Tag Archives: Guardian Blog

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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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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quality over quantity

Wednesday’s Guardian Unlimited Arts blog featured Mark Shenton commenting on the early closure of The Lord of the Rings at Drury Lane in July. Shenton says that the scale of a production doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, with LOTR failing on it’s second occasion after Toronto, Canada in London. – 

it will enter the record books as not just one of the West End’s most lavish productions but also one of its costliest failures.’

At least there is some credit due, as the scale of the show was certainly a new feat in West End theatre.

However, those of us concerned in creating great theatre, when creating any theatre at all, will know that the quality of the show absolutely must match the quantity, if not better it. A feast for the eyes won’t ever cover up a feast for the soul and here is where LOTR pitched short by a long way.

If there is one golden rule I have learned in my time creating theatre, it is that you should never patronise the audience. You need to make them work a bit in order for them to find some attachment within the performance. West End and Broadway are prime suspects of this patronising happening all over the place, although is that the service that they’re doing? Enabling audience members to be entertained and switch-off into a mode of escapism – certainly something which I think theatre should never be.

Shenton goes on to praise The Woman in Black,which is appearing in it’s twentieth year and comparing it to LOTR we can see vast differences on how quality wins over quantity. This theatre challenges the audience through the journey of it’s characters withQuantity or Quality? surprises coming thick and fast. You can never be passive watching a performance such as this and in return you become fulfilled in a way you perhaps you thought you never would; a reason why more of these types of performances should be taking place in the commercial world of West End theatre.

So I have to say farewell and good riddance to LOTR – stick to the big screen please. I am just hoping that it will be replaced with some life changing, epic and fulfilling piece – perhaps some Beckett? All jokes aside, I think it is easy to see why someone such as Samuel Beckett’s works are still being produced and LOTR is well on it’s way to crashing and burning. His texts challenge the audience on almost every line in and the scale of this show will always be far greater than any show like LOTR.

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