Sunday, March 14, 2010

David Edgar on adapting Arthur & George

In The Guardian, David Edgar explains how he approached the challenge of adapting Julian Barnes's novel Arthur & George for the stage and explores some the differences between writing prose and plays.
Working on Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby for the RSC in the early 80s made me aware of the different rhythm of stage storytelling (the ear working more slowly than the eye, you need fewer words to achieve the same effect, particularly – frankly – with Dickens). Stage dialogue also tends to be more jagged than novel dialogue: long speeches are longer, short contrasting drop-lines crisper, antiphonal dialogue less gracefully balanced, lines are more often interrupted, unfinished or broken. Further, the stage allows the writer much stricter control over the pace of the storytelling. Playwrights use set-ups and pay-offs as meaning-bearing devices much more than novelists because they can guarantee that something planted at 7.45 will pay off at 9.30, night after night. With a novel, you don't know if the pay-off will be read in the same sitting as the set-up, or days (or even weeks) later.
Arthur & George is at the Birmingham Rep 19 March-10 April and at the Nottingham Playhouse 22 April-8 May

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