I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year. While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth... But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hots-eating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created an 'Accidents and Emergencies' theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else. It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to concentrate on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as folk say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this, to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week...
We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 1:
Sarah and I were thinking about things that make us feel safe. We both realised that we put great store by certain people out in the world that we have never met, but who feel like friends to us. And then, being us, we started to worry about what would happen if those people were taken away...
People Who Are Going To Die:
It’s difficult to think about, but Tony Benn is going to die. One day pretty soon. He’s going to die, partly because he’s a million years old now, which isn’t his fault. But also, he’s going to die because he’s a pipe smoker. It’s part of his brand isn’t it? Though he would never use that kind of jargon. He would hate that. But anyone who loves Tony Benn knows he’s a pipe man. He smokes. It’s part of his M.O. And yet. It’s a problem.
And I don’t want Tony to have a problem. I love Tony Benn. I have done for as long as I can remember.
I have a recurring fantasy about him. It goes like this:
We meet in a hotel room in Morcambe bay. It’s a single room with a purple nylon bed coverlet that sits on the little single bed. There is 70’s wallpaper. A teas-made. Some cheap mahogany veneered furniture.
Tony arrives. I arrive. We don’t speak. Tony just lies down on the bed. He then removes his pipe from his lips. I take off my glasses and then Tony opens his arms and I get onto the bed and cuddle in. And we just stay like that. Cuddling for the longest time. Nothing else happens. Sometimes we might hear the seagulls crying outside the room…
Eventually of course we have to part. Tony picks up his pipe and I know its time for us to go.
I find this fantasy very comforting…
Anyway. The point is. Anyone who loves Tony Benn knows that he has smoked his pipe forever and that he loves a cup of tea on the hour every hour and that he has a peculiar form of Leukaemia that is slowly killing him. And I can’t help feeling livid with Tony. Because smoking kills. And it probably kills more if you have leukaemia already. So I want to find him and say ‘Tony! Stop smoking! Stop helping the leukaemia spread. We need you!” You are our talisman. We don’t have the vision or passion or commitment to actually attempt to do anything about the shit-fuck-mess that we are all in. What we have is our love for you. And our knowledge that you are out there fighting for us, dictating your diary and basically being alive and brilliant. Simply by being alive you are making the world better, more bearable place. And if you go and die on us now? If you die on us? On me? Then I’m going to have to start thinking about doing something about all the shit-fuck-mess myself.
And that is avoidable.
You are a selfish bastard Tony. Stop fucking smoking and don’t die.