Saturday, 25 October 2008

Try a Little Tenderness

Up early to buy a new bike and then into town for lunch with Hsiu Chin in Borough Market. I love the market in the Winter, it feels uniquely old London with all the street food smells of roasting and grilling mixing with aromatic coffee and mulled wine. There's no room to move, but everybody is wrapped up, rosy cheeked, good humoured and google eyed at the range of cheeses, breads, meats and confectionery on display.

Hsiu Chin and I used to work together at Goldsmiths before I came to St.Mary's, she's still there. Princess Beatrice has just enrolled at the college, on a History degree, which according to Hsiu Chin has hysterically brought all the professors scuttling disgruntled back from their sabbaticals. No course in the history of the College has ever had such a stellar academic team and Ph.d students need not apply to run seminars for a year or two. Despite that I like the idea that the royal family have come to New Cross - it's about time.

I went on to see The Brothers Size at the Young Vic.

This is a short clip from rehearsals

It's the first play in Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brothers/Sisters trilogy, although its action takes place in the immediate aftermath of In the Red and Brown Water - which I was really taken with when I saw it a couple of weeks ago. Here Orgun Size, trying to come to terms with losing Oya, invests all his energy and strength into his car repair business - whilst also trying to support his dreaming brother Oshooi, recently released from Prison and trying hard to keep to the terms of his probation, despite the temptation of the live for moment philosophy, espoused by his former cell mate, the moon like, Elegba.

Tarell's star is rising and I can't think there's more exciting work anywhere in London. The three actors Nyasha Hatendi, Obi Abilli and Nathaniel Martello-White give us ninety minutes of high octane storytelling, fusing narration, live action, chant and Yoruba myth. All underscored by a brilliant percussionist who gently and carefully evoked mood and psychology with the subtlest of poly rhythms.

The play ends with a fantastic singing of Otis Reading's Try a Little Tenderness - which is exactly the same song that Jim Cartwright chose to use as a set piece in his wonderful eighties elegy Road - a play that The Brothers Size has more than a passing resemblance to.

On the way home I stopped off at BAC to see my friends Paka, Kris and Kim perform their scratch performance of Bedtime, which they've been developing for a couple of months.

The piece is only 12 minutes long and only four people at a time get to see it as each member of the audience gets into bed with an actor and is told a bedtime story, before being tucked in and kissed goodnight. The intimacy of the work is touching and the company cleverly make the experience safe, by sharing the rituals of getting ready for bed - turning back the sheets, plumping the pillows, taking off shoes and putting them under the bed etc - with the audience. At the end of along day I would have been happy to stay longer under the duvet.

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