Monkeys On Typewriters

I've read Tim's amazing post and I don't think I can, or need to, better that as a discussion of the subject. So instead I'm going to try to describe the process of writing. Short pieces I've written before have seemed to appear from nowhere, so it's interesting (to me at least) to try to work out what I'm doing.

Strangely, considering the importance of this subject to many people and the far-reaching consequences this synod vote might have, I've found it difficult to find a drama, a story. A point of real enquiry - Something I don't know the answer to. Something that will have relevance for the audience on Sunday and give them a new perspective on this subject. I have spent Monday and Tuesday reading the stories and background and then attempting to write.

For me, particularly with a short piece like this, I have to find the form. Because it's only going to be ten mins the form IS the content. The form, the structure, of the piece is a large part of what it will convey; where the meaning is. So for this reason, I wrote (or started to write) four different plays about the subject, flailing around to find both something to say and a way to say it, as I think these two things will come together. This is the monkeys on typewriters approach. If I write enough, something might happen.
In an extremely embarassing way, I'll describe these poor ideas.

1 - a piece where god speaks to a gay couple as they kiss. (This only got half a page through before it became obvious just what a BAD idea this was)
2 - a gangster comes to a English Anglican minister to give him clear guidance. But due to the vagueness of the churches position, he finds this difficult, and the gangster presses him to do his job. (Hmmm)
3 - Dialogue made out of the relevant extracts of Leviticus and St Paul's letter to the corinthians.(interesting. But ultimately saying nothing you couldn't get from the Bible, and it just turned into a standard liberal "isn't the Bible stupid" piece.)
4- A gay man goes to a Anglican minister to be "cured", as he doesn't want to be gay, and the church is the last place in society that believes it is possible to change your sexuality like this.

This last idea was the best, as it did enable me to write against the position that the vast majority of the audience will hold. However, the form that it came with was a kind of orton-esque comic dialogue, which didn't take the characters seriously, and as it went on it felt weaker and weaker. I did get to the end of this piece - which at 8.00pm last night ran at fifteen pages and was sort of finished. It was clever and a bit funny and spoke about the subject. But it wasn't right. It didn't feel like it was speaking truthfully. It was too clever.

Then as I was about to give up and go to bed last night, I thought about the C of E church in Abingdon where I grew up, and about the attitudes that our parent's generation had towards homosexuality and the church. It seemed to me there was an interesting tension here, between the tradition and comforting ritual of going to church, the way things have always been done, having a family, sunday lunch, etc - and the new and quite specific challenge for that generation of not only having your children come out as gay, but neing forced by society to accept that as okay. To accept that their hopes of grandchildren are gone. Christmases with the other halves will be quite different. Their sons and daughters are engaged in an activity that when they were growing up was still very much illegal.

So the dramatic tension is in seeing four characters (two couples who are friends, meeting after church) existing in their comfortable, sunday, relaxed world, with a sermon, bit of god and sunday lunch, but coming to terms with the fact that this world cannot hold. Their children are gay, their doctor might be gay, and in this way their minister might be gay. And so these people have to accept that not everyone sees the world like them. That other people have different perspectives.

The language is one of an underlying and really unwanted homophobia that stems from ignorance and disappoint and sorrow - not so much from hate, but because things have become unknown. If the church provides moral, social and cultural stability, then openly gay children threaten this. Gayness, for them, is modern, dangerous and other . It highlights how things change and this is not what these people want.

This piece was then written very quickly - in about an hour and a half. Partly because I have known people like this all my life so the way they spoke was easy to find, and partly because the piece was not trying too hard. It had enough space to let the character just speak and find their way to the subject and drama.

So my concern now is whether this piece engages with the subject enough. Is this what present tense is about? Or should the play be more political? More engaged and specific?


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