Supporting Lamda’s ACT NOW Appeal
The other night I went to a performance of “The Play that goes WRONG”, which is currently playing at the Duchess Theatre. This particular performance was given in order to raise funds for LAMDA’S appeal, ACT NOW, which is for their new buildings programme.
The play was pure slapstick and not intellectually challenging in the least. It made for the perfect evening’s entertainment on a hot summer’s day. However, it started me thinking of the great gulf that exists between writing for the theatre and writing fiction. Up until now I have written for all forms of theatre, mainly concentrating on biographical dramas. It has to be said that portraying famous people on the stage, gives the dramatist certain limitations, but in spite of this, I always found writing dialogue a good deal easier than the descriptive passages needed for a work of fiction. It also helped when writing plays to have been at drama school. The training I received there gave me a knowledge of what worked, and what didn’t work, when writing a play. No such help has been forthcoming when writing fiction. Although the dialogue still comes easily, the descriptive passages remain for me an arduous task and something of a struggle. There is also none of the help from the set and costumes that you have in drama. Every detail in fiction has to be described in words and brought to life on the page. This is a technique I am having to acquire and concentrate on. I am also beginning to realise that descriptive passages that are too long will bore the reader and hold up the story-line. On the other hand too little description and you find yourself reverting to being a dramatist again and failing to give your book substance or to setting the scene.
One of our most distinguished novelists once told me she would find it impossible to write for the theatre. I think many fiction writers probably feel the same way for the above reasons. It is a very different craft. Of course, there are always exceptions, people who have managed successfully to do both. But not many.
So a fascinating challenge lies before me and one that will demand both discipline and patience.