Dramatist Bryony Lavery has a new play running in London this month. New Stateman interviewed her, and asked her about her creative process:
Lavery’s latest play, staged at the Young Vic, is based on the horrific sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in August 2000. She is working with Sound and Fury, a company that makes aural theatre, and whose previous shows (including the 2002 Moby Dick adaptation The Watery Part of the World) have taken place largely in the dark. True to collaborative form, the initial vision wasn’t Lavery’s. “Left to my own devices,” she says, “I was never going to think, ‘Ooh, I’d like to do something about a submarine.’ But to write about things you know nothing about is a great discovery.” According to Lavery’s method, a play is the expression of discoveries made while writing it, rather than opinions formed before putting pen to paper in the first place.
What I find interesting here is how Lavery’s creative process is akin to the forming of an opinion. One arrives at an opinion (as opposed to a prejudice) by processing evidence and experience, and keeping an open mind. One might say that dramatic and literary creativity is akin to sitting on a jury. You try to hear your witnesses—and all the pieces of evidence surrounding a matter—sympathetically, and with the intent of honing in on truth.
Thus a good dramatic or literary production might be said to be an encounter with complexities that, in the end, set a creative writer’s “verdict” upon the world, or some part(s) of the world.