Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Garden of Reason and They Shoot Horses.

Spent the morning with the Alice company looking around Ham House and trying to find the route for the show. The script is being worked in six basic sections and each of these needs to find a home somewhere within the grounds.

Thematically we're looking at fusing the two Alice stories with key moments from the real Alice's life. We're also looking at early photography and some of the pioneering Maths work that Lewis Carroll carried out.

We're going to begin the show on the riverbank, with the house behind us, and have devised a lively routine where Carroll sets up his camera and persuades the Liddells to have their photograph taken. The section, obviously gives us an opportunity to introduce all the main characters. It ends with Dean Liddell, who many critics claim was the role model for the white rabbit, leading us through the gates and into the gardens themselves.

The formality of The Cherry Garden suggests itself as the obvious place for the second section, which introduces the audience to the abstract eccentricities of Oxford academia. There's an inviting passage way enclosed by high hedges on either side, which provides a great rabbit run, opening up onto the vast expanse of the back plats, where the Mad Hatter's tea party will be revealed.

From here we'll snake round the back of the house to tell the story of Alice's romance with Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold and then end up in the wilderness with a version of Jabberwocky and an ending, yet to be sorted out. It was a really useful trip.

Tonight back in the Drama St Mary's theatre to see the Level 2 Theatre Arts play They Shoot Horses, Don't They? The play, set during a dance marathon in the heart of the great depression, is a perfect choice for the space. Patsy had swelled the stage with a three piece swing band and extended the dilapidated hall beyond the auditorium, which helped lend a sense of immersive theatre to proceedings. The story ended up being told with genuine deference to it's epic nature. The plight of the dancers really mattered.

The company worked really hard to capture the sense of desperation that drove young couples to humiliate themselves for much needed poverty busting, prize money and a moment of celebrity. Little has changed. In there inherent cruelty, false promises and dream busting marketability the dance-athons of the 1930s are simply the progenitors of X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent.


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