This month has been MEGA.
We did our mid-point sharing at The Other Palace.
What did that consist of you ask? So each team pitched their idea to an invited audience, then about 10 minutes of the work was performed and finally, we asked the audience 1 question. We decided to present the opening 10 minutes of our piece.
We had 5 marvellous performers – Rebecca Brewer, Natey Jones, Matilde Ibsen, Paul Deegan and Carly Mercedes Dyer. MARVELLOUS. We had 3 hours in a rehearsal room at Theatre Royal Stratford. And we also had an abundance of signs which I made out of a massive roll of paper in my living room.
I had to IRON them because I couldn’t get them to stop rolling themselves back up…
I also had to fashion a make-shift portfolio bag with a clothes hanger handle to get them to the showing!
Anyway… the signs are PROBABLY less important than the showing itself…
Things having a mid-point sharing allowed/forced us to do –
1) Decide on a title! We came up with HERO (which I very much like)
2) Write a list of questions that we have about the work. We did this to come up with our “1 question for the audience.” This was a much more interesting task that I had expected. Here’s some of the list:
-Did you find Martin Sinclair to be a likeable, charming character?
-From the opening, where do you think this piece is heading?
-Is a musical set in the US relevant/of interest to a British audience?
-Was the opening engaging/clear enough to establish the main themes?
-Do the two narrative strands complement one another?
-What did you like about the piece?
-What did you find unclear?
In doing this we realised that actually we know a lot of the answers to the above (go us!). Also, for some of the questions, it’s not actually relevant what the audience thinks/feels as we know we want it like that OR actually it’s impossible for an audience to answer this after just 10 minutes of content.
3) Write the opening of our musical – the opening to both of the narrative strands of the piece!
4) Cut stuff! Sometimes when you hear things out loud you can get the best idea of pacing/when something is too long/needs to move forward faster.
5) Really get to know each other as collaborators. I bloody HEART my boys HARD.
They know about music, they know about theatre, they PUSH, they are BRAVE, they work hard and they reply to emails!!
6) Get some extremely useful feedback from audience members. For me 2 particular useful points came out of the feedback: (a list within a list, oh lord???)
-A man is victimised by someone in power and then he victimises a group of women he has power over. I didn’t realise (not sure how not!!) that I was drawing this parallel or making a statement about the abused becoming the abuser. It’s an interesting point but it’s not what this musical is about so it’s gotta go!
-The second thing that came from the audience feedback is about the difference between making a documentary and making fiction. Basically, dare I said it…. making a documentary is easier??? Originally our musical was about a real life person; the text had come from this mouth, the narrative from his life-story… when you do that no one can really question any weird plot points or odd character traits because IT’S REAL, IT REALLY HAPPENED, and if you don’t believe it/like it that’s not my bad (obvs documentary makers can edit/curate things to look like something else but that’s another story). BUT when you write something fictional you have to answer questions like “why did you make that choice”, “why not another”, “what are you saying” etc etc… And you can’t just fall back on “well, that’s what really happened.”
issue hurdle wondrous obstacle-course that fiction-makers will need to navigate that documentary makers will not is that of representation. If the lead character in a documentary is from a marginalised community… well… fine, whatever… but if the lead character is fictional and from an marginalised community they often become representational (whether the maker wants this or not). This occurs in real life too – if a Muslim lets a bomb off he represents all of the Islamic community – they are all violent extremists… but if a white KKK member commits an equally horrific act of violence this has no effect on how we view the white community.
So our “1 question to the audience” was – how do you feel about a fictional musical centring around a black man who is accused of rape? Whether he did it or not is left ambiguous in our narrative but today, not last year, today we are in a place of believing the women (I think anyway!… due to the wonderful #metoo campaign). So ambiguous or not perhaps the audience will think he did it. Is it possible we write a fictional musical about a black man who is accused of rape and NOT have the black man be seen as representational? Not have the narrative be read as a statement that all black men are rapists?
I really hope so. Because really this isn’t to do with us as musical-makers. We haven’t (and won’t) be putting anything into the script that points toward the lead character being representational. So how do we ensure he is MARTIN SINCLAIR not “Black male”?
Answers on a postcard! And Happy Holidays! xx