The show was written in separate sections. At the time of writing I had no firm sense of the proper order of the sections, I found this out through rehearsal. The section below, however, was intended to open the show.
Writing in this modular way helped me to avoid narrative, which I consider inappropriate for theatre. I don’t mind it in films but that’s another story.
Theatre scripts shouldn’t be a great read, they should be an okay read. Otherwise why go to the theatre?
This script only describes some of the action. Between each section the actors had to get from place to place. These movements were evolved in rehearsal. If you wrote them into a script it would be tedious to read.
The characters are called A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H in the script. This was because initially I wanted to eliminate writing for gender. The company comprised four women and four men and roles were allotted in rehearsal. From the point at which roles were taken up the actors gendered their roles according to their gender. Similar attitudes pertained to the notion of character. In rehearsal it sometimes became convenient to give, say, a couple of B’s lines to G. If you write strong, psychologically rounded characters you can’t do this. The actors were all very skilled and intelligent. They overcame the writer’s reticence in matters of character and gradually imposed characters on their roles. This always happens. Character is over-rated. Structure is what counts.
In the play the characters have proper names, like Mark and Cherry. Several of them have more than one name. This is because they aren’t necessarily the same person all the time. Sometimes they are the same person but other characters ignore this and give them different names.
Lost in Thought
The cast of eight – four women and four men – is discovered seated on chairs arranged in a row upstage. A, B, G and H are men. C, D, E and F are women.
The women wear elegant dark dresses and high heeled shoes, the men wear smart dark suits and white shirts with ties. All are well groomed.
They look personable, pleasant and keen. They are in neutral mode – not frozen or very still, just not doing anything yet.
This opening tableau is held for quite a long time. After a while one of the performers, A, puts his hand up to his face, assuming, in a low key way, a thoughtful pose. The others notice this and study him with interest. One of the performers asks him a question.
B Mark? [A appears not to hear] Mark? What are you doing?
[Pause. Still no response] What are you doing?
A looks up.
A I was lost in thought.
B What do you think about?
A I think about the past.
A longish pause as the performers consider this intelligence.
C Really? [A appears not to hear.] Mark? [A looks up.] Do you really?
C Do you really do that?
A I’m sorry?
C What you just said – was it true?
A Did I say something?
The performer C [Pauline] assumes a thoughtful pose. The others notice this.
B [To E] Pauline is lost in thought.
E appears not to hear. B assumes a thoughtful pose.
D What is there in the past, Mark? Can you remember?
F His name isn’t Mark.
D assumes a thoughtful pose. By this time A, B, C, D and E are all lost in thought.
G [With sudden excitement] It would be marvellous if… [G’s voice trails off and he becomes lost in thought. After a while he has another idea] Wouldn’t it be terrific if the…if the…
[His voice trails off again and he becomes lost in thought]
G’s reverie is interrupted by H
H If the…?
G turns his attention to H
G Wouldn’t it be terrific if people had more in common!
G becomes lost in thought again
H Tom! That would be marvellous! [H becomes lost in thought for a moment then, with sudden excitement, has another idea] If people had more in common… [H becomes lost in thought for a short moment then completes his statement excitedly] If people had more in common then a lot of terrible things would never come to a head!
G snaps out of his reverie excitedly, as do all the others who are lost in thought i.e. A, B, C, D and E.
In loose unison the performers rise from their seats, moving into an enthusiastic, animated cluster. They laugh gaily, shake hands, kiss and bear hug each other – lifting one another off the ground and whirling round, greeting each other like long lost friends. G and H are congratulated heartily for their ideas.
the first section ends