Back Story, Forward Story
A guest blog by Rowenna Mortimer, writer of The Morphea, running at RADA Studios on Sat 14 & Sun 15 October (5pm)
The back story to the ‘where we are now with it’ of creating – writing, producing – a play is always a story in its own right – the play’s own play. It involves many characters, plot twists, settings and turns of fate, depending where it decides to take itself. What always sits with me most, though, is the length of the play’s own journey – the time it takes from start point – if you can identify one – to the ‘where we are now’.
But yes, we can mark a starting point for this play. The Morphea – before it was given this title – starts out as a place. That is, a commission for a 15 minute monologue in 2017 from the wonderful director Henry C Krempels, to write a piece about the canal as part of a production at the Rosemary Branch Theatre – Place to Be: The Canal. So this entails research, up and down the canal, until I find what I believe makes the place it’s own person, and wildlife and boats end up morphing into the central character herself, Morphea. Now this character has plenty of life in her. A bit too much for 15 minutes. So over the course of 2018 I take her on an adventure into a 60 minute script. But that’s just Act Two, and the action has to go on, because it’s not yet where it needs to be.
Enter the First Reader/Dramaturg at the start of 2019, a character who wants to get the facts straight, reveal what’s been overlooked before exiting stage right; enter on cue stage left Second Dramaturg, an exchange of fast paced dialogues and a decisive exit and from this a plot turn and the realisation that in fact, the physicality in the piece needs to be explored, and so at the end of 2019 the setting changes – a short research & development phase supported by Studio Wayne McGregor, and enter two new characters: Choreographer and Dancer, kicking off a sequence of revelatory scenes which are promptly thwarted by the entrance on stage of the Main Opponent (you-know-who Covid); so follows a lull in the action while it inhabits the stage until at the end of 2022 there occurs a sudden twist of fate – selection for the New Wave Programme at the Bloomsbury Festival in 2023; but this bit of action has to be foreshadowed by other scenes, so along comes a new event – selection to preview the show at the Greenhouse Theatre in July; characters exit, characters stay, new characters enter – Actor, Musician, Designer – and then the setting changes again for the anticipated major event – and we arrive five years later at the ‘where we are now with it’ – Bloomsbury Festival 2023. Not such a long journey, in fact.
Photo: Actor Ella McCormack and Movement Director Sally Marie in rehearsal for The Morphea