Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Young Digital Reporter at Bringing Literature To Life

Young Digital Reporter at Bringing Literature To Life, Saturday 13th October, 2pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation 

Words by Thomas Burke.

I attended the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for my third and final event for the Manchester Literature Festival, once more with Liz Postlethwaite. Liz introduces Joyce Branagh, who'll be leading the discussion of Bringing Literature to Life, then Joyce in turn speaks to the three guest writers who are Jane Rogers, Jeremy Dyson and Nick Stafford.

Joyce starts off by talking to Jeremy. Jeremy was apart of the creative team responsible for the dark and twisted BBC comedy series The League Of Gentlemen and the writer for The Armstrong & Miller Show. During his time on Gentlemen, he learned how to adapt to changes of script, rewriting certain scenes and casting the right actors for a particular role. He also says that he is busy directing Psycho Bitches for Sky Arts, which is due out in the spring, and adapting Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected into a screenplay. He says he's really enjoyed visiting Dahl's house and his famous shed while researching and loved seeing  the author's notes and the many changes he made to stories.

The next writer Joyce speaks to is Jane Rogers. Rogers has worked for both television and radio, as an editor for various books and writes plays and novels (she is currently working on her next novel). She has done five adaptations based on novels by writer Thomas Hardy, and talks about the pros and cons of adapting for both radio and television: how to chop down plots, deconstruct bits of material or add more story. Rogers admits that making adaptations for radio in particular helps pay the bills and gives her more time to get on with her own things.

Joyce then introduces Nick Stafford, who has adapted the stage version of War Horse and works extensively for both theatre and radio, and is currently writing adventure stories for children. Stafford speaks about turning War Horse into a stage play: how to light certain scenes, learning how actors can use the puppet of the horse logistically as a character, the perspectives of the story told from the views of the lead soldier figure and the horse, cutting down the ending, the issues in maintaining the essence of a story when adapting for the stage. Joyce notices a sheet of paper by Nick's feet. He picks it up and says it is a list of the various musicals that are currently being performed in the West End that are all adaptations in one shape or the other: Billy Elliot, Blood Brothers, Kiss Me Kate, The Lion King, Shrek The Musical and We Will Rock You.

The three writers share the many difficulties of creating adaptations for either radio, TV and stage, then it is time for questions from the audience. When asked whether they prefer adapting or writing, Jane says she enjoys the processes of both and Nick says he hates it when a producer or script editor doesn't share his taste in a story, as you can't get anywhere with what you want to create. Jeremy says people can be fickle as they react differently to an adaptation when it is based on original material, and all three of the writers agree that people inevitably have their own opinions on how a book should be adapted, especially when it comes to voice, actor(s), sound, setting, etc.

Nonetheless, the event finishes with all three agreeing that adapting is a lot of fun to do, and they also agree that when it comes to adapting, you must be as faithful as possible to the original material of what you're using.

It's been an experience for me during the three separate dates I wrote about for the Manchester Literature Festival. I don't know if I'd do this sort of thing again, but we'll see what happens - it's been nice to be given opportunities such as these; it's better than sitting around doing nothing with your life, so a thank you to Liz for letting me take part in these events. Cheers and goodbye. 

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we will be working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters will respond to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio. We are really excited to see how our young reporters get on and hope that you will enjoy reading, listening to and watching their work.