After a few days doing other things I’m back with I Love You Baby, pondering space and time. The play’s been there in the background like someone extremely attractive and interesting at a dull party, who you know you’re going to talk to later, but who can be confidently left to emit pheromones next to the buffet table until it’s time to lock on. Today I’ve swooped in on the play, set down the stuffed olives, shed the financial expert who doesn’t come up for air, and pushed us both onto the liberating veranda to ask cautious questions, flirt mildly, and make tentative decisions about the future.
While I was away, in moments I could snatch to tantalise myself with the play, I settled on five characters, a place and a plot and these things can all sit dormant and quietly inform other decisions for a while as the two major lynchpins of dramatic construction are honed- Where is it? And when is it? (Including when’s subdivision- how long is it?…)
Being a director as well as a playwright has it’s advantages, though I try not to hold the big cone too often while working in the imagined activity as pragmatism has it’s place, but it can’t all be about ease of entrances and lighting bars.
Similarly producer mode, in cliché form a hard-nosed, cigar-chewing, bottom line-citing, bums-on-seats ‘lets talk about billing and profile’ machine isn’t that helpful either in the early stages of creative development. However both of these roles lurk in the background of this early ideas formation landscape providing the occasional whisper and nudge to the playwright.
After an intense debate between these three job roles in the board room in my brain (Somewhere between the swimming pool and vegetarian restaurant, I don’t stay there long) the following first round key decisions were made and actioned by all departments (There’ll be some more along at a later date when the board meets again and they’ll be dutifully followed):
- The play will be in one place (No set changes)
- This place will have flat white surfaces in it (For digital projection purposes)
- The play will be made for end on performance in middle scale venues
- The play will happen now, today, it’s contemporary
- The play will be two hours long including an interval
The board took these decisions because:
- This is cheaper to get in to theatres and to tour, saves a lot of work for stage management in an interval and also conserves an audience’s valuable patience. Unless you can do a National/West End/RSC fly the scenery in and/or have a huge chorus of singer/dancers/supers on (And run the risk of bettering the show itself) or deliver a stunning performance poet doing something amazing in the bar, probably naked and with fire, to take your mind off the furniture being moved next door it’s the road to nowhere. Scene changes are rarely interesting or necessary unless Ibsen or Chekhov or Shakespeare insists and there’s a not a clever way of getting around it. So decision made. One dazzling set which can be transported in a long wheel base transit van will suffice.
- Self-explanatory. A key part of the plot. All will be revealed in time…
- There’s a recognised dearth of work on the middle scale and I have spaces in mind and early conversations have been had.
- It’s very now. To tell the story in a different time frame would make no sense. Generally the more compact the time frame the tighter the drama so I’ll aim not to be too rangy (Days and weeks at most rather than months).
- Long enough for an audience to feel satisfied with the bother of going to theatre and to carry five ‘real’ actors and one virtual character, a lot of plot, music, physicality and visual spectacle.
And so on the other side of all that we now know where we are and how long it will take.
Below is what I will be looking at inside my head while I’m writing (Or something like it) and this is the space that the characters will come in to. Eventually I’ll communicate this to a designer, but for now, it’s mine and the characters’.
I Love You Baby takes place in Samantha’s penthouse apartment in Manchester.
But we won’t bring the characters or plot forward just yet, as I said they’re there, in the background, ready to enter when the world of the play has been explored, what Stanislavsky would call the ‘given circumstances’ (The things the actors work very hard to unravel when there’s no playwright around).
Many years ago I developed an interest in Second Life (It became vaguely addictive so I uninstalled the app). Second Life was, around the turn of the millennium, the premiere virtual reality interface for the casual on line gamer and offered the opportunity for individuals to enter a user-created world, and influence it. This concept of influence and creation was the driver and it began with the ability to create your own avatar.
The player is empowered to create a version of themselves, transgendered, taller, shorter, with completely different characteristics who arrives in a new world, runs, flies, crosses oceans, build houses, trades and makes and loses money, interacts, has sex and commits crimes (Some very shady and frightening areas exist). The raw excitement, adventure and breathtaking novelty of these ‘games’ and concepts is plain to see. There’s escapism and amazing creativity here- an opportunity to feel both skilled and creative- you are the designer, the writer, the architect and prime mover in your own universe, you are a polymathic genius ruling your own pixilated Olympus.
In the age of communal isolation when we’re all empowered by technology why not fill the gaps for ourselves?
I was attracted to Second Life during a period of tedious recuperation from an insignificant illness when being rendered immobile meant the on screen activity made long days bearable and often thrilling.
Samantha’s brother Clarence, during a period of change and uncertainty, creates and develops a relationship with an avatar called Baby.
But, as already stated, the characters will come later…