bordertown - Handing over the baby
Director Sam Riley contemplates a salient point in the script
In every playwright's life there is a time when you have to hand over the script. That precious piece of work that has been playing to rave reviews in your mind now has to be brought alive by real actors and a real director. The scary thing is these people are independent human beings with their own thoughts, feelings and opinions. They are going to step into your world and start rearranging the furniture. They're going to look at your baby, squint their eyes and agree to raise her, inspite of all her faults, and maybe, one day, she might impress a real audience with her quavering voice.
This moment can be so confronting for many writers that they avoid it at all costs. I have been one of those writers. I've started a hundred projects and 'developed' them endlessly, often taking them in ridiculous and obscure directions so I have an excuse to keep them in the bottom draw for thousands of years, in the hope that future, much wiser generations will discover them. There will then be a glorious retrospective of my unproduced work which I will never have to witness, as I lie safely in my grave.
The truth is it's a bold thing to create a world. And that's what a playwright does. She then has to populate that world with characters, all of whom have to exhibit a complexity of emotion and clarity of objective that makes them both recognisable and, at the same time, intruiging. These characters then have to strut and fret their way through this world in such a way that creates audience engagement. This engagement should in some way change the viewers lives, or at least point their thoughts and emotions in more interesting directions. Otherwise, what's the point? You may as well write a shopping list.
No doubt, it is a challenging task. However, the longer I stay in this game and the more work I produce, the more I realise that the world I create is not really mine, nor are the characters. When my work has resonated with an actual audience it has been because I have successfully channeled and rearranged pre-existing archetypes, themes, human emotions and outrageous intentions. I've looked deeply and compassionately at human frailty and foolishness and then put that on the stage. I've attempted to open a conversation, not with my own frightened ego, but with other people.
So in the best of circumstances, it ain't my baby, nor is it my furniture. Smart, passionate people can rearrange it at will and, because they're part of the conversation of this world, create meaningful, engaging results.
Such has been my privilege working with the cast and crew of Bordertown. Director Sam Riley has a background in choreography as well as acting and directing. She brings characters to life not only by concentrating on their emotional objectives but also how their bodies might react to their complex motivations.
Every member of cast brings their own thoughts and opinions, skills and experience to their characters, and so builds something much more complex and meaningful than anything I could have dreamt up. It is an extraordinary and inspiring process that, in my opinion, really beats sitting in a garret drinking litres of coffee and bitterly shunning the cruel world of imaginary philistines.
Over the next year I'll be updating this blog which is all about DRAMATURGY - or, how to make meaningful theatrical work. I'll do it as often as I can but in the meantime please post your comments and thoughts, and check out our great Fringe shows An Evening With A Vegetarian Librarian and Bordertown.