Developing 'Celia' - Week 1

I was lucky enough to receive a wee bit of money from Creative Scotland to allow me to develop an idea I have for a show called 'Celia'. I am spending the next couple of weeks with a great wee team of actors, working on the first half of the script and seeing where the piece will go.

It's a play that I have already written once, but I didn't like it. The story was strong and I liked the characters but the whole thing felt very old-fashioned and uninspiring, so it was back to the drawing board. I re-worked up a good 40 minutes worth of material to bring to rehearsal and we spent the first couple of days going through it, scene by scene, line by line. This kind of work can wear the brain down quickly (certainly my brain) but it's vital work for the success of the piece. If it ain't working on the page then no amount of tomfoolery and trickery is going to make it work on the stage!

Pamela Shaw (Celia) works on a movement sequence
It was great to work with the actors on the script, it's a very focused, tight wee group and I feel we are making good ground and really getting somewhere. The play is set in a fantasy land not unlike Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings kind of thing, finding the balance between using neither entirely modern-English without retorting to lines like "My Grace your fast requires breaking before the Orcs of Ramaran arrive with the white horse of the Spirit-Mistress" or some such nonsense (although now I've written it, I want to know more about this Spirit-Mistress).  I was discussing this with my friend who pointed me to Caryl Churchill's 'Far Away' a cracking play that was recently on at the Citz. It's a futuristic, fantastical world, yet the language is very controlled,  almost plain. To the characters themselves what they are saying is entirely normal so it sounds almost mundane when they announce that "the weather is on the side of the Japanese" or something. I'm going to have to work VERY hard to even get close to her mastery of language, rhythm and preciseness, but it's good to have some sort of model to work towards. I can but try.... I can but try.

Will Gosnold (Prince Gideon) works on a dance 
After all that textual analysis (two days is enough for me!) we were up on our feet and were moving around. The  central character Celia has been locked away in a secret room in a palace since she was born because she has a birthmark on her face that the people believe is a sign of the Devil. Since all she has to do to pass the time is read she has developed amazing powers of sifting through reams of information and joining the dots to lead her to whatever she needs to find out - like the world's greatest paper-trail detective really - the HMRC would kill to have her on board, Starbucks beware! So we were working on how to show that skill-set through movement. It wasn't easy but I think we were getting somewhere today - these sequences will develop in the same way that the script has, so it's good to at least have something that we can mould and shape over the next few days.

I've been composing away as well and have recorded a few bits of music. The soundscape is a mixture of strings, synths and trip-hop beats. Hopefully this will make the overall piece feel modern and not some sort of distant fairytale - it should feel current and happening - not ye olde worldy.

The cast are also very talented musicians so we have been creating some lovely sounding arrangements of songs for Celia to sing as she sits in her wee room watching time tick by.

The cast rehearse the opening song
So all in all things are going swimmingly. We will learn a new song tomorrow, work on the movement sequences a little more and see where that takes us. It's been a great, more than worthwhile experience so far, here's hoping that it continues.


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