Michael Southan’s blog | Write to Play year 4

Posted on 29 March 2017

Michael Southan shares his experiences about being involved in the Write to Play Programme here at the Belgrade Theatre.

Monologue Madness

By Michael Southan

Coventry: home of Lady Godiva, the London Black Cab, and for two and a half days last week, the Graeae Write To Play Year 4 cohort, as we descended upon The Belgrade Theatre for some Monologue Madness!

I arrived in Coventry shortly after 1:15pm last Tuesday, in preparation for our Masterclass with Paines Plough’s James Greive. The first thing I noticed when driving towards the theatre was the gigantic IKEA in the city centre, complete with its own multi-storey car park. Whether such spaces were reserved only for those with flat-pack needs I couldn’t ascertain. I am however pleased to report that it’s as big on the inside as it looks from the outside! (Did you really expect me not to go in?!)

The workshop with James started with writing a two-hundred-word autobiographical story. This was followed by a discussion about making these stories more thematic and how doing things such as raising the stakes of our story can help us along the way. We then spent some time analysing two different drafts of the same play, picking out where things might be improved in later drafts, whether that be in clarity of story or subtext. Having a glimpse into the writer’s process and seeing the difference in the two drafts was eye-opening. Also, knowing that most writers experience draft after draft was really comforting for us going forward. Thank you James!

The day wasn’t through for us yet. That evening we had a trip planned to see The Belgrade’s Young Company show, Rise. This was an enthralling, thought-provoking production with a message of equality at its heart. It was great to see that the theatre is still so firmly attached to its principles of Theatre in Education and engaging with young people.

Friday morning arrived: this was it, the day of our first miniature. This was the day the six monologues got their airing! I met with my mentor Tom and actor Stephen for three hours to get the dust off my monologue, The Litter Tray Manifesto. We spent time dissecting the piece and really getting to grips with what each section meant. This really helped me as a writer, as hearing your work read helps you pick out the bits you perhaps need to clearer on, but also helps you understand your plays better. If there’s one thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to, it’s hearing people analyse what I’ve written. Having someone suggest that this line you’ve written that’s about one thing is actually saying something else is wonderfully bizarre, and Tom and Stephen’s input really elevated what I’d written. With the odd tweak, it was ready to go after lunch.

The afternoon began with a chance to meet the other mentors and find out a bit about their working process. You could tell everyone couldn’t wait to reveal what they’d been working on for the past six weeks. Whilst watching them, what struck me was just how different they all were: whether it was a hen night ending rather explosively, or a mother being face-to-face with her own failures, everyone had their own distinct writing voice. Having spent time with each other since January, we’d got to know one another quite well as people and last week gave us a chance to meet the writers in all of us.

Coming away, what I really feel is just how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such a welcoming community of writers, mentors and creative artists. Thank you to everyone at The Belgrade for being such lovely hosts, and Graeae for entrusting me with this blog over the next month. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a duologue to write.

Until next time folks!