Monday, 21 February 2011

The Inspiration Hook.

Apologies for the lapse in posting, I’ve been wading my way through Le Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Mallory since the beginning of the month and only just finished it (keep an eye on Vulpes Libris).

But I haven’t just been holed up in my room, feverishly turning pages and untangling archaic language with a furrowed brow. Oh no. I’m ever so much cooler than that, my friends. In the last few weeks I’ve taken advantage of A Night Less Ordinary (a special thanks here to my “sis” who arranged the tickets on both occasions). For those that haven’t heard of it ANLO offers free theatre tickets for the under 26s. I’ve seen several plays thanks to this scheme and I recently saw Tiger Country at the Hampstead Theatre and Twisted Tales at the Hammersmith Lyric. 

Tiger_Country_home-300x137 I enjoyed Tiger Country while I was sat there watching it. I was engaged, but once we started talking about it on the way home, when I started thinking about in the days after, I realised that I was a little disappointed. Why? Because as an avid viewer of Holby City and an occasional viewer of Casualty, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before. We had the bossy female registrar, determined to succeed in spite of her race and her sex, ready to give up anything for it, ultimately redeemed by family love and loyalty. Then the good doctor, struck down by cancer, forced to become a patient. And of course, the idealistic junior, determined never to lose a patient, slowly coming to realise that her handsome boyfriend is not all she hoped, her head turned by her grumpy superior who is repressing his love for her. In long-running serials these clichés can be well-done, events, character and the sheer luxury of time can elevate them. But Tiger Country didn’t have the luxury of time and scuppered itself further by including too many characters, too many narrative threads. Yes, it gave a good sense of the fragmented life of a doctor, the unsociable hours, the hard work, the need for someone to understand. But I just felt that too much was going on and therefore it had to rely on stereotypes to tell the story. There were moments though that caught my attention – that snagged the part of my brain that stores away inspiration. It’s thanks to this play that a few more pages in my ideas notebook was filled.

Twisted Tales I loved from start, finish and homeward-bound dissection. The arrival of a chatty stranger into the daily commute ofRoald-Dahl three reserved men sparks the play as he tells them several odd stories. It’s a strange piece, much as the stories themselves are. There’s the man who bets a young American that he can’t light his trusty lighter ten items in a row – he’ll wager his car if the young American will bet the little finger of his left hand. There’s the woman who receives a mink coat as a parting present from her lover and comes up with an elaborate ploy to keep it from her husband. Each story has a little twist that you don't always see coming. Nearly all of them make you squirm, laugh and slide to the edge of your seat. I think of all the stories there was only one where I knew what the twist would be. The staging, the company, all did a wonderful job at producing these savage little tales. I loved every single minute and determined to dive back into Dahl’s short stories which I haven’t read in years and can hardly remember.

While we left the Hammersmith Lyric bubbling with praise and chatter about the stories, my inspiration hook snoozed. It could not be tempted awake by murderous old ladies or bullying public schoolboys. Why? Why did something I think was bloody brilliant not inspire me the way something I thought was pretty flawed did?

Because there was no moment where I thought I could take it and run off in another direction with it. There was nothing I felt ought to have been done another way, a different road taken. Twisted Tales was such a complete piece, so neatly finished that it demanded to be admired, not improved. Tiger Country, with its mad spill of characters and half-finished scenarios presented more possibility for my discerning inspiration hook.

So you see, anything can be of benefit to you, nothing is ever wasted. Do I think that I could have written Tiger Country better? Certainly not. However, my brain cannot stop ticking over the tangent that I spotted that was left fluttering and unexplored, my inspiration hook demanded that I hang something on it…

[Sadly, ANLO is coming to an end very soon, due to cuts I believe. So I would urge everyone that is eligible to take advantage while they can.]

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