Telling stories with imagination.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Finding the form

For the last 4 years I've been adapting Jeanette Winterson's beautiful and magical (I won't call it magical realism because I know she doesn't like that tag) novel Sexing The Cherry for the stage. Which makes it sound like a long and arduous task - artistically speaking it was actually one of the easiest or should I say most pleasurable/fluid things I've done. The hard part is getting it on. Several 'important' theatre people have read it now and they all say the same thing - it's very beautiful but it's not a play. And it's not, but neither am I prepared to make it one and sacrifice/compromise the mode of presentation - which is story-telling - by converting it into action and dialogue.

Hence our recent foray into more site-specific work with the 12 Dancing Princesses - which is in fact an extract from the adaptation focusing on one of the three main narrative strands. Ever since seeing Dreamthinkspeak's exquisite production Before I Sleep I've been flirting with new forms to try and find one that fits the adaptation I've created. We're having some development time at the Young Vic Theatre in a few weeks to elaborate on the physical language we began to explore with 12 Dancing Princesses. But the actual production I think will now not be in a traditional theatre space, where the expectations are of more linear narrative, but in a space (and we haven't found it yet) where the stories can live, where dance, aerialism, storytelling, music, video and installation can co-exist in more non-linear fashion. A space where we can honour the original work without having to mould it to the form dictated by a 'play'.

As Jeanette writes about Sexing the Cherry, The Passion and Oranges are not the only Fruit in the introduction to Oranges - the interests of those novels are anti-linear, which means :

' can read in spirals. As a shape, the spiral is fluid and allows infinite movement. But is it movement backwards or forwards? Is it height or depth? Draw several, each drifting into each and this will be clear....I really don't see the point of reading in straight lines. We don't think like that and we don't live like that. Out mental processes are closer to a maze than a motorway, every turning yields another turning, not symmetrical, not obvious.'

Certainly Before I sleep was a piece of theatre that you read in spirals - and the same is true for much promenade, site-specific and immersive work. Which I hope means we've found our form, if not our space. So when the production eventually happens - and that may take another 4 years because of the scope and scale of my vision for it - this will not be a play. But it will be theatre.

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