WEEK 1: MA DRAMATIC WRITING at CSM Drama Centre by NSR Khan
You can’t remake the world
Without remaking yourself
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unsuspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
Extract from Ben Okri’s 1999 poem Mental Fight
I heard Ben Okri, at the 2012 Edinburgh Book Festival, speak about his collaborative work with an Edinburgh theatre company Lazzi. Together they had adapted his short story Comic Destiny for the stage. At the end of an emotive and evocative session he used an almost throw away phrase. I can’t remember the exact words but it was in effect life and writing and work is about looking for the possibilities, they are everywhere.
There is something about the UAL CSM Dramatic Writing MA which seems to capture that feeling. The course takes the hope and determination you have as a professional or emerging writer and centres it in a practical and tangible context. It is like a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for writers. In our first week alone, we are introduced to so many “possibilities” of where our work will take us, who we will work with, commissions we will be given- that there is an almost fantasy quality about what is on offer. Except these are real commissions, real opportunities to meet the leaders in the dramatic industries, real workshops with real inspirational successful playwrights, TV writers, animators, Principal’s of Drama Centre UAL CSM (Jonathan Martin).
All this is offered in the first week of a course which is characterised by an “active engagement” with industry and a strong emphasis on peer learning and peer collaboration. Bluntly put for any future applicant reading this:
(i) you feel that by the end of the course, your work might actually put “food on the table”, make money and
(ii) you will learn how to work collaboratively and supportively from Day 1. There is no hiding yourself away in a solitary garret to find your muse.
Jennifer Tuckett, our course leader has a deceptive manner. She speaks with charm, animation and interest and yes sometimes quietly, but yes carries a big stick. Not one moment is wasted. There is no fat on this course. Every lean unit of time is used creatively. The first day’s Skills workshops focus on exercises to find the passion in your writing, what you really want, need to write about, not what you intellectually think you should be writing about.
These are not taught as academic theories. Within seconds of sitting in our first UAL seat we are writing new characters’ wants and needs. What I find interesting now, is that when I look through my notes of that week- there are scenes in there I do not remember writing; characters that I do not recognise.
Day 2 was a humbling introduction to Jennifer Tuckett’s work with her collaborative company, the Alligator Club, whose techniques have produced sell-out shows.
Collaboration is a great idea. But really?
We tend think there are rules of writing craft which will guide us through a technical process. For me collaboration is really all about how you get on with people. Collaborative techniques for the theatre are surely lessons for life:
-know your strengths, offer them up to the group
-have the humility to know your weaknesses and listen to others
-but as Alligator Club rule 1 prescribes:
Everyone (including you) has their moment.
Our first Commission is a collaborative one. A piece to celebrate the 50th anniversary Drama Centre. We as a group choose Revolution as a theme. We choose to believe in a world which can change, evolve. Where there are “unsuspected possibilities”.