Redrafting – The deeper question

The fringe, where I conduct most of my work allows a certain freedom.

I am redrafting and it got me thinking. Time and again we are told plays are built on change. Yet a lot of people treat a text like it’s carved in stone.

On the fringe you can start with a square and you can finish with a circle. This transformation occurs live over time, the result of continuous experimentation.

I am redrafting a play about consent. It was shortlisted for The Kings Cross Award for New Writing in 2009. It was treated very kindly by Writers Avenue with readings of the first 20 minutes at The Rosemary Branch, The Pleasance, and Soho Theatre.

At the time, there was a lot of pressure about redrafting the play for its various readings at each venue. I held off the deep redrafts, and provided only a few tweaks and a bit of polish. I have always been fascinated by how things change over time, and at the time the question about the play was ‘how do you end conflict responsibly?’ we were coming out of Afghanistan and the question seemed pertinent. I wasn’t ready to end the play, because there was no end in sight.

Coming back to the play I now see that the actual drive for the play was consent. I knew this at the time but the times we were living in (the interesting times) were talking about how we end conflict responsibly. I was caught up in this question and I admit it obscured the deeper question. The fact is we went to war without a mandate, and the dodgy dossier was a pack of lies. The Government did not have our consent to go to war. The people of Iraq did not invite us to destroy their lives.

Sometimes a play has a deeper question than those posed by the buzz of the zeitgeist. Writers are often put under pressure to comment in the present tense. Time and again I was told my play was no longer of interest because the war was old news. I knew these comments were hopelessly myopic, and I decided that the play would only do what it had to do during the process that was unfolding at the time.

I understood that I would return to it after a period of time and go for my sense of the deeper question. The play is about consent, and as such going to that preoccupation I hope will be a salient reminder that when the simple things are not given their due recognition the consequences affect us all. Going to war without a mandate or proper justification is part of a long line of transgression by continuous governments in the UK that led to unmitigated disasters and untold humanitarian suffering.

The changes to the script are the result of waiting. As such I feel a deeper commitment to the story and what I am trying to put out there for your consideration.

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