“So what will you do now you’ve graduated?” Recent graduates, especially those with arts degrees, will sympathise with the challenge of not answering this question through gritted teeth. Having just graduated with an English degree and a dubious career plan – namely to write like crazy for as long as possible – I’m trying to pluck up the courage to reply with, “I want to write plays”, which I think sounds marginally less deluded than saying “I want to be a playwright”. Going to the Edinburgh Fringe to perform in my play The Music Box could help my hopes of writing.
Writing the script for an interdisciplinary play has made me question what, in fact, a play really is. The Music Box comprises poetry, dance, music, artwork and a neon pink mobile made from a vintage bicycle wheel. Together these elements tell the story of a girl whose imaginary world is approaching its apocalypse. Only three of the six characters speak, which means that much of the play’s vision and structure relies on what we do in rehearsals. It explores the darker side of the transition from childhood to adulthood, and what happens when invention becomes reality.
I was the kind of child who played endless imaginary games until my younger sister finally refused to play along, and I started writing my stories down instead. But The Music Box began almost accidentally. I wrote a couple of poems (extremely secretively) for my eyes only, and then turned the poems into conversations. And suddenly characters were there on the page. I wondered what would happen if a group of people were stuck inside a room and couldn’t leave – and a stage is perfect for this. Then I thought that these people would be more interesting as children, because the stakes are higher: games are real and “let’s pretend” means life or death.
I’m realising that the process of writing this play didn’t stop when I got to the end of the script. I’m constantly questioning the lines the characters say. The need for coherent characterisation is a constantly developing process, because along with our other director, I’m also acting in the play. As a small student company going to the Fringe, everyone is sharing creative ideas. It’s become a very personal experience for all of us, and while it was initially unsettling to see all the interdisciplinary aspects come together on stage, now it’s stopped feeling like “my” play. Actually this is very liberating, because I’m not stuck with the writer’s perspective, nor am I fixated with the words on the page.
Rehearsing for The Music Box has shown us all that our best ideas come from collaborating. Like a music box playing the same tune again and again, there’s no real beginning or end to the process of creating this play: it’s so much more than the script. Each rehearsal, each repetition of blocking or recital of a line, changes my expectations of what The Music Box will be in performance.
Recursion Theatre Company will be presenting The Music Box at Paradise in the Vault (venue 29) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 14-27 August (excluding 20 August). Find out more about the company on their website and Twitter @PlayTheMusicBox.