Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A Night Less Ordinary.

Early meeting with Nicholai Labarrie, who runs the wonderful Oval House Youth Arts programme which is increasingly drawing St.Mary's students to its extra curricular workshops and in-house productions. We spoke a little about possible collaborations and I hope he'll come and run some sessions down at University for us. I think we're both really aware of how much damage teachers can do when they put their own egos in the way of the creative momentum coming from the students and it's clear both from this morning's meeting and from the work I've seen coming out of The Oval in the last year that his encouraging mentoring approach, rather than a slavish insistence on methodology, is producing excellent theatre makers.

From Vauxhall to Chiswick Park with Emma H to tie up details of the summer show - which looks set fare for May 21st (providing the schools agree.) We met trust manager Sarah and head gardener Fiona and have arranged for a 'reccie' of the site next Tuesday. It's exciting to be up and running with this project again.

This evening to the launch of A Night Less Ordinary at The Orange Tree. This is the arts council scheme, prompted by the McMaster report to encourage younger audiences to go to the theatre by offering a set number of free tickets aside on certain nights. Most of the talk was about Nick Hytner's article in the Times on Monday bemoaning the lack of practical training in Universities and Drama Schools. I have to say that I read the article and found it a bit of an unnecessary storm in a tea cup - although it does support the recent moves we've made at St.Mary's to increase the practical training for single honours students.

The problem is if everybody is learning to be a performer - who is learning to watch and objectify? Ultimately a 'me do' culture puts the power of received judgement, criticism and taste in the hands of an increasingly old elite few. It's why I think going to the theatre and forming robust opinions about the work and practice is vital, particularly if you're making claims to be a practitioner yourself. The renaissance ideal would be that we can both create and critique with equal confidence - and that we'd be brave enough not to let the latter interfere with the former.

Sam, The Orange Tree's artistic director, playfully wondered whether we wouldn't encourage more young people to attend if we made theatre going a forbidden activity - but exciting as rebellion is, it burns out fast enough and I hear enough 'geek' (a form of reverence in the homogeneity) comments aimed at theatre going students to recognise that regular, committed attendance already marks you at as unique.

Theatre, at its best, tackles problems, issues, the meaning of existence without fear or censorship. It should be... possibly is... the most radical of pursuits. Set against our mediated sense of the world, it's already curious and rebellious in nature.

I'm still slightly bemused, however, by how little live theatre some Drama students expose themselves too - especially as we're on the doorstep of the greatest theatre city in the world. I hope the scheme will work and will help us to move to a culture where observation and reflection form as important a part of practice as self-expression. We'll chuck the baby out with the bathwater if we don't try.

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