Thoughts on Theatrical Jenga

Jenga 3Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you are all well and taking the opportunity for the next calendar year to accomplish a new and established set of goals and achievements. Of course, time is a human construct and you can make goals at any time, but it’s always a nice marker to play by.

It’s been strange, but I haven’t had the clarity that I had of last year in terms of my creative work. I had a plan of some sort and I draw out scenes, acts, characters and tropes by simple sentence synopses. I still write longhand in notebooks and manage to get through so many in the process (I have abnormally large handwriting, as some of you will know). I usually have a notebook for one or two plays specifically (originally called “play books”), where I will dedicate its entirety to ideas, scenes and timelines.

However, I’m becoming increasingly scatterbrained, which I hoped last year wouldn’t happen. It’s nice when ideas come, but they shatter the illusion of confidence (that I know what I’m doing, where this is going, that it feels consistent-ish to the characters and their intent) and the play becomes unrecognisable. It happened to Cuckoos and Chrysalids, it happened to Newshound and I’m a little scared that I don’t take the transitions as well as I had hoped. I often chop and change my writing projects and it isn’t as fun as I thought.

The theatrical Jenga of the title though, is from what I’m “researching” for my critical work. Theatre has been seen as notoriously hard to create a world only for it then to be disrupted later in a way that the audience can identify and run with as soon as the piece has been taken away and the structure compromised. Would we be able to see the piece from all angles? Do we have to wait for someone to gasp and cry “Oh no! The puzzle has collapsed!” or the equivalent in SF pulp literature? I’ve been looking at it, however, through the anthropological theories of Tim Ingold’s taskscape and how patterns of behaviour can build up this picture, punctuated by the dialogue.

I’m working on a few creative projects at the moment – but these descriptions are going to be incredibly vague. One play is about a character who is unable to focus on the present moment, instead dwelling around past and future, unable to see how people have changed around her (it’s to do with memory development and enzyme reactions). Another is dealing with virtual representation, mass hive-mind juries and A/B testing. Another is to do with the transition between mind transfer and living in another skin, monologue style (which I’m hoping to structure in a similar way to the amazing production of There has been an Incident).

It’s taking me longer than expected to hone these theatrical sculptures, but it could be a good sign. I feel that I’m taking more risks with the writing I’m producing, which can only be a good thing at this stage.

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