Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
I bumped into John Retallack at the BAC on Saturday. His Company of Angels have spent the last few years pioneering exciting and relevant theatre for a teenage audience and he recommended this show, which he'd just seen.
So I went this evening and got exactly what I was expecting. The piece is astonishingly well directed and the teenage company do a fantastically tight job with passionate investment in their material, but I still left feeling irritated.
The premise is that adolescents aren't understood and that adults either condemn them or fail to recognise them for who they are. So we have an hour here of dares, rituals, excess, occasional vulnerable monologue and confrontation, both through the 'what you looking at' stares from the stage and the assertive territorial shouting. The real problem for me is I don't see the debate.
Teenagers do explore the world, including their sexuality, with daring energy, they do trash things and they can be self-destructive. The body and brain wants to leave childhood, but have nowhere to go. It's a fascinating and exciting time. Intelligent adults do understand this inevitable rebellion and guide with a light touch to enable children to find their own way, but this isn't the same as being submissive towards what can also be an arrogant and anti-social culture.
The show is created by Ontroerend Goed, who work out of Belgium, which may help to explain the shows unapologetic front.
I've often felt relationships between adults and children in the low countries are generally good, guided by liberal tolerance. In my mind it's a society where the storm of teen spirit is recognised as a journey to adulthood. Watching this brave company made we wonder whether in Britain one of the problematic outcomes of denying expressive rights to young people is that many of us never fully reach maturity as adults. Responsibility is not worn easily in the UK and this makes the ground on which teenagers operate a very crowded site of unfulfiled dreams and resentment. Perhaps youth culture is not the problem, but our inability to value confident adults.
I hope in some ways this piece is about demystifying adolescence and will help slow the accelerating demonisation of young people by offering honest autobiography.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Saturday, 25 October 2008
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.
Friday, 24 October 2008
Monday, 20 October 2008
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Friday, 17 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Sunday, 12 October 2008
We went for coffee at The Cornerstone, a new £7 million arts centre built in rapidly expanding Didcot. It's designed by the team who created the Baltic in Gateshead and is in its third month of operation. I couldn't quite make sense of it. Its programme is a mix of stand up comedy, mid scale touring companies and a few amateur events. There is little fanfare though and talking to the front of house staff the mood is one of cautious optimism rather than genuine celebration.
There's a slight whiff of paternalism whenever a local council gets involved. The last thing they want to do with tax payers money is free the radicals - but for a town that for so long relied on the railway and the power station as its principal employer a family centred theatre seems an important development. I hope it's successful.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
In the evening I went to see in-i at the National Theatre.
It's posh theatre - a collaboration between the amazing Akram Khan and Juilet Binoche. The set - a backdrop and two chairs - was 'designed' by Anish Kapoor. It's very beautiful and at its best the dance is absolutely exhilarating.
I suspect, however, that I have a prejudice about this kind of work. It always seems unaware of the very human need for self deprecation and irony (or these states are so self-consciously played that they only serve to patronise those in the audience who genuinely live in in a world where both are constant.) The jokes are there, but are so carefully choreographed that I don't find myself laughing.
The piece is set up as a mediation on a relationship. Its movements, punctuated by an introverted text, revealing in the first person, the feather cuts, the anxieties and missed communications that punctuate all love affairs. The audience travel, almost inevitably, from initial passion through conflict, compromise, ennui and eventually solitude.
Voyeuristically this is all wonderful, but I don't believe in Akram and Juliet. They're too close to perfection, so I have little sympathy and absolutely no sense of kinship recognition when their relationship deteriorates. In fact it seems ridiculous.
I admired their passion, their bodies beautiful and their commitment to the dance.
I just saw no reason for things to go wrong!
Friday, 10 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Went to the Young Vic to see In the Red Brown Water. It's the second part of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister trilogy - the first part The Brothers Size is being reprised later this week and then the two pieces run in tandem throughout October.
The play is the story of a Oya a promising young black athlete, trying to make sense of her late teens, in post-Katrina Louisiana. Although the hurricane is never directly referred to in the play the metaphor of water runs through the piece. The theatre itself is flooded ankle deep, making memory both literal and inescapable.
From the very first moments when Oya struggles to run across the space, this staging stands as a scathing metaphor for disadvantage. Politically it's as devastating an image as Mother Courage pulling her cart against the revolve. How much energy is needed in this New Orleans community to standstill, let alone sprint?
A supporting cast of lovers, relatives and adversaries are each defined by motif - a jazz rift, a poetic tag - as they flow in and out of the action, not only sharing the narrative, but continually refocusing it.
The most poignant moment comes when Oya, having settled into an unhappy relationship, removes her running shoes and lets them float away like boats. The shoes are never struck and stay visible, but untethered, throughout the second act. A constant reminder of abandonment both of hope and the city itself.
The ending is as surprising as it is devastating, reminding us, as we've witnessed throughout, that each step taken creates a ripple. A seismic impact in this world where lives and stories are always linked.A full house. A great show. Credit Crunch? Not here. Not yet!
Monday, 6 October 2008
Had a good meeting this afternoon with Sarah Finch-Crisp of English Heritage at Chiswick House about the possibility of using the grounds as a venue for next summer's Community production. She was very positive and I think this could be a very fruitful partnership.
After the success of the work with Richmond Council and the National Trust at Ham House last year we're looking to move our expand our schools' programme into Hounslow. The plan would be to run drama, design and storytelling workshops across the borough's primary schools using the sessions to help create the quest play which we'd script, rehearse and produce in the grounds next June.
I think the key is to design a story that excites children enough to go on an adventure with the chief protagonist(s). This is the common element in so much children's fantasy literature from Alice in Wonderland through to His Dark Materials and Harry Potter and the confusing Arcadian layout of Chiswick park, even as it undergoes a £12 million refurb and is full of bulldozers, offers ample opportunity to create an epic journey. It's choca full of stuff! A wilderness, stone Sphinx, an amphitheatre, formal gardens and a lake with a sturdy classical stone bridge as a crossing.
The artist and satirist William Hogarth bought a small house next door and The Beatles filmed a promotional video for Paperback Writer here. If it's good enough for them...
Sarah's keen that we should try and encourage the schools we work with to visit the site prior to the performance and it might be a neat idea to try and work in situ with the children rather than asking them to commit their thoughts to paper or Dictaphone, as we did last year.
Clumping through the muddy leaves it's exciting to begin to project a show here for eight months time.
The house's most famous occupant was Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, who is the subject of the recent film starring Keira Knightley. I guess I should go and see it!
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Saturday, 4 October 2008
Thursday, 2 October 2008
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
Who are the audience for this?