Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mini Operas

ENO are running a Mini Operas competition. I intend to submit an entry, not with any genuine expectation of winning, but purely because I find very short operas to be an interesting form (I have a 15-minuter in my trunk). It'll be nice to have a short project - I intend to post every stage of the process onto this meagre blog.

Of the three choices of source material, I'm opting for The Sweeper of Dreams. It is unlike the sort of things I tend to write about. There is also a lot of scope to expand upon the intriguing snapshot that we are given, all of which I'm choosing to use.

One question the material doesn't answer is whether this sweeper attends to the entire population through some Santa-style magic, whether only those people he can reach benefit from his work, whether there are other sweepers everywhere, and whether there is some co-operation or organisation. It also treats its central conceit as being unquestionably true, yet we know it is fantasy - there is mileage here in leaving its efficacy unproven and open to question.

At the very least, to be able to exposit the scenario to the audience requires either the single character to address the audience directly, to have some other contrivance for talking to himself, or another character to talk to. I favour the latter. This leads quickly to the admittedly-tired trope of a master/apprentice relationship, which makes it easy to tell the audience what's going on without needing any Your-Father-The-King contrivances; it also sets out with no further effort the idea of some organisation surrounding the sweepers.

SWEEPER (further to source material)
A life-long loner who takes on apprentices only when forced to. Opinionated on any subject. Misogynist. Unshakeable belief in the efficacy of his work, based on decades of anecdotal evidence, but nevertheless wearily losing interest in his patients.

A young woman, dressed in jeans and a geeky t-shirt. Given to asking questions, without always considering the answers carefully - primary concern is having something to write about for her daily blog. Takes Instagram photos assiduously. Wants to see everything for herself and tell others about it. Didn't know much about sweeping, but needed a job. When ready, will take over sweeping for her local area next to Sweeper's patch.

The central tension will be whether Sweeping, trusted by its practitioners and a good portion of the population, does any good, or whether it is a fallacy. This will be left ambiguous, but the Apprentice's rather imperfect questions provoke imperfect defences from the Sweeper. Thus it will reflect the real-world tension between sceptics and e.g. aromatherapists. There's scope for a little discussion of gender-prejudice, and a cynical sick-in-the-mud like the Sweeper has plenty of prejudices to examine.

As for the style of the writing, I'm still undecided. I'll write a basic script of ordinary dialogue, and go from there. It's possible that I'll leave it at that, or I may then set it into proper verse.

OK, we have a setting, the characters, and the theme. The next thing to add is some words…

No comments: