Tag Archives: Theatre

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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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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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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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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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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