Tag Archives: One City One Book

The Play’s Not The Thing

Our adaptation of Strumpet City has been cancelled.

Four of our Writers Group had agreed to adapt the book, which is Dublin’s “One City, One Book” for 2013, into a play for a city centre Drama Society, but we no longer have to do it.

This is not because what we had written to date was so dreadful that even an Amateur Drama Society recoiled in horror, but because of some issue to do with copyright. Apparently Dublin City Council had been unable to get permission from the author’s family to do any performances so the Council has told everyone to shelve any plans they had.

All of us, as one, are very disappointed.

Oh, except me. To be honest I’m thrilled.

It is a waste of lot of hard work, but there was more hard work to come, the hardest work of all, merging the bits we had all written, and re-writing and then re-writing. And then re-writing.

And all of the hardest scenes were still to be done. I had written two scenes so far and was part of the way through a third. So far I had written about a dinner-party, about an argument between two priests and was writing about a character being offered a job. When I asked what I should do next it was suggested that I try the scene where one of the characters commits suicide.

Never has the phrase “that’s not really my scene” been more apt. I wouldn’t have known where to start, and certainly do not have the skill to handle such a scene powerfully, believably or sympathetically.

It has not been a complete waste. I am quite proud of some of the stuff that is in my two scenes, and some of what I wrote will be stolen, if you can steal from yourself, and put into future posts.

And it made me try something different, taking someone else’s ideas and trying to represent them in my own words. It made me try to write a bit more seriously, and with a bit more depth. It took me out of my comfort zone.

Having said that, its nice not to wake each morning thinking ‘oh God, I’d better try and write some more of the play instead of one of my own daft ideas‘. It’s nice not to have to lug the book around everywhere so that I can read bits whenever I get a spare second. It will be nice to have spare seconds as spare seconds.

So I have invited the others to a ceremony where I go to O’Connell Bridge, at the end of Dublin’s main street, and hurl the book out into the river.

One of the group has suggested that this would be littering. I prefer to regard it as literary criticism, through the medium of performance art.

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Blowing My Own Strumpet

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The title of this piece probably needs some explanation.

Someone at the Irish Writers Centre made a plea for help recently, saying that a very old Dublin Drama Group had fallen on hard times in terms of membership and asking us to come along to a meeting to see what they could do to revive themselves. Since she mentioned that they need writers some of us said yes, and although I have no interest whatsoever in acting I have since found myself at fortnightly workshops where I have facially expressed quizzicality, bodily expressed happiness and internally suppressed wind.

But the writing part has arrived, though not in the way I’d expected.

Each year Dublin has “One City, One Book”, in which a famous book connected with Dublin is chosen as, effectively, our Book of the Year. In the past it has been The Picture of Dorian Grey, this year it’s James Joyce’s Dubliners.

And apparently each year this Drama Group of which I’m definitely not a member stage something based around that year’s book.

Next year’s book is Strumpet City, by James Plunkett, and in March the group are going to put on an adaptation of it, an adaptation that myself and two of the girls from our Writers Group have somehow found ourselves promising to write.

There are one or two problems.

None of us have ever turned a book into a play before.
None of us have ever collaborated with another writer on anything before.
None of us lives even vaguely near either of the others.
The play is planned for March, which means that the actors probably won’t want to be handed the script on, say, the 26th of February. In other words, we’ve only a couple of months, with Christmas in the middle of them.
Because its linked to “One City, One Book” the Group get funding from Dublin City Council, so this is a serious venture.

I have one further problem, and perhaps I should have mentioned this one sooner. I have never read Strumpet City.

I gather though that it’s exactly the kind of writing that I don’t do. The book’s popularity derives from its realism and its naturalistic presentation of traumatic historical events. There are no made up words like “austeritised”, no intentional anachronisms and no character who is the re-incarnation of Cleopatra.

I didn’t write the sentence before last, I stole it off the back cover of the book. Since I’m planning to steal the whole of what’s inside the cover then I might as well get in practice.