There is the enduring myth that the writer sits in a darkened room alone, huddled over a computer… Weeks or months later they emerge from their hibernation, blinking into sunlight and holding their play in shaking hands. They are now ready to bestow their work upon the rest of the world.
With MEAT it’s been a collaboration (with director David Aula) right from the beginning. Throwing every idea we could at it, cutting most of them, throwing more back at it, holding workshops and readings to try those ideas out, the staging responding to the writing and vice versa. All of this furiously working to discover the heart of the story, and little of it done in a darkened room.
Then at some point, as the opening night comes ever closer, it becomes more about holding your nerve together and staying true to all that you hoped it would be. This point is where collaboration is almost at its most important, because this is the moment of no return. Because conversations like this happen:
Scene 1. Pub
The WRITER and the DIRECTOR are sat in a dark corner of the pub.
DIRECTOR: We need to talk about the third scene.
WRITER: What’s wrong with it?
DIRECTOR: That’s not what I said, what I wanted to say was-
WRITER: – is it the dialogue? I’m not happy with the opening lines – too expositionally.
DIRECTOR: They’re fine.
DIRECTOR: Great. Great lines.
WRITER: It’s the characters, isn’t it? I knew it.
DIRECTOR: It’s my favourite scene in the whole play.
WRITER: Oh. Right. Good.
BEAT – they both drink.
WRITER: So it’s the rest of the play that’s the problem? I can rewrite it. If, if I drink enough coffee I can probably do it in two or three days. Maybe. If I cut –
DIRECTOR: – I’ve had this idea for staging the third scene that really brings it to life. The main character will be spot lit, while the rest will be moving in shadow at the back. It’ll be really atmospheric and accentuate the main character’s loneliness. What do you reckon?
PAUSE – the WRITER drinks.
DIRECTOR: You don’t like it.
WRITER: I was just thinking.
DIRECTOR: You reckon it’s too simple. Maybe I could use lasers.
WRITER: What I was thinking –
DIRECTOR: – or a cage, we could put him in a cage.
WRITER: I think it’s beautiful.
DIRECTOR: That’s…that’s great.
WRITER: You’re sure I don’t need to rewrite the play?
DIRECTOR: No. What about the lasers?
We held our nerve, now it’s time to see if it’s worked.
Image credit: Damian Robertson