Reimagining the Past: Inventing the Future, a drama workshop with Lawrence Crawford – 1 December 2021

On Wednesday 1st December, Ayr Writers group shared an evening with accomplished actor, playwright and director, Lawrence Crawford. In the first half of the evening, Lawrence shared his journey from Glasgow’s RSAMD (now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) as a green seventeen-year-old with little life experience on which to draw as an actor through is experience appearing in The Big Picnic, a spectacular theatre production about young Glasgow men who fought in World War One, to his time at RADA where he studied for his Masters in Theatre Text and Performance. We learned about Lawrence’s frustrations as a young Scottish actor who was constantly cast in stereotypical roles: the junkie, the wife beater, the thug. Consequently, he decided to produce his own new work while at the same time helping others to develop their writing and performing skills.

His 2010 play Coma took the unique approach of casting the audience in the role of doctors, faced with making life and death choices about the fate of an unconscious patient on life support. This work gives a window into Lawrence’s approach to writing. He has a wonderful gift for playing with ideas, concepts, roles and for challenging assumptions and the stereotypes he so hated as an actor. We saw this approach when it came to the second half of the evening. Lawrence had asked us to bring old pieces of writing upon which we might reflect and consider how we could approach the story differently. Nigel and Carolyn shared their writing and we divided into two groups where Lawrence asked group members to choose the roles of author, director, and actor. Our task was to rewrite the dialogue in preparation for a performance to our colleagues in the other group.

In our group, Nigel as the originator of the piece was the author, but we all shirked the role of Director, opting to work as a group instead. Our colleagues in the other group did choose their roles. We quickly realised, we had a time challenge in that Nigel’s well told and evocative story had sparse dialogue and took place in two different time periods. so would need quite a bit of editing and with Lawrence’s rejoinder “rewriting is cutting the fat,” ringing in our ears,  we set about discussing how to approach that task. Our first decision was to concentrate on the events later in the story and then with a fairly large cast, we tussled with how to convey that as a scene. In the end we decided to focus on two key characters and one major revelation! However, that process consumed the available time; therefore, we were delighted when Lawrence told us he will return next week to complete the workshop, giving us all the opportunity to think about how best to script this engaging tale.

Lawrence shared with us at the end of the evening that he believes script writing and writing dialogue in other writing forms were intimately connected and exposure to script writing is another wonderful opportunity to really think about characters, what they say, and how that is translated either by an actor or by a reader. The workshop was made so much more enjoyable by Lawrence’s gentle, thoughtful presence. He has a skill for teaching and helping others play with different perspectives and challenging assumptions. His wise guidance was appreciated by all the members.

Quite by coincidence, both stories revolve around family psychodramas about elderly parents downsizing and the fate of heritable items, so if you’d like to find out the role of a refectory table in one young man’s arrival in the world or how a treasure was nearly lost to a family or how the democratic and more autocratic approaches of the two groups affect the outcome, join us again, next week for part two of Lawrence’s workshop.

John Eden

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