A lot of writing involves things other than writing – there is a lot of thinking, a lot of dreaming, a lot of procrastinating doing other things. There is also, depending on the project a lot of planning and working out the scaffolding of everything and how it works (the dramaturgy) and other research.
If you are lucky much of stuff that surrounds actual writing can be collaborative, especially in theatre. For Mechanicals’ Macbeth we have done some R&D with the concept and idea and also performers playing around with situations. It is a work of intricate layers and structures and is actually very complicated. Once written and in production it will hopefully not feel complicated – but the depth that supports what you will see on stage will be strong and supportive and allow the comedy to entertain. It was in recognition of this that we made the decision to not write it in isolation but to open out the consultation around the writing and engage with other perspectives. (You can still do our R&D survey here)!
It’s also worth mentioning here that having a supportive and involved director is the best thing ever! It’s so important to creativity to surround yourself with other artists that you connect with – especially when embarking on such a big project.
So, onto some Behind The Scenes/ Process:
Source and Structure.
In the case of much of In Souliloquy work we have a source text and character. With Mechancials’ Macbeth there are two source texts – Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth – the whole plays as well- not just one through-line/character journey. There needs to be a lot of deep interrogation of the source material for a show such as this and it has been a delight to rediscover these texts in constantly new and different ways. We are consciously using the structural layers of these works in Mechanicals’ – to underscore our new narrative journey.
From this, together we have knocked out the structure and story and timeline of the play. In some ways this is quite similar to devising/making a show – because you are building it in a different way to just writing it. This isn’t about writing to particular beats or hitting particular points at particular times – more so managing a lot of characters and a lot of action and knocking that into something that makes narrative sense and is fun to watch.
We have six Mechanicals’ characters (Quince, Snout, Bottom, Snug, Flute and Starveling) – these characters from Midsummer are then of course cast in Macbeth. Them dipping in and out of these is super fun but needs to be precise in the writing, direction and performance. We also have a new original character that interacts with the others in a puckish role and brings our ensemble to seven. It is key to us that no character let’s lost in the mayhem and it doesn’t become “the Bottom show.”
As part of our character work we have been exploring the physical aspects of the group and are working with Shelley Knowles-Dixon as a movement director. This is really exciting in terms of fleshing out characters!
This is the first play I have written that I have felt compelled to put structures etc. into a spreadsheet. With seven characters and lots of action it is going to prove super useful once the first draft is written to check in with. Hopefully it will also prove useful with directing choices and scene transitions and all the other times when everything is confusing and your brain is like “you know what would be really useful at this point? A spreadsheet.” Looking at the structure like this as well as in dot points is also useful as you can fill out extra character columns, and crucially also running time.
It’s a beautiful thing.
We’ve been doing wider R&D!
Thank you to: Jackson, Kate, Emma, Shelley,Jeannie, Ivana, Jodi, Nicole for your in person participation and everyone who so far has completed our survey. It’s actually super useful and has already helped inform what goes into the show or how we approach mashing Midsummer into Macbeth more that we initially thought we might.
We have lots of lovely big roles of paper for mapping out big ideas – and it’s been just fabulous to work with such a lot of people giving time and thoughts to the project.
So there you are, stuff is moving, things are happening and in exciting news out of all this actual proper writing is happening. The script is pulling together! It is moving – we are on the way. Honestly, writing is at times isolating. But it helps to know, just as our dramaturgy of Mechanicals’ Macbeth holds up the story – my director, R&D participants, performers we have cast and our In Soulilouqy team hold up me.
Much Mecanicals’ love.