Wednesday, 11 July 2007

National Script Workshop

I've been in the deep colds of Canberra at the first ever National Script Workshop, run by Playwriting Australia, the body created out of the ashes of the Australian National Playwrights' Centre and Playworks. I think most of the members of 7ON have been part of either or both of those organisations. Most of us have also had strong opinions on the death of those bodies and the birth of the new one.

So there was a certain amount of nostalgia in being closeted at the scene of innumerable Playwrights' Conferences, namely Burgmann College at the Australian National University for the first week (when the full team of writers, directors, dramaturgs and actors were all present) and a certain amount of sheer relief at finally making it to hotel accomodation at Rydge's in the centre of town for the second week(when the actors left us).

Well, I ain't passing on any gossip courtesy of the world wide web, but persons were seen to enjoy themselves in between the obligatory hard working. The process is so intense it's unsurprising.

I worked on my play, SWEET THING, with director, Wesley Enoch and dramaturg, Louise Gough and the seven actors needed for my moody, time-fluid, sub-text-ridden play. "My' actors were Ursula Yovich, Judy Farr, Russell Dykstra, George Shevstov, Ansuya Nathan, Kate Roberts and Toby Schmidt.

SWEET THING had already had a reading aa part of the Griffin Theatre Searchlights Season a few weeks ago so I have had the luxury of hearing my work read by not just one but two - fairly different - groups of actors, followed by quite a lot of input from the second group in particular (as well as wonderful director and dramaturg).

I'd gone to the Script Workshop feeling that my play had its form already, but wanting to test that form. Usually I write to a loose plan, then discard the plan as I write. But I do have one to discard. With the writing of SWEET THING I stepped off the end of the jetty and tried to see if I could swim (the metaphor's mixed but appropriate if you know the play...) So this particular play has evolved quite slowly, and entirely intuitively, and each part links to the other more like a map of a psychology (mine, which is scary...)than like a formal piece of dramatic writing. So it did need testing, and I tried to be open to that process.

I'm only just back home to Sydney after another digression over to Adelaide so I'm still in flux about the actual work I've done. I've added a scene, swapped another round and fine-tuned both my words and my thinking.

The main problem - I'm still wrestling with it - is a key scene when the three sisters of the play are smallish children on a beach in South Australia. The scene is, I know, essential, but it's not earning its way as anything other than illustration of their characters at this stage. And the added scene - which I'm pretty keen on - may well have to go again. And what to do with what I've discovered when writing it?

The writing life. Hmmm.

In other work, GONDWANA, a previous piece with Erth Physical and Visual Theatre, is currently enjoying a sold out season in Sydney, despite a compromised venue that I must say had me really nervous ahead of time. The success of the show, however, only goes to show that I am not the only person in the world who has remained in love with dinosaurs. (GONDWANA is about the formation of the land mass of Gondwana and in particular the time from the late Triassic to the late Cretaceous Periods when dinosaurs were really big and really mean.It's been an evolving labour of love with Erth. The good thing about it is that an entire population of new dinosaur fans gets born every three or so years. It could tour forever...)

Next week I go into a Creative Development, also with Erth on a production of my adaptation of Patricia Wrightson's classic novel for children, THE NARGUN AND THE STARS. It's a beautiful project to work on, apart from access to truly enormous puppets, because Wrightson's own writing is so extraordinarily clever. She has shaped her world through her style, a rare accomplishment in these days of strictly narrative driven fantasy writing for children. Part of my task, as adaptor, is to honour both the style, and the effect of it on place and character in this new, dramatic form.

But I'm not thinking about that right now.

I have two days, four if I count the weekend, to crack that beach scene.




7-ON said...

Verity, where's GONDWANA on? And until when?

7-ON said...

It just finished today, Friday 13th - last show was at 11 a.m. And I missed it! I had done my vague thing and assumed (why? a kids' show?) it would be on in the evening. Then didn't check that until today. Too much other stuff going on and my brain consumed by the SWEET THING rewrite.

It was put on at the Sydney Grammar Assembly Rooms with grand piano unable to be moved from the stage. I was worried it would be totally compromised but the Erthies tell me it's gone gangbusters. So all's well that ends well. But it would have been good to have seen it for when we include the planned next stage of the piece.