Monday, July 09, 2007

Adaptation

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 ...

8 comments:

Animah the New Lable said...

Sharon, You have LABLED me! I am humbled, honoured, I shall name my next cat after you.

I shall now walk around for the rest of the day feeling like a STAR. Pardon me while I powder my nose....

Amir said...

Alert readers will know that the title of Sharon's latest post, Adaptation, isn't just a lazy description, but is in fact a wittily discreet, non-interventionist adaptation of the title of the film Adaptation !

lil ms d said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/fashion/08librarian.html?ref=fashion

sorry sharon - but thought you may like this :) always always wanted to be one...

bibliobibuli said...

amir - wow! well spotted! with the subtext of making the adaptation a lot more thrilling than the original!

animah - welcome to stardom!

love it ms d and it deserves a post of its own

Amir said...

Oh by the way, the name is spelled Shanon Shah. He does not have the same name as the sclerotic scribe of SHIT.

bibliobibuli said...

that means a lot of other people have spelt it wrong too on the internet! will correct thanks

what would i do without you???

Anonymous said...

Awesome cleavage shot.

Anonymous said...

Goodness, can't a book be just a book anymore ? people don't read books for entertainment these days ?