Talking workshops

9 Jul

With our Two Plays for World War I, England Expects and Clamber Up the Crucifix,  preparing to tour this Autumn  (fourteen venues confirmed so far), our attention during June turned to our new play Stranger in the Kitchen (SITK).

PlayingGames Sean GoldthorpeWriter Azma Dar originally submitted the text for SITK in late 2012, we organised a script-in-hand read through in Spring 2013 and Arts Council England funding was secured in August 2013 to develop the play further, aided by a mentoring programme with Max Stafford-Clark and Out of Joint.  And this is a relatively quick progression in theatre-time.

SITK was submitted as a forty minute play and it was always the intention to extend and re-write. There’s many a quote and mis-quote concerning re-writing, suffice to say a general rule of thumb is no more than 10% of the original draft makes it into the final submission; Ernest Hemingway re-wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty nine times. Writing, therefore, might more accurately be described as ‘editing’.

One method used to extend, develop and challenge a play text is to workshop it. Bringing together actors, writer and director offers opportunities to improvise scenes and really dig into the dialogue. Writers benefit greatly from this process as possible scenes and character interpretations play out in front of them, informing how a scene may or may not work.

SITK certainly delves into some big issues: tackling the lives and loves of Asians in Britain (three British-born and one who came to the UK following an arranged marriage) and exploring themes of identity, domestic abuse and what it means to juggle many different cultural roles and expectations in today’s society.

Mona by Sean GoldthorpeAzma, director Gary Phillpott and our four actors Sharan Phull, Mona Goodwin, Ali Zaidi and Sartaj Garewal spent five days at Curve, Leicester to workshop SITK.  How did the actors feel about the writer being present while they took the text apart?

Sharan said: “As an actor it can be daunting but reassuring to have the writer present as they can correct and clarify things. It keeps a focus whilst allowing some freedom for the actors to explore within and outside the text.”

Mona added: “In a play such as this with a strong cultural and religious thread it’s fantastic to have the writer present to tap into a pool of knowledge on the subjects the play touches upon. Azma has given us the freedom to improvise away from the text and play with her work freely.”

Did the actors’ views on the themes of the play change during the workshop process? Ali said: “Absolutely! And they should. We’ve discovered a lot of new themes that could exist in the story and have asked questions that needed to be asked which can eventually lead to a more in-depth discovery of the story by Azma.”

Sartaj added: “Improvisations have added depth, clarity and plausibility to the work and I’ve also gained an insight into male domestic abuse.”

Reflecting on the workshop process the actors felt overall this was an invaluable experience. Mona commented: “The workshop has been structured brilliantly. Working on a piece which plays out can be challenging and confusing at times but Gary has helped us establish a clear timeline of events and allowed us to discover the characters organically without any restrictions from the play.”

Ali added: “I’m glad Gary enabled us to make those decisions and play them as and how we felt. To be given that kind of freedom is rare – it was a wonderful challenge!”

Stranger in the Kitchen is due to tour in Spring 2015. Follow this blog, follow us on Twitter @OfftheFenceTC or click here to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with our productions.

Whole group by Sean Goldthorpe

by Sally Jack

All images by Sean Goldthorpe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: