Working on Cymbeline (the first season/process) had led to some rather interesting discoveries. Firstly, the unpredictability of not knowing who one would be playing on a particular night (and opposite who) led to a sense of freedom from the usual traps of actor-brain-ego (that I had found it so easy to fall into previously). The challenge was not to serve up something pre-cooked and pre-wrapped to the audience, but to be making it in front of them, using some of the best ingredients in the world, Shakespeare's words. In addition to this, because we had to know the text so well in order to be so flexible, we had leaned into Carroll's attention to the structure employed by the writer, so we did hours of training ourselves on the verse, using Carroll's physical exercises to get our bodies 'knowing' it rather than our conscious mind - throwing tennis balls on the last stress of the line, galloping, beating out the stresses. Carroll talks about the act of paying attention to the verse being a great way to give your conscious mind something to focus on, so that it's not busily employed trying to Do it's Acting. After an initial few days of feeling hideously uncoordinated, we all suddenly found verse much easier to handle, and found we were playing a shared game, getting attuned to when we were making verse together, or breaking the rhythm of the scene with prose...all sorts of delightful things, but coming from our body and the feeling of the language, not from spending hours sitting around a table analysing and deciding on one fixed reason why a tension between sense and structure might exist in a particular line. The Fixed and the Flowing - both equally important. The Fixed thing is the words and the attempt to speak them in the structure written. The Flowing is everything that can knock you off course, and allowing it to, and struggling against it, coming back, getting knocked off again, like life. We started to talk about ourselves as musicians.
The knock-on of this then, is that if we're playing the words, then in the same way that a musician plays an instrument, those words are the character - though given life and breath by the player, and that is, I think, where ego and one's own spirit and heart have to meet the words halfway, no -one wants to watch a robot. And the form of the language is also the character itself.
So we decided to write our own version of Pinocchio, with certain forms favouring certain characters. Pinocchio, for example, spoke a lot of blank verse. The Fox and the Cat spoke a great deal of prose. The Lonely Fisherman spoke backwards rhyming couplets (he didn't talk to people much, and spent a lot of time staring at his own reflection). There was a Snake that spoke in Haikus. The Blue Fairy mostly sang her words to the tune of Pavarotti's greatest hits (fairies want to be memorable).
We began exploring Collodi's rambling epic, dividing up the scenes to write but all attempting to follow the rules we had set ourselves. Originally written as a political satire on the state of pre-unification Italy, it was published weekly in a newspaper - Collodi only realised it had become a children's hit when he killed Pinocchio off and there was a public outcry, so he decided to revive him and keep going. In furthering our interest in unpredictable playing conditions (particularly as this was going to be performed in an actual theatre) we decided to create a pick-a-path show, where the audience would vote at certain junctures which way Pinocchio should go (ie. should he be a good boy and go to school, or should he follow the Fox and the Cat?). We did however, always end up in the Whale.
I realise now that what we were discovering would be page one for any musical theatre writer. But it was great fun discovering these things in a hive-mind process, spending hours on living room floors and round kitchen tables scribbling together and sticking the script together with sellotape. One day we might even publish it.