looking into the future – some points of interest

Having a good old fashioned browse of the t’internet and also after receiving some items in my Google Reader I thought I couldn’t specifically blog about them all, so I decided to compile a list for all you theatrephiles to take a look at for yourselves. Click the links to take you there:-

  • A TV channel specifically about theatre – Theatreland.tv – Particularly interesting for the future of Theatre and the Internet and providing good quality content rather than a load of YouTube videos.
  • Boris Johnson has pledged further support for the arts and culture industry. Notably the funding running in tandem with the 2012 Olympic games.
  • The Creator’s of South Park and Avenue Q composer have teamed up to write a musical titled “Mormon Musical“. Although it won’t be over here for a while, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
  • The Credit Crunch has possibly been the most used word of 2008. Obviously affecting everyone but how will affect theatre and the arts? In a lot of ways of course, but here are some solutions.

There’s a few things to look out for in the coming months. Let me know your thoughts on any of them and how they will/have affected you. Enjoy!

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the owl vs the internet

An incredibly funny and original sketch which formed part of Pappy’s Fun Club: Funergy show, at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was something that came into fruition quite clearly last night. Many of you are aware of the classic argument which has been thrown back and forth between Print and Digital media many a time over the past few years, but finally it was Theatre’s turn to have its say.

HARC: Brickbats in Cyberspace hosted at The Royal Court Theatre, gave a more formal insight into Theatre and the Art’s stance on the whole situation posing the question of How blogging is changing the landscape of theatre criticism in London and beyond.

Contributing panellists were Charles Spencer, lead theatre critic for The Daily Telegraph; Andrew Dickson, arts editor for guardian.co.uk, Judith Dimant, producer of Complicite, and leading bloggers and theatre professionals.

Spencer fluttered about like the Owl arguing that there is a “watering down of serious critical discourse” and that bloggers are a threat to critics jobs. Very much apparent over in the US, he argued, and not so much here but certainly a real danger. What about critics being a threat to theatre maker’s jobs? Surely he, of all people, would understand the cutthroat world of the Entertainments and Arts industry and finally the dog was biting back?

Dickson sat on the fence a fair bit accepting his stance as a contributor through default – even though he contributes himself, he is the editor and therefore he also commissions others and here encourages blogging to its full potential. He then nicely balances along the fence by pointing out that blogging isn’t a potential threat to print media “as long as the newspapers are aware.” and that newspapers are “not actually sacking people because of bloggers but because of other stuff.” But all the while agreeing with Spencer that theatre critique should be of a high standard and readable.

Dimant pitched here flagging up and using Complicite as concrete examples, particularly a success story in Michigan where they were relatively unheard of but sold out of eight nights, after the first night showing. This is the raw power that not just word of mouth, but blogging can achieve. Of course the quality of the work, such is Complicite’s, has to be there for it to strive to achieve any kind of success at all.

At this point it was outweighed in favour of blogging and certainly where my stance is too. The fact that so many people can interact and communicate and share their views with each other through a freedom of different mediums is always a positive thing. With the steady decline of the existence and coverage of the arts over the past century, blogging and web 2.0 can only help to move forward the current trend of theatre making and seeing.

These arguments are backed up by both Dimant and Dickson. Dimant adding that the “existence of blogging helps people to participate, interact [and gives] a sense of community”.

Other thoughts that were pointed out and I thought were worth drawing attention to whilst streaming the discussion:-

  • Blogging in danger of jeopardising quality and content because you become traffic hungry and become obsessed by the clicks – I know I sometimes feel like this.
  • The article should be of a good quality and readable even if the reader doesn’t intend to go and see the show – in response I write that much of theatre blogging isn’t actually about a show yet we still read it. I certainly try to write with that appeal whether I achieve it or not – don’t we all?
  • Matt Boothman makes an incredibly important point, quite rightly – How is criticism supposed to evolve and find a place in the media as it exists today, if its biggest names think blogging is the enemy? Referring to Dickson here, and what of the likes of Billington and co.?

There was so much discussed in these two short hours and I’d love to go into deep and lengthy discussion about it all, but nevertheless it is encouraging that it has taken place and hopefully is the can of worms that was in desperation of opening.

Obviously I’m completely in favour of blogging as the opportunity for critique, discussion, interaction, community etc can only strengthen what we know and understand about theatre – but ultimately, it all has to be seriously engaged with by taking on board and when being transferred from page to stage. After all, the stage is what it is all about.

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out of the summer of hibernation… i’m back

uh hullo

Uh hullo.” Matthews clambers up onto his chair shielding his eyes from the blinding light casting out of the computer screen.

“This is going to be hard work” he thought. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any blogging. It could be a bit of a brain and finger strain. But no! It doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of patience and perseverance I can be well and truly back in the blogosphere.”

Yes that’s right, I’m back. After a long time in Edinburgh and taking up a job as a touring stage manager for the past few months, I’m now back on home soil. With another year of wisdom (I had my birthday two weeks ago) I’m ready, once again, to cast my thoughts and opinions about the theatre world at large.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments in anything I write. Please do also add me on Twitter – @sandym0, another place where I will endeavour to bridge the ever elusive gap between cyberspace and theatre.

But enough babbling on for now, there’s an important event taking place tonight, which I simply must catch to have any hope of forming my ideas back on Until Further Notice.

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get a sweet tooth for Suttie

Ah, so sweet – like being in a children’s sweet shop. You could pick and choose your favourite jokes and gags and get through the whole show that way. But it was much better than that I assure you.

Isy Suttie, famed for her appearances as Dobbie in Channel 4’s Peep Show, has a steam roller of a delivery which suits the material very well. It draws upon childhood memories and following your dreams – the latter being a very catchy song because the sing-a-long takes place.

It’s an open and “honest” account with a real mountain of thought which is plied with a feeling of irony, leaving you feeling both nostalgic and warm and gooey like the inside of a bubbaloo – isn’t that nice!

Yes, Suttie is incredibly like-able with smiles, giggles and snorts throughout, if that’s your sort of thing. The show takes a sketch form rather than a journey but the theme is strong and pulls it all together.

At times, the characters felt forced but the playfulness makes it more justified and the genius songs accompany very well. Melody’s’ song about following your heart is a particular highlight; it’s over the top and dry, much like the rest of the show.

Suttie screams incredible presence and her audience connection makes her the adorable child she tells the stories of. Although, in places, it was bordering on the cliché, I feel her experience will shine through and certainly make her one to watch for the future.

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pappy’s is primetime genius

For today’s blog, I’m not going to beat around the bush but get straight into it. I saw a sketch comedy called ‘Pappy’s Fun Club’ and the show is a prime example for my blog – what theatre should be about.

The show tells the story of four fun-loving friends and their adventures in the club that is overlooked by a guy called Pappy. Brendon, Matthew, Ben and Tom (in no particular order) play a multitude of parts, each with a few props and costume changes to tell the story of how Pappy will pull the plug on their club unless they can find a more environmentally friendly way of powering it.

Through several mediums, ‘Funergy’ is the idea that they come up with, but just how they do it is where the journey really takes its course and also the reason why you’ll have to go and see it.

It’s an all round enriching and beautiful tale at the heart of it and it’s the smattering of pure genius comedy which keeps it flowing and inevitably holds the piece together.

As a piece technically, it has to be placed under a microscope to find any faults. The pace of the four performers is undeniably expert and you find yourself envying their talents at many times. They know the show so well that it becomes playful and engaging yet they manage to somehow place the audience at the centre of it through their over-the-top but honest and personal delivery.

If the technical aspects aren’t enough, then the writing undoubtedly adds to the strength of this piece. Even though it’s sketch, each sketch has a strong correlation and each part lends itself to one another completing a nicely rounded piece which leaves you feeling incredibly satisfied. The cyclical storytelling ensures that no prop, song, gesture, word or thought is unnecessary and that’s exactly what we want to see in a piece of theatre.

As I said before, if not for the comedy, see this show on the simple basis that it is a great piece of theatre and something that we should all aim for.

Pappy’s Fun Club – ‘Funergy’ is on at 6.40pm at the Cabaret Bar, Pleasance Courtyard – Venue No. 33.

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the almost edinburgh festival

Those of you who have been to Edinburgh not during the festival (quite rare, I know) will have undoubtedly noticed the difference between an Edinburgh rush hour and a London rush hour. In London, Bendy Busses are squishing cyclists and pedestrians like tropical bugs and Black Cab drivers are taking road rage to a whole new level.

Edinburgh is a breeze of a metropolis. Queues at traffic lights are an average of three cars. Cyclists and buses treat each other with utmost of British respect creating a striking harmony and pedestrians obey the crossings like children watching Finding Nemo.

However, all has change. The ‘Festival Rush Hour’ is ongoing daily. Cars have loaded into the city in large convoys, bus stops are becoming a haven for petty crime between tourists and blue-rinsed old ladies and cyclists are obeying the traffic laws as it’s becoming more like ‘Tour de Ed.’

They say during the festival the town population doubles, and although it hasn’t quite reached that level yet, it’s certainly well on its way.

Technical rehearsals have been in full swing and running like clockwork. I have small theory that the sun and risen population haven working in tandem to lift and burn off the dense fog that’s been plaguing for the past couple of days (although, I very much doubt bikini sales are going to jump up – one can only dream of such things).

So, bring on the punters! Things are nicely slotting into place – metaphorically and literally as every sizeable building in Edinburgh completely transforms. Every other shop front has been bombarded with posters so it’s mini challenge in itself trying to work out what the shop actually sells. The restaurants, cafes, and other such eateries are doubling their stock as queues file out of the doorways – soon to expand even further.

Today being the first day of previews, it’s almost all in place. Almost being the keyword because as long as the tickets keep on selling with streams of paper to be printed on, then the almost will gradually fade away just as the fog has upon Arthur’s Seat.

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bums on seats or a bit bummed out?

Yes I know it’s been a week, but what a week it’s been. Tough, grinding, fun, long, tiring, sweating and smelling, lifting and shifting, building, scaffing, painting, sticking and eating (of course you have to eat during all this!) are just a handful of some of the verbs and adjectives that could describe the last days.

The mass of staff arrived yesterday to lift spirits and blaze through what still had to be worked on. There is still a vast amount to be done but what has been achieved is both amazing and overwhelming at the same time. Things have certainly fallen into place nicely and now it’s time to move onto the next stage of the Edinburgh festival – the company arrivals.

From tomorrow, the long and laborious, but extremely essential work takes place with setting up the productions in each of the venues. These next few days are a crucial and pivotal point during the festival duration and for many people are the potential make and break of their time here. There will be tears and tantrums all over the shop with ego clashes a-plenty but then what would the arts festival be without them?

This is, of course, a very false picture that I’m painting of how the work will go because, in fact, it will be more first class teamwork to put the finishing touches to these shows and make them all look, sound and feel amazing. I will very much be involved in this process and will be knee deep in much deliberation of sorting the shows out and this is where the next phase of my quest will begin. I’ll be finding out why exactly the companies invest their long and hard earned cash to come to the place where the average audience attendance is just three.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the official organisers for the fringe festival, give their opinion on why performers should come to the festival:-

You will not only face competition for an audience from around 1,800 different Fringe shows but also from the Edinburgh International, Film, Book and Jazz Festivals, plus the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. So although many people travel to what is generically known as the ‘Edinburgh Festival’ there are many things to distract them from buying a ticket for your show. In addition, the costs of hiring a venue, travel, accommodation, publicity material, etc mount up quickly.

However, financial gain isn’t the number one reason to come to Edinburgh. Most performers come to the Fringe as an asset for their future careers. The Fringe is well-known for springboarding people’s careers, providing numerous opportunities for networking, and ‘fast-track’ learning some tricks of the trade from other performers from all across the globe.

As obvious as this may seem, it is the latter paragraph that is so blindingly true and something that runs across the fringe platform no matter where you are in the world. This is what makes the arts so good because it is consistently like this. However, this doesn’t satisfy my appetite enough and so I want to see the rabbit hole go further and receive a much wider perspective on why Edinburgh exists as it does today.

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