Hacking Coughs and Structures

Hamlet Mind Map

Mind Map of Hamlet

The January meeting of the Writing for Performance was a smaller group than usual thanks to the hacking cough and head cold germ that seems to be virulent through Aberystwyth and indeed Wales.

It was our first meeting in our new location as we’ve now been re-assigned to meet in the Round Studio. Meeting in the space that is our performance space is brilliant. It means that the sense of space, so vital to writing for performance, looms about us as we speak. Ideas that we discuss immediately have a physicality. I can see that as people talk about their ideas they look about the space, they’re visualising the piece moving as theatre.

A few months ago we began to look at structures. Beginnings was all short plays, which can exist with a  flimsier structure. A brilliant short play will have as strict an adherence to structure as a full length play but it’s possible that the shorter piece can be held together by an idea, or a story, or simply a striking change within a character.

But the next step for the writing group is to think bigger which means thinking about 1 act plays or even full length plays if they’re feeling daring enough. A few of the group have already taken the leap into the longer plays but most have only worked on the short plays of Beginnings.

Town with No Traffic Wardens became not just the next project but the next writing exercise. Somewhere in the next few  months we have to take approximately 10 short plays and stitch them together to create a full length play.

As a teaser and a way to get the group to think about structure in plays I set the group the following exercise

Pick a play (list of plays below but any will do -though ideally one you haven’t read before),

Attempts on her Life by Martin Crimp
4.48 Psychosis or Crave by Sarah Kane
Peeling or Henhouse by Kaite O’Reilly
Spring Awakening by Wedekind
Top Girls, Far Away, A Number by Caryl Churchill
Betrayal by Harol Pinter
The Norman Conquest or House and Garden by Alan Ayckbourn
An Experiment with an Air Pump by Shelagh Stephenson
Happy Days, Ohio impromptu, Rockaby, Not I, Foot Falls or Act Without Words 1 by Samuel Beckett
Oleanna, Edmond or Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
Hamletmachine by Heiner Muller
Hamlet by Shakespeare
Oedipus by Sophocles

Do a 5 minute presentation/talk that includes

  • a brief precis of the play
  • a summary of how the writer has structured the play
  • Select a few pages for the group to look at that shows examples of structure, devices or style that you think are worth highlighting.
  • What else do you notice about structure? How are the scenes structured? Is there anything about the characters, themes, motifs of the plays that is reflected in  the structure?

The above image is a mind map that one of the group did of Hamlet. Also discussed; Kaite O’Reilly’s Peeling, Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Timberlake Wertenbaker Our Country’s Good. More about the chosen plays soon.

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Finding inspiration from last year and everywhere

A few of the links to articles and opportunites that the group have found useful in the last week or so

Theatre That Dares Wins: Why 2011 was a good year for New Writing

Top artists reveal how to find inspiration

Some advice from David Bishop about playing to your strengths

A great tip from Phillip Barron about putting your idea in a box