I wanted to write something about ‘Ripples’ as I feel this play has been on its own dramatic journey from the original idea to where it is today in its newfound digital form. I got the commission back in August 19 from RWCMD and Sherman Theatre to write a play as part of ‘New 2020’ thanks to the support of Philip Carne. I was away in Bulgaria at the time, the sun was shining and I was really excited about beginning a new play.
But as with all creative ventures it’s never that easy … I wandered, I pondered, I started to panic as I realized I’d never written a play for 8 actors before, 8 young graduates who all deserved a part they could sink their teeth into. This was going to take some serious planning. The play would be their final year showcase and all the actors had to have a significant opportunity to demonstrate their skills. I knew I wanted to challenge myself to write something that would have the 8 characters on stage for the whole show and after thinking about the intimacy of the spaces at RWCMD and The Gate (where it was due to be performed after) I felt I wanted it to embrace the claustrophobia … but at that point, that was all I had.
I had a chat to Matthew Holmquist (Director) before I started writing. I was thinking a lot about what was going on in the world at that time, how the political landscape was shifting. Boris got elected. We were set to leave the EU. Things were happening so fast and I felt so lost, unsure what to do or how to express my feelings about these changes. I was drawn to the idea of a world fragmenting and how we might attempt to fix each other in a broken world. I had previously done some research on different rehabs for a TV Documentary and I was interested in some of the therapy techniques and I thought this could be a potential framework for the play. I started exploring Jacob and Zerka Moreno and pscyhodrama techniques and found the ‘re-enactment of events’ a fascinating way of exploring identity and how memory and trauma from past experiences influence our present.
We workshopped the first draft in December with the cast from RWCMD and they improvised scenes and these fed into the ideas and characterisation right from the start. This was a really collaborative way of working and helped me work out their character journies and it was also really inspiring to see them invested right from the beginning. I continued to work with them reading new drafts, right through to rehearsals in February. March 16thwas the dress rehearsal and minutes before the cast were due to perform we were all told the play wouldn’t go ahead due to Covid 19. We were (like many others) all utterly disappointed and drifted off our separate ways into uncertain futures - the graduates returning home across the UK and beyond.
When NTW announced their digtal initiative, Network, Joe Murphy asked if we’d be interested in a reading of Ripples. I was a little hesitant at first, it felt like a really different world now to when I wrote the play and I wasn’t sure how the play would sit in the current situation. But after talking to Matthew and Joe I quickly saw how the group therapy context could naturally (and necessarily) move online given the lockdown and social distancing. I became sincerely grateful that we would be able to share this story and all the extraordinary work by the cast, creative team and crew.
So here we are in Cardiff, Liverpool, Belfast…all online
Inevitably I miss being in the rehearsal room with the team. I miss experiencing those events coming to life, a couple of metres away. I miss the physical sensation of us all being in the same space, sitting in the dark, sharing emotions in each unique moment. But watching the online dress run today from my bedroom, new and different resonances hit me. It’s a hard hitting play, dark and painful at times, maybe made all the more so by the sense and reality of isolation and uncertainty that we are all currently living through right now. But I hope there is some light shining in there too.
I’m so proud of what the team has achieved in translating this performance to the digital stage. It makes me start to think what might be possible. Not only now but in the future too. Genuine and hearfelt thanks to NTW, RWCMD, Sherman Theatre and Philip Carne for the vision, support and belief to make this happen.
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