Monday, August 25, 2008

Reflections on the River

In the build up to Young Co's autumn production - Reflections On The River - writers from the company worked with professional playwright Peter Arnott to hone and develop their work. Claire has written a bit about her experiences of play writing:

"Just this morning I got an email from Peter with the polished version of our play attached following our final meeting - last Monday - to add the finishing touches to the plays we've been working on for just over six months or so now. It's very rewarding to have it all written and completed, and I'm sure we - the writers - are all anticipating with excitement the beginning of rehearsals and the show in October. It is an immense privelege to have been given such a fantastic opportunity in writing a section of Reflections On The River. I first heard about the project in October last year - pretty much a year to the day of the upcoming show's opening night - and immediately emailed Neil to enquire further. I wasn't involved with the Young Co at this point but that was soon to change, and it's just been such an incredible experience, as two of the things I love most in life are writing and theatre, and this was a chance to combine the two.

My first night at Young Co was a chance to meet everyone there, and we looked at the fantastic 'Road' by Jim Cartwright, but two weeks later the project really began when we met Peter, who gave us the basics about playwrighting, which was fascinating and educationally beneficial. The actual process started on the ninth of February when we all got together with Peter for the first meeting where we discussed initial ideas and possible storylines. Thinking back to this it's amazing to see how far these plays have developed since. Some of us had a definite idea of what we were going to write about, and some of us even had a storyline all worked out, just waiting to be written. I had, simply, an idea about an unconventional friendship between a slightly unbalanced teenager and an adult; a few specific locations for the setting in mind; and one or two pieces of dialogue that had just come to me in the weeks between joining the Young Co and starting the writing process. Each of us in turn discussed our ideas - specific and vague alike - with Peter, while another one wrote the main points on a large board, and then we were given the piece of paper off the board to help us to start writing. Whenever we suggested something, Peter would ask questions which developed that idea further and prompted other ideas. Then we were asked to take some time out and just write, and I scribbled down a very rough first scene, some of which now features in the "official" first scene. Before long I had a summary of events, though it couldn't at this stage be called a structure.

I had more of a structure, if it was slightly over-inclusive, by the eighteenth of February, and by then the characters also had names, as they had previously been known as A and B. We were told to expand on as much as we possibly could, and follow every line, even if it wouldn't go into the final script. And, more often than not in my personal writing process, this felt a bit like going off on a tangent which resulted in the odd weird look from those participating in the read-through and so on - all part of the fun I suppose!

photo by Iain G Farrell

At the beginning of March I hadn't come up with anything new other than various different ways of re-writing what I'd already written, but the scenes were starting to come together and we were taught that everything we wrote - however insignificant it seemed - would contribute to certain unsaid thoughts implied throughout the play. Another valuable thing we were taught by Peter was that the play happens in the minds of the audience. And all through the process we corresponded with Peter through emails, and had one-to-one meetings to challenge and change certain things. Before long rehearsals for the readings in June were under way, and the readings gave us the opportunity to decide what worked and what didn't. This, in turn, meant that a lot of significant changes could be made. One of the things I found about the readings was that I could take on board ideas of the director's that I liked which I then wrote into the script. Similarly, the way the characters were portrayed by the actors was also a helpful guideline for cutting certain lines out, or changing them, or enhancing them - or in some cases adding in a wee stage direction so that the way in which this line was delivered at the rehearsed readings was kept in for the actual production.

I really took my cue, on the character of Keyra in particular, from Cheryl who played her - or read her, I should say. There have been several elements which have influenced my characters and - as I'm sure the other writers would agree - at the very beginning, the storyline was hazy although it was there, and the characters were all very flat. One of the aspects of the project was being able to resuscitate these characters, and a lot of things have influenced that process. Obviously Peter's input was vital, as were the comments from the other writers at the read-through a few months prior to the rehearsed readings, the way in which Cara, who directed my script for the rehearsed reading, responded to it, and the actors' creative responses to the script. You start to feel very protective of your play, I think is the case for most, but I found it increasingly important to let go and to trust Peter - who obviously knows a lot more about it - to cut certain things out of it or add other elements in. I have really enjoyed working with Peter as I've learned a lot about playwrighting and his take on my script in every stage of the process has been fascinating and has helped to really broaded my mind, perhaps for future pieces of writing. It was incredible to be able to discover the world of possibilities that you have with theatre, in terms of creative writing, there are no limits.

With rehearsals starting this month, Reflections On The River will be on in October, and I'm sure you're going to love it - we've all had a great time working on it. See you in October !


You can book now to see Reflections on the River.


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