Performances: Camden People’s Theatre, London (2017) (https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/hotbed-big-bang-2/)
A Speaks slowly matured from 2013’s The Spy Who (Platonically) Loved Me into a much, much more subtle piece on the same topic. It told the tale of two asexuals - one talking to the audience, one a patient with her therapist - and stylistically, I’d broadly describe it as a clown play.
I’m trying to make each show page on this site do something a bit different - but to do this properly, I’m going to have to make this page really long. Because, although it grieves me to reflect on SWPLM, but it shows a lot of how my writing’s developed over the past few years.
SWPLM was a story of an asexual James Bond-type character, interviewing for a job while battling the evil Professor Von Flipkitten. The jokes were at best unfunny, at worst crass, and I didn’t listen to my team telling me this. Its attempt to push an issue (asexual representation) was heavy handed, and its reinvention of old tropes was crude, rather than archetypal.
In short, it was dreadful. The best thing to come out of it was thirty seconds of surprisingly harmonious wolflike howling.
After SWPLM, A Speaks began to gestate.
Draft 1: Starts 30th April 2014. Expanded SWPLM’s concept to a sprawling cast of asexual clichés playing action heroes, most as unfunny and ill-made as the original. Then a writer-character emerged - the eponymous A. A was writing a naturalistic (melo)drama, following all the arcs you’d expect of an ‘issues piece’. The whole piece was a mess. Ends 2nd July 2014.
Draft 2: Starts 5th July 2014. The action heroes were gone. Some of them survived as ‘The Patient’, who grew up between the different-aged asexual clichés of maiden, drone, hag, and ice queen (my thanks to Pratchett). At last, some of the characters weren’t (un)funny or (un)realistic. The Patient was genuinely moving, and A’s confessions were increasingly in their own mouth, not their characters’. Ends 23rd July 2014.
Draft 3: Starts 28th July 2014. Some of the characters in A’s naturalistic drama had been cut out, but they still hogged most of the stage time. The stories flowed better from one to the other. Really, what this piece needed was some time in a drawer so I could come back to it and realise that those characters were really dull. Or for me to go and meet the Milk Presents team three years later. Ends 11th August 2014.
Draft 4: Starts 12th August, 2014. For some competition or other, A Speaks gets heavily cut down in this draft. Tragically, I cut the stuff that seemed peripheral to the naturalistic drama. Despite the fact that I a) don’t particularly like naturalistic drama b) at this point, write it really badly. Ends 21st September, 2014.
Draft 5/6/7: Starts 28th January, 2015. Because I am weirdly proud of A Speaks at this point, I redraft it for the London Student Drama Festival competition. I have other stuff going on at the time (like finishing my degree), so make few changes. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t make the shortlist. Ends 2nd February, 2015.
Draft 8: Starts and ends 23rd August, 2015. A few trims. The free-shifting structure is broadly in place by now - clearly, the Beta Males’ sketch storytelling has had an impact on me - but it’s still written for about eight people. Draft 9’s where things finally start shaping up.
Draft 9: Starts 18th January, 2016. After six months in the drawer, I revisit A Speaks for The Octagon Prize, cutting out all the awful ‘issues play’ melodrama to make it into a monologue piece for A, The Patient, and their (pre-recorded) Doctor. By this point, I’d had the pleasure of meeting Leo Skilbeck of Milk Presents, and having my mind opened to the world of queered forms - a way to understand a lot of what I’d been trying to do.
Now, A’s text moved like a fluent piece of observational standup, while The Patient’s sections told a clear story of a young woman realising that her doctor’s misleading her. It doesn’t win the Prize, but it’s finally looking like something I’d want to see. Ends 16th February, 2016.
Draft 10: Starts 29th December 2016. I ready something for Camden People’s Theatre’s Hotbed: A Festival of Sex. I applied with a piece about asexuality for one of their shorts nights, and was somewhat surprised to get it. But I was delighted - because by this point, A’s dull standup was augmented by the somewhat asexual art of clowning, while (by reusing exactly the 1 piano stool and a suit jacket) The Patient became a gentle and powerful woman. All the threads seemed well-made, and every line seemed necessary. Ends 1st May 2017.
If we include sub-drafts, it took 93 versions to get to what was eventually performed. I loved presenting it to the world - and I’m very glad that what was eventually presented was really finished.
Will it get another outing? Not sure - hopefully someone will be interested. And if not, it was worth it for seeing me learn how to structure, redraft, and understand what I was trying to do.
Took me long enough.
“Great and inviting. Also very playful and fun.”
- Audience feedback
“A wonderful creative exploration”
- Audience feedback