Posted by on Nov 27, 2007 in radio plays, writing neuroses | 2 Comments

The Play Wot I Wrote

On Saturday we had a workshop with actors (real actors!) reading scenes from our plays. Having decided I was going to be sick with nerves I actually got up feeling fine, ate a huge breakfast and walked the dogs before heading off to Brighton for the readings – at which point all the anxiety I’d been blithely unaware of until that point came and hit me in my solar plexus and I had to get off the bus and walk, being grateful, for once, for the icy air that did a great deal to calm my nerves (and stomach).

What is it that causes such emotional trauma? I know that it’s partly because I don’t share anything except final drafts with anyone, and this was definitely not a final draft, it was barely even a first draft, given the compression required by the course deadlines, but there was more to it than that. I’ve been thinking about it, and reflecting on Simon Gray’s excellent memoir The Year of the Jouncer, in which he talks about just this emotion. I conclude, on the evidence of a single sample, which any scientist will tell you is a lousy statistical approach, that it’s got something to do with other people: having other people hear my work, having other people read my work. It’s like dressing strangers in shoddy clothes that you know will fall apart in public.

Heigh ho. The actors were, to a man and woman, lovely. The plays were very good to magnificent (mine was first to be read and acceptable, rather than very good to magnificent, which I am happy to live with until I can revise it) and the process itself was so enlightening that my head filled with ideas and notes and thoughts and comments and I got a sort of mental indigestion, to go with the nausea, which made for a night of phantasmagoric nightmares.

I enjoyed writing my play, I loved the way the actors brought it to life, but I’m not sure I could cope with that kind of mental angst on a regular basis.


  1. Jim Murdoch
    28th November 2007

    I am quite jealous. I’ve had two plays sitting in a drawer for years and even the thought of trying to do anything with them gets me in a state.

    I think the difference between theatre work and everything else is that, by its very nature, you have to involve others in the creative process, whereas, although your readers are free to interpret what you’ve written (as is your audience at a play) they can’t affect what you’ve written, actors can, directors can, even the set designer and lighting engineer can.

    The best I’ve managed is to send one of them to a professor I’ve done a favour for. He was supposed to read the thing last weekend and, of course, I’ve heard nothing. So, as you can imagine, I’m thinking the worst.

  2. Kay Sexton
    29th November 2007

    Professors are notoriously bad at getting back to one, so I wouldn’t think the worst just yet, Jim. But you’re right – there is something very odd writing plays and I’m really struggling to come to terms with it. You’re definitely onto something with that idea that it’s how other people can influence the presentation of your writing that makes it so very difficult to ‘put it out there’.


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