It’s been rather crowded recently – people, theatre, words, more people, more theatre, more words – on paper, in the air, in that dusty attic posing as my brain. Characters that had previously inhabited the relative comfort of notebooks, sleeping between the pages, are at present being made ready to be brought to life. Dusting off their wigs, hats and coats; now a little fard, a little rouge and powder; polish those shoe buckles, and they are standing in the wings, ready to leap out into the spotlight. Nothing huge, mind, in the way of actual stage-work; just a little conversation here and there – only with unexpected results. It has been an ongoing creative process, with more to come: something else I had previously written to no end has now been taken on board by another set of creatives who are actually enthusiastic to bring it to life; and all of this happening all at the same time. A little whirlwind made up of other people’s imagination, energy and perception is making its way across the pages; words, lines, dialogues, whole scenes have life breathed into them, and the transition from paper to that unreal reality of theatre is made, almost without you realising it. The magic has begun – thought processes start to whir, kickstarting a series of added details, gestures, inflections and more; some of these will be kept, others discarded, there is a constant moulding and re-modelling until the piece of art that is an imaginary character stands up on stage and takes command of itself.
The bubbly enthusiasm and creative energy brought to the rehearsal space by the actors themselves speeds up that process.
Watching someone take on board your ideas, thoughts, words and characters and invest their energy, creative, physical and even psychic, in something you have written could be a challenging experience – horror stories abound of writers turned homicidal after the perceived mangling of their work by negligible directors and/or actors; so far I can only say how pleasurable it has been, and how curious I remain to see what happens next, how those same characters will develop on stage. It is all part of the huge ongoing creative process called acting – and when you are fortunate enough to find those who can jump in, focussed, and pick up the shreds and patches we offer them, it is a magical thing indeed.
It takes a particular kind of humility to submerge one’s own ego in another’s; it is what drives many very fine actors (whom we may never actually see on the big screen), and a quality which makes such actors very special people indeed.
No U-Turn will be at the Pleasance Theatre Islington, on Sunday 17th: www.directorscuttheatre.co.uk/nouturn
‘And now . . . for the Trunk of Silence . .. ”
The Goons coined this in a sketch, Wallace Greenslade then offered the audience a range of silences to choose from :’You might like this type of silence . . . or this might be more in your line . . . .’
Silence is one of those abstract qualities we think we want when we are deprived of it, and can find quite overwhelming, even intimidating when we have too much of it.
Writers are perceived as requiring special areas which they must keep only for their creative moments, where the daily grind is kept at bay, out of sight, out of mind. Who works best in total silence ? For some, it is a requisite, and can mean a total withdrawal from any outside sound, so that they can inhabit their own brains alone, unimpeded, uninterrupted. For others, it is near total silence with something quietly playing out on the CD player, or for that proper vintage feel for period detail, an original gramophone player (I don’t think I know of anyone who actually does that – yet). There again, it will be a particular piece of music, sometimes so efficient in throwing or coaching the pen-pusher into the act of writing that it is played continuously throughout the process. (Douglas Adams springs to mind in one of his dedications, quoting an album “which I played incessantly while writing this book. Five years is far too long” . . ).
Total silence can help develop our senses – not just of hearing (we really will hear a pin drop, a bird land on a branch outside the window etc), but of perception and imagination. Especially if you are in the middle of writing a particularly eery scene – the sound of a pebble sent skittering across by a passing cat, the odd dead twig cracking in that total silence can make us jump and twitch nervously and from there devise a whole new scenario to finish the chapter off with the perfect cliff-hanger . . .
But short of lining the room with cork and wearing earmuffs (or cotton balls in the old auriculars if you must), how does the writer demanding total silence achieve it ? And is it for everyone ?
Total noise, other people’s music and children, the house nearby undergoing reconstruction – these are invasions, distractions, unwanted alien things.
But so too can be total silence, like a vanished world, leaving you in a capsule outside of time, until it too becomes a weight, a shadow resting a hand on your shoulder as you gaze blankly at the void screen or paper before you.
This was not intended as an advertisement for the writing programmes available on the net – but the fact so many of these already exist suggests a demand for some balance between the two, the need for that subtle threshold between tranquillity and atmosphere, without the distractions of a busy world.
(I will add though that my personal favourite at the moment is ZenWriter . . . 😉 )
Just to show no bias, the link below offers a comparative run down on the most popular programs :
Links to other opinions on the subject of writing in silence :
Writing Conference : Breaking the Silence