Arvon calling: the premise and the ostrich.

16 Sep

All being well, it’s just a few weeks now until we start work on a new show, the one about The Queen’s Hamlet. Back in that familiar place where excitement about getting started is mixed in equal parts with the terror of not really knowing what we’re about to make.

I did recently spent a fertile week on a theatre-writing course at The Hurst, brilliantly lead by Ola Animashawun and Laura Wade. As someone who makes work collaboratively through a devising process, to learn more about the basics of structure from a writer’s perspective at this very early stage in making a new show was a real eye-opener. Take the concept of premise, or the core of a show. This was something that in making Keepers we didn’t really discover until after our first previews! So although I’m wary of fixing too much before getting in a room with the ensemble, thinking about this now has really helped me look at the starting point in a different way.

I’m not yet able to craft a pithy premise a la “ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction” (guess the play anyone?), but I am starting to narrow down some ideas. It’s about retreating from reality, keeping the company of toys, shirking or hiding from responsibility, the separation of a body from a head (metaphorical and actual), ignoring the bigger picture, and maintaining a destructive delusion for self-preservation.

The journey and the research have also thrown up a possible title to replace the working one (just the somewhat uninspiring ‘The Queen’ at the moment). Marie became known by the people, less than affectionately, as L’Austrichienne (The Austrian). As resentment grew, a play on the wording led to the even less affectionate nickname, L’Autruche Chienne (The Ostrich Bitch). That the ostrich has become synonymous with the idea of sticking your head in the sand seems to offer an entirely appropriate new title for the piece. So, L’Autruche (The Ostrich) – watch this space!

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