Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Splinter: On Collaborating

It’s a proud moment for a new parent when the baby takes its first steps across the stage. It was born the moment you wrote ‘End of Play’ on your first draft. And then it gets cuddled and fed and coaxed (and chastised) in the rehearsal room. But it doesn’t stand on its own two feet until the lights come up and it greets the world.

The Splinter has been the most painless play I’ve ever written: it emerged quickly and almost fully formed, borne from idea to final draft by its own energy. I’ve made changes – there have been several drafts – but minor ones. Conversely, it proved challenging in the rehearsal room: there are two very distinct worlds at play, the lines of which become increasingly blurred. The psychology is complex, but the text is sparse. The visual language is at least as important as the spoken language; the evoking of a mood, a sense of unease, is crucial. As a playwright, you indicate how this might be realised, and you make space for it to emerge and exist, but you are absolutely dependent on your collaborators for it to succeed.

Perhaps this why the evolution of The Splinter has been such a happy one. Theatre is the most collaborative art-form of all: if you’re not prepared to compromise, or to share, or to be influenced by others, then you’re in the wrong business. It’s the only way to see your ideas augmented by other people’s imaginations and skills. Beginning with my initial pitch, I worked in close contact with dramaturge, director, puppeteer, designer and performers. Through these conversations, workshops and script meetings I was able to take advantage of tools not previously at my disposal. These exchanges opened my eyes to alternative ways of communicating an idea, to going against the grain of habit.

A writer needs to spend a lot of time alone – thinking, doubting, exploring sidetracks and reversing from dead ends. But it’s such a pleasure to work in a room with other people, exploring new ways to tell a story. While there’s a virtue in figuring out one’s technique, refining and perfecting it from one project to the next, I am very excited by the prospect of working with artists from different disciplines and revising the process for every show. I am a passionate advocate of text-based theatre, but there are so many exhilarating approaches towards creating that text.

And then there’s the audience: the most important collaborator of all. Without an audience, there’s no play. In the case of this play, where the audience’s assumptions at any given moment are so critical, we were especially conscious of this collaborator.

A week since Opening, and The Splinter is now strutting confidently around the stage of Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1. You've got till September 15 to catch it. 

Here are some reviews:

And if you just can't get enough, check out this in-depth interview with Real Time Arts

Thanks to the Sydney Theatre Company for permission to publish the above, which in the main is extracted from my programme notes.

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