When Instructions for Border Crossing opened in Edinburgh last August, it was the first time for five years I’d opened a show without knowing when the next new show was going to open. I’d been bouncing from deadline to deadline for five years.
I was fucking knackered.
Still, my first thought on realising this was, shit, that’s it, I’m done. I’ve no new work lined up and probably I’ll never get to make any ever again. This was allied to a fear that if I’m not making work I’m not getting paid and if I’m not getting paid I’m not paying the bills. Shit.
This quite quickly gave way to relief. I was fucking knackered. I didn’t have any ideas and I was completely drunk dry. A break, a fallow period, a refilling of the well. Thank god.
For a month or so I was just glad beyond words not to have to tell anyone what my next show was, although of course it didn’t stop people asking. And when they did I would beam my unknowing in a broad grin. I don’t know, and I don’t have to know.
Quietly, in this period, I started writing. Nothing deliberate, nothing for a particular project, nothing planned, just sketches. Some came quickly, some came slowly, but there were quite a lot of them. On average I probably did more writing between September and January than I do in a year when I have two deadlines. But it was just for fun.
It turns out I’ve got starting points for about nine different shows. Some of them are quite well-developed.
This week has been the first in an R&D process that will be spread through until the end of this year. I’ve tried to design the R&D process so that I can sustain for as long as possible this sense of developing work for fun and without commitment or deadline. It seems I get more work done that way, and the work itself has a wider range. They're not all solo shows, for a start. Some of them I'm not in at all. At least one I write and hand over entirely to someone else.
Nine shows could keep me busy for ten years so I'm not going to finish them all any time soon. But I’m going to keep them all in the mix and keep bringing in a range of people to respond to them. And by Christmas I think I’ll be able to invite you to a work-in-progress showing of several potential pieces of new work. And you can tell me which ones you want me to finish.
I’m not promising to follow your advice.
Each R&D week I’ll write a bit about whichever of the new projects I’ve been focused on. As a teaser, though, here are some titles. You can play spot the difference with the ones in the image above if you like: several have changed title this week and only three of them are unlikely to change again. You can also play a game of guessing which ones you want to see on the basis of working title alone.
Thanks to my local theatre the Dukes for hosting this week, and to Dick Bonham, Aliki Chapple, Emma Geraghty, Andy Smith and Katharine Williams for bringing their brains and hearts into the room at various times throughout the week.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will