Friday, October 21

A Tempest in the School Teapot

Now for my great idea!  Here we go!  The deep breath before the plunge.

I have a drama assignment which is due unnervingly soon.  For it, I am requiring to whip up, out of nothing, a script that reflects issues, values and ideals that I believe "encompass" Australian identity from a heritage or contemporary perspective.  Which basically means that I can do anything as long as it has something distinctly Australian in it somewhere.

With this incredibly broad guideline, I fiddled and flirted with ideas for a week or so, but even after discussing how I could play with and further these ideas with my teacher, I still felt as though I was getting no where. 

Then, right out of the blue, one of my close friends gave me this simple but profound suggestion.  Why don't I use a short story that I've written as a framework for my play?  For a couple of seconds, this was flatly swilling around my mind, and then I remembered, all of a sudden and sizzling with brilliance, a short story that I wrote earlier this year and with which you are familiar. 

Do you remember my Extraordinarily Ordinary challenge?   I challenged you to write a paragraph or more that either made something ordinary extraordinary or made something extraordinary ordinary.  My response to the challenge was this: 


When the ceiling began to leak, they used every cup, bowl, pot, pan, jug and vase they could find to catch the drips in. That is, every cup, bowl, pot, pan, jug, and vase they could find except for grandma's white and blue bone china teacup.

There was certainly something sacred about her teacup. There was never any discussion. Even when everything else was used up, nobody considered for a moment using that particular teacup. There was an unspoken agreement, heavy like an ancient and venerated charm in the air. Grandma has always taken tea in that cup.

To use Grandma's teacup would have been much the same as eating out of her majesty, the Queen's own crown. It needed no discussion. They knew without speaking, nearly without thinking, that it was wrong. Just the same as respecting royalty, Grandma's white and blue bone china teacup was sacred. So the drips continue to tinkle hour after hour like fairy chimes into every last cup, bowl, pot, pan, jug, and vase they could find.
I then thought deeply about the phrase "a storm in a teacup".  I would imagine you know what it means but I'll still outline it.  It pretty well means, to use a similar cliche, "to make mountains out of molehills", or to make a big deal of something that is unimportant.

Hence a lovely connected to the story itself.  I was making the teacup more important than it would normally be. There is also, of course, the more literal sense of the storm actually dripping into the teacup through the leaky roof.

Before I go any further, I would just like to explain that we can also use multi-media conventions in our play as well, which might take the form of a video or audio clip or a powerpoint. 
OK. So I was thinking the play will start with two minutes of unbroken rain sounds on a backing track.  It will continue on during the play, but will be very soft in the background while there is dialogue.  This is a sample of the track, and it does pretty well exactly the same thing for exactly half an hour, which is going to be very appropriate for my designs. 

Picture the scene: two sisters, one older, one quite young, will be sitting in the middle of the stage on a black drama block, surrounded by pots, pans, cups etcetera, scattered about on the floor.   Behind them and to the left will be a cabinent, in which will sit the grandmother's china teacup, alone. 
There is still one leak and this drips on the younger girl's head. She asks if they can put a cup under it, but the elder replies that there is none left but grandma's china teacup, and then that gets them talking about why they mustn't use that one. The elder girl tells the younger sister the story of the teacup.

Their grandmother's house was washed away in the '74 floods, and she lost everything except that particular teacup. Because she was rich, some people thought that the house wouldn't matter - that she had plenty of money to rebuild and furniture a brand new home and shouldn't be weighed down by that old one, ('a storm in a teacup'), but it was much much more to her than just a home. It was her childhood memories and everything she had ever done was based in that home. She had a deep emotional connection with that house, with that plot of land. The teacup was the only memory that had been saved from complete destruction.

Now, there is a dramatic convention that we can use that will be handy here.  While a character is telling a story, actors an be out the front, acting the story out as she tells it, like her imagination's visualisation. I was thinking that while she is telling this story, the whole thing will be acted out on the front of the stage before them, so you're constantly watching something.  And I would love to act out the flood itself, and have actors in complete drama blacks so they're invisible against the black background, supporting the grandmother on a raft as if she is floating.  Her teacup can thus float past and the whole scene will have a sense of magic about it. 

Right at the end, they'll stop talking after making a really good, metaphorical point, (yes, still working on it), and then they will sit in silence with the rain sounds in the background for two minutes before the blackout.

I am amazingly excited about it, because I not only have something solid and tangible to work with, but I am exceedingly happy with it.  It is probably one of the only times I've been able to use all of my very own material and ideas for a big assignment like this.  And I think that the result could prove to be very wonderful indeed.  I swear to share it as soon as it's written!

(Points for anyone who recognised the post title as one of the chapter titles from Anne of Green Gables.)


  1. Thanks for such a supportive comment on yesterday's post! Erm... I've posted something for you on today's! xxx

  2. I love it! Wow, you're now a proper playwright and all! :D I am so excited. I think it's going to be absolutely brilliant! Do let us see when it's done. The rain sounds are a brilliant idea, when they're talking. There's always the drip, drip in the background. And the teacup floating past. Lovely ideation!


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