Saturday, 29 May 2010

Three Theatres & The Special Magic of August Wilson.

Started early this morning with another session at Richmond Theatre, where work on our 110th anniversary verbatim piece is beginning to shape up. We've decided to call the play Tender Souls - which says something both the young authors working on it and the interviewees - it also has an echo of the Alexander Pope quote painted high above the proscenium arch.

We were given a backstage tour led by Colin, whose worked as a stage manager and archivist at the theatre for half a century. He took us into the nook and crannies and gave us some great stories. We've several interviews collated now and the hard job of transcribing needs to begin. August is going to fast approach I can feel it coming round the corner at great speed.

Light planning is going on elsewhere and after our morning session I rushed over to The Rose in Kingston to catch Northern Broadsides production of The Canterbury Tales, a show I'm thinking of working on with Level 2 Drama St Mary's Applied Theatre next year. The plan is to tour the work to a number of National Trust venues this time next year and the big advantage of The Tales is that we could rehearse fifteen and then chose eight or nine to play each night - making for a really adaptable site specific show.

The production at The Rose reminded me just how wonderfully bloody rude and joyful the stories are. Northern Broadsides clearly relished a roll in the bawdy banter, and obviously had as much fun performing the work as we did watching it. If we can replicate as close an ensemble next year it'll be a hysterically fun filled few months.

Straight after I headed up to town to see August Wilson's amazingly beautiful Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Young Vic. The play, set in Pittsburgh in 1911, is the second chapter in Wilson's ten work series which cumulatively tells the story of the Afro-American experience through the twentieth century. It's an incredible body of literature - which I'd like to find the time to read as a whole. It would be a fantastic project for a theatre company to take them on as an ensemble, as the RSC did with the histories. It also made me wonder whether any writer could target with such unswerving accuracy and lack of sentimentality, a similar arching story of British working class life from the Edwardians to Blair?

Wilson knew that drama can be as direct and effective as a bullet and this hugely important and humane play transports you on a fast track back a century and places you, without apology, in the heart of a black community, coming to terms with the meaning of emancipation and struggling for a new place in the brave new, expansionist world of twentieth century America. There is no invitation, no introduction, just an impassioned desire to tell the story.

Days like today make me realise how important the theatre is. I don't think it's too much to say that without it we'd understand very little indeed.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a beautifully written, acted and directed piece of theatre. The actors are outstanding they are certainly masters of their craft. I was in fact inspired to make sure I make theatre as beautiful as that. Go and see it!