The process of writing a play usually starts with a completely unintentional stroke of luck. Or inspiration. Something will hit me, and I’ll write four or five scenes, call it quits because the brain magic has run out, and go to sleep. If I go back and read my work and see any merit in it, then I’ll continue the story or try to at least get a timeline or structure started.
Hold was written in a very similar way. I’ve been writing poems consistently since March when I found myself struggling to articulate feelings and thoughts until they emerged as poems. A friend encouraged me to share some of them on Facebook, and I did, then another friend suggested turning them into a piece of theatre. I thought about it for a couple of days, then inspiration struck one night and I churned out four scenes with my poems attached.
I wondered how to best structure this piece of theatre, and I wondered what it needed to be. These poems are intensely personal. There’s a level of vulnerability there that is terrifying as the creator, but I knew there had to be something in my experiences that would resonate with someone in the audience. That was when I decided that I didn’t want to hide behind a new, fictional character. My character in the show is me, but I am not playing myself. That doesn’t quite make sense, I realise, but it’s important to know that none of the characters on stage have names, and the men mentioned in the show… their names are pseudonyms… to protect the innocent (and the very, very guilty).
It is a bizarre experience to put your heart on paper and distribute it amongst a creative team, and then watch it come to life. I trust my team wholeheartedly. But it was still terrifying. Even now, as we’re in the final stages of rehearsal, I catch myself wondering if I’ve written too much. If I’ve gone too personal. But when I’m acting in a pivotal scene (not telling you, #spoilers, come see the show!) and I turn to one of my fellow actors and I can see that they are with me in that moment, I know that this was the right call to make.
Even the Sunday before our show, I’ve had to make cuts and tweaks to the script. Some moments work great on paper but simply don’t translate to the stage. Others just… didn’t need to be there. It is so hard to cut parts of you from the work you’re making, and I have really wrestled with that over the past few days. Knowing that this work isn’t fiction makes the editing process so much harder. So the struggle becomes… how much of this script is necessary? What do I need to say? It’s not about what I want. What does the show need?
I have always believed that good theatre makes you feel. Whether it’s a good feeling, a bad feeling, nausea or trepidation, excitement, bewilderment, etc… that doesn’t matter. If you leave the theatre having felt something and wanting to talk about it afterwards, then that’s good theatre - at least, in my opinion. It is my hope that when you come to see Hold, you come with an open mind and an open heart, ready to see mine on full display. Come see me feel things. I hope you’ll end up feeling things, too.