My Button's Popped: young playwrights at Lochend
Lochend High School are one of five Star Organisations commissioned by SBT to showcase great work celebrating Book Week Scotland 2013. Here, poet and playwright Skye Loneragan describes working with pupils from Lochend to create hard-hitting drama, to be staged during BWS!
Your mission, if you so choose to accept it, is to respond through playwrighting to the idea of damages caused by alcohol with three S2 students, who currently attend Lochend High School and have recently been involved in an alcohol awareness program. Lucky enough to be taught, challenged and inspired by the passionate Eleanor Bell, these students have chosen to explore new writing and drama, though their experience of writing drama, and for some, watching theatre, is next to nil. Their work will eventually be performed at the Bridge cultural centre in Lochend.
You choose to kick off the first of two sessions with a poem, after shocking the students out of their beautiful shells with a few fairly physical ice-breakers, (dramatic distractions, game-playing) and assuring them that it is indeed ok to laugh. You share your own poem, Contrast, about someone very drunk and possibly homeless whom you saw try to congratulate a bride and stranger in Central Park, where, you say, the “grass is greener/ when it is lit by the sun”. You ask these talented three to write their own response and the magic has begun.
You choose to explore how a drink can affect our relationships, through asking these three incredibles to write from the point of view of the bottle in the poem, or the bride, or the man who holds his grubby hands out in congratulations, or a passerby. You ask these young playwrights to dwell on what these people might want, what gets in their way, what secret they hold in their pocket. You share and sift these responses into catchphrases that then become dialogue and you set up scenes in which these writers become actors and find a whole new set of actions and possibilities based on what they didn’t know they were going to say.
By the end of several improvisations - involving a stumbling alcoholic who keeps repeating the phrase, “My button has popped”, a scene in which a bride wants the perfect wedding but is hampered by her own long-lost brother’s drunken behaviour, and a whole monologue written from the point of the view of ‘Le Bucky’ (The Bottle), in which they are always pouring their insides out, they just want to be full and “loved for the right reasons”– a whole new play emerges.
You play back their own voices, recorded on a smartphone while they were playing, and point out what works so well. You share with them what of their work you’ve scooped into the scriptwriting software, Final Draft. You share what you feel is most interesting for an audience. You send it on, mission accomplished – three scenes, three exceptional students and a tiny little bit of drama due for rehearsal. A whole new poem starts to stitch itself inside your head, your heart is buoyed for a bit as you stare out a bus window past The Platform arts centre, a neon-bright McDonalds sign, a now misty green light. You like the title, My Button’s Popped, it makes you chuckle. You tighten your coat’s woollen black belt against the karate cold and head for Glasgow central, mission headquarters.
You can read more about the work of current and previous Star Organisations on our Book Week Scotland for Schools page, where you'll also find lots of resources to help you create a reading culture in your school!
You can also find out a bit more about Lochend's project in this article in UK Education News.