Abandoned Places First script by Norfolk Playwright Marie Cooper

Abandoned Places

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In January 2018, I attended a writing workshop that was part of the Jenny Lind Arts Project and run by the Slow Theatre Company. It was with a bit of reluctance as my lecturer at university was encouraging me to write some material to perform for myself. I resisted petulantly, saying that I was an actor, not a writer.

I had gone back to uni to help with my career as an actor. I picked up bits of work here and there and gave my time free to local community theatre, but I wanted my career to be more sustainable in the long term. It made sense for me to go back to uni. I wanted to act more. I didn’t expect to be told to write in order to act.

Serendipity has a habit of putting good things I need in my path, so when I saw the Writing for Performance scriptwriting workshops, I signed up. It turned out that the art project was putting together a performance and they were asking people in the community who were attending the class to write something for the production. The theme was “Place”.

I was totally stumped at first but I had been talking to someone about urban exploring at the time and also someone had mentioned that the local children had been doing parkour around the buildings in the area and the idea stuck.

On my walk home from uni, following a talk from a visiting artist from Goldsmith’s, a little bit of dialogue popped into my head whilst crossing the road. The artist had shown us images of his work and one had included a “lemon” in his sculpture. What seemed to me, a random lemon amused me and rattled around in my head.

Spirit of the Place promenade performance in Norwich
Spirit of the Place promenade performance in Norwich

I typed a little snippet of dialogue onto my phone and later added it to my very short play, Abandoned Places, about my characters, Meghan and Josh which I completed on 3 March 2018.

My short play was performed in the stairwell of one of the blocks of flats.

By a twist of serendipitous fate, I ended up playing Saha and encouraging the audience to follow me during the performance.

It was a strange experience to be leading the audience around the stories and then watching on as people watched my scene, played by other performers.

I leaned up against the wall of the flats observing the performers embody characters that I had created and speak the words that I had written. It was incredibly surreal to hear people laugh at something I had placed onto the page.

I walked through the area in March 2022 on the way home from work. I couldn’t believe it had been four years since I had performed there. I could still feel the elation of jumping up onto a bollard next to the lamppost, beckoning the audience to me, the little bells on the ribbon attached to me jingling as I jumped up, encouraging everyone to follow me with haste lest I become invisible to them once more.

I remembered the little snail I had seen on a wall and had incorporated it into my wonder and joy of the ‘place’ I inhabited. The laughing as I tried to ‘vanish’ at the end and the enthralled little children tried to continue to follow me, behind the wall and ‘offstage’.

Spirit of the Place Tree during Jenny Lind Arts Project

It was strange passing through the area, to see trees without their multi-coloured wool decorations by Helen of Norwich, the pavements and walls empty of chalk words, and the characters of that brief world no longer overlooking the balconies, sitting on the stairs or hanging out by the bins

It was a lovely project. I never expected that a play I wrote about a place, would be performed in that place. That the memories of the people, pavements and unusual performance spaces would still warm my heart years later. A little magic of the Spirit of the Place still lingers…

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