Naomi Said writer and performer of The Wedge, describes a week of development…

I’m sat on the train whirring back to London after a full four days of script development at the Shop Front. It’s been hard to divert my attention to my laptop to write this blog because of the beautiful fields and early evening setting sun flying past the window.

But I’ve done it. I’ve spent a lot of this week typing on this here machine in fact. Which is a good thing. The days with Chris have been filled with discussions of psychology, childhood, work pressure, coming to terms with yourself, love, sex, deviance, family. You name it, we’ve discussed it! There’s been lots of research and thrashing out our opinions, all through the focus of the characters that are taken in by The Wedge and what happens there to Jess. We have discussed the plot and the characters in detail and what needs fleshing out from the text that we have so far, and what might be carved out. We got excited at one point and started discussing possible staging ideas but we’re keen to leave this till rehearsals and see what the play itself, when it is ready, needs! We’ve looked at the structuring of the piece and how this might work. We’ve even got ourselves a sort of framing coding system thingy (oo er) for the different ‘modes’ of telling this story that we move between as the story unfolds. How does the timeframe of the play function? How free can we be with this without tripping up our audience too much? The character is in chaos. I wonder how chaotic the form can be without being too disorientating. What questions do we want to leave the audience with and which strands do we want to tie up? We’ve thrashed all this out, read and scrutinized all the new material I’ve been bringing in each day and it has been brilliant. We had a field trip out to The Wedge and some other fields and factories near where I grew up on Tuesday morning.

I’ve never seen such a hot day in Cov. We even saw horses. It was so helpful both for mapping down the geography an environments of the play clearly in our heads and also being up there inspired me to write a sort of prologue which I hadn’t necessarily envisaged before.

 

From that text I wrote on Tuesday afternoon we’ve started to play with some ideas for sound even how we might use sung text to build up to some really theatrical moments. This was particularly exciting progress. We had Dan, a young theatre maker, pop in today for some work experience and it was brilliant he posed some really important provocations as we read through my tentative very early full draft which has started to be formed over the course of the week. It was also a relief that he seemed to enjoy himself. We talked about beat writing and how tantalizing it could be to coax the audience into needing to fill in the blanks of what the elliptical text is suggesting. How to activate their imagination and allow them to be inquisitive. How far can we push that? Time will tell. Vitally we have also gone back to basics. What is the main conflict Jess is facing. By what means and what attempts is she going to try and negotiate that. If her goal for example is to be understood or to understand, how does she do this in the telling of this story. We wrote these aims down into one short speech at the end of the day to sort of sum up the whole play in one paragraph – what Jess is trying to do and how she’s doing it, what is tripping her up along the way and whether she gets to where she wants to in the end. It seems obvious typing all this now but it’s easy to get away from that fundamental thing when you’re just thinking plot, character etc etc. We did a teeny bit of standing up at the end of the day because it would be rude not to and earlier in the week I showed Chris some sort of movement language I’ve been playing with which I think could be useful in the telling of this story too.

 

Sod’s law I’m finishing this blog now and wanting to look back outside to the fields but we’re in London now. Sat outside Euston…..Olympics…..hmmm here we go. Can’t wait for the Opening Ceremony tmrw see what Danny Boyle and the thousands have done for us all to enjoy! Right so I’m switching this off. Epic week. Can’t wait to get on with delivering the first draft in a few weeks time. I always stick to my deadlines don’t I Chris? Must get better at that to be fair. The show is actually happening now isn’t it. Like it’s funded and it’s programmed in to the Shop Front Theatre. Nothing like a bit of pressure. Whoop!  For tickets call Oxboffice on 0845 680 1926 or click Oxboffice

The Wedge – script development this summer…

Naomi Said met Theatre Absolute in 2010 attending one of the Writing Gyms Chris O’Connell runs from the shop. Already a performer, Naomi was keen to develop her skills as a writer, perhaps to even combine the two and write something she could perform. The Wedge is the ongoing journey of what has become an exciting collaboration between Naomi and Theatre Absolute. Excerpts of it have been developed and performed by Naomi at scratch events at mac, Birmingham and Camden People’s Theatre, London. This summer will see the full scale development of the piece. Read on for some thoughts from Naomi…

“We’ve already talked about the idea of ‘Movements’ to structure this piece. I have now sketched the narrative down in a sort of rough prose to act as a supporting document for us to refer to. But what are the fragments of this story and the emotional angles from the many different characters which are indispensable in the telling of it. How do we get everything we want to across while holding on to our hope for as much brevity and ellipsis in the writing and performance style as we dare.

Could it work for some movements to be voiced from another characters’ point of view eg the facts of the disappearance of Dan as told by him – or the confession of Corey – or the journey of Boosh. Do we lose suspense in our gothic-influenced tale by filling in too many gaps too early for the audience – how far can we go with them experiencing Jess’ confusions and unknowns with her while also giving enough clues and linking up a narrative which operates for the audience in a satisfying way. It’s an ambiguous and mysterious piece but still must have just enough meat on the bones to cling on to.

From early scratches we know we are aiming towards an intense experience with some sort of release and redemption towards the end but how hard do we want our audience to have to work in getting there with Jess?

How marked do the shifts of tone or dynamic need to be between in each movement?

How far is too far without alienating our audience?

How might grace and lightness be found in moments of extreme intensity?

How can we use the architecture of the shop front space in staging this piece and can this inform the writing? Can we literally force Jess into a corner, isolated from the audience? At the moments of greatest pressure building up under her barriers, could subtext boil over in some sort of physical expression? When we can’t find the words because what we are experiencing is unfathomable, what do we do then? What are the moments in this story where the expression I need to find in the words has to come out of the moments where Jess is unable to articulate or express what she feels or what she is describing?

In my inspiration for this story and the background material and research I’m drawing on, I have in the past few weeks mapped out a serious of ‘smash up moments’ as I’m calling them. There are quite a few barriers emerging – metaphorical and actual. I have the geography of the piece mapped out and it’s full of them. So are the characters, within themselves, between one another. Some are never acknowledged. Some are encountered and never crossed. Some go up where they never existed before. Some are smashed into, causing damage. Some are smashed up and destroyed. And some are completely bust apart and broken through. I don’t know how I pursue this ‘theme’ I suppose you’d call it in the form of the piece but I’m keen to discuss and explore it with Chris.