Sunday, 15 May 2016

Picture the scene

We've all got some kind of association with plays.  For some of us it means painful association with hot stuffy classrooms and Shakespeare being beaten to death by a teacher who doesn't care and a class who wouldn't know an iambic pentameter if it hit them in the face.  Then there are those lucky ones who enjoyed Ibsen's A Dolls House - mostly due to the excellent local production - which encouraged them to attend the local summer Shakespeare plays, to see that Pratchett book to play adaptation and save up for a few special trips to musical theatre.  

If nothing else there is a very good chance that as a small child you were taken to see your local panto and you stood proudly at the back of the stage as a banker/penguin with an unexpected duet as the old woman who feeds the birds in your primary school's production of Mary Poppins. Theatre is very much a part of British life and really it's our choice as adults whether or not we continue that love affair with the stage.  I'm ashamed to admit that I have not been as nurturing to that part of my younger life as I could have been and so it was with great joy that I signed up for a local playwriting course.

In learning my craft as a writer I must say yes to everything and I'm so very glad that I did.  Whilst only a short four session course, at the end of our brief time together I will have produced a monologue for the Pen to Print, Real People - Real Stories video booth and a 10 minute play that I have written will be put on by real actors for real people to watch.  How exciting is that???  I'll admit that when I heard that was the desired outcome, a real thrill went through me at the thought of someone speaking my lines.  And to think, playwriting wasn't something I had really thought about yet in my brief writing career.  

And so to learning.  What makes a play a play?  You need a story with a theme - a beginning, middle and an end with some kind of conflict your main character(s) has to resolve.  So far so same as writing a book. You will need Acts and Scenes and a certain style of delivery.  Right... chapters and genre?  You need strong characters, dramatic tension, subtext, a great hook at the beginning, an interesting concept and a fantastic finale.  Easy really.  I don't know why we don't all write plays instead of books.......

But really, writing is writing.  If you want to be a writer then you need to be writing and maybe the format that suits your creativity best is a novel but maybe it's a play.  How will you know if you don't have a go?  The exercise for the week is to take five minutes and write an opening scene between two characters.  See what happens.  If it flows then just go with it and write a play.  If you struggle with the format yet the idea is brilliant then you have your next book - what's to lose?

I need to go and wrestle with my inner monologue now, ready for the next session.  Or rather I need to go find out exactly what one is - it's like making a souffle, I'm pretty sure I know what I need to do but it's probably a good idea to find a recipe and read through a few different methods before I actually have a go.   I shall leave you with my opening scene - be gentle dear readers.

Scene: A small flat.  Jack is searching for something.  Ned is standing by the door.

Jack: We're going to be late.
Ned: We won't be late.
Jack: We should've left 10 minutes ago!
Ned: We'll be fine.
Jack: But what if we miss it?
Ned: We won't miss it.
Jack: I can't find my thingy.

Jack leaves stage right.

Jack: (shouts from off stage) Did you do the dooflop?
Ned: I can't hear you.

Jack returns to the stage.

Jack: Did you turn off everything?  And set the timer for that recording?  And tell Mrs Johnson to come and water the plants?
Ned: Yes dear.
Jack.  OK.  I think we're ready to go.  Have you got everything?  Keys?  Wallet?  Phone?
Ned: Yes.
Jack: Let's go then.
Ned: I just need a quick wee.

Ned leaves stage left.

Jack: Seriously????

Ned returns to the stage.  Both exit through the door.

Ned: (speaks off stage) Have you got the tickets?
Jack: OMG.  We're going to be so late!!!!

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