As I’ve packed Roz off for a lovely evening of rewrites, I’m posting our update myself. It’s only fair. If nothing else, it’ll kill the hour or so before I need to pop down to the dungeons below Live and check on her.
I have to say, I don’t share Alison’s scepticism about the topic. Sure, it might sound a little dry on the face of it – lots of statistics about access to services and so on – but it illustrates a lot of really interesting questions. Some of these questions are pretty fundamental - they’re about power, and how we value each other, irrespective of gender.
Roz has written a cracking scene set in a horribly recognisable near future, in which local authorities have been privatised, and everyone has to demonstrate their contribution to the economy. That’s a lot harder for a woman, of course – they’re just not quite as good at things as men, and they insist on spending their time unproductively (e.g. having kids). Frankly, they’re a drain on the economy.
We’ve actually just finished working through to the end of it, and the actors are really fizzing. They’re a pretty energetic trio, and they seem to be enjoying the opportunity to grill each other on the aesthetics of their genitals, for instance. That enthusiasm and generosity is really helpful when you’re working with a writer on a new text, which inevitably will develop and evolve as the process goes on.
My job as director is to serve that process of evolution. I’m trying to ask the right questions, the ones that will help Roz arrive at the play she wants to show on Saturday. That means listening very carefully to the text, and making sure that I’m staging the play she’s trying to write, rather than the one I’m expecting her to. It also means finding a staging style that will reveal rather than obscure it.
To do that sometimes requires you to play the invisible director, especially when you’re dealing with naturalism. It’s an exercise in realising the writer’s vision rather than being authorial in any real sense (although that’s a problematic distinction, clearly). But sometimes it’s a bit more of a collaboration, and that’s great fun.
This certainly seems to be one of those times. Roz’s text is deceptively open and though it seems at first like naturalism, it’s actually more concrete than that. She’s got a cracking sense of rhythm too. There are lots of opportunities that gives you: to play with gesture, pacing and space; to create a world that feels like this one gone wrong, close to home but pierced by a kind of moral tinnitus. I’m having a great time helping her to bring it to life.