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Playhouse Playmaker - freedom and form

Playhouse Playmaker - freedom and form
posted 03 Jan 2018

Jodi Gray (Playmaker participant) gives us a quick update on how Playhouse Playmaker is going so far....

Session three and we’re one down again – this week it’s Doug who’s incapacitated, which keeps our number down to six. We wistfully wonder if we’ll ever all be in the same room together, but I’m privately thinking that John’s assembled such a powerful seven that our combined presence might be too much for the Playhouse to handle.

We all try to get into the theatre using the wrong doors again (just me?) and assemble in the Lucy Room, going through our weekly round-up of theatregoings over the past month – we’re all digging Theatre503’s recent output, including The Dark Room by Angela Betzien – and there was another big thumbs-up for David Ireland’s The End of Hope (yes!) from Sorcha. I love this bit of the session – strangely, I’ve found it surprisingly useful to see what floats everyone’s theatrical boats, and how that feeds into what they bring of their own to the table each month.

Then we started looking at form (and, in a way, structure again – we keep coming back to this as a group, trying to work out our own reactions to what it all means, man), using scenes from a few plays for younger audiences and families.  John had found an incredible array of examples of plays, each of which have fun with form and formal structures. I wonder if there’s a kind of freedom when writing for children or young adults – I mean, their brains are working, processing things, and getting messed up in completely different ways to grown-ups’, so it makes sense that, as a writer, you would try to communicate with them in a different way. There’s a playfulness to the construction of these plays that you rarely find in ‘capital-T Theatre’ that’s deliciously queer, and I bloody loved them.

After fighting our way through hordes of children, suitably hyped up from the panto, we returned for the afternoon – one or two of us (more accurately, one or two of me) a little nervous about our individual half-hour in front of the group. There’s a few in the group who have come in with something completely different than the play they were originally thinking about. In fact, I think it’s just me and Sorcha who are forging ahead with the one we pitched in session one. What’s impressive is that all the ‘new’ ideas are just as rich and tangible as those left on the shelf (though I have the feeling they’re just gonna be up there for now, to be dusted off at a later date).

The range of work discussed, new and old, was as varied as I’ve come to expect from the lads – meaty, twisty, delicate, and even one with the (intentional) whiff of dogsh*t about it. Some, like me, aren’t sure yet where it’s all going, and some have an assured grip on the bigger picture. We each have quite different writing processes, and I don’t mind saying I’m gonna be borrowing a few from the rest before the January session – Padraic especially has inspired me to wrestle out the whole story before barrelling in with more dialogue in my usual wifty ‘Let’s just see what happens!’ way. (I’ve also secretly been enjoying the ‘acting’ we get to do when reading out each others’ scripts, not least because I find it an excellent way to really get into the plays – though I’ll apologise again for my extraordinarily offensive ‘Northern’ accent, Rowan!)

And then – as ever, too soon – we’re let out onto the streets of Oxford, to go our separate ways, and deal with our individual freakouts and insecurities about the next bit. Even over Christmas dinner and during the New Year’s festivities, I’m sure there’ll be something humming away in the background for each of us – and hopefully not just flatulence or a hangover.

Jodi Gray, Playhouse Playmaker

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