The Making of Love 2.0...

The Making of 'Love 2.0' - a 3 year journey of silliness 

This is a blog I wrote for Sleeping Warrior's Blog Page, but I thought that it should be here as well, there is a link at the bottom that takes you to the online programme that I created for the piece. The show is currently touring Scotland, we've just got our first review through which you can read here.

***SPOILERS ALERT*** Before I go any further I should say that this blog contains a number of spoilers, so if you are currently sitting in a theatre waiting for the show to start, or checking it out before you've seen it in the flesh, then you may want to save this link and have a wee look post show!

In the Beginning

The genesis of the show is one based on pure circumstance. In 2012 I was asked by my friend, who was an acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, if I would be interested in working on devising a piece of theatre for a couple of weeks with some fellow students. They had electives to do, and making new work was something that was of interest to her. I said yes and was told there would be at least 6 actors on board. I planned on creating a new take on Greek tragedy, it was going to be epically HUGE! There was going to be blood, sex, war... all the good stuff.

As it turned out everybody, including my friend who made the initial request, ended up bailing out on me for various reasons, none of which had anything to do with my proposal of staging a giant Greek orgy on the steps of the RCS, all in the name of art of course. Only two of the six were still available to work with me, Samuel Keefe and Molly Vevers. I wasn't convinced that I could create an epic Greek tragedy of filmic proportions with two actors... so I went back to the drawing board.

Sam, Molly and I work on some elements of the script
My initial idea was to create a technologically advanced piece of theatre about two teenagers who are trying to get a date via Facebook. I know my way around various pieces of software and I saw it as something that would be part theatre and part film with various laptops being the centrepiece of the show. We would have Skype conversations would be acted live but we would watch them via screens, photos would be taken and manipulated as we watch, projections guiding us through the, as yet unwritten, narrative would be beamed across various walls. I bought some software for projection mapping to make cool effects bounce around the stage.

On day one we weren't at all sure what we were doing (which is an incredibly freeing experience and, all writers and directors take note, not one to be afraid of!) and we ended up using pieces of paper and post-it notes and basic stationary to represent what would, in time, become clever pieces of technology.

The process was very simple. I looked at Facebook, I saw what components it consisted of (photos, likes, pokes etc.) and I wrote up some basic dialogue based on these different components. The actors would then improvise around the ideas and I would type these up on my laptop and the text would appear on a giant telly that was the main focus of the show... we kept this up for a good few days until we realised that actually a lot of the fun of what we were doing was turning the virtual elements of the internet into the real, day to day objects that we were using as stand-ins.

We started to see how actually rifling through somebody's physical photos was pretty creepy, much creepier than clicking away on Facebook. Poking one another - well that was comedy gold right from the off. We had our hook from which to hang our idea, we would re-create the internet (and Facebook in particular) as though electricity and binary programming were never invented! Tin cans and strings, sticky-back tape, bells and bicycle pumps - the possibilities were endless!

Molly Vevers as Suzie, in development. 
Text messages are shown as post-it notes
We then developed the play into a twenty-five minute romp through the relationship of Gary and Suzie (with a 'Z').  We performed the play in a room at the RCS to some fellow students, here's the wee video we made to tempt them along. I've attached the video because, even though it isn't great, it inspired the opening for the show that we finally went for. The building of profiles, and how they give a not-always-truthful impression of who you are, is a central theme in the show.

Much to our amazement, the students and teachers loved our sharing and wanted to see more. We realised that we had a good idea on our hands but didn't have much clue how to take it forward.

A lot of the ideas that ended up in the final play have made it through from this classroom sharing, the basic characters and a lot of the jokes have stayed in some sort of form, though they have been refined and hopefully, like a fine wine, made even tastier over time. Here's a wee bit of of footage from that first sharing, there are some jokes that we kept and moved (the line about Nando's) whilst some have been cut completely and others have remained as they were:

Further Development

The wonderful Play, Pie and a Pint people at Oran Mor were running a comedy competition in conjunction with Channel 4. I entered 'Love 2.0' and received some great feedback, I was asked to beef it up a bit as it ran a little too short for Oran Mor and was given some really useful advice on how to develop it. I redrafted the play and it was shortlisted but unfortunately didn't win. However it gave us a little wind in the sails and kept the project moving forward.

In rehearsals for the Tron
Our next big developmental stage came when I managed to secure a little money from the brilliant Tom McGrath trust. This allowed me to pay for a couple of actors (Molly and Sam again) for a few weeks of further development. The theatre industry can be a supportive place - once you get to know people - and we were very lucky to be granted some free rehearsal space from NTS and then the Tron agreed to let us share our play in their downstairs bar. By this time Callum Smith, our producer, was on board and we were looking at ways of developing the show towards a full, professional production.

We spent the rehearsal time developing the script, building on the themes and ideas that previously existed whilst cutting any excess fat. When it comes to making new plays there's a LOT of cutting going on...a lot... if we performed everything that we wrote it would last about 3 days, not including an interval. Sometimes it's really hard to cut something that you are sure is funny, but perhaps upsets the rhythm of the piece or is just a step too far. We have many many discussions about every single line in the play. Sometimes I think, especially in a knock-about comedy like this one, it is underestimated just how much thought and refinement has gone into everything. I can safely say that if it weren't for the actors convincing me otherwise then Love 2.0 would put Hamlet to shame, in running length and poetic content too of course. Whilst we're on the subject of great artists like Shakespeare, here's a picture of Mick Hucknall:

Molly performing at the Tron
Ideas were starting to solidify, the actors had more time to think about characters and delivery rather than purely generating material. The most important thing for us was that this would be a public performance, to people we didn't necessarily know. A very different proposition to performing at drama school to all your pals! It was an extremely scary prospect, especially watching them arrive. They were all about 20 years older than I had anticipated... I was worried. But it turned out I had no reason to be. Turns out old folk like jokes about awkward teenagers as much as anybody.

We asked the audience to fill out feedback forms at the end, and we were again encouraged by the responses we received. The most common complaint was that it wasn't long enough and people really wanted to know what happened next (the show originally ended with Suzie revealing that she was now going out with Big Dave and Gary walking away to the heaven sent melody of 'Holding Back the Years'). We took that advice onboard and have significantly extended the story, but more about that in the next section. Here is a wee video with a couple of scenes from that sharing at the Tron:

The Tour

We were delighted (and a little bit surprised... no scratch that, VERY surprised) to be awarded Creative Scotland money to take our production around the country. We had teamed up with the fantastic Beacon Arts Centre for our bid and it is a relationship that has allowed us to develop the show in ways we never thought possible.

The rehearsals room at the Beacon are spectacular

As the writer of the piece I was keen to take on the feedback from our sharing at the Tron and I was looking at ways of furthering the story, perhaps Gary and Suzie should meet one more time? I can't tell you how many sleepless nights and rewrites I went through before I got something I was happy with! Up until about a month ago I had a totally different ending that involved reciting Shakespeare and a swift kick to the genitals... that's all gone - you should be glad.

I wanted to show that the play wasn't all just silly jokes, that there was a real problem with the way that young people are using the internet and how it is affecting society in all kinds of ways. So the play goes a little dark (I wouldn't say too dark, and it certainly doesn't stay there for long) before hopefully coming to a resolution that is as pleasing as it is surprising, I'm giving nothing away, just in case you haven't seen it yet.

Lucy Goldie as Suzie
Molly got a job touring Italy for 6 months so was unavailable to take Suzie any further, so we cast the delightful Lucy Goldie who has brought her own spin on things into the rehearsal room. We also got the brilliant Kirsty McCabe on-board as our designer, who has created a set that is as unusual as it is strangely familiar, being made of day to day, man-made objects. The introduction of a number of wooden blocks and trucks that move has given me, as a director, a really enjoyable new bunch of toys to play with!  Here are some rehearsal shots:

And now we are here. Doing what I always wanted my theatre company to do, bringing entertaining, fun and original work out and about around the country. It has been quite a journey, and I have never been happier to be roundly ignored by 4 up and coming actors at the RCS.

I really hope that you enjoy 'Love 2.0' or if you didn't get a chance to see it that you have enjoyed reading this blog about how a wee two-hander play performed in a classroom has led to a nationwide only took us three years to do it!

For those interested in the creative process, or just what rehearsals look like, here is some behind the scenes footage of us creating the piece:

And some pics from our dress:


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