When my friend Tutku asked me to write a short for a night of plays responding to Brexit I, again, remembered that I wasn’t meant to be writing any shorts this year and now I sort of have to accept I definitely am and have, between this, Come To Where I’m From (literally the post before this) and The Path for HighTide (who, as a quick aside, I’m super pleased to have joined the board of). I am lousy at saying no, which often makes my agent very sad.
In this case however, there was an idea knocking around my head that I wanted to give a go. How does an individual create resilience, in particular to words, if you can’t rely on others not to use them? It’s an idea that my grandparents – who get fazed by very few words – would be on board with, I’m sure.
Following the reported post-Brexit hate speech spate (one incident of which I witnessed, and one that affected by grandfather in hospital), I thought about it again so I tried to get some conception of the idea down, which Tutku took on with grace, even if I was delivering a draft just hours (an hour?!) before her first rehearsal.
Shorts are tricky things to pull off in that I think people assume you can just bang them out and certainly some folks I know can do that, but for me to write a half-way decent one, it takes almost as much thinking as a full-length play. If that sounds nuts, consider that everything you write is the act of taking a topic and trying to conceive it in an imaginative way (in this case through the lens of theatre also). There’s usually one big idea at the heart of it. Both shorts and full-length pieces needed the time for that big idea to come through.
This is my roundabout way of saying I taking fucking forever to write these things and they take up huge parts of my thinking which is why I’ve tried to dodge them, since I’ve got plenty to be getting on with at the moment. This might be a piece I come back to in future.
Sadly, I didn’t get to see this performed since I was up at the Roundhouse for an event showcasing The Good Immigrant (plus raising money for The Good Causes). I hate missing stuff other people have made the effort to put together, and doubly this one because sitting in that audience would’ve been a real part of the, for lack of a better word, fun. Heard it went well though!
I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and its purpose – to make the writing and the challenges it causes to the life behind it clear to anyone who wants to do it – but will shortly put up a proper longish update about what I’ve been up to and how life has changed in ways large and small (honest). Just realised that I’ve been writing it, on and off, for a little over six years now. I’d just got going with my writing back then. I wonder what I’ll be writing about in six years from now? Complaining about short plays, probably.
Exit Strategy, performed at the National Theatre, 1st August 2016, as part of Artist Directors of the Future Talks Brexit night.
Director: Tutku Barbaros
Cast: Ashraf Ejjbair & Tamsin Newlands
The blurb is: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will always haunt me. B wanted to leave. A is finding it harder to stay. If you can’t rely on society to change, the only option left is to change yourself.“
Exit Strategy script is here. (Very strong language warning)