Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

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Theatre503 Lab Round-Up January 15, 2011

The last few days I’ve had the opportunity to not only feel the burn of on-peak increased rail fares, but to have one of my plays workshopped. Melissa Dunne led a stella cast at Theatre503 to discuss, develop and explore the play, “I Still Get Excited When I See A Ladybird“.

The cast discuss what order the monologues could go in.

(We were having to run the workshop around an existing set, so although set in a stationery shop the photographs will feature heavily a double bed)

I felt many things over the workshop days. To be honest I’d not delved into this particular script since roughly around this time last year. I’d become so distanced from it, that I’d forgotten characteristics of the monologues – essentially I had fallen out of love with the whole notion of the script. And this wasn’t because I was displeased with the outcome or because I saw no merit in the work (I still think this is some of the best work that I’ve challenged myself with), it was because nothing had been done with it. I’d written it, sent it to places and competitions and got a whole lot of rejection. This is part and parcel of any creative routine, actually it’s part of any routine in any industry.

Director Dunne watches them rearrange the monologues.

So when the opportunity came up to explore aspects of the scripts and format I jumped at the chance. The text is presented to the cast and director with the freedom to present it in any way in any order. This is something that is extremely intricate and there are purposeful meta-narratives evident in the text, but there are also thematic devices running throughout all 7 monologues. This is something that we somehow managed to explore in the short space of time we had and this is due to the cracking speed and insight the actors all brought to the table.

Claire (Manager) and George's (Deputy) relationship is explored.

Without getting too slushy about it all (and that’s a blatant pre-emptive signifier that I will), it was extremely humbling and exciting. I’m the quiet type of writer in rehearsals to sit at the back and listen to what the others have to say… Then offer up my own insight, but never to impinge on the process or make slight of what the actors have said. I believe strongly in collaboration and thinks it’s an important strand that we shouldn’t forget. And I don’t mean purely in the sense of once the script is written you then hand it to a director and actors and the job’s done. I mean the process of before, during and after.

Judith (Weekend Sales Assistant) and Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant)

It’s still a thrill to see these characters that you write come to life and be embodied on stage. It’s even more thrilling to lose sight of the character that you wrote entwined in the words on the page and be surprised by what you’re seeing on the stage. This is where it’s important to trust your co-conspirators. A surprise doesn’t necessarily mean a detrimental action that jolts you from what you once thought something was going to be. The surprise is that you realise something is working and someone else is exploring it in the same way as you, but it feels fresh and thorough. I had no idea what to expect from this workshop but after the three days of rediscovering these characters I felt in awe of not only the hard work and time that the actors had given up to go on this journey with me, but at the strength of my own writing. This is not me being egotistical, it’s me being honest. The last year or so I can bravely say that my writing is so much better than it used to be. This is partially down to giving myself the time to dedicate to writing, but also in part to the people I have met and been inspired by. I’ve blogged about this before I’m sure, or it’s definitely something that I’ve spoken about, but in allowing yourself to be artistically free in your chosen subject you have a richer dialect with your audience. I wouldn’t say I’m a genre led writer and I definitely wouldn’t say I’m the writer that draws on their own life all the time (I’m young, live in a village and lack real emotion, go figure). What I mean is that by not panicking about my family thinking everything I write is a result of some disturbed childhood or fellow creatives thinking everything is representative of what I think, I have allowed myself to strengthen my writing because I want to.

Will (Supervisor) and Claire (Manager)

There’s a difference in accepting notes and feedback and actually applying it when it matters. There’s debate and discussion and there’s being easily led and trying to please other people. A thick skin is needed but you also have to stay true to your own intentions and not be led by other people trying to convince you that they are right about your work.

Stuart (Part-time Sales Assistant) and Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant)

I didn’t intend this post to be so verbose, apologies. But what I’m trying to say is that the past three days have been so beneficial to me regardless of what stage the script is at. The script is finished and has been for a long time. But by taking it to the next stage by having a director lead a group of actors in exploring their characters it just goes to show that the expectancy of a script is surprising and fruitful. By building on that conversation you become enlightened about aspects of your characters that you didn’t realise, but also about your writing. You’re a part of the process and you feed into it regardless of how much you’re presence is felt in the rehearsal room or how true to your life the script is.

Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant) with George (Deputy Manager)

This script is still circling festivals/competitions/blah so as usual it’s a waiting game. But it was such a great experience to hear my work being put to the test by high calibre actors. The depth of their understanding and facets they brought to the surface of their characters stunningly amazed me and I’m thankful for the collaboration process for highlighting that. Many thanks to:

Jonathan Christie

Melissa Dunne

Jayne Edwards

Nigel Mattison

Tim O’Hara

Zimmy Ryan

Jessica Sîan

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