New Tricks: It started with a word… 25/07/2014

We realise it’s all been a bit quiet on the (North) Western front, as we approach the half-way mark in our organisational development this year, so we thought we’d give you an insight into the new plays we’re developing under our NEW TRICKS initiative.

First up, meet playwright Ella Carmen Greenhill, who is developing PLASTIC FIGURINES with Artistic Director Adam Quayle…

It started with a word… “Division”.

When I was asked to be one of the writers for Word:Play I was really excited as I’m a writer who enjoys working to a brief. I like limitations and exploring how to work within the parameters that have been set. Saying that though, there’s the obvious question that occurs (and probably does for most writers!): “Am I doing it right?” That one word, Division, can mean a variety of things and can evoke so many different feelings depending on the person. I had to spend some time digging, in an effort to out what the heart of that word was for me. Eventually this led to the creation of Plastic Figurines as a short play. It was a story that spanned months, crammed into about 17 minutes. It was personal, fast paced and, at times, a bit mental; as soon as I saw it on stage I knew that I couldn’t keep this play constrained forever, it needed to expand and grow. I needed to keep writing. And luckily enough, Adam and Hannah felt the same.

In the R&D week at the Lowry this April, I began to think of the play in a much more visual way than previously, it really began to come to life. I was happy to find that the script, the words that I’d agonised over for months, finally had the meaning and resonances I’d hoped for. It was during this week that I realised that being a working playwright isn’t just about the words on the page, that is a third of it, a quarter, an eighth. Writing theatre is creating, collaborating, arguing and finally finding the “Yes! That’s it!” moments, until it becomes a “Yes! That’s it!” for the entire play.

Adam and I have worked really closely on the script and this has been one of the greatest experiences within the process. Writing something in the knowledge that it will go on has been a very different experience to writing something and then sending it out with fingers crossed. There has been a lot less pressure on getting the script ‘right’ first time as Adam has been there to help me explore and define what we mean when we say ‘right’. Even now we are still exploring; looking for those moments that makes us both go “Yes! That’s it!” Knowing the play will be performed has changed my responsibilities as a writer, I’m not writing in the hope that people will see it, the responsibility I have to those audiences who will see it. I’m also very aware that I have created a character in Michael that people will scrutinise and may have experienced his condition, autism, within their own lives. These people, like myself, may know someone who is on the autistic spectrum and will know the beauty of it, the sadness of it and, sometimes, the hilarity of it as well. I have a responsibility to my audience, to my family and to myself to make these characters real. For me, they are real, I know them as well as I know myself and I’ve grown to love them. And I suppose that’s all I want for my audience really; to love Rose and Michael as much as I do.

– Ella Carmen Greenhill

PLASTIC FIGURINES embarks on a national tour next Spring.