One thing I like about travelling is that it seems to be a great stimulant to write something new. My first feature film, LA Hotel – which, before you get all excited, is still at the google docs stage and is eons away from being made – was written in the back of a Ford Fiesta that we had rented with my family to visit California, on a still crumpling – but very alive! – little, orange Fabriano A5 notebook.
It’s painful to try and find the first lines of dialogue of Jay, as they are buried together with tons and tons of notes taken feverishly during very unfavorable times. It has been a difficult year. But, we have come out of it in exceptional shape!
So, I’m travelling, and in the specifics I am travelling to Rome to spend Christmas with my family, and even though I am on an airplane, and airplanes lull me into a coma that lasts from BEFORE take off to AFTER landing (Edward Norton in Fight Club remains my favorite reference), my eyes go wide open half-way through the flight as a scene has come to my mind and I want to write it down. Or rather, as I mentioned before when talking about Writing Our Baby, I need to write down.
The scene sees two girls making love and interrupt coitus as one asks the other whether they should have a baby. The specific reason why I have been mulling over this particular story to begin with, is that we have an assignment coming up at RADA (yes, yes, RADA, I’ll never stop bragging about it) when we will have to write a series of scenes that follow a gay couple through the process of indeed having a baby. I have known about this assignment for a while, as the course tutor prescribes it every year and the full-timers from last year had mentioned it to us part-timers; I have known about this and I have been panicking about it, too, because I don’t think I want to write about it. I don’t mean to sound like a twat, the truth of the matter is, I am pretty sure that I don’t care.
And yet, I will have to present something. So I think about it, I end up obsessing about it, I work in my mind the aesthetics of it, seeing myself and my muse Ella Gamble acting in this scene – I trust her and I love her and I wouldn’t be comfortable simulating coitus on a stage with literally anybody else that I know – until I see it clearly, so clearly that it wakes me up, and I write it down. Alex and Jay have sex; Alex falls asleep without allowing Jay to, ahem, conclude. Jay asks her to have a baby. End of scene.
Only I continue writing, non-stop, a series of about nine, quite funny scenes (I think they are, and I am, very funny) and when I get to my sister’s place and her children are doing something else – I write this pretending I am of immense help when I visit her, but really am not – I use her laptop to transcribe them onto another Google doc that I happen to provisionally call Jay. In the next few days, punctuated by enormous quantities of food and wine, fights with my parents and gift wrapping and unwrapping, I try out a series of different titles that I end up trashing, even though I did like them – a little bit: Swans; Gibbons; In Vitro. And then there was something about Bonobo monkeys, but anyway, the gist of it is, it seems like I want to write a play about monogamy and about lesbians having babies, and that I indeed do care about all these things.
And once I realize this, I stop writing.
It’s January. I’m back in London, I’m in the library sitting next to Ella, who is surrounded by books and notes and diagrams and crumpled tobacco. She is working on the much more impending task of writing some dumb essay about I don’t even know what. I am staring into nothing, hating my incapability of finding a decent reason to procrastinate… until I do.
“Ok, I’m going to write this play, and when I finish writing it, I’ll work on this stupid essay.”
Ella shrugs. She probably smiles at me, she’s always very supportive, and anyway, what else can she do aside from not caring. But she does care, she lets me talk about it, and as (very few) days go by, I get more and more restless, because it seems that having a task to procrastinate on is in fact the best way to get me writing (right now, for example, I should be working on my dissertation.)
Because I normally write about mental health and because I have in December started taking Prozac – which was scary but also pretty cool, since Carrie Fisher had very recently put her ashes into a giant Prozac pill-shaped urn, which made me cool by proxy – I also decide that the play is about depression, and depression during pregnancy, and pregnancy, and lots and lots of things, and I write and I write and I write and in three days I have a sixty minute play about three very pregnant women, one of whom is hallucinating a character that I call “Prozac Dream.”
And this play is a comedy, because if I have learnt one thing by producing Our Baby last year – which was an undeniable success, also and mostly thanks to the great team behind it – and by being a theatre-goer myself, is that you want to please your audience, and the craft of the writer is to create, I believe, a piece of work that is the exact compromise between what the artist wants and what the audience want (want? wants? Uhm.) I want people to come and see Jay and come out of it with a smile on their face; I don’t want them to struggle through it, I don’t want to make their souls heavy with the weight of Tragedy. Yes, there are elements of Tragedy, there is a hero and there is her journey, every character in the play goes in fact through a journey, but all in a very light mood, despite the gravity of the themes explored.
IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF.
Also, the people at the BBC Writersroom liked it enough to long-list it, and they too said it was funny. My sister loved it and helped me write it, enriching it with her wisdom of Psychiatrist, mother, woman, and human being; the fabulous cast and crew also loved it – I shall introduce them once they send me their headshots and bios ahem ahem – and we are on at The Hen and Chickens Theatre from the 17th to the 28th October. Early bird tickets are at a £10 super cheap deal, available for grabs until the 17th September – after that, price goes up to £13.50 (well, it costs money to put up a play!!)
As always, 50% of our yearly budget has gone into the pockets of our team. Go. Buy. Tickets. Come. And. See us. It’ll be fun. I promise!