Most of us continue to survive because we’re convinced that somewhere along the line, with grit and determination and perseverance, we will end up in some magical union with somebody. It’s a fallacy, of course, but it’s a form of religion. You have to believe. There is a light that never goes out and it’s called hope.
And so says Morrissey.
Seven Minutes in Heaven was the eleventh new piece of work I created this year. Well, it was 85% percent new. The rest stemmed from an earlier piece of work that I developed during my postgraduate studies.
Seven Minutes in Heaven is also the piece I've worked most on redrafting. The piece comes from my investigation of asexuality but I didn't want to make a play ABOUT asexuality. So I needed to rework, redraft. Keep asking myself what is the play literally about (getting to space), what is it metaphorically about (you're always going to be you, ain't no changing).
It's feeling healthy. The first draft had the word "sex" in it 45 times. The most recent draft has none. The first draft followed a different character. My recent draft gave E.T. a speaking role. It's been really fun being able to see the current version as a palimpsest. I know what characters are now not saying. And that's also making my heart ache a little. In the first draft I didn't care about my characters. My recent draft - I really do care about them. And they're sad. So I'm sad.
Seven Minutes in Heaven was presented as part of In Motion's Winter Words Festival, I was happy to sit back and spend fourty minutes in the company of my favourite artists - Paul Brotherston directing with Alasdair Hankinson, Meghan Tyler, Ross Mann, Scarlett Mack, Alan MacKenzie daeing the actin. Thanks folks.
It gets a mite lonely. Writing.
One of the reasons I enjoy directing are the plentiful opprotunities it provides to work with other people.
So it was lovely to be treated to a busy week as a writer with There is a light that never goes out.
In April I had the progression There is a light from March’s Progressive Playwright at the Tron, closely followed with a weekend with DRAFT at N16 in Balham. I was able to work on the same bit of text with two different groups of rather extraordinary artists and – but magical chance – with the estimable Jordan Blackwood at the helm at both events.
DRAFT was really wonderful. Six hours to dig into ten pages of text. What a gift. During the final sharing, I really enjoyed being amongst the audience and watching how people were responding to the characters.
There’s a bit in Simon Stephens’ diary about “being dependent of the laughter of others” as a measure of success -
“We become a bit addicted to whether or not our lines are going to get laughs because laughter is the most tangible and legible measure of how happy our audience is.”
Yeah. I can feel that I’m going to get a bit addicted to that.
After DRAFT I put together a little document of all the people who’ve helped me with There is a light in case I ever get to stage the play fully and get to put together with one of those “thank you” pages in the programme. With DRAFT, Progressive Playwright and my first meeting with the characters - Sasha, Ashley and Lewis – during my postgrad, there’s actually a rather meaty list. And it contains some of my All Time Favourite theatre artists. When did that happen? I was too busy freaking out about lopping my guts out to other people that I didn't quite clock the sheer force of goodwill behind me.
I’m not feeling so lonely any more.
And I taught some Londoners what a VL is. Bonus.
PS. The New Current interviewed the writers taking part in DRAFT.
"You all set for Draft 2, do you get nervous when showcasing your new work?
As long as my mum isn’t in the audience I’m usually okay. Rehearsed readings can be scary because there’s no bells and whistles to hide behind. It’s just the actors and the script. I’m usually too caught up in star struck wonder at the work the actors and director is doing to remember that scooping out a piece of your brain and plonking it in the middle of the floor for people to poke and prod is a really terrifying thing to do."
Reading your work aloud with friends is always helpful. Reading your work aloud with a room full of strangers who don’t always take your feelings into consideration can be even more helpful for the work.
I took part in my second Progressive Playwright as a writer last week at the Tron. Previously I found it useful to complete my Playwrights' Studio Scotland mentored piece and discover that the vast, sweating, cast iron palm house I had imaged was coming across as your granny's greenhouse where she grows tiny tomatoes from a Grobag.
This time, I brought the hashtag-resistant There is a light that never goes out and it's called hope, the title lifted from the lips of the World's Most Famous Asexual, Morrissey. I shared a prologue to what I hope to be a full length piece where to teens are stuck playing Seven Minutes in Heaven at a party.
The play is working on ideas about people who feel "broken" - what does it mean to be sexless in a sexualised society. About not even being Olly-Murs-20%-one-thing-or-the-other. On another workshop with the piece, the director told me blankly that asexuality isn't even a thing, as if I was writing about talking lions and wizards. Get tae France. It is a good feeling when you get people coming up to you afterwards as a couple did at Progressive Playwright and whisper that they know what you’re talking about.
Oh no, loves, you’re not alone.
The actors assigned to my piece are people whose work I adore and filled the air in the piece with beautiful sparkle. I came away with my notebook and my head full of questions and ideas after the feedback session with the audience and listening to the other writers' approaches.
Excitingly, the piece was selected to be progressed. I need to take my teens out of the cupboard and put them in amongst the big scary party of life. Progressing means I've had a very helpful mentoring session asking me lots of questions about the script, many of which I don't have answers for. Sometimes saying "I don't know" is exciting because it means packing a knapsack and heading off on an adventure with the character to find out. I'm looking forward to sharing my findings with more beautiful strangers.
There is a light that never goes out and it's called hope will be at the next Progressive Playwright in a Limited Edition Extended Version on 14 April at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. MORE INFO & BOOKING