2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Minty-Fresh™.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 53 posts.

The busiest day of the year was October 18th with 25 views. The most popular post that day was out of the summer of hibernation… i’m back.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were image-swirl.googlelabs.com, en.wordpress.com, ask.reference.com, search.aol.com, and gambang-x.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hibernation, sweets, tree hugging, further notice, and until further notice.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

out of the summer of hibernation… i’m back December 2008
1 comment

2

a little bit more tree-hugging can’t hurt April 2008
2 comments

3

the owl vs the internet December 2008
1 comment

4

get a sweet tooth for Suttie August 2008
1 comment

5

left hungry in a busy restaurant March 2008

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beat Blue Monday with a better January

If you don’t mind Pantomime, then Christmas for Technicians is great. You’d be pretty much spoilt for choice on the shows to work on (albeit they’re pretty much the same!) and more than often, you can work near your home making it fairly easy getting home for Christmas. That’s what I did for the Panto season and it worked great for me. But as it drew nearer to the end of the run, I found finding work to line up was difficult, either for me, or my colleagues. And so, I find myself in yet another January lull.

This lull has an overall effect on Freelancers, such as myself. If you’re in-house then great, because you have a month of PAT Testing just about every object in the whole of the building! (Because we all know how fun a big, long PAT Test is…) But as the Theatre scene dies down considerably in the months after the traditional Christmas boom-time, you get pretty much stuck twiddling your thumbs! As I run my own company, we’ve had plenty to do for planning the new year. But we’ve now got a pile up of events from the end of March rather than now. I mean, no complaints, but spreading things out would be a bonus!

So I find myself asking and mulling over why January is so quiet. Generally, there isn’t one reason that over arcs them all. Okay, industries all over are quiet, but as ever, Arts has to push continually and this includes creating and producing shows right?

Perhaps the money thing plays too much of a major factor. But it’s so true that the Arts never has any money, so again, pushing to create as so happens the rest of the year. Money then, playing the major part, I feel is an opportunity experimentation and reflection. For example, there should be more Scratch type events, like those at the BAC, charging little money for audiences to find some new stuff. It’s the same with technicians. There should be more opportunity to facilitate these ‘experiments’ within the theatre environment thus requiring technical support. Perhaps bands can try out new material in small low ticket price gigs, or bits and pieces of plays can be staged with some tricky technical content? Or perhaps very little technical content, but at the least for operators to push faders up and down, at the very least?!

This isn’t so much a plea or a cry out for jobs to be created and filled, but a flag-up of how January can be made far more productive. A busy, testing, experimenting, freer first month can help set the foundations and preparations for the rest of the calendar year. New contacts can be made, new artists can be found by audiences and, who knows, even new Genres found by artists?!

Bar all that, hopefully January can be a bit better so I don’t have to spend next year’s Blue Monday struggling so bad in bashing out posts like this!

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go on, take a risk once in a while

take risks, unlike these folk

After reading one of Lyn Gardner’s recent blogs, I was pleased to see how she got incredibly enthused and impassioned by what theatre should be doing and whole heartedly I couldn’t agree more. I am most drawn to her point about risk – “When I’m in the theatre, I want to feel as if some kind of risk is taking place” she says. This takes me back to my days at university when I often discovered the value of this tool and device when creating theatre across a number of forms.

Whenever I went to see a piece I was often asking myself, ‘what did they risk there?’ If it was nothing, then I found that it was pretty pointless – Gardner finishes her blog with a Tim Etchells quote: “I ask of each performance: will I carry this event with me tomorrow? Will it haunt me? Will it change you, will it change me, will it change things? If not, it was a waste of time.” How true.

Speaking more specifically about some of the in-house productions at St. Mary’s University College, some of which I was involved in; these are the ones that still stick in my memory. In the second year, a dance piece called Belonging, a 12-month project culminating in a movement/performance art piece entitled The Healing Room and also my final piece Inside Cover. I can remember how they pushed limits and boundaries both technically and in content and how this thrilled me, moved me and stayed with me.

Sadly, what many practitioners often don’t come to realise is that theatre is the place to take a risk. It’s where the opportunity is created and where the potential and real world can be ‘played’ with finding limits and boundaries. So I find myself asking, why aren’t more theatre makers doing this? Directly, I feel it is somewhat because of the ‘why’, as in they aren’t discovering why to take a risk and I’m not saying take a risk for risk sake. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Atonin Artaud’s book, quite literally, in the Theatre and its Double and injecting some ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ – and why so? Well, summed up brilliantly here –

The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid.

– Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage (ed. Eric Bentley), Penguin, 1968, p.66

What I love about theatre especially, is that you can use it to play in the face of adversity. I believe that only in theatre, you can toy with an idea so much, to tempt it and push it to see just how far it goes. So, as we face such adverse weather, it doesn’t put a stop to the performance, yet we must, as always, take a risk and push against it.

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a new crack in the cracking new year

cracking out into the new yearA brand new year and a brand new start. So it’s a big fat excuse to use the brand new decade to get back into the blogosphere once again (I’m sure I wrote that I while back too).

Being a freelancer, I do find it difficult to get into a routine of scanning the internet for my sources and material and thus compiling a good quality post on a regular basis. However, I’m going to try to blog more freely, keeping it simpler and less time-consuming and therefore blogging more frequently. I’m sure, as many other bloggers find, that you place yourself under pressure to try to create quality posts each time so the reader can take hearty interest in each and every word.

Though I’ve realised this is unrealistic (for me anyway) and will have to accept that some posts will be better than others and it is more about the frequent nature of my page rather than what exactly it is featuring. That said, I’m not going to churn out any old crap but instead re-kindle my love for the theatre world and persevere, yet again, with the reason why I started in the first place – to help bridge the gap between the internet (and all it’s wonderful uses( and the age-old land of the theatre as we know it.

Along with the frequency of blogging, I’m going to try to see more theatre, arts and live performance this year, thus actively supporting much of what I write about. As I work in live entertainment, I have started to become desensitized to the act of the live performance. I see so much, either from the wings or the Front of House control position that I begin to treat it more as work rather than really being able to indulge in the performance itself – which, for me, is what seeing live performance is all about. So I think it’s a fine work/play balance that I have to try and find again. That said, I think it would be a good idea to bring in some of my experience in my day-to-day work in Technical theatre to mix the blog up a little.

Moving on and now the Christmas/New Year party season is well and truly over and most of us head back to the day-job, I think that we have to battle the January blues and start looking for the golden nuggets of the year. You can find adecent summation on Lyn Gardner’s Guardian Unlimited Blog of What to see (my personal recommendation is Barbershopera II – a great way to be entertained by a talented, tight-knit comedy troupe) and of course check out The Stage newspaper’s Listings. However, I am also going to make it my goal by keeping my eyes peeled to the some of the must-sees in this up coming season (call it the Winter into Spring if you like).

Finally, as much of my work is based in an around the amateur theatre scene, and the fact I came up through the ranks of the said realm and I owe it much to my own career in the arts, I am going to try and provide more coverage and support to this strand of the arts on my page.

So firstly a plug – The Drama Student Online (the online version of the mag) is a great site which is very active and has a number of articles to keep a student enthused about drama learning. Also, I watched some of So You Think You Can Dance the other night on BBC One and although it is yet another highly commercialised performance based reality television show and we all know most of the finalists have been through extensive training anyway, it is still inspiring for young people to watch and encourage them to delve into performance in some manner. So on that note I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my old drama group, the Stanford Avenue Players in Brighton, is overwhelmed with budding young Ray Quinn’s and Jodie Prenger’s searching for their limelight – and that is why they’ve revived their previous hit of Jim Parker and Wally K. Daly’s Follow The Star – a fantastic little post-Christmas musical.

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LDNTwestival work progressing

Twestival 2009 will be taking place on 12th February. Taking a huge leap to global level – it’s taking place in over 100 cities around the world across 5 continents, the event promises to be one of the most hotly anticipated social media events this year.

Pleased to be involved in the event, my technical services company – GPSLighting Limited has been asked to supply the services for the event. This means we’ll be designing and providing the lighting, sound and video content. Just to give you an idea, here are some renderings and ideas for the venue, Shoreditch Studios, so far:-

A google sketch up rendering of the LDNTwestival venue

rendering of the venue, using google sketchup

The main archway between the two main railway arch studios

The main archway between the two main railway arch studios

this is what it will look like with the lighting

this is what it will look like with the lighting

Already receiving good coverage and ticket sales flying, the festival promises to raise money for a good cause Charity:Water and at the same time getting a load of social media/cyber tweeple (twitter users) together for a good old shin-dig/knees-up/partaaaay.

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can you imagine that imagine this has closed? i can

And so it’s casualty number… I’ve lost count. Can you just imagine that “A rare entity in the West End, Imagine This is an entirely new musical, neither based on a book, film or back catalogue of music nor transferred from Broadway,” (Society of London Theatre) will be closing barely a month after it officially opened? Of course not – all the signs point to its timely death.

The making of this show was very, very brave indeed. Firstly, to take a show with no proof of success on any other platform – it’s not even relatively unheard of; nobody had any idea what it was at all! From the off, they were up against it and only a truly unique and expertly executed marketing and advertising campaign was going to drive 960 bums onto their seat, night after night. Merely the show’s first challenge was hard enough, and when it opened, it became a whole lot tougher.

The critics gave ‘mixed’ reviews. The truth is that in these challenging, credit crunching, dark and gloomy times, a subject matter such as the Holocaust would have to carry an unbelievably amazing show around it. Nobody really wants to go and see a show that was constantly being defended by its director and producers as having inappropriate subject matter. Although there were said to be some great performances individually it and looked spectacular – it “received four nominations for the Whatsonstage Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, where it is featured in the Best Actress In A Musical, Best Supporting Actor In A Musical, Best New Musical and Best Set Design categories.” (Society of London Theatre), the content of the musical never pulled through, and thus it heads towards its inevitable sleepy time.

In the recent aftermath, the producer, Beth Trachtenberg, has taken a swipe at the media: “Fundamentally I do not think the critics should be making a moral judgement over the subject matter.” But as Matt Wolf, in his Guardian blog, has quite rightly pointed out, it’s kind of their jobs – “But isn’t one of the very aims of criticism to assess work not just aesthetically but morally?” As many a debate has continued about the role of theatre critics in today’s ever advancing web 2.0 world.

Yet again, I see all the fuss about reviews being far too much valued, when in truth, the power of the people is the actual and honest assessment of any modern production. The producers had such aplomb about the show, – “I’ve witnessed the public’s response to the show that is directly opposed to a narrow-minded critical belief that musicals are limited in their emotional impact” (The Stage) – however, it does appear that the emotion is only arousing the public so deep – and any decent theatre maker knows well enough that this only a touch on what constitutes a successful show.

I should point out that I feel it is hugely encouraging and extremely self-respecting that the production company – Beth Trachtenberg, Shuki Levy, Anita Mann and Icw Productions, have taken on such a courageous production and have been fully behind it. It was a mammoth task in trying to stir success in the New London Theatre (which I think has become the backend of West End theatres with its extremely dated 70s architecture – no show has been truly successful since Cats was there for 21 years) especially without any previous tested ground. A ‘rare entity’ is a bit of an understatement to be fair.

But another example has been set of how not to head to the West End with a huge production. It was hardly an experiment, because I could have commended it more for this, and so the forgotten past it will now become – very much the extreme opposite of what the show was actually all about. Let’s just hope that the big time producers out there can pinch themselves once again and it isn’t another victim of its own peril.

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did the brickbats in cyberspace mean anything?

As you saw the other day, I blogged, among others, about the importance of a conference taking place on Monday evening. When I first heard about it I was overjoyed that, finally, something formal and serious was taking place to discuss the issues of how blogging is changing the theatre landscape.

Although actually I couldn’t attend, I was able to stream it over the internet and catch word and thus be in touch with my peers about all the relevant debates that cropped up over the short period. It was encouraging to see institutions so highly regarded such as The Telegraph, The Guardian, Complicite and other bloggers were casting their view, in public, on what is and can hugely affect so many theatre makers’ lives. The white doves were finally being released – hurrah! Finally being released into just a bigger room?

Since the inaugural event, I have seen very little coverage of the goings on of that evening. For the past two days, other known theatre bloggers @LondonTheatre @Dramagirl @MattBoothman and I have been Twittering away over who said what, why and where and how this is all a vast step in the right direction. But as far as I’m aware, that’s about it.

Searching both the Guardian and Telegraph site, I could find no information about ‘Brickbats in Cyberspace‘ and by certainly no means a blog. It’s only been talked about and covered by a couple of us and in this way it leaves me feeling so disappointed. Perhaps what was discussed and what came out of it, is in fact so far behind the rest of the web 2.0 world that it won’t make any press at all. Perhaps the academics who were present can take their research away and file it into a thesis that no will really ever read.

I found everything that was discussed fascinating over the short time and took a great deal from it. Although a lot was stating the obvious – more voices is better for all, for example – it was still good to hear it in public, at a formal evening, from respected contributors in their fields and in front of spectators who do this stuff everyday too. It was a real sharing and passing on of ideas and information, but yet again, this information lacks the true freedom that new media and, in particular, the internet has been striving to achieve.

If the Brickbats of these institutions are prepared to debate their views on such vital subjects then great – but won’t they please stick their necks on the line a little bit and voice it in a wider sense of the world?

It has dawned on me how much harder we, as theatre bloggers, have to work in order to make ourselves known to the theatre world. Our understanding and engagement of critical theatre is plausible, identifiable and both constructive and supportive because no matter what we say, it is for the everyday good of theatre and helping it to stay alive. It is a cliché to use ‘no press is bad press’ but it still rides here in the sense that our coverage is adding every little bit – we just want everyone else to come and indulge in the coverage of theatre and the arts too and that includes great conferences such as that on Monday night.

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