I’m currently Cross Country Expressing through the South-West countryside on my way to Devon to spend a week at Arvon’s writing retreat centre in Totleigh Barton, on a ‘Writing for Theatre’ course led by David Eldridge and Tanika Gupta.
The course is the first week in a script development process for my new project Goat’s Song. It’s actually a return to a very old project – nearly ten years ago I wrote a piece for a young poet’s scheme with the RSC called Big Voices. The idea was to bring together a group of writers from the UK and a group from the States, get them each to write a piece inspired by the theme of ‘Tragedy’ and throw them all up on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, under the direction of Dawn Walton.
And that’s what they did. The poem I wrote, Goat’s Song – inspired by the Greek roots of ‘tragedy’ – tragos (goat) and oeida (song) – was about a character called Goat Boy, who unwittingly becomes a universal scapegoat. Sent by mysterious forces to shoulder responsibility for various global tragedies, he becomes a sort of reluctant superhero, whose special power is to take the blame for other people’s wrongdoing.
Dawn instantly detected a certain MC-influence in my writing and so got a team of producers, led by her brother Chris, to write a drum and bass soundtrack for the entire 15 minute long poem. I don’t have an offiical recording of the performance but fortunately my dad took his camera into the auditorium that night and managed to sneakily shoot this little bit of footage:
Dawn and I talked at the time about developing the piece into a full length stage production, a kind of ‘Drum & Bass Opera’, and I did some preparatory work, but if I’m honest, the scale of it all overwhelmed me somewhat, I massively procrastinated on it, and then other, smaller, more manageable projects (or so they seemed) took my attention.
But I never lost faith in the idea, and fortunately I have remained good friends with Dawn over the years, so when I contacted her last year about pulling it out of retirement she was very excited about the idea. Realising I needed to spend some dedicated, focussed time on it, and get some extra professional mentoring on the way, I applied to the Arts Council for an R&D grant to support the Arvon course, a couple of week’s writing and most importantly a week’s rehearsal process with a small group of actors, directed by Dawn, leading to a rehearsed reading for an invited audience.
That week is kindly being supported by the Royal Exchange and the reading will be on 29th Nov at 2pm. It’s an invite-only affair, first dibs to programmers, producers, creative peers etc, but if you’re interested and would like to see the beginning of something at it’s very first stage, then drop me a line and I’ll send you an invite if it’s looking like we’ll have room.
Meanwhile I’m going to do a bit more research on David and Tanika so I have some interesting questions to ask them about their work, and a bit more research about the play itself, so I have something interesting to say about that too!