I was going to write something nice and fluffy this week, something about ghost stories and how dull they can be, the challenge to write something exciting. This long weekend has rather changed that. Following the riots I've been thinking about a response. I did, briefly, consider writing a piece of theatre about it. I decided not. Partly because I don't believe writing in heat produces good work, partly because in some ways I have already written about it and mostly because I just don't see any point.
The danger with producing a piece of theatre based on events is politics (both small p and big) get in the way of story. I wrote a very bad piece of theatre based on current events a little under ten years ago. It was exploitative, inaccurate and deeply shaming and I will never do that again. A few years after that I watched a documentary which galvanised me to write about terrorism - but I had learnt my lesson and didn't write about it straight away. I went away, thought, let the emotions cool, and looked for a story to write which would act as a prism for the issues raised. The story and the prism came from me, the background came from a possible future, the piece was Fantasy Terrorist League. It wasn't directly about terrorism, it was about the dangers of the response to terrorism and it was an effective line to follow. Well, it won an award anyway. And been the most consistent loss making piece of theatre I have ever written.
I have no story to write which I feel acts as a prism for the events of today - no effective prism anyway. Watching the streets of London, Birmingham et al on television I saw something very familiar. In the brief period I spent working in schools I kept seeing the image of teachers and students locked in a screaming match, I kept seeing an underclass who didn't understand, didn't want to understand, who were self obsessed in ways that terrified me. All I could see was a scream. I didn't write a play about this, I couldn't see what words I could use.
I kept seeing that same scream on the streets of London, I kept seeing the same running battle between the teachers and students, police and youths, and I still couldn't see what else to write.
And then I remembered that I have already written about the events of this weekend. A scene from Shoes That Angels Fear To Wear which we staged last year, but I wrote three or so years ago, lept up at me. It's a scene in the middle of the play - after a brief moment of magic, of flying high over the streets of London - the characters of the play fall to the earth and into a fairly brutal real world. One character is chased through the streets, is beaten by a mob and has rubbish thrown over him, all egged on by a teenage girl. Whilst he is beaten the girl attempts to justify their actions to the audience, but drifts off into other subjects and ends up by talking about the possibility of going on holiday.
I think I saw clips similar to this on YouTube somewhere.
Normal Storytelling service will resume next week, when I have the will to write something to the purpose.