Updated: Jul 24, 2018
Extinguished Things is a new one-woman show I’ve written for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been staring at it on my laptop for months, and it’s graduated from its one-dimensional, blue-light backed, digital form into an actual paper script. And now the actress has it in her hands.
The actress is going ‘what the fuck is this?‘
I’m the actress.
I’m sure this is perfectly normal.
Extinguished Things started out as a First Draft at The Yard Theatre, in December 2017. Back then I had the luxury of sharing whatever my ‘first draft’ looked like; in that case, some hesitant chat, a few pages of text, and a cup of tea in my grip. These work-in-progress platforms and events, supported by theatres and venues such as The Yard, give people like me - who would happily postpone the writing process until my retirement – a chance to shit myself in front of an audience, in a really freeing way. It’s the feel-the-pressure-no-pressure process. For me, these are the most important baby steps you ever take with a new thing, a piece, an idea. Put it in front of an audience (all 17 of them) on a cold Thursday night, look them in the eye and say – ‘sorry’ – and then say what you’ve been thinking; say the stuff that fell on the page.
At the end some of the audience might still be awake.
So you’ve learnt something.
That first draft stayed wedged in my dropbox folder, like a doorstop, for months. I was quite happy to just leave it there. But sometimes half-finished things want to be finished more than you want to finish them.
Originally what I wanted this play to be about was simple; I wanted to tell the story of a childless marriage over time. I wanted to look under the rock of a marriage, at its calluses and curves. I wanted to wonder what long-term commitment looks like when we stay together for no one other than ourselves. Marriage fascinates me; this most commonplace of unions, the utterly compelling yet bewildering need to institutionalise ourselves. I’m in awe of people who do it, because I find it a terrifying prospect. To me, it is a combination of stultifying convention and a beautiful, bold disregard for statistics. Who are you going to love until you die? Because that’s what you have to say out loud, you say ‘til death.’
So when I started to write about marriage, I automatically started to think about death.
It’s a proper cheery show.
Needless to say, when you start to write a show about, anything - about birth, for instance, you end up writing about loss, and when you start to write a show about hope you end up making a show about regret. Sometimes you hold so tight to the thing that hooked you, that you don’t see it’s grown another head and is staring you out.
So, at the moment, this small play is a bit about marriage, and a lot about legacy, and heritage, and parenting, and your neighbourhood, and your identity, and children. It’s about what happens in the middle, between the birth and the death. Which is something we’re each experts in, as we navigate our way through it.