Write to Life Workshop 1

Tom and I ran a writing workshop for the Write to Life group at Freedom From Torture on the 3rd February. The main aim of the workshop was to write monologues based on characters the participants had created. The theme of the monologues was HOME.

The participants have experience in writing and publishing poetry. This workshop was focused on writing for theatre. We began by talking about my play NINE LIVES, which some of the members of the group had seen the show the week previous. It was an opportunity for them to ask me questions about the play and also share their thoughts about the play.

What stood out the most to me was their connections to the characters and their truths. They found similarities within their own experiences with loneliness, disconnection to a place, a loss of home, living in limbo and dealing with the Home Office.

The play was also the basis of the workshop. I wanted the participants to use the monologue structure to write on a subject matter that they may find difficult to speak about from their point of view. We talked about monologues, watched clips of the play and read through the monologues that appear in the play.

The first writing task was a free write exercise. In this task the participants listen to three different pieces of music. I played them : ‘Eleggua’ by Ibeyi (Yoruba chant),  ‘Home’ by Rudimental (Drum and Bass) and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen (Glam Rock). The aim is for them to listen to the music and write the first thing that comes to them. This isn’t work that will be shared. This is for them, their personal thoughts. This is to get them to respond to a provocation and clear their minds.

The second task was to randomly select people that had been cut out from newspapers and magazines. The people were face down on the table. This is done so that they don’t pre-empt the characterization. It is done in the moment and gets them out of selecting based on their comfort zones. They chose from a wide selection of races and ages.

They had to come up with a profile of who their character was. They told us their name, age, ethnicity, places of birth, residence, occupations, favourite food, dislikes and likes, family and friendship groups and so on.

From there I asked them to complete this statement in their character’s voice:  ‘The PLACE I CALL HOME IS……..’ This was the main section of the workshop.

From this we got responses that found home to be a physical place, for example a flat that the character still didn’t feel was home but the place they existed in; and some that described a metaphorical home such as a catwalk and wherever the character’s suitcase was.

What was great about the participants was their willingness to write outside of themselves and far away from themselves. Though we still got traces of their experiences through the characters, they relished the opportunity to create new identities in their characters. As they read out their monologues you could see them adopting the character’s mannerisms and accents.  There is an interest within the group regarding the performative element of theatre.

We left thinking that it would be beneficial for the group, as writers, to work with Tom in the next session on the process of working with a director and actors (which we will bring in next week). I will help them finalise their monologues and prepare them for an actor/s to work on and perform.

All in all it was a good start to the sessions : )