February Blog: The Devils You Need to Know

This year seems intent on flying by at the speed of light. That’s no bad thing but I’m slightly shocked that March begins in a few days’ time. February followed quickly on the tail of January and seemed to vanish before my very eyes. Regardless, it is what is it and I am where I am.

Smock Allies Scene + Heard festival of new work is in full swing at the moment and has produced some lovely little pieces that may very well go on to greater things. SASH is an excellent platform for new and developing work, providing the audience with a taste of something new and giving the theatre makers that all important feedback. Shows tend to be in blocks of two, meaning that there are two 30 minute performances back to back as one block. Tickets are generally €10 or thereabouts, which is excellent value to see two new/prototype shows. SASH runs until March 3rd in Dublin. More information and tickets here.

One of my favourite shows to come out of SASH is Sharon Mannion’s The Cure of the Button Accordion. Presented by Speckintime Productions this one woman comedy was part of the festival in 2016 and I rated it as one of my five favourite shows from that year. I said at the time that I hoped it would be developed into a longer piece and thankfully it has been. My review of the SASH version can be read here and details of its upcoming tour can be found here.

My time at the MacDowell Colony is only a matter of weeks away now and I have most of the practical things organised, such as transport details. I’m chomping at the bit just to get there at this stage and I’m eager to settle in and get to work. In preparation I’ve continued with my work in progress, Attrition, and overall it’s going well. My aim is to get the first draft done and dusted while at MacDowell. This is a little bit ambitious but I’m going to be optimistic about it and I might as well aim high. I really think the time and space to focus solely on my work will have a hugely positive impact and allow me to make more headway than I would otherwise. From past experience, I know I work better when I’ve the peace and space to work, both physically and emotionally. MacDowell will certainly provide me with the former and that’s got to have an effect on the latter.

One thing that I have been meaning to work on is my character list. I always have a page or two (or more) of a biography for my main charters. This is sometimes a bullet list, sometimes nuggets and snippets from their lives, and more often than not a mixture of both. It also includes images and other items, such as news stories, that for direct and indirect reasons are linked to the character. For Attrition I have done this for my main characters at present but not for the minor ones. I’ve noticed that for some of the background characters if I haven’t written about them for a bit I almost forget their backstory or I simply don’t have a backstory for them. Now, this is an instant red flag- if they’re that forgettable I should probably delete them immediately however given that this is all still in the first draft I’m allowing myself to include whoever I want to. I’ve no doubt many will get the chop in later drafts but you never know, one or two might come to the fore and demanded to take centre stage. Either way, I’m going to write up a mini-biography for these characters too and it will mean that when I do write about them I won’t have to struggle as much recall their motives or history; I can simply refer to the file if need be.

I need to be careful here though, as one reason I don’t routinely keep a file for every single characters is that dreaded tormentor called procrastination.  I know too well that it’s very easy to convince myself that I working when in fact I’m actually just wasting time. For these minor characters the basics will do, so I’ll be keeping it primarily to bullet points and a mention of their connection to the other characters. For example, Cora’s brother who was killed during the Irish Civil War. He’s not in Attrition directly as a character himself but is mentioned frequently yet I’m sure I’ve lots of inconsistencies in his character. Having a brief biography on him will mean that I’ll have the record straight when it comes to who he is and what he’s done. I’ll do likewise for the other minor characters. My plan is to get all of this kind of preparation done well in advance of arriving at MacDowell, so that when I get there I can hit the ground running.

I’ve plenty to keep me busy over the coming weeks and I’ll be heading stateside before the end of March, so I’d better go to it. Next month’s blog will hopefully be online in mid-March rather than at 40,000 feet… but I’ll see how the character bios work out first.


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