Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Scripting Dramaturgy: Deborah McAndrew

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Deborah McAndrew: Process varies according to the nature of the work. Commission of original play is different to adaptation. Adaptation of novel is different to adaptation of classic foreign language play. Writing a play that just wants to be written - without commission - is different again.

Process will usually involve dramaturgy at a first draft stage. I generally work alone until that point. As a rule there will then be a read through with actors after draft two, followed by a final draft.

Having said that, I'm currently working on a complex site-specific piece that has involved trying out bits of script in situ with actors, director, designer and dramaturg before a complete first draft is anywhere near. This because I need to build so many technical considerations into the writing.

Actually - with most plays there is housekeeping to consider. The number of actors is usually in a brief, and I often have to consider venues on tour. No point in writing something that depends on end on or proscenium configuration if the show is also to be performed in traverse and the round. I try to give the designer a fighting chance.

In general, when producing a first draft I just get it down, then do a pass to develop characterisation so everyone starts to sound unique. This will also involve cutting of overwritten lines and to remove as many of my writer's ticks as possible - favourite turns of phrase etc… and 'nesting' at the start of lines with 'well' 'yes' 'no' 'oh' etc… After this general clean up and tidying of any glaringly inconsistent plot strands it might be called draft 1 and passed to director and/or dramaturg for development.

I find every project is different and that it's important to be responsive always to the brief. Theatre is a collaborative form eventually anyway.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
I always have the audience very firmly in mind. I am constantly considering the audience's experience, and putting myself in their place. Asking - what's their journey? How does the play engage (seduce even) and then surprise? Does the piece amuse, move, satisfy? I'm quite a fan of Aristotle (Poetics) and use a lot of his analytical tools in teaching my students and in examining my own work. It seems to me that Aristotle always has the audience's experience in the foreground - probably because he was not a dramatist or actor himself and so analysed from the outside. This is the right focus. The audience is central. They are the ultimate collaborator and without them there is no drama.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
Just to say that dramaturgy is useful, but it always needs to be clear and well structured. There is a slightly mystical part to any creative process and you can't really talk about that without sounding a bit pretentious. However, it is possible to be quite surgical (scientific even) in approaching dramaturgy - precisely considering the component parts of drama: structure, dialogue, characterisation, plotting etc… If it's woolly, it's no use.

Award winning playwright and actor Deborah McAndrew studied Drama at Manchester University, followed by a PGCE in Drama and Special Education at Bretton Hall College.

Deborah has been a guest lecturer at The University of Staffordshire for the past six years, working on Documentary Theatre, Acting modules and Play Writing. Her previous educational work includes guest lecturing at the Universities of Manchester and Bolton. She also has a broad experience of working with children and young people, coaching for LAMDA exams, and in schools for Creative Partnerships.

In her acting career Deborah has worked extensively in theatre, television and radio. Theatre credits include work for London and regional theatres and national touring. Deborah has appeared regularly on BBC Radio Drama for over twenty years. Credits for 2015 will include returning as regular DS Sue Kelly in season 6 of BBC Radio 4 series, STONE. In addition to numerous guest appearance on television, Deborah played regular, Angie Freeman, in CORONATION STREET in the 1990s.

Deborah’s career as a produced and published playwright now spans over a decade. Her play AN AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY LARK won Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards 2014. Deborah is also founder and Creative Director of Claybody Theatre Company, based in Stoke-on-Trent.

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