Sunday 15 December 2019

The play's the thing (or one of them) - by Rowena House

This week I’ve been hugely privileged to begin an Arts Council-funded playwrights’ course run by Papatango, a grass-roots creative organisation dedicated to discovering and training new playwrights and then launching their careers.
Papatango’s slogan is, “All you need is a story”.
Deceptively simple, isn’t it? Seductive. Siren-like. Apparently do-able: just find a story and get on with it. Yes, well, we’ll see…
For me, it’s taken the best part of a decade to get a firm grip on what amounts to ‘story’ in dramatic terms, and also to discover that it’s essentially the same thing for all storytellers, regardless of our medium - oral, stage, page or screen.
My plan now is to turn the current work-in-progress into a play as well as a novel from its current iteration as an emerging novella-in-flash, cross-fertilizing each version with lessons learnt while writing the others.
Papatango’s first character-creating exercise on Monday gave me a fresh way to power through a logjam of ideas about how to introduce my protagonist in Chapter 2 of the novella. So that’s an encouraging start.
I think that’s what I’m looking forward to most: discovering different storytelling techniques and new foci for the plot. Also, how stage characters speak their deepest truths through staging, body language, sub-text and dialogue, without any description at all.
It’s exciting, too, to imagine sharing my story with a director and actors, making something tangible which is also malleable within their imaginations. One day (maybe) it might be transformed by lighting and sound experts, and brought to life by costume-makers and make-up artists. Picturing each scene unfolding on the stage of the Drum Theatre in Plymouth, the Theatre Royal’s experimental playhouse, is seriously motivating, even if it is still very much a dream.
Inevitably, excitement about a new creative direction is tempered by the experiences of being published as a novelist. Yes, the highs were high. But damn! Those lows.
I chose, however, to forget the past, the paltry income and falling sales. Better to live in the moment. And hope.
After all, a work-in-progress is a precious thing: somewhere to hide from election results and climate breakdown; somewhere to get lost in the labyrinths of the mind, and maybe find there something worth saying.
This latest WIP (and there have been several false starts and cul-de-sacs) is set in 17th century England. It is more overtly feminist than The Goose Road, my WWI debut, and also more political. I’d like it to be more literary, too, less ruthlessly realistic; journalistic me is still along for the ride, but I’m working hard to break away from the old, to experiment and embrace art more fully as well as learning another craft.
Meanwhile, Christmas. Family. Friends. Cold, wet walks with the dog and rare shafts of sunlight. I hope you, too, have something shining in your life, something creative over which you have complete control. Perhaps most especially, I hope you also have people to love (and pets and gardens and liminal places to dream).
Happy Yuletide one & all. See you next year.
@HouseRowena on Twitter


Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds exciting - good luck!

Rowena House said...

Thank you very much, Sue. It's lovely to learn new things and visualize what might be! Happy Christmas to you & yours. x

LuWrites said...

Sounds like you're making the most of a great opportunity, Rowena! Hope to get a chance to discuss it with you soon.x