Was lucky enough to be invited to attend the workshop on adapting texts for the stage oranised by FIRSTWoRKS/Instant Cafe Theatre and was much brain-boggled by the company I found myself in ... the other participants included stars in the theatrical firmament Ann Lee, Kee Thuan Chye, Jo Kukathas, Anne James, Thor Kah Hoong as well as best-selling author (!) and screen writer Kam Raslan, Zedeck Siew of Kakiseni, Bernice Chauly of the myriad talents, and the group of budding playwrights being nurtured by FIRSTWoRKS: Animah Kosai, Ridzwan Othman, Rahel Joseph and Shanon Shah.
Laurence Strangio the writer/director of Alias Grace talked us through the process of adapting his play from Atwood's novel telling us that he only drew on Grace's first person narration, and then only a small proportion of that. Although the film rights have been bought he said, it would be a very difficult film to make a movie because one of the most delightful ambiguities of the book is whether the mysterious peddler Jeremiah is the same person as Dr. Jerome La Pont, who hypnotises her. In the novel and in the play it is possible, Laurence says, for both possibilities to live at the same time.
He says he read and reread the book, putting post-it notes on the sections he liked best and then typing them onto computer. He says he played "fast and loose" with the arc of the story, and says he knew the book well enough to reinvent it. The first draft was three and a half hours long when read through, and was, of course, substantially cut. Laurence also showed us transparencies of a particular scene so we could see how it had changed over time, and explained how the actor's portrayal of the role (in this case Caroline Lee) fed into the way the work was written.
We talked about reasons for adaptation, and then we discussed texts that we had brought along to the workshop to adapt.
On the second day we drew a poster presentation of the key touchstones of our texts and here're some photos. (I put the full set on Flickr.)
Kee Thuan Chye hard at work ...
Me, being creative on the floor! I chose Tinling Choong's FireWife since I'd just finished reading it and found it very visual. (Eight women, eight photographs, fire, water).
Bernice wrestles Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia down to the ground!
Kam show-and-telling his take on Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Chye and Ridzwan inspect the posters. (I think they're looking at the naked lady covered in sushi picture on mine!)
The most exciting part of the workshop I think was when single images were taken and improvisations built around them creating a new set of striking images.
Now adapting a text to a play is something I would very much like to do and seems more manageable somehow than starting from scratch ...