Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Up early and off to Stratford upon Avon to see the matinee of The Tempest performed in riotous colour by the young Baxter Theatre company from Cape Town, supported by Tony Sher as Prospero and John Kani as Caliban.
Friday, 20 February 2009
The new degree will focus on a one year training for practitioners from all over the world who will come to London and form a company for a year. Half of the time they'll focus on skills acquisition based on the European tradition of Jaques LeCoq, Phillipe Gaullier and Monika Pagneaux and for the rest they'll work towards productions to be shown at the BAC or the Pleasance up in Islington.
With support from our friends at NIE it's a completely unique course and the hope is that through practice based research will create new dimensions and approaches to visual storytelling.
We've already had great interest in the course and Kasia can now begin the audition process in earnest.
Meanwhile this afternoon Stef and the cast of Yard Gal came in to do a short workshop and Q&A with the first year. It seemed to go quite well particularly the Q&A which helped to unravel some of the motivations behind the team's passionate commitment to the production and gave some suggestion of alternative approaches. It's been a real fast year since the show was first performed last March and Stef's aware of the need to move on now. There's only so long you can dine out on your initial reputation. Finding the right play or project is proving more tricky, however.
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Friday, 13 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
Meanwhile back in college the Collaborators were finalising their devised performances, which were performed this evening. I think it's one of the toughest modules we offer, as each small team has to negotiate their production on every level and without any ascertainable director the process can lack drive and determination. What is offered instead, I guess, is the opportunity to take genuine risks and experiment with both form and content - this of course carries its own risk for assessment.
The first of tonight's pieces was simple and brave with each student choosing a different form to tell a traumatic story from their lives ending with the statement 'This is who I am.' This was followed by a film noir spoof which was very funny, but needed a rocket boost in terms of pace and attack and finally an interesting story about the life of Ellen who, having spent her life institutionalised, was released into the care of her niece. This piece explored both the full theatrical space and by using flashback helped us piece together the history to understand the impact of her release on both the community and herself. It ended with four semi-tableaux of Ellen as an old lady dancing in the rain, as a girl on a swing in the hayloft pushed by her lover, of her intolerant father condemning her and finally a nurse gently playing the piano which underscored her complicated memories.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Rushed back from Birmingham and straight to the press night for Complicite's new show Shun-Kin at the Barbican. A Japanese cast directed by Simon McBurney.
The piece, adapted form the writings of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, tells the story of the fifty year sadomasochistic relationship between the cruel, blind Shunkin, a virtuoso of the stringed Japanese shamisen, and her passionate pupil, the devoted Sasuke.
When the temperamental Shunkin's face is disfigured in a brutal attack, Sasuke pierces his own eyes out with a needle, so that she will not have to be seen by him. Blind loyalty.
At its heart the play explores the shades of unconditional love that cannot be described, but only sensed. This metaphor of revelation through darkness is used as to contrast a Japanese emphasis on the importance of a shadow world with the connection in Western cultures between light and truth. The suggestion is that beauty, in its purest form, is more visceral provocation than an accurate visual representation of reality.
There is a fascination and respect for the guru here, an admiration for the devotion of servitude, which, beyond the obvious attraction of cruelty, I'm always slightly wary of. The real discordant clash, however, comes in aesthetic terms. The mesmeric, stripped, deliberate efficiency of Kabuki and Noh theatre, both alluded to in the production, smacks headlong into the rough, messy, dressing up box of ideas that has informed the companies process since the early eighties. At times this overflow of playful ideas undermines the simple clarity of philosophical reflection. Can a Western aesthetic escape the desire for work to be looked at rather than absorbed through the skin? Or is our theatre process inevitably slightly indulgent, vain and precocious? The deliberate irony for this show is that even in shadows it still shouts 'Look at me! Look at me!' I couldn't help thinking that the same material in Peter Brook's hands would have been given essence.
I often think that McBurney's shows reflect his current psychological pre-occupations - (why wouldn't they) - and, if this is so, he's in edgy mood, possibly close to crisis. The visual fireworks and perfectly timed jokes of an earlier body of work may be gone but in his ingenious over reach and subsequent inability to tie down the various component parts of the show, the piece is vintage, brave Complicite.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Sixty six years on Highbury Little Theatre is still thriving and I was privileged to be given a tour by the twinkly Brian 'Dickie' Bird, one of two survivors from the original 1942 company. He joined as a fifteen year old and now in his eighty third year is not only the president but chairs the finance committee, advises on each seasons plays and sells programmes for the evening performances. He's excited, magnanimous and positive about the theatre's future.
From modest beginnings the building and the Highbury's activities have expanded slowly, but surely, over the last six decades. It is still run by a 175 strong membership, all are volunteers and all fully invested in the well being of the society. The original intimate 108 seat auditorium is now complimented by a second studio, a workshop, a fantastic wardrobe, an active youth theatre, new rehearsal facilities, a coffee shop and dining club. Everywhere we went there was industry, sawing, sewing, rehearsing and above all else the kind of camaraderie that both values and encourages friendship and well being.
The original theatre was driven by a need to establish a strong community venue as an escape from austerity. It's testimony to the great things that may be achieved when no one person claims the credit.
Amateur theatre, at it's very best, has always offered a touch of blue sky and the selfless investment put in by Dickie and his pals all those years ago continues to provide a place to which people of all ages are proud to belong.
Monday, 2 February 2009
St.Mary's is built in the grounds of Strawberry Hill - a beautiful, ridiculously quirky, little Gothic castle. It's a unique site, the vision of Horace Walpole, son of the Robert Walpole, the first British Prime Minister. Horace was more interested in letters and travel than power and prestige and our delicate Italianate home is the result of these life long passions.
When I first started working here I couldn't believe it. I felt like I'd been appointed to Hogwarts.
For the last year or so we've been in a bit of a building site as a full blown restoration is carried out with a public reopening planned for a little over a year's time in conjunction with an exhibition at the V & A. We're going to take a full part with two shows commissioned by the Strawberry Hill trust - one for children and one for adults, tentatively we're beginning the research and planning.
The Tempest company very generously gave me a collection of Walpole's letters after our Ham House gigs and I've spent the last couple of days reading through them. What a gem they are - witty, humane and gossipy - he's like a soft Samuel Pepys (the best of the early bloggers!!!) At one moment we're standing in front of the house looking out at the long since developed vista down to the Thames and onto Richmond Park, the next we're in the middle of the Drury Lane riots or attending the executions of rebel Lords. London as exciting, various and lively in the mid-eighteenth century as it is today.
It's going to be wonderful working on them.