I wasn’t expecting to write something that began “once upon a time” then again, I wasn’t expecting to write something at all.
I’m not a writer – but over the years I’ve co-written lots of performance text. Some exist on paper, but most exist only in the performers bodies – written live in rehearsals, edited, refined and repeated. This process has worked well, and failed miserably. It’s led to taught pieces full of surprises, and flabby pieces, which were dramaturgically sloppy.
So how do we tighten that process? How do we keep the spirit of the openness of devising alive, without the risks of creating something confusing? Do we employ a writer, to take our freewheeling thoughts and shape that into something coherent? or a dramaturg to work alongside us as a critical friend to be the guardian of the idea, and act as interlocutor for the audience?
We could – but we wanted to try something we hadn’t done before. So last week, myself and Catherine Dyson spent a week, looking over what we’d made last year, teasing from that something which excited us and could become both interesting and coherent, then set about co-writing a script.
We wrote things on big pieces of paper, scene titles on post its, scribbled in notebooks and typed on laptops. We read things back to each other, made suggestions, edits and wrote again.
Neither of us has ever co-written a text before in this way, and one of the great things about it was that the play we’re creating couldn’t have been written by either of us alone, nor could it have existed without the previous R&D periods where we went from impetus and inspiration, to the nub of a story we wanted to tell.
We’re now at the point where we (finally) know what the story is, and that’s exciting. We haven’t finished writing all the text yet – and some of it we wont until we’re in rehearsal, where the actors will play with what we’ve written and make it their own. And that’s where it comes alive.
She pulls out a crow bar and smashes the bulkhead light that sits on the back wall. A guard dog starts to bark. Then more join in. The night is being woken up.