This Is A Love Song is a play about a lot of different things. Mainly it’s about time. The idea of time passing is imperative to the story of the play, but it’s also central to the process it took to write. Two years have transpired since the first ideas for the play came into my head, and we’ve both seen a lot of jolting and jarring change.
The previous month has been feverish, but at the very end, there’s a little bit of time where everything feels still and quiet. While tidying my room one day, I think that maybe the next play I write should be a love story.
Two concepts start to develop: one is that the theatricality of the play should grow as the relationship grows, and the other is the idea of love on a deadline – how films like Before Sunrise and Eternal Sunshine push more emotional connection because of the fact this love will be going away. I’m walking to the big Sainsbury’s and listening to the Pulp song ‘Like A Friend’ when the final image of the play comes to me.
I start to get really inspired by the idea. I read Sarah Kane’s complete works, Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and watch my friend’s plays to the moors and re:Woyzeck. I’m actually crashing in Sam Nason’s room for a wee bit when I write a word vomit of the last scene. It feels special.
I write the first draft in about a week, visiting my favourite pub for a few hours each day and sitting with a half pint in a corner seat, so no one can look over my shoulder. Writing first drafts is the only time where I feel like Jo March – sitting down, fully concentrating, fierce, being ambidextrous just to get the story out. When it’s done, I know it sucks, but I feel proud.
November 2019-Feb 2020
Things get bad again around this time. I’m a big redrafter, but looking at this thing just feels knotty and exhausting. At some point, Megan Farquhar, our co-director, reads it. She has a lot of notes, but she says it’s her favourite thing I’ve done.
March 1st-8th 2020
I get to do the sound design on the VAULTS festival play She Is A Place Called Home and have a lovely time. I feel reenergized and optimistic about theatre and about the future, and decide to properly, properly give this play a shot.
Rest of March 2020
I give up on the play entirely.
Somehow, I’ve managed to feel a climb back towards the light. I get back to my flat in Birmingham and read the last draft. I like it a lot more than I remember, and I think I know exactly how to fix it. That’s a pretty positive way to read your own work.
Megan says we should enter it into NSDF. A couple of days later, I realise that’s probably exactly where it’s meant to be.
I think it’s done. I send it to a few friends for feedback and get a really nice response – some people literally say perfect and some say helpful things that have given me a lot of comfort. Megan and I ask four people we really admire to be our cast, and they all say yes. Midway through our first readthrough, we realise that they’re perfect. I feel confident about where the play’s going.
But we still do a few rehearsals! Just chatting, mostly about our favourite films and plays and gigs. It’s really lovely.
January 21st, 2021
We propose it to NSDF. They’re all lovely about it. I forget to ask when we’ll hear back so spend the next few weeks constantly refreshing my emails.
February 2nd, 2021
When sitting with my mum and arbitrarily checking my phone, I see the email from Lizzie.
We tell our cast of students and/or full-time workers that they have to spend their recreational time on Zoom. This starts a pattern of me feeling guilty about the difficult situations the cast sometimes have to be in, and them responding with warmth and exquisite work. Another pattern begins where, midway through the week, something happens that completely devastates my confidence. But it starts to get there. Each week feels better than the last.
March 24th, 2021
My brain jolts me awake at 6. I open my laptop and change the length of a cut. Megan watches it and changes it back. Then we send it to NSDF. A few hours later, I can see it on their Vimeo page. There’s nothing left to do.
This Is A Love Song will be shown in a few days and I have no idea what people will think of it. When looking back over these dates, there’s a lot of times where playwriting does not make sense to me. Where it feels arbitrary and overwhelming, and utterly lonely.
But what does make sense is the way Gina Hunt chooses her pauses to make something I’ve written feel brand new to me. The way Emily Storme smiles as she lists off her friends in the final scene. The way Sam Nason says “hey” in his first line as George. The way Tom Garrett’s eyes spark when he’s saying a line I think he likes. The way Ruth Berry expresses her unabashed and honest enthusiasm no matter what. The way Megan Farquhar comes alive in rehearsal and offers up these utterly unique and beautiful ideas. And the wonderful moments across the past few months where I got to sit back and listen to these people talk about these things that were in my head for two years.
I’m not sure what future this play has, but regardless, I’m happy it happened the way it did.