Well it’s been a month since the last performance of Unbroken Line and my thoughts are already to “what next?”. It took me 3 years to conceive and create the ideas that came to be in this play, ideas which enriched the characters, images which deepened my understanding of what I wanted to say. I liken Unbroken Line to an album of music with 10 songs, it has 10 scenes. If it were a Joni album it would be song to a seagull which is a concept album of a woman’s journey from the city to the seaside, meeting characters who take her on the journey. I now face the challenge of that difficult second album but really, there is no expectation while I plan the tour of the first.
I wrote the book in very short bursts over 2 weeks and then handed it to Sioned and Kath to look at when they came back with very good notes, one major structural one being from Sioned who saw the similarities between that and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a structure which initially in the first draft, I was resistant to. I hadn’t set up Dolah as an unlikable character so it was tricky, I felt that it was uncharted or at least too subtle for a first outing, but maybe subtle is what I do.
Once the reviews were out I was overwhelmed by the response of two writers who seemed to have “got it”, I was honoured, I was moved by their reviews.
Some of what I wrote must have come to me when I wrote it, bubbling up from my subconscious because Kath was able to pick out the strongest sections and find the themes and subtext from the 48 pages that I’d submitted. After writing the final 2 scenes from structured improvisations in the first week of rehearsals it felt there was 29 pages of strong material with which this play is made of. I may have written the book, but it was only a jumping off point for what Kath and I finally created. She’s only credited as director in the publicity but really, editor and co-deviser is what she really did, help shape the final 2 scenes so they can be improvised by me to their final statements.
Some lines which I felt were throwaway when I wrote them have hit me later in supermarkets and train journeys, still reflecting my needs and my story, even though it’s largely a piece of fiction. I didn’t think my own writing would have that ability. My friends who I have spoken to have said that if it were on again they would see it again. One of the greatest compliments, surely.
I need to reread the play again soon as I’m embarking on a tour of it in the autumn and I’ve submitted it to festivals in England and I’m looking for a producer for it. Will the play still reflect me? Will I still be that person looking to belong? Will we work on it further or just keep the themes the same and just work on the physical? I know I’d love part of the tour to tour to cities which have gamelan troupes so the action and dances are underscored at bigger theatres and spaces.
For me I know that because of the support of the Arts Council of England it was the first step for me feeling that my artistry has been validated. I know that feels childlike and slightly needy but to me, I’ve only been creating since 2009 and even then it was smaller experimental pieces, fragments of characters and ideas of plays. I’m still emerging as an artist. After Unbroken Line at Ovalhouse i feel that I’ve laid the foundations for me being more established – I’ve had a play professionally produced at a theatre in London. And it doesn’t feel like I squandered public funds, it feels like they supported something that was right. It felt a deep honour to be awarded that grant and be supported by Ovalhouse and my friends via wefund. It felt like they wanted it to be the best it could be and I was honouring that. What was amazing was people’s reception to the play. It was the only time I allowed myself to be indulgent. Admittedly during the rehearsals whenever Kath directed me to do something or took the play in a direction which flowed into the river of my original vision, there would be moments of welling up, or welly uppy moments as we called them. But there would be no letting go. Only on the first preview. I cried after the curtain call, I cried in my dressing room as the exit music was playing. I cried until Kath came in all smiles and glowing. I cried. They liked my baby.