Playwrights’ Studio Scotland is an independent development organisation for playwrights, working with them across the country, including through its talent development programme. As part of its aim to celebrate, promote and develop Scotland’s rich culture of writing for live performance, it has organised a series of discussion sessions (at the Traverse) and workshops (at Fringe Central) enabling established professionals to share some of their thoughts and experiences.
This well-attended workshop focused engagingly upon the processes and challenges of creating multi-media work, especially involving people coming from different disciplines and creative cultures. Director, actor, musician and writer Cora Bissett – perhaps best known for the award-winning Road Kill – opted to explain the process through an interesting personal example: her show, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, brought together 20 writers, bands and performers to create a montage portrait of Scotland between the hours of midnight and 4am. (You'll be able to catch its Fringe debut at the Queen's Hall towards the end of the month.)
An enthusiastic speaker, Bissett explained how she had devised the concept for the show and then approached a core group of contributors to help her make it happen. She also took some time out to give us examples of her working approach to mixing and matching styles and art forms, finding ways for actors (who are innately good at forming very open relationships with other actors, quickly) and musicians (who tend to channel their creativity more tightly through their music) to work in the same room.
To further illustrate the process, Bissett played excerpts from two of the songs written for the project, and then asked for people's impressions of how they might be used theatrically. While no one specifically came up with the scenarios she used in the final show, it was interesting to note how close most of the suggestions came in terms of emotional tone.
Although Bissett was willing to offer attendees a further opportunity to actually create some work using the same processes she had instigated, the eventual choice was made to conclude the workshop with a short Q&A session (Perhaps the fact that there was, disappointingly, only about 15 minutes left was a factor in this). Interestingly, the questions raised focused on largely practical issues, such as applying for public funding and ensuring copyright issues were sorted from the start. In terms of the bigger picture, Bissett left everyone with a reassuring thought; the idea remains key. Although having a recognised track record helped her get Creative Scotland funding for Whatever Gets You Through The Night, such kudos is no alternative to being absolutely enthusiastic about whatever project you're working on: an optimistic and uplifting note to finish on.