(It’s certainly the best, most wincingly real film I’ve ever seen about theatre. But then I’m rubbish at seeing films. So maybe I’ve missed a classic. Have I missed a classic? Let me know.)
My new year’s resolution is to stop writing short plays.
It’s not that I don’t love writing short pieces. They’re a brilliant way to experiment with different styles and voices and characters. They’re (relatively) quick to do. And there are so many new writing nights – from scratch nights like Blackshaw, to well established slots like Rapid Write Response at Theatre 503 and the Miniaturists at the Arcola – that it’s eminently doable to get short stuff on.
The problem is, it’s so alluring to write a quick, short piece, it takes all my attention away from writing something full-length. And full-length stuff is hard. It takes a completely different approach to structure. You can busk structure for 15 mins. You can rely on character and dialogue and one simple idea. You really can’t do that if you’re asking an audience to stick with you for an hour or more.
Hence, I’m giving up short plays to start editing the long play that’s been sitting in a drawer for the last 4 months. Which I’ll be looking at from this week with the unique writerly mix of excitement and trepidation.
Watch this space.
Last night I went to the One Festival to see five solo performances (including SMS, a piece I wrote). The only criteria for the festival is that pieces can only have one person on stage. Mostly this means traditional, character-based monologues. Although in the night I saw, there was also some comic puppetry, with a good dose of audience interaction.
The monologue can be a powerful form. Some of the most powerful short plays I’ve ever seen have been monologues. There’s something about a direct address that can be gut-wrenchingly good. At their best, solo performances can be incredibly engaging.
The flipside? There’s nowhere to hide in this form. You can’t disguise mediocre writing or lack of ambition. And, as an audience member, if you don’t like the character, you’re stuck. (At least until the next monologue comes along.)
Props to the One Festival, though, for showcasing solo pieces like this. It’s a great festival, and well worth attending if you’re partial to monologues. It was also my first time at The Space, a really special small venue in the Isle of Dogs. The space is a converted church, and it’s incredibly atmospheric. It felt a bit special to be programmed there.
As for my piece? It was the first monologue I’ve ever written — I doubt it will be the last. It’s such fun to explore a single voice, a single viewpoint. And I was very happy with how it went.