the little sister


This week I led my first sessions with current 2nd year Theatre students at Bristol University, as part of this year’s Performance 2 Unit. As with last year’s Relâche, I find I’m working with a fiercely intelligent, attentive and feisty group of young people whose talent and bearing will no doubt propel them to bright futures. Session One is always quite nerve-wracking for all concerned – and I explain to them that until I begin to understand the particular interests and dynamic of the group, I cannot make firm decisions about how the devising process will be crafted.

The Unit brief I’ve called Chandleresque and we’ll be adapting a lesser known Raymond Chandler novel called The Little Sister. With a student cohort of nearly 3 females to 1 male I’m planning to have one eye on the representation of gender in film noir, with the role of The Little Sister herself (whom Chandler calls Orfamay Quest) played by many female performers.

One ambition of the process is to excite the students to the possibilities of the medium (by drawing on a cocktail of visual, filmic conceits, hands-on stage mechanics and creating a bespoke film-studio style foley team – providing live sound effects and doo-wop underscoring of the action). A further ambition is to try to find something real and immediate to the group that connects the thematic content of the story with the energy, interests and experiences of fifteen 19-22 year olds; something that begs to ask “why here? Why now? Why us?

I’m deliberating over this as I drive home to Birmingham. Just out of Bristol, at the Thornbury turn-off, I notice two mobile TV units parked up on the motorway bridge. Just beyond the bridge a police incident unit sprawled along the slip road, a tented area protecting the site of some grisly discovery. I consider the fact that I may have unwittingly driven past an abandoned body the previous day.

Two days later and the story is spread all over the front pages of the London freebies. Melanie Hall, last seen in a Bath nightclub in 1996. Her remains discovered in bin bags. How many times have I driven past, just a few yards from her improper grave? How many millions of others have blindly gone by on their millions of journeys, ignorant to her dreadful circumstances?

I consult TimesOnline for further information and am struck by the first public comment,

the parents should hire a private investigator. it would be hoped that family and friends would help with the expense. if the police can’t see a “yob” standing in front of them, how can they find a killer?

p. bloomberg
old man
glendale, ca

The world of Chandler is closer perhaps than we think.


One Response to “the little sister”

  1. Coincidentally, Graeme, I too am making a piece with university undergrads, with a similar gender profile and using their performance building as a site where the old Gaumont cinema used to be. Film clips from screenings, chopped out by a lovelorn projectionist, are recreated through the building, Chandler films included. We should compare notes one day, and, more preferably, start a small two man support group.

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