Play in a Day
For us, a big part of ‘taking up space’ is about ensuring that women feel confident to express themselves and tell their stories. This was why we decided to run a Play in a Day workshop; where women of any age, who perhaps had never written a play before, would participate in exercises and activities in order to generate some material by the end of the day.
It was clear from the moment that everyone in the room introduced themselves that this was going to be an exciting workshop. We were joined by women from all walks of life with a wealth of experiences and stories to draw from. We organised a series of exercises covering character, structure and dramatic action to lay out some of the foundations for playwriting.
A great inspirational writing exercise involved each participant drawing a person on a piece of paper, folding it over and passing it to the next person who would then draw a place, before folding it and passing it on again and the third person would draw an object. Each writer then took a piece of paper and began writing a scene for that character. We discussed how a visual stimulus can be a different but helpful way to get started.
After lunch and more exercises in the afternoon, the writers were left to their own devices to write their first scenes. The World Cup proved only a minor distraction…
Finally, we gathered back together again. Some brave participants decided to share their first drafts with the room – a daunting task but of course everyone was extremely supportive and generous. Some instead shared their experiences of writing which varied throughout the group. By the end of the day, we were immensely proud of the group. It was amazing that so many of them felt able to throw themselves into getting some scenes down on paper. As many writers will agree, this can often be the worst part. We hope that all the participants will continue to write and that it won’t be too long before we start seeing their plays being staged.
Script Club: July
First performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 2017, Stef Smith’s dystopian sci-fi play Girl in the Machine confronts the relationship consumers have with technology through married couple, Polly and Owen. The two hander depicts corporate lawyer Polly as a workaholic, when Owen introduces the mysterious black box to her as a means of relaxation. However it’s not long before we realise that it does more harm than good to their relationship. The play is set solely in their house, giving it a sense of containment and inducing the question: what does it mean to escape?
During the session we discussed Polly’s character through her interactions with Owen. We explored Polly’s complexities; she is stressed, perhaps not ready for (or not wanting) motherhood and incapable of logging off. Owen tries to warn Polly that she is increasingly becoming addicted to this device and their relationship is being affected. This led us to unpacking how we as readers could relate to and empathise with Polly. This opened up a conversation about mental health in relation to devices and whether we find it harder to ground ourselves in reality, or relate to other human beings.
We felt that the play implied that Owen, who has a much more ‘hands on’ job working as a nurse, has less of a need for technology and therefore his relationship with Polly is his form of escapism. His need is for her to be present throughout the play, blaming the black box for the fractioning of their marriage, although he was the one to introduce it in the first place.
Many gender binary assumptions in relation to gender roles are subverted within the play. This made for an interesting discussion on how career women are depicted when it comes to motherhood. Polly is the one hesitating about having children and desiring the space to focus on other aspects of her life.
We imagined staging the play ourselves; many people said having quite a sterile stage would be suitable and others wanted to be able to see what is happening outside the house when it’s mentioned that riots are going on. However, the idea of containment had us agree that as an audience member it could feel quite appropriately like a pressure cooker situation. We then had a look at the original production photos and spoke about who we would cast; Claire Foy and Idris Elba were mentioned as dream casting choices. We concluded the session with a discussion about narratives we don’t often see on stage, and suggestions of plays to see or read.
We also decided to compile a list of other plays mentioned during the session:
- Consent by Nina Raine
- Adam by Adam Kashmiry
- The Writer by Ella Hickson
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
The next script club is taking place on Wed 29 Aug discussing Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat.