Dulce et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers
In the first post in this short series, I talked a little about how the process of creating a Fringe show starts (for me, anyway). I should say that there are really two processes that are separate but related. There’s the artistic process, the way in which the show itself is created and alongside that there is the physical and logistical process involved in actually getting the show staged at the festival.
I won’t go into the logistics in this series. That process deserves a series all to itself, frankly! Suffice it to say that we are returning to a venue that knows us and that we know. Familiarity with the space feeds into the artistic process, of course, and is a great help to our Director/Designer Penny Gkritzapi in working out the staging and it can also feed into my writing process. Our venue, the Space Triplex is a basement venue, and we can exploit the intimacy that it creates – for example, this year’s show is set in a cellar which the venue itself will help us to create in the minds of the audience.
In the previous post, I showed you the impetus that began this process – so what’s the next part of it?
Finding the story…
Knowing that I wanted to write about the people in the photograph was all very well, but who are they? What is their story? I tried tracking down the photograph. Penny had seen it in a Facebook post, but the post had no information. I spent many hours online and eventually found a single reference to it. The photograph had been published in a small local newspaper in Greece, which reported it as a photograph of unknown origin. There was no information to be had, realistically, about the actual people in it so that was a dead end.
Penny and I talked about the image. We agreed that it was evocative of loss, of family, of war. We discussed a few ideas for stories, but I didn’t feel we were finding much. We couldn’t tell a real-life story, as we didn’t know who this was. In a way, that freed us from limitations. The only problem with that, of course, is that it overwhelms you with possibilities. I went away to think.
I searched for themes, for a plot, for a setting – anything to inspire a story. It seemed to me that I needed to tell a personal story, but whose? Who was the man that should have been inside that coat? Unknown. Who was the woman? His wife, probably, but who was she really? Unknown. What happened to the child? Did he become a soldier too? Unknown.
The photograph haunted me. I felt it was reminiscent of the photographs found in concentration camps, for instance – that haunting quality of all those unknown people.
Unknown people. An unknown soldier. The Unknown Soldier. So many Unknown Soldiers.
I had my theme. Next time, I’ll tell you more about where I went with that.
Until then, Dulce et Decorum Est: The Unknown Soldiers will be at the Space Triplex, 6th-11th August 2018.
Tickets are on sale now at the Edinburgh Fringe Box Office