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Dorian Gray R&D: 5 Questions for the Writer

Five quick-fire questions for Troy Chessman, writer of our adaptation of Dorian Gray.

1. As a writer, how do you go about preparing for an R+D?

As the writer of this adaptation, my main goal is to have something prepared to read in the rehearsal room, a draft of the show. My job started long before the R&D and the great thing about my job is that it could be done from the comfort of my own home. I found that a huge part of my job as a writer is research, which is also the most fun part! With an adaptation like ours, the research is very important because we are looking at a specific period in time (WWII/The Blitz) so we need to be as accurate as possible, the attention to detail is crucial. I also have to be aware of the language I use. As this is a period piece, I have to be careful about not using phrases and words that are not appropriate for the time period. Going into the R&D, I just needed to be ready to adapt, to be creative, to be innovative and to be open for everything to change!

2. What's your favourite bit about being in a room with the cast? My favourite part of being in the rehearsal with the cast was seeing them bring these characters to life. This really is an adaptation, not just a reimagining of the book and what makes it ours and so unique is how we have added this depth to some of the characters (who in the original were quite small). It feels like we are seeing them for the first time, almost as brand-new characters. It was so wonderful to see the cast take my ideas and really run with them and improvise some wonderful material, that I could then add to the script. I have never considered myself to be a comedy writer, so it was amazing to see the cast naturally find comedy which I have added to the script which just adds even more layers to the story.

The cast of Dorian Gray for the first R&D, November 2020

3. What inspired you to write this version of Dorian Gray? And what excites you most about it? It was actually Dan (the Director) who inspired me to write this play. He approached me about this idea of Dorian Gray set amongst the blitz and I was immediately excited, I had this rush of ideas, I couldn't stop thinking about it, I was so excited! I shared my ideas with Dan and soon after, I was brought onboard as the writer of the piece. I am finding that the more work I do on the script and the more I delve into the minds of these characters, the more inspired I become. Each character has their own journey and unique experience and each one of their journeys is so vital! It may be Dorian Gray's story but he is just a small piece in a big puzzle. What excites me the most is how I have been able to take this classic novel and place it a new, original context where these two worlds can blend perfectly together. In this adaptation we are also exploring the underground world of the LGBT+ community during the war which is so exciting to pay homage and acknowledge this community (which I am proud to belong to!).

4. It's early days, but as you develop the show what do you think audiences might take from it? What I am hoping is that audiences will identify moments of the original book but also be immersed in the new narratives and new world of the story. For me, this adaption is refreshingly new but so utterly familiar, people will feel like they are watching a brand-new play with nods to the original story. Everything in this story is inspired by or based on real events, so this adaptation also offers some insight, some education about the treatment of LGBT+ people through World War II and the Blitz.

5. Do you have any tips for Writers trying to come up with inspiration to keep writing during this strange time?

The only thing I can say is don't give up! Do not be hard on yourself for having phases of un-productivity and just embrace those moments of creativity, if and when they happen (for me there has been some long dips of being unmotivated). I always find talking to someone about the project or script reignites my passion and fire to continue. I also like to explore different mediums to gather or build on my inspiration - I may listen to music from the era, or look at art from the era or even movies that are about a theme or subject that I want to write about. Luckily with this play set amongst WWII I have plenty of avenues to explore. Inspiration is everywhere, just keep your ears, your eyes and your heart open to everything that is happening around you.

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