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Sex & God - an introduction

We're about to start rehearsals for our latest production - a new play by Linda McLean called Sex and God - so I thought I'd write about how the project has developed up to this point.

Linda and I first worked together 9 years ago on Magnetic North's second-ever production, a beautiful play about language and identity called Word for Word.  Afterwards, we started talking about what to do next.  We talked over lots of ideas, and the central image of what was then called The Big Bang (also known as The Big Bag after a finger-slip at the Scottish Arts Council logged its funding under that name) was Cornelia Parker's installation Cold Dark Matter (in the Tate's collection) and the idea of a moment (or series of moments) frozen in time.

In 2010, after she had taken part in our multi-artform creative development programme Rough Mix, Linda wrote a first draft very quickly.  When I read the play, it seemed as if the whole thing had poured out ready-formed - I don't think I've ever read a first draft that seemed so finished was so perfectly formed or was so confident about what its form was.  The finished play is different in many ways  to the various ideas we discussed and experimented with, but the more work I've done in preparation for rehearsals, the more I've realised that Cold Dark Matter is at the very heart of the piece.  When I was talking to the composer Kim Moore about the play, she said she hadn't found it easy to understand on the page, but as soon as I mentioned Cold Dark Matter she said "OK, I get it".

Sex and God is an extraordinary piece of writing.  It crystalises something I always say to directing students, which is that a script should be thought of like a music score - something that contains the possibility of performance rather than being complete in itself like a book - but in this case, the text actually is a score.  It's full of rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, polyphony - sometimes atonal, sometimes gloriously tonal. One of the things I love about the script is that it contains no instructions about how it should be performed, just the lines the 4 characters speak (fragmented stories leaping over one another to be told).  But the script also clearly asks the question "how can this be performed?"  The setting is abstract - where would 4 women from different eras be as they each tell their stories? - but the stories and characters are concrete - real people communicating their experiences.  The next stage is working out some answers...