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Playhouse Playmaker - the halfway point

Playhouse Playmaker - the halfway point
posted 24 Jan 2017

Karim Khan gives us an insight into how this year’s Playmakers have been getting on…

We’ve reached the halfway point already. It’s our fourth session of Playhouse Playmaker. Our original ideas have evolved into a disparate collection of fascinating, bold and exciting scenes. We each have a glimpse of the kind of plays we might end up with at the end of the programme. It’s an exciting process, not least because it allows us to regroup every month and to review what we have done, as well as to talk through any issues or problems we’re having with an engaged group.

The importance of subtext…

Each session revolves around a particular aspect or quality of drama, so in the past we’ve explored the monologue and protagonists. In this session we discussed subtext. John Retallack brought in a collection of different play extracts. We looked at scenes from Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, Checkov’s The Chery Orchard, and Zeller’s The Truth, and particularly focussed on the way writers used subtext dramatically in their works. What we realised at the end of the session was that subtext is essentially the foundation of all drama– that tension that lies between what one says and what one means, or what one wants and what one does. Even in everyday conversations, we use subtext both knowingly and unknowingly - so while subtext can be used to create ambiguity as in The Visit, it can equally add an authenticity to a play, as shown in The Truth. The morning discussions are always very inspirational and allow us to consider how we can deploy similar techniques and devices in our own work.

To echo one of the greats:

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.
T.S Eliot, The Sacred Wood.

The signs of progress…

After lunch, we returned to look at our own work. We had a month to write, whether that be scenes, synopses or stream of consciousness – anything that gave us a greater understanding of the plays we’re making. A few of us thought it would be a useful exercise to put our disparate ideas and thoughts into a synopsis, to help guide us through the writing process in subsequent months. Others experimented with the style and themes of their plays by writing some more scenes. One of the gems of this process has been watching other writers gradually develop their plays: random ideas about characters and themes evolve into intricate narrative sequences in the matter of months. And some of the scenes that we have read during these sessions have been brilliantcharacteristic of some of the plays I’ve read published by Faber & Faber - dazzling us with a unique and authentic voice and compelling characters.

A writing community…

One of the best parts of the whole process is having a sounding board – an opportunity to discuss concerns and issues we have with the other writers. We’re all on the same journey, so our understanding and experience of the writing process allows us to help and guide others as they encounter some of the problems we may have in the past. The whole programme has been enriching and enlightening – we have come across new plays, styles and approaches to drama while discovering our own in the process. It’s a huge privilege to be a Writer on Attachment with the Oxford Playhouse, and I have no doubt that I’ll be a more confident, enriched and inspired writer when I leave.


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