Netting blog (No. 1)
Where to begin? First of all, a skip of joy from reading an email marked “successful funding application” shortly followed by a burst of panic because, now, it’s real. The hard work, the previous hypothetical dreaming and planning… now begins the uphill journey of time and work and patience.
I’m going to save the hard work blog for another day… because, first, I’m going to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) to share a little about Netting’s journey and how we got to this stage.
Once upon a time, I wrote a play called Lost at Sea. It was at a time of life when I decided to throw caution to the wind to fulfill my biggest life ambition. I quit my London life and moved home to my childhood fishing village with very little money or, probably, sense. Some friends thought I was brave. Others thought I’d lost it. Maybe it was a bit of both.
My ambition was to write a play about Scotland’s fishing industry; a tribute to the many men lost at sea over the years. It was a personal journey – my dad was lost at sea when I was a child – and it was tough. Really tough. But that’s another story for another day. A year after the big move, I presented a rehearsed reading of the work and that night, that incredible night, made the journey and the pain seem worthwhile.
The byproduct of that night was that I found myself being called a playwright. I hadn’t expected that. I’d written a play, yes, but I didn’t think that actually called for a new job title. But, there it was and there I was. A playwright, apparently.
Lost at Sea is a big play. I blame naïve ambition for writing a debut spanning forty years and featuring a ten strong cast but, hey, there were no restrictions so I simply wrote the play I wanted to. But later, and I’ll skip a few years and a few more plays to get to Netting, I decided that I wasn’t quite finished with the fishing. There was another story, a female story, that I wanted to explore. So, I made the decision to write a sister play and, there, the idea for Netting was born.
Around about that time, I received a New Playwright’s Award through the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland which awarded the perfect opportunity to develop the story in a supported environment (thank you PSS – you are wonderful). From the beginning, I knew I wanted to write a very particular story, set entirely in one, restricted space and focusing on the female characters and their inter-personal relationships. I wanted to isolate them from the industry that had dominated their lives. I knew the story I wanted to tell and, almost immediately, I heard the character’s voices. First Kitty, then Alison and, finally, Sylvia. There they were – ready made – demanding for their voices to be heard.
Netting is set three months after a fatal fishing accident. One day, there is a knock on the door informing the women that a body has been found. As the women wait for the body to be identified, we see their back-story, their changing relationships and shifting dynamics under pressure. Essentially, it’s a story of finding closure after unimaginable loss. It’s about what happens when the phone stops ringing and the sympathy cards stop piling up and life, somehow, goes on.
Netting allowed me an opportunity to explore three complex female characters and how their relationships shift under pressure. I’ve always said that I don’t need an audience to like the characters I write, however, I want them to identify with them – their strengths, weaknesses and fallibility. It was also important for me that there was no “one lead story” or dominating role. I like to believe that it’s a circular tale and, perhaps bizarrely, I should confess that it’s based around a knitting pattern. The entire rhythm is informed by the constant knit knit, purl, purl of Kitty’s stitches. It’s a simple story – one of love and loss – and I adored getting to know the three female characters.
From the New Playwright’s Award to a Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor and The Lemon Tree in February 2015. A wonderful cast of actors. My central belt debut. A first time collaboration with director Allie Butler. The decision to tour. A partnership with Woodend Barn. Preparations. LOTS of preparation. A funding application. An email saying “successful”. That one word: “successful”. Hurrah.
Over the next few months, Allie, myself and the cast will be blogging about our experiences of bringing Netting on tour and about our journey across Scotland. We hope that this gives us a chance to share our theatre-making journey and to connect with audiences (hello!) along the way. We’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment if you’re passing by.
So, here we are. Now. 2016. In amongst a flurry of admin and phone calls and forms and diaries and dates and stationery and logistics and opinions and ferries and costings and marketing and contracts and maps and venues and paper and schools and… and… and…
I’m also in the show this time around. Have I mentioned that? Cue line learning… more about that next time.
Thanks for reading and more to come soon,