So myself and Alice, the director, started our first script session this week with the play, which is refreshing and invigorating for any playwright. We are tightening the dialogue and making sure the scenes have clarity and pace to them. It’s easy to get too close to the lines you’ve written, often months or years before, and whether they make sense and so another eye on them helps immeasurably, even at draft ten, eleven or twelve.
There’s often big gaps in developing stages with a play and even since we had the rehearsed reading at The Tristan Bates Theatre a little over a year ago, personal life, the political climate, new insights, and changes have taken place in real time alongside of Trace’s timeless story.
Little did I know that when writing the character of Albert who has dementia and is dying, and his son, David, who is struggling to say goodbye, that I would fast forward six years to a real life situation where I would find myself in the same situation with sadly the most authentic research to date.
This week, I had to say goodbye to someone very dear to me, My dear Granny. She struggled so much near the end with Parkinson’s disease, Dementia and other infections.
It only served to remind me that we are telling an important and universal story of loss and transformation and the fragile process of letting someone go. When someone has dementia you are constantly looking into their eyes searching for where they are and wondering if they know themselves where they are. I was one of the lucky ones. I had the gift of one brief moment of lucidity before she left, the recognition and the most positive exclamation that it was ‘marvellous’ that I was there. These morsels make all the difference.
One thing we know for certain in this life, is that Grief will visit us time and time again. It is a painful process, and different for everyone. For me, time seems to stop when someone dies and I am suddenly travelling to periods of my life when they were most present. For me, I became a child again, thinking back to all the love she shared when I had lost my father, her son so young. Grief visited her sharply, but even in pain, she chose to keep loving.
My children in real time were only seven and nine when I first started developing ideas for the teenagers in Trace and now as the years have gone by, I find myself with teenagers of my own which takes on a whole different perspective when looking at their narratives. Also with technology rapidly advancing and slang terms and language constantly evolving in the teenage world, it’s amazing how minor adjustments need to be made there too.
I remember working at the Arcola Theatre on the Playwrought programme with another play and being asked to think about how your play has moved in time, and wasn’t sure that it was relevant, but I totally understand it now.
It’s not necessarily about news or themes no longer relevant, but more to do with how you might have changed over time, and what you may have experienced, how that may change your attitude to the play or it’s characters. Possibly it is about the things you have gained in that real life time in-between, but also the things you have lost – both to be learned from.
I wasn’t sure how to write this post, the play being so closely linked to my current feelings, but felt the only way was honesty. Most of my work has always sprung from feelings or fleeting thoughts, or dreams and why should I try and pretend anything else?
The idea for Trace began with a dream I had of my Dad, who I lost many years ago returning to me with limited time to speak. The play then became a collections of other characters, also in the process of losing things or trying to find their way back to themselves.
I’m so excited to finally explore this play, so grateful to Alice and Lexi who secured the funding from the Arts Council, and this week came back to this quote again that I found when first exploring the themes in Trace
‘Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living – and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing’ – Neale Donald Walsh
RIP my Beautiful Granny Richards. Daisy Beryl Richards 1928 – 2019.