TOOLKIT SERIES 2- Eve Leigh on writing interactive writing

It is important that we bring compassion and understanding to the situation we find ourselves in. This continues to be a tremendously difficult time for theatre and the artists who make it. If we are going to recover from the experiences of the past 12 months, we are going to need playwrights. That is a remarkable endeavour and a huge responsibility – something for which we all have the utmost respect and admiration at the Bruntwood Prize. That is why we are always striving to find ways to support playwrights and encourage people to have the courage to write.

Whether you have been able to be creative or not, we want to try and find ways to support you to continue to be engaged with the craft of writing for performance, engaging with an audience, telling stories and taking people on journeys. We truly hope that this series of on-line workshops – will inspire and support you to be creative and to find new possibilities for your work to be realised.

Eve Leigh is a writer for performance working between theatre, digital, audio, games, and installation work. Her play Salty Irina was shortlisted for the Bruntwood prize in 2019. Here she shares some techniques for anchoring your writing when beginning to write for games, interactive work, and digital performance.

 

What will the audience’s body be doing when they receive this story?

  • What space will they be in? Their own space, with a cup of tea on the sofa? A cultural space? A public space that feels familiar? A public space that’s deliberately strange?
  • What will they be wearing? Pyjamas, work clothes, clothes for a night out, fetish gear? Will you give them a kind of uniform as they come in (masks, clown noses, asking them to remove their shoes)?
  • How will their bodies move when they receive this story? Sitting down? Under the duvet? In Verity Standen’s HUG, the audience was blindfolded and embraced by singers. In my one-on-one piece Your Future, audiences came into a children’s play tent that was uncomfortably small for two adults. The piece was about time travel, and although we never discussed it, I wanted to build in a physical reminder of how small we used to be and how much we’d grown.

Make strong choices when it comes to all of this. Remember nothing about the audience experience needs to be taken for granted, and all of the above will affect how the audience receives your piece.

Give yourself ten minutes to dream about some interesting physical circumstances for a show. For a start, don’t think about narrative. Just think about the bodies you want to make work for, and how you want to accommodate them.

 

What sensations do you want to give them with this piece of work?

For instance, the feeling of playing football is different from the feeling of watching football, which is different from the feeling of playing poker.

  • Do you want to make the audience physically work hard?
  • Do you want to strategically withhold information, and give a feeling of suspense?
  • Do you want to lay out the rules clearly from the start or drop the audience in the middle of a world and let them figure it out?

Take another ten minutes. Build on the bodily world you’ve created in the previous exercise. What would some surprising/contrasting sensations be to give the audience, based on the creative decisions you’ve already made?

 

  1. Now do something different with your body. Have you been sitting down? Go for a walk. Have a shower. Have a nap. I don’t know. Just do something different with your body/your attention for at least ten minutes.

 

Now reread what you’ve written. And write a story. Give this another ten minutes. Try not to think too hard.

Does the story feel like it connects with the bodily/aesthetic world you’ve built? Or does it feel like a strong contrast? Remember that contrast and conflict are essential to drama. If it all fits together too easily, maybe add a little disjunction or irritant that throws the rest of the choices you’ve made into relief.

 

10 key pointers/questions /provocations to consider when thinking about creating work in this particular medium

 

  • If you’re stuck, ask yourself: how does the protagonist win in this situation? OK, now how does the audience win? Many creative problems with game-based/interactive work live somewhere between these two questions. (Please remember that they may have very different answers.)
  • Designing narrative for games is a strange mixture of the new and the ancient. Warcraft and Ring Around the Rosies have more in common than you might think.
  • Don’t be afraid of being simple. Simple game devices survive because they work.
  • Sometimes you try something and it doesn’t work. Be ready to change your mind.
  • Are you bored? Maybe what you’re working on is boring. If so, chuck the bits that bore you. Try again.
  • If you think it sucks, try and find a thoughtful way of expressing that. Too often people are quiet when they know they’re working on bullshit, or they’re assholes about it. Speaking up is a way of being loyal to the thing you’re making, and the art form you’re working in. But take responsibility and don’t be a prick about it.
  • All of the above is perhaps a way of saying: have faith that you can do better.
  • Not knowing much about tech is not an impediment to game design. First of all, if someone is hiring you to do narrative design, they will probably also have hired a tech person. But there are also tonnes of free, user-friendly, DIY platforms you can adapt for your own purposes.
  • Your own distinctive sense of cool is a powerful thing. What do you think is cool? Is what you’re making cool to you? (“To you” is the key here. Other people’s idea of what’s cool is not necessarily your idea of what’s cool. Make stuff that’s cool TO YOU, not to some imagined gatekeeper or whatever.)
  • Interactive/online/game-based work is more obviously connected to the attention economy than classical theatre. This can be intimidating. But another way of thinking about it is that it’s more embedded in the texture of ordinary life. For me, this is very exciting.

 

A few more pieces to look at 

 

Paper Stages by Forest Fringe https://forestfringe.co.uk/paper-stages-2020/

Hannah Nicklin – Suspension of disbelief in game design https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQhs_89n9V4

 

Eve Leigh is a playwright and theatre maker. Plays include “Midnight Movie” (Royal Court, London); “While You Are Here” (The Place / Dance East, London); “The Trick” (Bush Theatre, London, national tour); “The Curtain” (Young Vic / Taking Part, London). Installations include “Movimento/Variations” (36 маймуни, Sofia); “Your Future” (HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin / SOPHIENSÆLE, Berlin / Ballhaus Ost, Berlin / Camden People’s Theatre, London). Eve Leigh was a Royal Court Jerwood playwright 2019, and artist-in-residence at the Experimental Stage of the National Theatre of Greece 2017.

Published on:
3 Mar 2021

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