taming before winter. However it has also meant we have had some wonderful fruit this year, peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots and strawberries. The gooseberries are ready to be picked now and the blueberries (my favourites) are not too far away.
I have rediscovered Virginia Woolf lately and her interesting experiments with fiction. I have always loved her short stories but have begun to read her novels, her letters and diaries and a couple of biographies. There are a number of photographs of her in my copy of Quentin Bell’s biography and those sent me in search of information about her wider family and the famous Bloomsbury set.
At the same time I began looking for information about Experimental Writing. The books that looked the most useful were too expensive to buy. I scoured youtube and Pinterest but found very little of use. What I did find was a great deal of contradictory and misleading information about writing fiction. No wonder beginner writers get confused. I think it’s very important to seek advice from a source that you trust, or someone who is likely to know what they are talking about. And even their advice does not need to be taken as gospel; it’s just a sound place to begin.
It’s true that experimental writing is a lot more fun to write than to read but I’m all for trying out different ways of working with text to learn what can and has been done and see you make of it. But what is experimental writing exactly? My answer to that seemed a bit hazy. I did find one absorbing and affordable book and I’ll tell you about it in my next post.