HOAX the graphic short story script is based on a single poem, entitled ‘HOAX’, written by my brother Rob during the time he suffered from schizophrenia.
HOAX the graphic novel (a collaboration with multiple illustrators) is to be based on several more poems: some that were written by Rob, and others that were written by the two of us together.
And HOAX the stage performance (a collaboration with Director Benji Reid) is to be based on the original poem ‘HOAX’ and the graphic short story script that I developed from it.
But how do I create a stage performance from a poem and a graphic short story script? Well, that’s what I’ve been working out….
The original poem is autobiographical, and the graphic short story script is around fifty-percent fact. It involves two characters: Rob, the young man that was my brother; and Helen, a love he'd once known.
So now, in my head, I moved the two of them onto a stage. I visualised them clearly as I thought about the various emotions and stages of their relationship, wondering how this might play out in a physical space.... And then, quite simply, this young man and woman began to sing.
I've been wanting to write a musical script for a while, and have often played with the idea. But it’d never before occurred to me as a route for HOAX. Yet here it was, seeming the most obvious and natural course – so natural, in fact, that (although it's never truly the case) it really did feel as if the script was writing itself.
Around one act in, it suddenly occurred to me that I should run the whole 'musical' idea by Benji. HOAX as a musical was making perfect sense to me, but what would the director think?!
'A musical?' he asked, as we sat in the Cornerhouse once again. I watched his features furrow into an uncertain shade of horror as camp cries of Showtime! and visions of a beaming Julie Andrews filled his mind. 'Yes, but a really intimate, fractured, dark, tragic, heart-wrenching kind of musical,' I replied.
Thus reassured, Benji closed his eyes and listened as I half-read, half-very-badly-sang the musical's first act to him. By the time I'd finished, he was as convinced as I was that herein was the perfect telling of this tale.
'Oh, and you know the accompanying graphic short story? Well instead of that, there’s now going to be a full-length graphic novel sequel, picking up where the stage story ends and continuing the story in print, comprised of a a chronologically ordered, narrative-forming collection of poems that my brother and I worked on during his illness, each illustrated by a different artist reflecting the multiple personality aspects of schizophrenia. Um, is that okay?'
Thankfully it was. Benji laughed. We fizzed excitedly about our teacups for a bit, then agreed a deadline. It was tight but just about do-able, and I went back to work.