Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Week 3.
They're so brilliant.
Last Sunday's workshop took place at an uggh inducing 11:30 in the morning, not facilitated by my enjoyment of whisky at a Burns feast the night before. But the dear loyal things still struggled along. My heart nearly burst as one after another, they sidled up to the front door. For me (Catholic roots, I suppose), there is something literally sacred about a Sunday morning. So this dedication was much very much appreciated.
Laboriously I told them about the plot construct. Some of it. There are so many storylines that it feels eerily like Dallas. (Too many? Susan Mansfield's review of beauty tap tap taps on the back of my head, demanding attention.) I give attendees specific scenarios to ponder. How might this go for that character?
And again. Again! My mind is blown by their imagination and sharing and intelligence and wisdom. Some of the revelations were so farcically obvious that I wonder if I am stupid not to see. For example, lead character's best friend want to leave her partner but I'd constructed an elaborate sub-plot to explain why she couldn't. Thea and Laura rightly observe that as soon as there are children involved, well maybe you don't want to leave the children. Oh right. Yes! That happens. You elaborately heartless oafish woman. Maybe you don't need 35 knots to unravel to explain the decision.
And maybe when this lead character gets offers her dream job, maybe her future employees are a little worried about her ability to commit to her work given her caring responsibilities. Oh yes. Compassionless unempathetic monster. Maybe that is how someone with a shred of kindness might think. Heavens and shame on you (me) for not seeing that before.
It's funny because all of the things that I thought these workshops would fix (I say "all the things" but really I only mean one thing. The main thing. The ending!) have become sort of peripheral. Because by sorting out the detail and stripping out silly sub-plots - and remembering (remember Susan Mansfield) that the play really ought to have a point - the ending has sort of clicked and clunked into place. I've been writing and writing and writing (when not at work) since leaving the workshop.
My only regret is that the Spice Girls have gone. Alan was and is right. It was a weird and surreal and weirdly surreal interlude. But I did love it. Oh, maybe it should go back in. Time yet to decide.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Workshop two.

With week one as a warm up, scene setting, scope stretching and general getting to know you, week two needed to be a little more focused on the jugular. I need an ending. Alan had some good observations on the first draft script which drove a truck through my limp compromise ending and I need to rewrite. Which is ok as I knew in my heart that it was a limp compromise and the workshops were likely always going to (hopefully) help fix it.

We began with a horrifying chat about actual examples of harassment and discrimination. Age came up which is good as I'm interested in the age at which - some feel - women cease to be seen. One day, as I stalked across Leith Links on my way home from work, a pack of men who can't have been much different in age to me, shouted bawdily after me: "great legs". Then, as I passed them, one chirpily added: "shame about your tits". It was ironically satisfying as I'd been in a work discussion about harassment on that very day. And here it was living and breathing on Leith Links. Anyway, the point is that I don't suppose these same fellows will be offering these wonderful compliments when I'm 75.

Exactly as Roxane Gay says in her wonderful collection of essays entitled Bad Feminist, take gender, add in race (so in this country, not white) and you have a calamitous cocktail of potential for what might only be curiosity but usually winds up insulting. Fancy judging a person's personality by their colour. The thought appalls me which is maybe very naive. But this happens.

Then I set a stupid impossible problem. "Write a play for me" I may as well have said. Instead I babbled on about creating a scene or situation in which a woman had to make an impossible decision, either outcome of which was positive but complicated. All tribute to the workshoppees - they launched into some impressive debates and improvisations. Hard not to be taken aback again by what a wonderfully talented group I have at my disposal for this short time. Choices came through strongly as a theme. Choices about biology (to abort or not), about morality, self-image (to reinvent to serve a purpose or not) and the lovely complicated dynamic between female best friends as soon as there are lovers involved too. Loneliness is a thing too, isn't it? For anyone, irrespective of gender. But there's a particular loneliness that comes from someone with the very most best of intentions saying "it's your body; it's your decision". Interesting stuff.

With trepidation, I doled out the first two rewritten pages of the script (that's poor Evelyn cut - and I liked / hated her). There weren't quite enough people which meant doubling and then I was too nervous and squirming to ask them to do it again so I snatched the pieces of paper back from them and babbled a bit. There is something undoubtedly strange about having an enormous extended family in your head for some months and then seeing them in life. However, in principle, as a start to the script, it seems to have some merit.

Then the challenge. The ending. I outlined the main storyline. And got some excellent feedback already. But how should it end? With sinking heart, I think the realisation is dawning on me that she probably should make the "wrong" decision - as that's the point, isn't it? But then I feel like I'm betraying womankind. Bring back the compromise, I say. We can have a half-inch semblance of freedom after all. That's how the world works. Isn't it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I went to see a show called Flashdance last night. It was based on a popular 1983 film which I somehow managed to miss despite my enduring love of dance movies. 

In many respects, the production felt more like a dress rehearsal (or even a tech, for shame) but there was one bright moment. 

The clutching at straws nightclub owner - at which our determined lead dances by tokenistic way of living out her dream - decides his dancers need to sex it up to lure in a crowd. He hands one girl a rubbery red outfit and another,  a maid's outfit. The maid outfit lady cries: "are you mad? You can't give a black girl a maid's outfit in this day and age! What are you thinking?" The owner postures and squirms and says it isn't a maid's outfit. The dancers all stare at him accusingly. (It is clearly a maid's outfit.) "It's a waitress," he pronounces. 

I wondered if this was a nicely pert 2017/8 addition to the 2008 script. Unfortunately, it was approx the funniest line in the whole show.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Workshop 1.

Despite lots of flu, general ill-health and people needing to work (poor things, on the first Sunday in January), the first workshop was excellently attended. 

We talked about the hideous clich├ęs and presumptions that fly about in relation to gender in this green and pleasant land. Mutton dressed as lamb is always used of women, do you observe? And my favourite mischief-making word - spinster - got good airtime.

Interestingly, the group felt that "boys don't cry" was the most damaging of these casually flung about aphorisms. For the effect both on men (stiff upper lip) and women ("hysterical").

We spoke about things that each sex cannot do under ordinary circumstances.  As things stand, for example, I would struggle to grow a beard. Men cannot have an abortion. Women cannot (tidily) wee standing up (instant flashbacks to a late night pub and my friend Gail excitably recounting her discovery of the She-Wee in advance of a music festival). Nor can they (easily) write their name in the snow with this effluent. (I know that's not quite the right word but I stand by it.) Can only men rape? There's a ten year old attending the workshops so that didn't feel like an age-appropriate discussion.

Outwith my own species, I learnt that both male and female stick insects can lay eggs. Not so much the case for humans, under ordinary circumstances. But that removes a bit of the pressure applied by many an ageing stick insect's "ticking clock".

And we talked a little bit about the things that get in the way of achieving whatever either gender might wish to achieve in life. This tbc.

The sucker punch of the session, for me, happened after everyone had gone. I asked everyone to write the thing that worried them most as a consequence of their gender on a little piece of lined paper. And received the entries in my confession box. 

Peeling open the little pieces of paper when everyone had gone was a window into the brilliant, bold, battered and bruised by life people who'd been sitting round in glorious unsmirched technicolour only moments before. Don't we forget how fragile people are? Don't we (don't I) too easily forget the effort that goes into building up this tough technicolour carapace that tricks the world into thinking that a sunny and sweet disposition is just how you were built?

Even now, thinking about the little pieces of paper, my heart halts a little - momentarily, you'll be relieved to know. I don't know the handwritings so I don't know who wrote what but I'm touched - ridiculously, gratefully touched - by the honesty on these scraps. I must try and return the favour with a rallying cry for gender equality for all. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

One of my friends lent me a book to aid and abet my feminist quest. She read at uni as part of a degree in English literature. It's called Fire with fire and it's by a smart lady called Naomi Wolf. 

I've received other book recommendations and I'm trying to work through them all. (Jilly Cooper, I assure you, is a temporary aberration.) I continue touched and impressed at the degree to which people care and want to help.

This Fire book is particularly lovely as Thea used it at some subsequent point to press flowers. (She's farcically creative. The sort of creative that puts us humble wannabe playwrights to shame. I just put words on a page. She finds and makes beautiful things.) So page 120 and 121, nominally "only" talking about 2D thinking, also contain a little fragment of leaf from some once thriving plant. 

The chapter title, wonderfully ironically, is "Oxygen deprivation leads to 2-D thinking". So there's something especially nice about the attempt to capture and keep one of the world's best oxygen yielders in the pages of this book.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

It's been a quiet old blog, these past months. I feel guilty for neglecting it. But my script stole most of my words in December. I even banned myself from reviewing things to try and get it finished.

Obviously, the second it was despatched, I thought of many ways to make it better. But in less than a week now, workshops begin with this express purpose. Refining and improving my no doubt lumpen and obvious first draft and attempting to whip it into a shape for a reading.

For a week and a little bit, I haven't read a single feminist tome. In fact, I'm currently shamefully reading Jump! by Jilly Cooper. My Christmas dose of froth. You would struggle to find a less progressive view of womanhood than the view presented in this great work so I suppose that's kind of like research too.

I'm touched and delighted at the number of people that have got in touch and asked to take part. I'm also touched and delighted by the correspondence that has gone to and fro in the name of this show already. I suspect it will be the start of a very interesting conversation.