I’m not going to work this week, and I’m glad to say it’s not because I’m ill or checking myself into a day centre post-election! No, this week I’m at the Royal Court Theatre as part of a writing group, hanging out with some very talented poets, playwrights and performers, and learning from Mark Ravenhill, who wrote Shopping and Fucking and The Cut.
It was a little intimidating being in a room with such well-established writers but it quickly felt as if we were all in the same boat, and I was able to relax.
For our first exercise Mark asked us to write down two characters and an object, each on a separate piece of paper. After that, like a complicated game of Consequences, we all picked one randomly from each category. Then we had to write for 20 minutes about our two characters and our selected objects.
I ended up with a grumpy teacher, a woman having a midlife crisis, and a football.
I wasn’t sure what to write to begin with, so I let my tics dictate and the following conversation emerged:
Grumpy Teacher: (MANHANDLES THE FOOTBALL INTO A BAG)
He thinks the weather’s a cat.
Woman in Crisis: The football is a symbol of my son’s impotence.
Grumpy Teacher: That’s the sort of shambolic parenting that got us into this shit.
Woman in Crisis: What got us into this shit was a lack of duck eggs in 1982 and an education system that’s shrouded in mystery. Next you’ll blame me for the death of the woolly mammoth in the Jurassic era!
Football: (A SLOW SARCASTIC HISS)
Woman in Crisis: The hiss of a football is more beautiful than birdsong.
Grumpy Teacher: You’re not taking me seriously you self-righteous prick-tease.
Woman in Crisis: If you teased out your beard you’d be less of a short fat cat.
SHE GRABS THE BAG. THE FOOTBALL ROLLS OUT MAKING A PATH IN THE PAINT THAT’S MORE ABSTRACT THAN A ROTHKO.
Grumpy Teacher: (RUBBING HIS ELBOWS TOGETHER) Your son’s problem is that the sun rises in the morning and his mind doesn’t.
Woman in Crisis: Problem? The weather system of the mind is complicated; it’s not definable by the offside rule.
Football: Your rigidity is killing the game.
Grumpy Teacher: I didn’t get into teaching to wrestle footballs into bags or information into young minds.
Woman in Crisis: You could just have played table tennis, that’s all I’m saying.
Football: I am extraordinarily round.
Woman in Crisis: There are fifteen things on my shopping list and only nine of them aren’t toiletries.
Grumpy Teacher: Boundaries and sanctions are important to avoid domestic oblivion. The consequences of your actions speak louder than a tortoise in a gale.
Woman in Crisis: Fine, I’ll let him know.
Grumpy Teacher: I’m glad that’s clear. I’ll expect a letter of apology by Monday.
It’s Monday today and still no apology!
But the forecast for the rest of the week is looking good. There was a huge amount to take in and my mind was buzzing this afternoon as we emerged into the warm afternoon sun. I expect we’ll be doing some more exercises during the week and I’ll share them with you when I can.