With our recent projects at an end Stef and I had the chance to sit and talk about where to take the Sarajevo work next. I've drafted a semi-verbatim play with the working title It Could Be Worse - which Stef's had some time to read and that, rather than the initial Sarajevo
Marlboro' stories seems to be where both of us see the focus. Her work with the Oval Youth Arts has convinced her that, touching as those stories are, the need is to find a story that offers a connection between the recent history of the Balkans and our lives in the West now. Are there links between NATO's failure to protect Bosnia and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe over the last fifteen years?
Stef's has family roots in Irish republicanism and said that our trip to Bosnia had made her reassess her opinion about the IRA in particular. The tribalism and refusal to break a centuries old feud took on a completely new meaning for her. Resistance might be noble, but violence in the name of history is tricky. We simply don't carry each others pasts with us.
One area where we might look further in the redraft is our relative positions during the interview process. I was much more comfortable sitting down and listening to stories without a need to return very much. Stef felt more leech like and was much happier when actively involved - running workshops in Srebrenica or dancing with the locals in the club. She couldn't have been more lost and sulky when we went to look at what remains of the National Museum.
The play already touches on the moral repugnance of voyeurism (which is essentially what the Dutch peacekeepers ended up engaged in as the Serbs overran the enclaves) and perhaps Stef's desire to intervene early, to be in dialogue from the off, against my diffidence, needs to find a more urgent metaphor in the writing.
I'm going to spend the next week on a redraft (the first was very self-indulgent) trying to firm up some of the ideas - without hitting the audience over the head and then Stef will try and pitch it. We're going to target The Bush, The Gate and The Tricycle to begin with, as well as The Lyric, where she begins work on Blasted in a couple of weeks.
The work is clear enough in suggesting that peacekeeping is sometimes not enough, but one of the reasons I wanted to work with Stef in the first place was her no bullshit directness, which I know tempers my reflectiveness. To keep the show on the road I need to engage more with the morality of intervention and give her something more meaty to tackle.