Tuesday, June 06, 2006

School Reunion

School Reunion

Some time ago - before I hit upon the idea of working just enough to pay for all my extra curricular activities - I took part in the WYP's So You Want To Be A Writer course. It involved blood, sweat and writing a ten minute piece which pretended to be a five minute one. There was a showcase too, which I nearly didn't get to on account of the wonderful bus service of Leeds. And if you'd forgotten about that then it doesn't surprise me, because I'd kind of forgotten about it too.

But last night it was school reunion time as we went back for our feedback/follow up meeting. As we sat in the bar beforehand, noting that everyone looked like different people given that they now didn't have five layers of clothing on we joked that the up-coming meeting was going to be like getting your grades back at school.

It wasn't until we were sat round in a circle that I realised that it wasn't a joke. That was exactly what was going to happen. We were getting our grades back in front of the entire class. And what would I - I who I've assesed want to be a playwright more than anyone in the room - do if I was greeted with a C-? Shit, what would I do with a B +?

So the grading from Alex (Lit Manager), Mark (WYP's almost inhouse playwright and course leader) and Alan (Director of the pieces) began. And it inspired that odd mix of curious, nosey interest and 'oh crap they'll be coming to me in five pieces...in three...in one...' I also discovered that there is only so long I can maintain interest in other people's work in such circumstances. That damn egotistical self has a lot to answer for.

When it did come to 'REM's Back Catalogue' I had the immediate relief that all three of them could remember it. Because I died a little for the people whose pieces had become a haze in the memory and would probably have fainted right there and then had mine been consigned to that grouping. So, first box ticked. Then:

"I've got 'sweet' written after it"

Sweet? Sweet like Richard Curtis or sweet like when you've eaten an entire bag of Candifloss in one sitting?

"I'm soppy and I like that sort of thing - they were young and in love and he could have been a rock star -"

Ah that's ok, I'm soppy too. I cry at Neighbours.

I know without even looking over who in the room isn't soppy. Even if his last play was taglined as A Beeston Rom Com.

"I thought there was a bit of incidental stuff that didn't have a pay off -"

Fair enough, I'd thought pretty much the same thing at the time. The fact it wasn't clearly placed on 6th July 2006 meant some of the early stuff seemed a bit out of place.

"And the character of Charlie -"

Was his name Charlie? Shit, I can't remember. There I am worrying that they won't remember and it turns out that they know more than I do. And it strikes me that in this moment if I were pushed I couldn't name any of the characters. Brilliant.

"I kept thinking that something was going to happen with him and then it didn't"

A-ha, we agree on something; I can deal with this. Because this was one of the things that made me love theatre, made me see something I'd never imagined.

"When I wrote it I saw - Charlie - as being the minor character and the story being between - erm - the male and female couple" [nice one Corinne] "It wasn't until I saw it acted that it struck me that he - Charlie - was the one who stole the piece. But I don't think that's something I could have picked up on before that point".

And yes, I'm talking with my hands.

"I liked it -"

Thank you Alan. Call it poetic justice, I'd said an hour or so earlier that I'd liked his direction of the play at the WYP which has had more walkouts than any other I've worked on.

"There was a deftness - a lightness to it"

Keep going Alan.

"What it made me think of - you know those dramas on ITV at 9.00 o'clock starring Caroline Quentin"

"Caroline Quentin?!" It splutters out of my mouth, an involuntary missile.

"It's a good thing - they're dramas where no one gets shot or takes drugs but they're really well written"

Mmm, probably a fair point. I haven't given any of my characters a gun so far. There's still time though.

It's back to Alex now.

"It was pointed out to me that the kind of new writing we've been doing here - it's of a certain type [by this it means high rise flats and people who find it socially acceptable to tuck reebok trousers into their socks] but our main audience - they live in semi-detached houses, shop at Sainsburys and own cats"

"Well they do say write about what you know". Though obviously I don't know about cats.

Mark nods, and it confirms my suspicions of the hole I'd been bracketed in.

"Right - and I think that just occasionally we should give the audience something that's about them"

It's Alan's turn again. Only - despite the ITV thing - I don't mind too much. He's funny.

"Did you know that 85% of the plays submitted to Channel Four's The Play's The Thing either had suicide or rape in them?"

Hey, that's not funny.

"The other 15% were about puppies"

Sweet, I suppose some might say.

"I can't think of a single play that's about nice people" Alan pauses and looks directly at me "You should write it"

There's a dual thing going on in my head now. One: Yey that he thinks I can write. And two: Bugger. Does that mean Alan Rickman's never going to be in one of my plays?

We loop around it some more before moving on to the next piece up for grading. There are some interesting points. It starts to get late. Alan sings 'One day more' and I laugh out loud. No one else does. Does that make me a musical Geek?

Afterwards I stay and talk to Alex about SSoB which she read some months ago. She suggests a couple of plays for me to read and says what I really need to find is my muscle.

Crap, I'm going to have to send Four Chords to the gym.


Val said...

Yey for well written theatre where no one takes drugs or gets shot - and I'm sure you could find a role for Alan, he's multi talented, and lesser things have been shoehorned in!

Shona said...

Some food for thought but I'd read alot of positives in those comments.
On the Alan subject ... look at Colonel Brandon, you can't get much more awww [one could even say "sweet"] than that!!!