GEORGIA SYMONS on TWISTED
I don’t know how to write a piece of theatre. It surprises me that anyone does. At workshops and in casual conversations, other writers will say “I start with a theme.” Or, “I start with a character. From there I build a world, and then I consider plot.” I have none of these tactics; no map to lay down when pen first goes to paper, or finger to keyboard. When I start writing, it’s either because I have a deadline, or because various events in my life - things I’ve seen and heard and sensed and thought - conspire to form the kernel of an idea which (at the time) seems worth expanding upon. This kernel could be anything from a line of dialogue to a particular tone or emotional note I’d like to work towards. In the case of this monologue, Twisted, I thought when I started writing that I was just pushing towards a deadline and had plucked an arbitrary idea from the recesses of my mind. Looking back, though, what I wrote was the culmination of so much that I was thinking about and experiencing at the time.
This piece was written as part of atyp’s Fresh Ink National Writers’ Studio. All participants in the studio had to bring with them two items that related to the central theme of death. My first item was a photograph of the floor of the garage at my house. When the cement was laid for the floor of the garage, our pet dog walked through it whilst it was still wet, leaving indelible paw prints. On the day we had Jesse put down last year, I found my 18-year-old brother crouched on the floor of the shed, his fingers caressing the paw prints. Until that moment I’d never even known they were there. My second item was the programme from the funeral of an old man who was very dear to me. It had been a particularly touching service, and the programme was scattered with the poetry of D.H. Lawrence - notably The Ship of Death.
A few weeks before the studio, I had also stumbled upon a news article relating to death which fascinated me, but which I had decided was too specific to bring as reference material. In Manchester in 2003, a 14-year-old boy used a series of fabricated, online identities in order to convince another boy to kill him. The inventiveness of the boy in question, and the lengths he went to in arranging his own murder, struck me as fascinating. The boy survived the stabbing, but he and his attacker/victim both served sentences in a juvenile detention facility.
When I started writing Twisted, I had none of those things in mind. All I knew was that I wanted to write a male character in a black comedy. One night early on in the studio I sat down for some casual brainstorming. Tiring quickly of pondering all of the morbid implications of death, I turned to brainstorming about youth. It would be a young person, after all, at the centre of my story. Qualities that I decided I found interesting in youths were their hidden depths, their potential, their inability to connect actions and consequences, their hormones, and their sense of fun and adventure. Tying all of these things back to the theme of death, I decided a fun piece to write might be a boy making up a really horrific story about a death in order to get some action. And so Twisted was born. It was only after the studio that I looked back and noticed the influence of everything I mentioned earlier on my work. Michael’s devotion to his pet dog; the poem about the boat made of bones; the borderline psychotic commitment and inventiveness of this teenage boy. All of those key items and thoughts I thought I’d forgotten about popped up in the finished piece.
The most important thing about Michael for me is his combination of showmanship, inventiveness, and calculating intellect. It isn’t enough for Michael to just tell this girl that his mother has passed away. He has to put on a show - make up this intricate, nuanced story, and perform it with enough pizzazz to sell it to Kayley. There’s a higher level of risk, but the sense of achievement and the bragging rights are increased exponentially if he can pull it off. What he never counted on was actually falling for Kayley. As he says, it was only ever meant to be a one night stand; presumably he’d go to school the next day, brag about having fooled her with his story, and never really interact with her in any meaningful way again. But Michael finds in Kayley something of a kindred spirit. She’s as cool and calm in the situation as is he, and as creative (with her little poem). Probably they have a pretty excellent night together, and then she cooks him breakfast. She’s the perfect girl, as far as Michael’s concerned. And this is where his calculating nature takes over. Ultimately Kayley is now more valuable to him than is his mother, and so his mother has to go - it’s that simple. Michael considers himself far too sensible to feel something as illogical as family loyalty; you love the best whoever you love the best, regardless of genetics.
The question remains, though - does Michael actually go on to kill his mother? I think this is a question for you, the performer, to answer. As a writer, I can say with no greater accuracy what my character will do tomorrow than can I predict what my best friend will do tomorrow, or even what I will do. Even when we lay plans, they can go awry or be changed. We will never know whether Michael ever gets around to killing his mother.
But I leave it up to you to decide what he plans to do next.
TWISTED by Georgia Symons is part THE VOICES PROJECT 2012: THE ONE SURE THING, currently playing at atyp in Sydney. It is also published in THE VOICES PROJECT from Currency Press.