Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"You hold my trousers, I'll hold your baby!"

"You hold my trousers, I'll hold your baby!"*

Before I sat down, two and a half years ago, to write SSoB the ideas behind it had been circulating in my brain for months, some of them had probably been there for years. With Four Chords I knew the subject matter for nearly a year before it occurred to me what form the play should take. And I've had an inkling of another play - less concrete than the planned story for Four Chords - for some time now, a knowledge that along with my burning desire to write 'Green Room - The Musical'** I wanted to write a play with some cracking female characters. Call it the after effects of multiple viewings of My Mother Said I Never Should or simply a burning desire to create a female character I hold in as much reverence and delight as I do with Will in SSoB or Jude in Four Chords. And, as it always is and I hope it will be for a long time, this isn't just a desire, it's a compulsion.

Just as before when the initial idea has slopped around my brain to be eventually born into something with shape and form, yesterday afternoon, just after I blogged, I found myself with some dialogue that may well be at the centre of this new play. And it was big dialogue, dialogue of the type that David Hare once noted "needs room to breathe". It struck me in the lines that seemed to flow effortlessly, as if I were simply catching them and not writing them, in this half heard conversation between two sisters I can see the play I need to write. A play I've probably needed to write for a very long time, even if I hadn't realised it. Once the lines had come, a product of some lightning bolts after work on Monday night, more has followed. Now I have names and ages and likes and dislikes and story and shades. I suspect more will bubble up in the next few days.

But I know exactly why my brain is trying to divert its entry to its new Ur-Play. In a not so subtle manner it is attempting to channel me away from the more difficult - but infinitely necessary - job of my Four Chords re-write. Because that is messy and complicated and involves getting covered in ink and print and words. As the structure is relatively tight a re-write is major surgery. None of the body parts remain untouched. So I've been procrastinating about the moment I finally start. I've made notes, asked myself questions, gotten my red pen out. I've also taken to compulsively soliciting opinions. This has resulted in numerous degrees of helpfullness - from the panicking (5 people declaring that they hadn't heard, let alone played, 'Marry, Shag, Kill...' and thus the opening section where Jude and Ben play this game being practically uncomprehensible - "I thought it was a thriller and they were going to kill someone"), through the pause making ("Is he gay?" - erm, I'm not so sure what Steeeve might say about this development to his alter-ego) and the extremely useful (the noticing of my tendency to write "down lines" after I finish chunks of conversation, I hadn't been aware of it but, my God, are they there) to the incredibly sweet ("Act One, Track One - I love it already", "I laughed five or six times during this much [holds up first few pages of track one]...and I can really 'see' the characters already"). Jez, the owner of the last comment, was immediately made my favourite person of the week but even with all the comments and notes it remains that I have to settle down and do the writing.

I've got one more day of work and then for the first time in months I've got three days set aside for nothing but writing. Which means I'm going to force the new voices out of my head - or at least into a side room - and concentrate on the surgery. Because Four Chords means a lot to me and I want it to rock.

*Possibly it would have been better if that sentence hadn't been said to me on a full bus. The baby is Four Chords, if you're wondering. The trousers were, erm, trousers.

**So it might not be an actual burning desire as much as it was a very funny joke after several hours in the WYP. But I reckon it'd be a winner at the Edinburgh Festival.

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