Not infrequently I’ve sat in front of a post show Q and A audience mid run and been asked ‘So how did it all start? Where did the idea come from? Has it changed much along the way?’ and experienced a complete and total, slack-jawed ‘eyes on vacation’ hard drive wipe out. In that tense moment of inquisition- you wrote the bloody thing you’re supposed to know- fragments of memory might pop up, an early production meeting, an image, talking to a designer, the tea-ringed top page of a an early draft amid filmic shouty echoes of chewy financial conversations with banks, funders and unyielding cash machines (One sided and expletive riddled) but never a clearly delineated concise, witty and entertaining outline of how a title became a bunch of creative people, became a rehearsal process…And became a show. At that point generally I look down the line of -much more ably loquacious- actors on the stage and ask for a take from one of their points of view while I consider a check up for early onset Alzheimer’s- and hide behind a post show ginger beer and feigned cough.
Writing, developing, directing and producing a play is a constantly moving and changing process, engaging many different voices and inputs, in an intrinsically collaborative yet highly disciplined process. Theatre-making is socialism, communism and utopianism all rolled into one (With the occasional rogue tyrant and revolution thrown in as you would expect) all rounded off with lights and sound and clapping at the end. It’s a big fat idea rolling down a hill with lots of people giving it a good whack for momentum. As the originator in this instance I’m a playwright, but there are all sorts of ways to do it, the letting go of the idea is as important as the coming up with it in the first place, and this duality, if it’s working well, leads to the kind of amnesia highlighted above.
I have a very good feeling indeed about this play.
I don’t always, but I like the fundamentals of this one. I’m going to be very happy to live with it for a while. A play about transition, life, death, love and what it means to different people because from where I’m standing (And occasionally lying flat on the floor exhausted by it all) it means so many complex things to so many people and yet we’re all supposed to share an understanding of what ‘it’ (Love) in its romantic/sexual/familial/spiritual form is. We’re all increasingly isolated (We’re told) because of our new-found love for technology, and yet we remain desperate to conform to ideas which at least one other person in the world shares. What does love mean in the age of political and personal fragmentation?
So if I were somehow transported into that future Q and A that question is, I suppose, where I would start. That’s where I am right now. Asking the question, looking through the window, walking, thinking, gently interrogating it while pretending to be listening to conversations about other things, watching box sets, swimming, eating early summer ice creams, and driving.
At the same time I’m framing and shaping- because that’s what playwrights do, we’re idea and emotion wranglers, coraling all the feelings and thoughts around the themes, into character-shaped gated folds in imagination fields, ready to drive them forwards into the structure, the shape of the play- and a plot worthy of carrying it all, and an audience, along.
If this blog does nothing else it will provide me with a record of a process which I generally forget, as it’s very much a moment by moment experience, just as the dialogue in the eventual play patterns moment by moment thought, and exists in the ‘now’.
Because currently the work is only mine, I’m just pre draft one, this is the sole point in the process where I’m working as an individual artist. It’s calm and quiet and wonderful. Just me, thought and ultimately words on page.
I Love You Baby is just beginning its life. The plan is for the play to move through research and development, be nourished by the input, technical skills and creativity of fantastic partners, actors, theatre companies, venues, all kinds of individuals into full production and a national tour. I’m recording every step in that journey and I hope you’ll come along with me. These pages will be populated with people, a vast range of opinions and the sound of many people whacking ideas down hills.
It’s going to be an amazing journey. I’m determined to remember it this time.