Sir Thespalot – Writing

Most ideas are dead ideas, and they must be dispatched with quickly. One every once in a while does crawl through and show promise though, and these are the ones that I write out into plays. It takes me around three months to write a play – two months thinking, one month writing on and off. If I sit down to just do it, I fail; lines come to me while I’m climbing into the shower or trying to talk to people.Then once it’s scribbled out, feedback is needed, but this is difficult because everyone thinks that they’re one of the characters (pointing this out with a mixture of pride and embarrassment and anger) and I’m the central character (so I’m homicidal/suicidal/intensely sexually frustrated). And you’ll be finally very happy with it and watching a film or tv and suddenly Nicole Kidman in the trailer for Rabbit Hole steals a speech you’ve just written.

Most useful for making changes are the auditions and early rehearsals, as you see what doesn’t work. The punctuation is always wrong, and swearing and deliberate stuttering never work. With this latest play, The Players, I’ve found that people struggle with any dirty lines, even remote. “Downstairs area” was a phrase that boggled the mouth of many an auditioning actor. But then someone says “downstairs area” beautifully, and you know that they’re perfect for the part.

Generally, Oxford is a brilliant place for new writing; there are many little, willing theatres and lots of constantly-in-motion arty types who want to threaten their degree. But best of all is that no one really reads the script before you put it on, so you can fill it with all kinds of distressing, awful things, and it’s impossible to stop you.

Matthew Parvin

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