Sunday, February 17, 2008

Part One: "Dance with me"

Part One: "Dance with me"

"So you really like this play?"

"Yes". It is the truth. I like it so much that I am beginning to suspect I have managed to write something which betters the Paris/ 1997/ the future of their relationship conversation between Kate and Harry in SSoB. It has been some time coming. "But the thing remains - I can't tell if I love it because it's genuinely good or if it's because it's been so cathartic to write".

This is probably something of an understatement. I suspect that Films About Ghosts, as this little play has come to be known, has saved me a not inconsiderable sum on therapy bills.

But there is also the voice in the back of my head, the same voice that has been more ruthless in the editing and revising process than I have ever been, which thinks, hey, this is actually quite good. It has something to say. And it may even have started to feel that attending all those workshops (which I have never quite managed to enjoy), and reading all those how-to books (which I find rather perverse pleasure in) and even having the conversation of 'you're a good writer but we don't put the type of plays you write on here' might actually have come in use. Certainly this feels like the tightest play I have ever written (whether this is despite or because of the fact that it spans seven years I am unsure). And maybe, for the first time in a while, I have written not only what I wanted to write, but what I had to write.

"Is there any swearing?"

I consider the question. "I'm not sure - there must be somewhere".

Dean laughs. "Because you know it can't be a Royal Court play if it doesn't have any swearing in it".

We start to read. There is swearing on page 16. That is, at least, one hurdle jumped.

On page 38 Poppy uses the words "some times". Even though I have no strong attachment to these words we spend 15 minutes discussing whether to keep them or not.

A "Maybe" on page 44 looks set to trip us up in the same way until I freestyle a replacement line about Care Bear knickers that amuses us both so much that it has to stay.

After almost four hours, some random tangents, one change of venue, a bit of minor violence (not from me), a couple of lightbulb moments and a variety of line amendments we have finished the first half of the play.

"Three fucks, two fuckings - oh, and an actual fucking. You're fine".

Five days later in a living room in south London we tackle the second half.

There's a protracted debate on line length somewhere around page 82 and an even longer debate on whether Poppy is being bitchy later on in the same scene (and consequently how bad my PMS was when I was writing it).

About this point I also have one of those wonderful moments when you realise that two of the characters are having a conversation about something totally different to what you thought they were talking about.

We reach the emtional climax of the play.

"You know what he needs to say..."

I pull the script up over my face, aware of the fact that I may cry. "Are you trying to break my heart?". I have, it is fair to say, become deeply fond of these characters.

"He has to".

And when he does I see something that I had never quite expected from Charlie. Sitting on a train to Leeds noting revisions, when I get to this section I have a little cry for him. And I realise in a flash that I am crying for Charlie, not for any connection to the starting point of this play. Which, maybe, was the place I needed to get to.

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