'Excitement & Trepidation'
by Hannah Soulsby-Phillips
Approaching a new project is always thrilling. And daunting. You have a mind exploding with images, one-liners, character quirks and plot devices. It’s going to be the best thing you’ve ever written. Mamet and Hare are going to kiss your feet and proclaim your genius before the world. And then there’s the other stuff. The self-doubt. The blank page. The inability to forge a path through the overgrown bracken of research. So what’s new? As scriptwriter for Rummage Theatre, I found a rhythm and a way of working that created a first draft which the rest of the company then poured over and reworked. Should this project be any different?
Well yes, actually. Sub deals with a fundamentally masculine topic. Men doing violent things to other men all in the name of misplaced patriotism. Testosterone ridden young adults adopting the tribal mentality of it’s us against them. From the first, I had the anxious thought, ‘but I’m a woman’. I have always written about women. I would consider myself a feminist. So what could I possibly contribute to a discussion about men hating other men? Men who seem to have regressed to a caveman mentality. I’ve procrastinated and stared at my blank page, full of foreboding that I’m just not cut out for this.
And then I understood. Sure, Sub is looking groups of men embroiled in racism and violence. But is that all it is? We’re looking at the National Front and other similar organisations at a time of political and economic unrest, much like today. We’re exploring the culture of the white working class at a time when unemployment was high and futures were uncertain. Already, I’ve come to realise that I’m most interested in the themes of prejudice, appropriation and acceptance that lay beneath. As as woman, can I not understand prejudice? Or trying to belong? Or fear? The details may be masculine but the questions raised by this topic are universal.
My research has made me aware that while white supremacy is deplorable and founded in ignorance, there is a more complicated story to tell. There is a strange melting pot of fear, demoralisation and pride. There is a perpetual cycle of abandonment and poverty all too familiar today. So now, looking at my blank page, I’m going into this project with excitement and trepidation and a level of objectivity that perhaps only a woman could adopt.