Saturday, 6 September 2014

My one act play 'Greetings from the Trenches' completed

A couple of weeks ago I had eight pages of text out of a possible twenty completed and a synopsis and an ending in the bag. I wanted the piece to be just over an hour with no interval.

In order to complete the rest I went through all my research notes that I had unhelpfully filed in several notebooks and scraps of paper. To get a bigger picture of how the play would look I got a large sheet of paper about three foot by four foot and roughly marked it out with a good amount of squares. Each square counted as one page. This meant I could instantly fill in the first eight squares with rough plot notes. As I progressed I circled the squares where I believed there was a change in the dramatic journey. I don't know if this common practice as I just went on instinct and wanted a visual resource to work from. Plus, it is good to see you are actually getting somewhere in the writing.

So, up to page eight the script established the characters on stage and spoke of them and their relationships with a slight edge of mystery and quirkiness. Pages nine and ten continue luxuriously in letters about the two men's love of meat and then we get a supernatural event where Frank is compelled to write his famous poem - The Two Butchers. The tone changes and we start to delve into notions of exchange not just of letters but of creative ideas and Frank dreaming about famous people, historically and contemporarily to them in the 1920s, offering him and Hans creative advice in a dream cafĂ©. By page twelve Hans has written about his rescue of a drowning dog and he includes a poem in German about a trench dog called Wolf. All the German language translations were done by my German friend Thorsten Feldman. My co- star Emma Brown has been kind enough to offer some advice on presenting various aspects of dramatic text mirroring the way of a musical composer. In particular she suggested talking about the ideas of The Two Butchers poem ie 'anti war - creation vs destruction' rather than trying to write Frank's fictional famous poem itself. All the poems in the piece are written by me other than Arthur Rimbaud's poetic work - Sensation.

Three more poems are included in the next three pages including a key poem Am Durlacher Tor written by Hans after falling from the tram. He sees this event as a near death experience in peace time and hopes it is not premonition. Am Durlacher Tor is spoken creatively both in English and German by Frank and his daughter.

Frank writes back with the first of two confidential letters about his feelings of melancholia and possible suicidal thoughts including the poem Falling In Melancholia.

Pages sixteen and seventeen give us a comical insight into what turns out to be Hans' obsession with the Karlsruhe tram system and its history. I have tried to write this to be shared between Frank and his daughter and read with amusement and I guess enjoyment at some cheery news from Hans without them encouraging his obsession too much.

By page eighteen we start to really understand how these two former combatants are finding their creative feet with ideas of inspiring themselves in their writing of poetry and in developing ideas.

In the case of the German Hans he imagines cabinets of curiosity - the Wunder Kammer - as his motivator and (at a much later date) I introduced a song into the following pages sung by Frank. I have called it 'If I had a Door'. This is based on a question I was asked at the entrance interview by professor John Newling. He actually gave me the idea of a brick and asked me, in a creative sense, what I would do with it to create something artistic or thought provoking. As there are several times during the play that Frank hears whispered requests to 'Open The Doors' I have chosen a door as the motivator.

I made a short video of the tune to demonstrate what it should sound like. And to be sung better too! I had a cold and didn't want to freak out the neighbours!

This song was only introduced after I thought I had finished the play and then I got the tune in my head and developed the lyrics over a couple of days to the point where I felt they conveyed what I wanted to convey. That being the creative doors of his mind being utterly inspired and his letting in all these influences.

If I had a door: final written draft
There is another piece of piano music I have called The Missing (visited in a previous blog post) and I have decided to keep it just the piano with no lyrics and it may get extended.

For the remainder of the play we hear that Hans is getting inspired and healed by new anti war poetry and books like All Quiet On The Western Front and the poetry of Gerrit Engelke. Frank and Winifred share good news about the new baby Madeleine and Hans gets new work in the city library. Frank writes to Hans with a new confession - the true reason why his daughter is called Madeleine and Hans writes back. Emma Brown sings Sensation by Arthur Rimbaud at the piano in connection with the Madeleine back story. Is that the end? No, but I suggest you get out the hankies because things get decidedly weird in the last two pages and there is a huge surprise for the audience in the last few seconds of the play.

For a blogpost about the first read through click HERE

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