I do remember saying the words – ‘Why don’t we write a play about these journalists?’ to my co-writer Noah Birksted-Breen. At the time, I’m pretty sure I was imagining the pre and post of writing a play. Well, we are now unmistakably in the guts of it, where discussions and decisions about structure, pace, characterisation, choice of title and metaphor, seem to have become almost as important as life itself. At distinct points on distinct days, while queuing at the coffee shop or pouring water into the rice cooker, I get that cold clenching in the stomach which is the play telling me to go back to it NOW. That it cannot be willed into existence.
So – what have we done so far? Once we came up with the concept – a play about journalists who are linked by their determination to challenge the official version of the truth, we set out to find six such individuals. We conducted lengthy interviews with journalists from Russia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Mexico, the US and Nepal and gathered everything else said or written by them that was available on the public record.
Then came the task of sifting through everything we had, ordering it into themes, finding the echoes, the surprising moments, the parts of the story that made these six people more than just their jobs. Now we are playing around with structure. We’ve been looking at other verbatim models, investigating what rules other writers have set for themselves and trying to figure out what rules our play will and won’t follow. How can it convey what these characters want to say while still having the shape and rhythm a good play requires? Are we going to be able to include all six characters after all? Can we invent dialogue for scenes that have briefly been described to us?
I could go on and on about the process, but I am conscious of the clenching and the fact that I really should be writing the play rather than writing about writing it! So, I will end here.
For those who are interested – the journalists in the play are Lydia Cacho, Lal Wickrematunge, Jitman Basnet, Amira Hass, Elena Kostyuchenko and Zoriah Miller. Just a few months ago I had no idea who they were and now I go to sleep and wake up thinking about them.
I will report back in a few weeks once first draft is done!
Christine Bacon, co-Artistic Director