Writing challenges

The quest for a final version of a script often seems to be one that never ends. You can always go through a scene and tighten up a few lines ‘one last time’. And then one more last time after that. And a couple more revisions after that….

By the last few rehearsals you may not actually bother to adjust the actual script – if I look at the final drafts of previous shows they are always surpringingly different to what we actually did on the first night. That being said there is a distinct stage when you realise the latest draft is, well, pretty good. A draft you feel you could actually perform, or at the very least read-through without wincing at that crappy bit in scene 5.

It has been a tricky little writing process, mostly because it has the play changes tone so regularly. Obviously with any script, different scenes have different aims – one scene might just be there to introduce a character, another is to bring comic relief, etc. That rule is particularly stringent for The Ice Maiden as Hans Christian Andersen can vary the style from one chapter to another a great deal. Combined with our own plans for keeping the theatrical effects mixed-up can make scriptwriting a bit of a headache.

More than anything it’s a simple question of headspace as you have to change from writing a piece of narration, to a lighthearted piece of banter between two talking cats; from a naturalistic dinner scene to a thunderous, declamatory speech by the Ice Maiden. As it turns out we’re considerably stronger at writing the dramatic bits than we are at the simpler stuff, and have become quite efficient at combining the original text and our own writing together.

But dialogue-heavy scene are a different story altogether. Perhaps the lack of a jumping-off point is the problem – it is easy to find a well-written  descriptive passage that you can build around to creat a chunk of narration, while finding some of Andersen’s dialogue that isn’t pretty terrible is quite a challenge. In the end the best way we’ve discovered is storyboarding out what needs to happen in the scene, convert that into rough dialogue and then ‘age’ it by trying to find more archaic phrases for what you’re struggling to say. It certainly gets the scene done but they lack that little bit of detail that makes them seem more real, our dialogue often ends up being pointed and functional, lacking the filler that helps it flow.

Still at least it gives us something to use for rehearsals, and perhaps improvise around, though we’d probably have to then transcribe our improv lines and age them all over again. Will that work? Watch this space


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