Back in London after a few days in Oxfordshire. In between catching up with friends and relations I've had some time to read and begin to put together some of the lectures for next semester's Theatre in Context course. Mostly I've been re looking at Michael Billington's State of the Nation, Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain and Richard Eyre's Changing Stages, to get a sense of the London theatre scene just after the war. Dominic Shellard has a new book out called The Golden Generation and Peter Gill's short, but incisive, Apprenticeship have also helped me get a picture of the years between VE day and 'Look Back in Anger'.
On Tuesday I went hunting the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue and St.Martins Lane, so that I could picture where each production took place. The New (now the Coward) Theatre where Olivier and Richardson's first post-War Old Vic productions blazed - and The Globe (now the Gielgud) where Binkie Beaumont sat in his flat and surveyed his Universe. It's a strange world, The West End.
Met up with friends, Kris and Emma and bought a £10 ticket in the Gods for Avenue Q at the Coward. I knew what I was doing, but still left in shock.
The show is moribund in the extreme, as horrific a nostalgia as an eighties School Disco and regressive to the point of nausea. Cute Muppet puppets turned into neurotic post-college twenty somethings. Sex in the City done by Sesame Street. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition joke is over after the first chorus of the first song - 'It Sucks to be Me' and then we're into tasteful taboo breaking with tracks like 'The Internet is for Porn', 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' etc etc. You get the game!
I guess this is modern Coward. Populist, reactionary, devoid of the world beyond the fringed curtain and the velvet veil. In its packaged consumerist escapism, it makes me feel deeply sad. If it were a TV programme I'd probably veg out and watch - but why bother to go out and see stuff like this? Why bring couch potato TV to the stage? It's been running for two and a half years.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.