Well, it’s fair to say that the first day of workshopping my play with Kali Theatre was one of the the most exciting – and exhausting – experiences in recent memory.
It was 4.45pm in the studio at The Albany, and there I was feeling slightly disappointed that the day was drawing to a close, convinced I could go on for hours and hours and hours. I was loving it – tearing apart the characters, deconstructing the plot, trying new things, and drawing out the essence of the play.
Fast forward half an hour; I’m on the train from Deptford to Cannon Street, having said my goodbyes to the talented actors and director, and I’m resisting to put my feet up on the seat across from me – good citizen ‘n’ all. And suddenly it’s like the ‘yum-yum’s’ we gorged on in a tea break have multiplied exponentially in mass, and I feel so, so heavy, like I can hardly keep my head from lolling over onto a stranger’s shoulder.
Worth it? Yes. I walked in with the second draft of my play, thinking it was the shizer. Turned out I didn’t have a clue. Don’t get me wrong; hearing and seeing the actors take the words off the page and actually turn them into real people was somethin’ else – fairly magical I would say. For so long this play has been living in my head, it was extraordinary to see these dormant characters stand up and walk around the room.
But more importantly, the workshopping also highlighted how much work needs to be done – with characters and their back story and what they reveal about themselves, with the narrative and dramatic arc, with the values and moral questions the play elicits, and with the humour and the tone.
For me, I think the hardest part was making it light and funny, whilst maintaining its emotional depth. In today’s workshop all the emotion was there – all the angst, all the drama, all the pain, all the love. That stuff was easy! But what was harder to draw out was the humour and the buoyancy. It started emerging towards the end, as we experimented with different things but I think it needs more from the writing.
You know what? Jokes are friggin’ hard to write. They seem so easy and blasé when they roll off a character’s tongue, but I swear it’s such a precise formula it takes a tremendous amount of brainwork to put together. So if you hear my trying out less-than-average jokes in the next few weeks, you’ll know why.
The whole experience was utterly thrilling though – the actors were all truly brilliant and did things with my words that I couldn’t have even imagined. The director, Poonam Brah, was fantastic in the way she brought things together, worked with the actors to bring out incredible nuances from the text, and really guide me through my own play, drawing attention to both what she loved about it, and what she thought might need a little TLC from me – I can’t think of anything more valuable to me as a writer at this stage.
Tonight I’m feeling very tired, very lucky, but very, very happy. And about tomorrow’s workshop… bring it!