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The Drifting

A collaborative play/an online world.

The last year has seemed straight out of science fiction. Outside, a virus rages. It transmits rapidly, rampages through borders and gives rise to a whole host of restrictions, rules and regulations. The world is turned upside down. Police patrol the street. Public gatherings of more than two/six/one/an ever-changing number become a criminal offence.

We all cover our face. Soon, it is law that everyone must take on the persona of the bandit; harlequins; surgeons. Social contact is minimised. Travel is limited. Individual rights are gradually (or not) waylaid, under the pretext of safety. Crime creeps. Violence is voracious and addiction accelerates.

Our leaders don’t know what to do. Science and business do battle. Economics slaughters social care. Drastic steps to combat the virus then in turn prove fatal. The world sort of stops. Death-rates soar, both from Covid-19 and the disorganised, draconic measures which are then put in place to curb it. Contradiction and disarray become endemic. So does the virus. Services cease. A lot of things are put on hold, like education. Health. Art.

People really suffer. Pandemic. Pandemonium. People die.

The first lockdown hit me hard. Isolation dragged. At first, it wasn’t so bad. I tried to believe that it would soon be all over. It really wasn’t so bad, after all. (After the initial terror that I could kill someone by going outside). By the third one, I’d stopped caring. I had accepted that life would never be normal again. That potentially I could be shielding forever. But also, perhaps I’d started to adapt. A lot of my world, which had previously been so people orientated, became virtualised.

In February 2021, as I was beginning to rise out of a particularly crippling illness and accompanying depression, information about Hidden Spire 2021 popped up in my inbox. A booklet directed to the Creative Collective set the task of writing four pieces centred around four prompts. Rowan asked for anything, from fully detailed monologues and dialogues to rough character profiles. Her goal is to weave our words together and create a play. It will be titled The Drifting.

What we know, goes like this:

After it happened the water came. Deeper and faster than before. Washing away whole communities overnight. Those that were left gathered what they could and drifted….

I found this idea of drifting resonated with me and how I’d felt over the last year. That I’d been drifting. Trying to decipher new paths. So much of the old all washed away.

Zoom sessions were held in which we had the opportunity to free-write and then give each other feedback. At first, I was very nervous about all this. I had a special hatred in my heart reserved for technology: all the issues. All the faffing. Updates. Problems, etc. And would it work? Wouldn’t it be weird?

Maybe, at first. But it was so wonderful to see faces that I’d missed in over a year. & to see some new ones! 😊 Classes were arranged on Thursday evenings for the public. And then on Wednesday afternoon for Crisis members. Unfortunately, this aforementioned hatred of technology and its subsequent woes meant that I missed the first couple, but once I’d attended my first… I was hooked.

Over lockdown, I hadn’t done all that much writing. Maybe at the start, and maybe in the last couple of months. But for almost a year, all was mostly barren. These classes kickstarted my brain. They were crazily conducive to creativity. It was shocking how much you could splurge on a page in 25 minutes. It was invigorating and inspiring to then discuss a myriad of takes on the same prompts.

When I first looked at the booklet, although I had these ideas, I also had this niggling in the back of my mind that there was no way I’d ever get it done and sent in by March 22nd. But the Zoom sessions sent my mind whirling.

I didn’t write or send them in order. I started with Prompt 3: “Washed up and still grubby… my life in tatters”, which was what we looked at in the second Zoom session I joined in with. I created a monologue about a woman who has tried to disconnect from her past in every way possible. But when disaster hits, her only chance of survival is in reconnection. I then worked on Prompt 4: “I’m just an optimistic drifter… my glass is always half-full”. I saw this statement as having a deeper meaning. Just how optimistic was this character, really, underneath it all? Then I jumped to Prompt 1: “I am the character of my own ship… and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise”. While at first I brainstormed a male character, I then totally turned on this idea. My captain is a woman. She’s a survivor. She’s oh so serious. Lastly, I worked on the dialogue, Prompt 2: “We were fools in love… unable to see any obstacles in our way”. Rowan had set a challenge of trying to incorporate an animal into one of our pieces. I dreamed up a couple who become besotted with a fox cub. But is she really as cute and innocent as she seems? Or is it something more sinister?

We were encouraged to think about how the characters would speak. How they would move. To consider what they wanted. We were encouraged to hand in as much as possible. The pieces didn’t need to be finished. Rowan’s going to cut them up and mix them up. Their destiny is unknowable. The important thing was that she got them.

Again I have to state just how struck I was by how relevant and resonant all this drifting was, as were other members of the Creative Collective. I think I used it as an outlet for a lot of pent-up mindlessness, inanity. My characters are mostly female. The only male remains the most underdeveloped. This reflects my experience as a woman. In my characters, I considered different modes of adapting, in the face of adverse circumstances. When I got into it, the words flowed out easily (but obviously it’s all, simultaneously, riddled with mistakes). My characters have absorbed a lot of the overfill that lockdown had imposed. Or something. 😊


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