WHAT A MONTH. Hello, blog reader. As many of you will know, this month I started at the Bush Theatre. And I’ve seen so much great theatre over the past 30 odd days that I didn’t want it to miss out on a place in the blog. But it’s been a bit too new-stuff-mind-overload to sit down and review. Maybe I’ll like this format more anyway. Maybe it’s better for a blog. (It’s definitely worse for SEO but pff.)
Just to divert into life stuff to start us off… Everything about leaving the National Centre was terribly sad. I miss the people. No one tells you how sad it is to leave your first proper job. I miss the circus. I miss going into work and there being people handbalancing and cyr wheeling the whole day. I miss our fantastic Instagram account. I miss Shoreditch coffee and oggling all the mental outfits getting out the tube at Old Street every day. I miss the beards, the art students in culottes and the £3 curry.
But starting at the Bush… Who could have turned down this?! It’s only been a month and I’ve picked up so much already. It’s a theatre who got its very first audience by hollering to the crowds at Speaker’s Corner. It launched the careers of so many incredible theatre artists, writers and makers. It’s a deviant space that’s made to challenge you and excite you.
I CANNOT wait to reopen the theatre building afresh in 2017. Touring it, in a state of neat-chaos, was thrilling. It’s still the Bush, through and through. You’ll know it and know where things are (if you’ve been before.) I really like that. It’s not like one of those scary make-up transformations, unrecognisable after the contouring. But it’s better too… that’s to come for 2017.
Right now we’re working on The Royale. I went to a pokey / little / fiercely awesome boxing club in Denmark Hill to film two of the actors in training. I can’t wait to see it open at The Tabernacle next week (3-26 Nov 2016). You can watch that little film here. I hope you’ll like the interviews.
When I started, in medias res, ‘This Place We Know’ was kicking into action. A mini-festival of new plays each running for a week in borrowed venues along Uxbridge Road. We confronted grieving, hoarding and finding verve for life in a local church, looked into the fears and ramifications of Prevent in an old people’s home, and felt the heat of an affair in the old Walkabout on Shepherd’s Bush Green.
Some of the critics pointed out that the two pieces they saw didn’t feel so particular to Shepherd’s Bush beyond references to a street name here and there. The festival, they pointed out, was meant to be a break out season as a love letter to Uxbridge Road. But that wasn’t it – it was the festival as a whole that celebrated the diversity of stories in our home borough. I’ve lived in Shepherd’s Bush well over a year and I know it was particular and local – but in its totality as six plays. It was the way ‘This Place We Know’ found many everyday stories that I loved, each of which could have been concurrently happening around the Green.
So to the rest of the theatre I saw. Shopping and Fucking at the Lyric Hammersmith was a meta-mega-fluorescent affair. The seminal in yer face piece by Mark Ravenhill was done with an affronting fearlessness. Its characters resort to the edges of legality and beyond to earn money, pay off debts. There were fluorescent price tags on their costumes. They asked us to buy beer and chocolates – with real money. There were karaoke interludes. The stage got very messy and I felt a little too close to the flying spaghetti. As a whole thing it felt a bit dated and shouty its efforts to be OUT THERE. Obviously that’s sort of the point and actually I did enjoy myself.
Imogen at the Globe. This is given such a sad edge by the news of Emma Rice. If you haven’t read it yet, Mike Shepherd’s statement on the Kneehigh blog is a really triumphant support for artists.
Our trust in artists, and the freedom we give them, has enabled us to sustain long-term relationships with deeply talented artists – relationships that enrich us enormously. It has also enabled us to help artists develop to the best of their potential. […] The board, and all theatre boards, must in the future trust their artists and give them freedom if they are to have any hope of developing as organisations – let alone if they wish to be part of developing a new generation of theatre artists.
Volunteering many summers ago at Kneehigh’s Asylum and being an ASM at school for their version of Tristan and Yseult have been two formative theatre experiences for me. I’m sure we’ve all got tales of how the experiments of this gregarious company from Cornwall have touched us.
Imogen... Frankly, I loved it. One my colleagues pointed out that it could have been mounted anywhere (e.g. Young Vic) and had the same success. The production didn’t, she argued, use the Globe as the Globe. She wanted more direct address. I somewhat agreed. I also agreed with her when she said that the best energy came in the final SUPERB dance. I also agreed that the curtain – used to reveal a few props and such – was a bit useless and the aerial section where there a flying fight was rubbish. Nonetheless, the way in which Imogen was reclaimed as the central character of Cymbeline was ingenious. Hip-hop and pop fused with predominantly Adidas costumes made for a really darn cool aesthetic. My really actually cool friend loved it. She doesn’t normally like Shakespeare that much. She still teases me about how loudly I used to laugh reading Henry IV at uni….
The all-female troupe in The Tempest at Donmar Warehouse at King’s Cross Theatre was magnetic and the prison conceit works perfectly for the desert island. Loved the modern interjections. Thought Harriet Walter wasn’t at her best (get a copy of her 1994 RSC Macbeth on DVD if you can) but still epic. Slightly head over heels feel in love with Jade Anouka. Really uncomfy seats. There was a very pretty effect created from the audience having little LED torches but they were also a huge distraction from a beautiful speech that I therefore mostly missed. Plus… THE ABSOLUTE WORST AUDIENCE GET IN I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. I felt like I was approaching the Central Line at rush hour as we were hoarded into a middle space and shouted at by prison guards. Totally unnecessary discomfort. Thank you for the YOUNG+FREE tickets, Donmar, but obviously, “Why are you giving free tickets to all the people who already go to the theatre?!”
The Machine at the Barbican was a weird little immersive circus piece that seems to have been inspired by the working methods of early twentieth century Fordism and Mouse Trap mechanics. An odd combination of things, I think you’ll agree. The handbalancing routine – spiky, angular and totally controlled to the music – from Natalie Reckert was a thing of beauty. But the awkward forced communal dance at the end (thank you to the lady who saved me from looking like a lemon) and sort-of-pointless weights and pulleys that we all got involved with sand and water bags – slightly boring.
I went to a John Williams concert at the Royal Albert Hall. More filmic than theatrical, I know. But I just wanted to tell you about my first trip to the RAH. It’s very very big. I didn’t prepare myself for this. The globular white things hanging from the ceiling are quite space age in person. And the concert was delightfully cheesy with a rather too high Star Wars to Harry Potter ratio. I wanted more Hedwig’s Theme. Surprised about just how many grey heads there were, although of course I shouldn’t have been.
FINALLLLY, AT LAST, I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. My friend, who hasn’t been to the theatre since she saw Les Mis as a child (I KNOW _ THOSE PEOPLE EXIST), wanted to see a “SHOW”. I’m really glad this is what we went for… All the things have already been said on this one, but WOW that train set was super awesome. And the set *squeals* to die for. Incidentally, said friend liked making appreciative comments during the show, quietly. Is this a newbie theatre goer thing? Or a her thing? (Hello friend, if you’re reading this.) She works in Occupational Therapy and really appreciated the accuracy of the portrayal.
I might add pictures to this later. Thanks for reading 😀 😀 😀