The Power of Collaboration

So after many years of working on my own, 2013 has shaped up to be the year of the collaboration. More than any other year, and more than my other projects, it seems what I have been doing lately calls for proper shared ownership – not just working as a team, but sharing the concepts, structures and outcomes  – then holding my breath as it is taken away from me in new directions by the director or performer(s).

Do You Nomi (January) was a case in point – having created the text I watched as other people got involved in interpreting what I had written. And there were many people – director, choreographer, dancers, actors, designers – all with their own take on it. I know it’s not like a major deal to have all these people working on something but in the past I had called all the shots – not because of megalomania but because that’s how it was: everything was done on a shoestring but now I find myself in positions where my role is fixed and acknowledged and separate from the others.

The forthcoming Wilful Forgetting (Tron Theatre 6th-9th November 8pm) is another good case in point. It is a piece that I have co-written with Donna Rutherford which she is directing and also performing. And making the films. And overseeing the music. And designing. I’m happy with the text we have created (which is made up of rewritten and re-appropriated text from literature dealing with a mother/son relationship), but again I have to allow the interpretation to move and change from my original intentions. I have also been hugely influenced by Donna, her work and process. I’m sure the final piece will not be instantly recognisable as an O’Connor Production™ but I know that I should allow myself to work in new ways.

I’ve still to see what Scottish Opera have made of my children’s opera Platypus in Boots (music by Rachel Drury) and Pop Up Theatre Royal (music by Karen MacIver) – both being directed by other people. The Power of Collaboration is also the title of a section from a talk I’m giving this week at a palliative care conference about a recent project at a children’s hospice. I’ll be talking a bout the risk involved ofbringing together artists, families, hospice staff, schools and community groups to make a piece of work. And when I say risk I mean ‘positive risk.’

All of this is good by the way and I am in no way saying that any of this should not be the case. I have spoken to writers who love watching their texts grow and be shaped into entities that they had never expected, and of course writers who are relieved that elements were interpreted ‘correctly.’ I suppose I have always seen a piece through from beginning to end – and have a clear idea about direction and delivery from the outset. But this year’s projects have all been worthwhile, and of course it is always a pleasure and a privilege to witness your words being lived through by another. In any case interpretation has always occurred every time my work has faced an audience.

But still my question remains as to what extent the writer has power in their projects. This will no doubt continue perhaps until I find solid working relationships with people whose work I know well, who I trust and who I enjoy collaborating with.

And so to Team Effort. The whole idea of people working together lies at the heart of this brilliant collective. Last week I had a meeting with fellow group member Kim Moore. We spoke about music and words; about honesty and integrity; about singing and underscoring. Could this be another collaboration in the making? How would I feel if Kim were to take my words and perform them?

When is it going to stop being all about me?

Wait a minute – is someone else going to get the applause??

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