I woke up a lot less hungover than I thought I’d be this morning and continuing with this productive start, I thought I’d write a few words about the process of bringing Slingshot to the stage. You can find the script here.
First of all, when I sat down to write it, I knew I wanted to write something different from what I usually do, something that absolutely had to be for theatre, and so threw out my usual process. Instead I just gave myself a couple of “rules”: No scene longer than eight lines (bent that rule a bit), as little punctuation as possible, no scene headings, stage directions. I wanted it to be a play built on repetition and reflections and fluidity, with these being the source of audience satisfaction rather than a classic story arc. The only hint as to where I saw the scene breaks was that the last line of every “scene” as I saw it could possibly be played in the scene before or after it. The result was something far less prescriptive and controlled than my standard writing. It was writing that was, hopefully, less inflected with intention and something a director and a couple of actors could play around with as much as possible. Of course, the upshot of this is the nerves set in more fiercely than normal. I usually hope, in a somewhat cowardly/deluded way, to write pieces that are “bullet-proof”, that is they would still mostly work as pieces of writing by themselves with minimal work, or if something went wrong. That isn’t the case with Slingshot – it needs competent, considerate playmates to bring out its potential.
The first of which was the director, Luke. He said he picked it because he “read it and had no idea what it would look like.” Brilliant! Not sure I’d be that brave. I had a certain idea of how I would direct the play if I had to (I think all writers do) – mostly light, lots of awkwardness, the occasional hit of something stronger. Luke worked up the drama in it more, whilst retaining a sense of playfulness, and it was fascinating as a writer watching that happen. I don’t really have a head for straight drama, which is why I like my comedy-drama shtick. I’m trying to teach myself to get better at it, but it’s hard to resist a gag. People say comedy is hard to pull off, but I think a strong mostly, straight drama is far more difficult. Irony sits at the heart of most British audiences and performers and I think we find it hard to take ourselves or anything too seriously. To make a drama work, it’s got to have a certain seriousness about it that you commit to. I reckon I’d walk out on drama fairly sharpish. The reward for sticking with it though is the possibility of moments of real beauty, and seeing what I did of the play in rehearsals, those started to pop out from the script in ways I hadn’t intended or could’ve imagined, due to the investment the team made in it. I think this is partly visible from this timeline they made. It contains a list of firm choices made from the loose (ish) script. Some the same as I’d thought, some very different, all indicative of a lot of thought and care:
Slingshot was a superb experience for me, both in terms of the development of my writing and working with others in an unfamiliar way and if I’ve never been shaking more before a piece of mine was performed, I also don’t think I’ve been more pleased with it after.
Slingshot, performed at the Park Theatre, 30th September 2013, as part of the Little Pieces of Gold Showcase.
Director: Luke Lutterer
Assistant Director: Maxim Ryder
Sound Design/Composer: Finn Anderson
Cast: Callum Cameron & Tiana Khan