What I think will help with this one is to approach the play with an idea that I am not responsible for what people think of it.
Freedom, which all artists – writers – directors – and most of us in our day to day, seek (we secretly hope to at least) implies responsibility.
Freud reckons we are scared of responsibility so we give away our freedoms. The responsibility being too great a burden and even terrifying in some cases.
So, what I have decided (because this work I’m doing has a history) is to say ‘you know what? Art, writing, directing, painting (choose your poison) – can be a place of freedom without responsibility.’ Because then we are free to fail and facing failure is one of life’s biggest responsibilities.
I have something to say – I am creating the positive charge of the story with this current draft. It’s up to you what to do with it when it gets to the stage. I’d be glad if you came to hear it.
The first draft was the shadow play. Not my shadow – the shadow that is sold to us every day. It was a play built on a tabloid mentality – and the story was raw and shocking and filthy and full of detritus and pain.
Yet, and yet, there was one thing that shone through for me. And that was my deep displeasure in writing it. I’ve held on to that for years – it’s a great lesson.
I also found it difficult to deal with the response it brought out of people. Positive and negative. The support for the play was there, I was not there, and I could never accept the kindness – because the writing wasn’t doing what I really needed it to.
What I had written was a story about professionals whose walls between what they reported and what they lived dissolved. Eventually, there was no discernable difference between, and it was a great experiment.
Imagine living the life you read about in the most lurid details in a tabloid – it’s not a trip for happy campers and it could make for a great drama. If you revolt against it. If you push back. If you fight for something a little more edifying…
But it didn’t please me to write. The draft was not where I needed it to be and I wasn’t adroit enough at the time to face the changes – now I can do something about it in a creative way.
I have decided that I am right to explore what happens if those walls between crumble. The characters lives and what they report on and the vanishing distance between them – and having got the shadow draft done I can switch the poles and write the version that I consider mature. The positive charge. The light. The empathy and connection. The cautious optimism that delights.
I am writing a play driven by sex, work, and death – and at the end there will be no discernable difference between the lives the characters document and the lives they live. They will synthesize these things and make them complete.
The method may be the same but the tone and mood is completely different – it is driven by optimism this time and not anger or despair. It is driven by hope and an awareness of the fragility of life and that there is more that unites us than divides us. That makes all the difference and makes it, for me, an exercise in freedom worth exploring.