Something it can be hard for us writers locked in our garrets to remember is the extraordinary dimension that can be added when our words are finally lifted off a page: either by an actor in a theatre, or by a reader curled up on a couch.
After all, that’s what those words were put there in the first place for, weren’t they?
After long months of writing, it’s a pleasure to re-discover this power of connection, the real reason for writing. And so much is unlocked through this final, and most vital, part of the process, things that you didn’t even know you had written.
This year so far, I’ve had two short pieces of theatre produced: in February, the monologue Forget Me Not was performed as part of the FIRST festival at Tristan Bates Theatre, and in April, Blinded By, an experimental theatre poem written and conducted as a musical score.
Both were different but equally sublime experiences, serving to jog that distant memory of one of the beauties of being a writer – the moment when what you’ve written becomes active in the world, entering into the consciousness of other lives and minds, and hopefully effecting something positive, or at least provoking thought. Arguably the culmination of all of your efforts is the most electrifying, and nerve-wracking, part of the writing process.
James Lorcan as Geoff in Forget Me Not
In Forget Me Not, it was great to work 1-1 with James Lorcan, who took on the title role of Geoff. James asked a selection of intelligent questions that forced me to consolidate and articulate exactly the reason I had used each word and line; how it furthered the plot, or what it told us about the character of Geoff. This is what we should automatically be doing in our writing process anyway, but those prompts as questions are fantastically satisfying for both writer and actor, in achieving a clarity and consistency of goal and character. And if you’re both clear on those things, hopefully an audience will be, too. By going through this process of excavation with a collaborator, connections are made and deepened about things you wrote instinctively. You may not have known the reason that your character used that exact phrase at the time of writing – you were just listening to them, and they were using very particular words, or you visualised them behaving in a very particular way – but you’ve just discovered why, and the connections can be profound.
Blinded By was a different experience again, involving 3 actors of no specified gender or age and allocating lines based purely on voice.
Llila Vis, James Killeen, Susan Hodgetts in Blinded By
Blinded By was a theatre poem approached as a musical score, and each voice represented the instrument of an orchestra.
Assigning lines depending on voice also meant the freedom to carve out characters and stories from the given lines; this takes excavation of character beyond the norm, leaving the actor free to create their character’s story themselves with the director, guided within a very defined word structure and form.
A very exciting form of excavation that I’m keen to continue exploring.
So, writers…keep writing. When an audience member or a reader finally comes to see your work, in the excavation of your text, there is the possibility of true understanding of your words and their intentions, permitting communication between hearts and minds.