The Physic Garden

Finally finished another draft of the new play. Well, I use the word 'finished' loosely, since plays are never finished but hang around in your head, demanding to be tweaked. I suppose what I mean is that it really is time to stop for a bit, let it lie fallow, maybe let somebody else have a look at it - and come back to it in a little while. This is a two hander about William and Thomas. William is a gardener and Thomas is a doctor. The play is set in the early 1800s in Glasgow, and these were real people. I've called the play The Physic Garden for so long that I can't think of it as anything else, but still feel that An Uncommon Gardener may be a better title.
What is it about? The question every writer dreads. (Along with 'Are you still writing?' of course.) It's about an uncommon gardener and a lecturer in botany. It's about two men from quite different stations in life who are nevertheless friends. It's about (I increasingly realised as I wrote it) at least one of them loving the other, though in denial about it. It's also about botany versus anatomy, about a passion for green and growing things, versus the showmanship of dissection. It's about disappointment and the desire for success, about the fear of poverty and aspirations than can never be fulfilled. From this end of the process I realise that these are big ideas for what is really quite a small play - three longish scenes. Maybe I am trying to pour a pint into a half pint pot. Don't know. It may need to be longer and have more characters. But perhaps not yet. Of the two, William the gardener has become so real to me that I can see him move and hear him speak. So why is it Thomas that I find myself feeling sorry for?
These days, I write plays the way I used to write poems. I have this uncontrollable impulse to pare the language down and make line endings and rhythm and punctuation - or lack of it - matter. The shape on the page becomes important as well as the shape on the stage. Love doing it, love hearing these voices and seeing these people move, and love seeing what actors make of it (when I can!) but in the writing of it am like somebody feeling my way through a dark maze. Not sure where I'm going or if I'll get there in the end.

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