Monday, 26 November 2007

Drama on the radio and an episode of 'Lost' in a small hotel.

I spent the week-end in Norwich on a radio writing course with Jonathan Myerson. Much was learnt about the nature of plots, dialogue, icebergs where the huge back story below the water supports the small but perfect play above the surface, nesting by actors (small nervous ticks that get them settled into dialogue….Ahhh…Well… Mmmm etc). In the end the listener craves a story and not just an experience but hopefully a good story can give you both.
I stayed in an old hotel in the city centre near the cathedral and kept getting lost. It had a Tardis element to it, being deceptively bigger than its exterior would suggest. As I followed the number signs looking for my room I seemed to go down to go up and left to go right. I felt I was gradually becoming a character in an Escher drawing wandering endlessly in a confined space; doomed to travel up and down staircases but never to arrive. Once I found my room I tried various routes to the outside world. One led me to a door marked Quiet Exam in Progress..did that mean “Do not come through” or did that mean “Come through but be quiet”. It had taken me several staircases and long corridors to find this door which seemed to offer the prospect of escape. Do I follow my trail of hotel shortbread biscuit crumbs back from whence I came or go through the door? I peeked through the small port-hole window in the door, several people had their heads bent over tables scribbling furiously.

I used to hate that feeling standing outside an exam room waiting to go in. Pens and pencils clutched to my fast beating heart. I still have the odd nightmare when I find myself outside an exam room having done no revision and having no idea what the exam is. Of course such anxiety dreams are common but are they particularly English or only amongst those exposed to a particular educational system? Exams serve as the metaphor for fear and anxiety. An exam dream is the subtext for falling short, failing, not being good enough what do those people dream of who have never taken an exam. Probably such people have far more pressing and real fears; death, famine, war and pestilence…exams don’t make the grade as a horseman of the personal apocalypse.

So to return to my Escher experience…. I peer through the window and a man looks up and catches my eye. He gives me a look as if he too feels he is trapped in an Escher drawing with no way out. I turn round and retrace my steps; up, down, round, back, left, right and haven’t I been here before?

I see a sign in the foyer that announces that the Institute of Marketing is holding exams in the Oak Room. Marketing, now there is a stairway not to heaven but to hell.

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