Covid. Plastic sheets. Sanitiser.
Our first day in a rehearsal space since February. A monumental day. But a day that I have personally been working towards for years and am very grateful that we have been able to proceed, despite the world collapsing around us.
Today we began the second Research and Development on PLATE, a play written by me, on a subject very close to my heart. Weight. Weight loss. Weight gain. Expectations. Honesty. Love. Is love conditional? Unconditional? What do we expect of others? Oh, I could go on, but I'll shut up now. There is too much to explore in this piece, which is why I need a room of people to help guide me. I would like to give a special shout-out here to the brilliant Darren Jeffries & Keeley Fitzgerald who were our original team in 2019 and helped this play beyond my wildest dreams.
I felt it would be nice to blog from inside the rehearsal room, to share a little bit of insight into our process. Especially with times being what they are. The fact we are in this room together at all feels like an absolute privilege. So - here goes! I hope you enjoy.
Freshly printed scripts (in sanitised plastic sheets) lay on the table, awaiting everyone's arrival. We have Sam Redway (our Dramaturg / Leader), Gemma North and Jason Lamar Ricketts (our actors) and two developing directors, who are shadowing the process.
Once teas & coffees were made, we sat down to a first read-through. I have been developing this play for years and years and hearing the most recent draft aloud, was a wonderful way to kick off. But of course, as a writer, all you can hear is what's wrong. You cringe, you wince, you die inside. Even if there are trickles of laughter, and even despite these brilliant actors making your words sound far better than you could have hoped, you still die inside.
There is a lot of work to do.
We paused for a little break after the read, with Sam and I scribbling notes, then the real work begins.
Excersise 1: Post Read-through discussion.
Sam kicked off by asking us all to write down what WE think is the Journey of the Play?
What has to change? What is the world that exists at the beginning and how do we end up at the end?
Myself and Faith (shadow director) focused on the play as a whole, while Gemma and Jason wrote from their character's perspective. Charlie, for example, who is she at the start of this piece. What is her world? Her world view? Her status quo? And then, what does that look like by the end of the play?
I shall mention here that PLATE takes place over a mere 24-hour period. It is a one-day affair, which opens up a host of difficulties regarding character development. How much can someone change in such a short amount of time? I have an idea in my head of what happens to these two people, but now the hard work is making sure what's in my head, can be received by an audience.
After 5-10 minutes of scribbling, we shared our ideas with each other, with me writing down a lot of helpful insights that everyone had picked up. We also noticed there were some recurring ideas & themes, which is also a very good sign.
Exercise 2: Questions for the Characters
Sam's second exercise was to give a sense of an overall objective and intention. What is your character trying to do throughout this play? As someone who is both an actor and a writer, it still baffles me that these relatively simple question can still seem so unreachable at times. You can spend years obsessing over every word of a play and then, something so fundamental keeps you scratching your head at the end. Ohh the beautify of dramaturgy!
As a sneak insight - here was one of my favourite lines of the day: 'Two people who could never be honest with themselves, find a way to be honest with each other.'
Exercise 3: The Unanswerable Question / Eternal Questions
Plate suffers a little bit from being timely and topical. Sam and I laugh, because every few months it feels like a giant chunk of the play is suddenly irrelevant or no longer correct. For example: there is a line about plus sized models, that is no longer true. And a line about children's novels, that is no longer true.
So, do i let my play sit in a time capsule? Representing a different time, right on the edge of when progression is taking place? Or, as Sam suggests in this exercise, focus in on the eternal questions. What are the eternal questions within this piece?
This is something I will continue mulling throughout the week... perhaps even for another few years!
After a meaty discussion around expectations and weight that lasted a good few hours, it was 5pm and time to head home.
A fruitful, provocative and meaningful first day. See you tomorrow!