The Play’s The Thing – Act 1

The time for procrastination is over, or at least will be tomorrow.

I wrote last year that some of our Writers Group have agreed (I think we were fed cheap rum and then hit over the head) to take Strumpet City, Dublin’s 2013 choice for One City, One Book, and adapt it for the stage for an amateur Drama Group. The director is now ready to start casting, so we have now decided we’d better start writing.

We have done a certain amount of preparatory work. I, for example, have bitten the bullet (which would have been more fun) and actually read the book. We have decided that we will update it to modern times, since the same sort of deprivation and rich-v-poorness that happened in 1913 is happening here now. We have decided which scenes we are putting in, how the storyline will go (pretty much like the book, otherwise we wouldn’t be adapting it, we’d be writing our own play) and who will write the first drafts of each scene.

I have been given a well-off couple’s dinner party scene to do. There are a couple of problems with it. In the book the four people in the scene retire after dinner to play music and sing Gilbert and Sullivan songs. As far as I know this does not happen at dinner parties these days. I feel that I can hardly have the four of them playing Wii Sing, belting out tunes by Beyoncé or Aerosmith. Perhaps they could play Twister.

In the book one of them plays the cello. Now there’s a challenge for the props director.

In the book the foursome (no, that’s not what I mean) consists of the Bradshaws, who own the house, Yearling, a rich and cynical “gentleman” and the young local priest. In modern day Ireland I can think of no reason why a priest would be invited to such a gathering.

My first draft of the scene races off in all directions. Yearling is, at various stages, a retired headmaster, a civil servant, and a bank manager. The same line appears twice in the scene, some forty lines apart, since I’d forgotten that I already used it.

If we want the play to last for 90 minutes and have ten scenes then each scene should last about nine minutes (I can’t write drama, but I can still do maths) . I have acted out what I’ve written, the scene into which I’ve put in everything I could think off, and it lasts about two minutes. If I take out the line that’s in twice it will be even shorter.

The one good thing is that I have managed to sneak a joke into it. It’s not a very funny joke, but it’s one joke more than James Plunkett put into the whole of the original book, a tome unrelenting in its grim purposeful depression. I may not get away with this, the Plunkett police may arrive at my door late one night and tell me that I have broken the spirit of the book, indeed the spirit of the author may turn up to say the same thing.

Still, we promised we’d do it, and we will. We’ve set ourselves the utterly ludicrous deadline of January 31st, purely to force ourselves into activity. Four of us each writing different scenes should necessitate some line editing, after we’ve discovered that one of us has a character as a carpenter, one as a steelworker and one as a marine biologist.

It doesn’t leave much time for blogging, so apologies if I miss the occasional day. How we are getting on will, however, provide material, so there will be regular updates here, so that you too can feel the gnawing ache of terror as we get nearer the deadline but no nearer the end, like the way Olympic stadiums seem to be built.

They say it will be alright on the night. I’m just not sure when that night might actually arrive.


9 thoughts on “The Play’s The Thing – Act 1

  1. speccy

    Include the priest- you’ll be able to get some lines out of the family defending inviting him, and him grovelling & apologising for the Church. You can make him do what you want 🙂

  2. Pseu

    When I did my drama component of my writing dip the tutor wouldn’t allow any stage direction, as he suggested that everything ‘physical’ could be supplied by the dialogue…. and that the directors job was to find the best way to use this dialogue. Slightly tricky, but an amazingly effective way of writing. I turned my playlet into a short story when I’d had it marked, and the short story was commended for its effective dialogue – I’m sure that was only because of the process I had been through to get it to that stage.

    Good luck!

  3. Harry Browne

    Tinman, I’ve just taken a brief moment off from writing my share of the play and now I find you’re off blogging. It’s just not good enough. it shows a want of commitment. Get back to work before I report you to the play writers Guild. I’m sure there’s a play writers guld somewhee.

    1. Tinman Post author

      Try to ignore the fact that I’ve written another blog post this morning, that was just to warm up my mental faculties before I get stuck into a hard day’s playwriting (or a day’s hard playwriting, in fact).


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