Friday, 4 February 2011


Today, I attended a playwriting workshop run by the Soho Theatre and the Sherman. The intention was to promote the Verity Bargate Playwriting Competition. I've found it difficult to find out much about her, other than she was an actress and a writer, a theatre producer and presumably a founder of the Soho Theatre, born in 1940 and died in 1981.
      The workshop was very much an introduction to creating plays, developing characters, language and a landscape for your piece. The facilitator did an interesting exercise to help us remember language from our past. We were asked to stand in an imagined map of the UK where Cardiff was at the centre of the universe ( a kind of Mappa Mundi)  and then go and place ourselves in the place where we were born-in my case South London-and to recall a word or phrase from that time and place. Mine was my mother's voice,
   "Get your head out of that biscuit tin, you're like a bleedin' gannet." I was probably 14.
      Then, we were asked to stand where our parents hailed from and then our grandparents, trying to recall language from that time. We handed our chosen phrase to our neighbour and prompted by lots of questions of our characters, such as "What smell calms you?"(old leather). "What's your secret?"(He's afraid of butterflies) "What small thing do you have in your pocket?"(a betting slip), we built up a character. I'd been given 'Raggy-bone' by my neighbour and it was difficult not to produce a piece about a Steptoe stereotype.
       My neighbour didn't share with me how she'd developed my catchphrase. She did ask me what a gannet was, though.
     We've still got our Christmas light up. I thought we'd wait for the Celtic feast of Imbolc, February 2nd, when the light returns. But, it's so gloomy I think the tree (a few branches of red Dogwood with lights and silver balls) may stay up for some time. The pot is already sprouting crocuses!

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