By Rena Bryson
One of the things I love most about theatre is that it is alive and ever-changing. Unlike a movie each time you see your favorite scene in a play it will be slightly different. There is only one play that Eva’s Echo has come back to several times and that is Jungle Door, but each time the play has developed and grown along with the team. When I first began writing the script I was 23 and I finished it as part of my MA at 24. I was writing about characters in their late twenty struggling with society’s and their own expectations of what an adult life should look like. This time approaching the text I was the same age as the characters.
My relationship with the characters
When originally writing the text I could relate much more to Louise, struggling to find employment and afford to live in Galway, yearning for the simpler college life. I had just graduated the previous summer. In 2021 I could easily identify with Michelle, a bisexual woman marrying a man, concerned with losing her youthful appearance. I was able to contribute my experience of how much goes into planning a wedding while in the rehearsal room as I’m planning my own wedding. Having been on this journey with the characters and growing with them over the years is a truly unique experience.
Rewriting the text
Rewriting the text is a really rewarding and exciting experience and it has been for every version of Jungle Door. Although I’m the one who physically types the words onto the digital page the process is very collaborative. As a team, we read through the text (Hazel and I read each other’s parts) and then had a lengthy 3-hour discussion about what worked and what didn’t. Some aspects that we loved in previous versions simply didn’t feel authentic to these versions of the characters. It was very important to the entire team that this version of the play was approached as a new project. The characters had grown as we had over the last two years since the last production. As a creative team, this process was also really important as it gave everyone a sense of ownership over the text, we were telling this story together.
There were many edits made to the text, some to update it (eg. filler rather than botox) others were changes to the plot to align with the characters as they are now. Originally it was Louise who attempted to kiss Michelle and the ending was framed as a very sad moment for Louise. The atmosphere of scenes changed too, as the climax of the play the canal scene was originally very dramatic and dark, it now had a much lighter energy. There was also additional dialogue added to highlight the core issue in their relationship, that Michelle wasn’t accepted by their friend group in college. As this friend group consisted entirely of the LGBT+ society and Michelle was dismissed as curious, due to her bisexuality and very feminine appearance/interests. This had always been a present subtext but in this version, we felt it needed to be said. As it also gives more weight to Louise’s desire to go back in time, to a community that fully accepted her.
Working with the text
Another fantastic aspect of this process is that the text remains alive throughout rehearsals. If a line didn’t feel authentic or practical changes needed to be made they were. A consistent edit in the room was removing a lot of stage directions, a practice I think I will continue. It gave more anatomy to us as creatives. For example: if a stage direction stated they laugh but the scene now feels heavy with the newly developed characters it could be cut.
I feel very fortunate to have had such an amazing team around me that all cared as passionately about the text as I did. There was just the right amount of talented cooks in the kitchen to make this collaborative process work. I hope to have the pleasure of working with them all again soon.