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The Joys of delaying for as long as possible….

July 4, 2011

Well, I’ve been delaying making as many decisions as I can possibly delay making. This isn’t laziness but a desire to break my existing ways of creating theatre. Always in the past when I have created a show I’ve started from writing a script. Sometime it was a complete script, sometimes a fairly detailed outline, but always there has been a written structure underpinning the process.

But this time I wanted to do things differently. I want to start from a sound world – a fully composed sound track that will be the basis of improvisation from which the final narrative and structure will emerge.

So far so good.

So I composed a bit of music. A few tracks. I roughly mixed the pallete of sounds together and, with quite a deep sense of nervousness, sent them off to Monty Adkins who is a friend and – in terms of compostition – my mentor.

A couple of days later we met…

Monty listened and asked where this music fitted in.

“don’t know”…

“What’s the musical journey of Echo Chamber – how does it develop….?”

“Don’t know…”

“Where is the climax….?”

“Don’t know…”

With deep kindness he suggested that it was time I started making some decisions and that writing a musical structure was no less rigorous a process than writing a textual or narrative structure.

“Yeah, Yeah. Yeah. I know that. I was just trying not to nail things down.”

Then I realised he wasn’t suggesting that I nailed things down, simply that I sketched a few things in….

So on Sunday, in blazing (and definitely unenglish sunshine) I sat in the garden and wrote a sketch of the whole piece. Bang! Just like that.

In two hours sat on a bench, the outline of the piece poured onto paper. Not the words that will be said. Not the actions, but the point, the sensation, the compost from which each scene will grow. In a real sense, the psychic soundscape of each scene. Also appearing before me the dynamic, the development, the repeated themes, the letmotif and, crucially, the things I do not yet know.

So it seems as if I have a kind of script. Was my delaying futile and self-deluding? Should I just have got on with it several months ago?

I think not. I sense, in the ‘open quality’ of what I am now working with, a flexibility, a malleability that would not have been there had I started from words that defined  a narrative. In the process of delaying there has arisen a different form of maturing. The work – still in its embryonic state – feels as if it is brewing rather than being constructed.

The students currently working with me (such a fine a beautiful group, really so beautiful) struggle with ‘not knowing’ with ‘not trying to get to the destination before you have enjoyed the journey (and maybe got lost a few times along the way)’. Yet I ask them to do it because I know it is a rich way to work.

It’s good to remember that I should take that risk too. There is joy and richness in delaying decisions for as long as you possibly can. For if you can’t make a decision without struggle, perhaps you are not ready to make that decision. And if you force it, you’ll probably end up with something you didn’t intend….

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