Cooper, Zoe (2010)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Prior to writing this play I wrote very definitely from my own private experience and the worlds that I sought to represent were in the personal and private sphere. I did not seek to make any wider political point and my writing could easily have been reduced to what Aleks Sierz refers to as “me and my mates plays”. He typifies these as “small plays about small subjects put on in small places” (2006) by young writers who are still learning their craft. Sierz criticises such plays as little more than indulgent and pointless juvenilia that have limited purpose or meaning beyond that of being a mirror into the writer’s own small world. This is certainly a criticism that could have been very easily levelled at my body of work up to this point. By contrast in writing this play I chose to tackle ambitious and overtly political subject matter from the public sphere. Perhaps predictably this led to my struggling with the scope and scale of what I wanted to say and I had a real difficulty in boiling the play down from a murky mixture of overt polemics, caricatured protagonists and personal but ultimately irrelevant storylines to something that was clear, lucid and poetic and which spoke to its audience rather than to my personal experience as the writer in researching the play. As Steve Waters predicted in my first supervision report: [the idea that seemed] most formed and perhaps represented new ground, that is an examination of the new Green protest… is already well advanced and she has a strong, dispassionate yet shrewd take on the material – the work of making fiction out of it will be the challenge” (2008) The making of the idea into fiction was the ultimate challenge and this was certainly affected by my ability to maintain a “dispassionate yet shrewd outlook” as a dramatist, something which was essential to the writing of the piece but which wavered and at times disappeared under the weight of what I had learnt about the subject, what I wanted to say and my own experiences gained in the research. This difficult negotiation was the cause of the main problems in the conception and writing of the piece but was also, as I will argue here, what led me to invest in a solid framework for what I wanted to say and was, ultimately, the greatest strength of the play.
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