Ask what art I like I’d say deeply emotional.
I am grateful to the posters left behind.
Shadows from culture past.
On buses, bus stops, billboards and the underground. At Moorgate Station, one still up for Begin Again. That movie came along at a moment and resonated.
I liked that the actors were allowed just to look. Watching Mark Ruffalo watch Keira Knightley sing. Or when Adam Levine listens to a phone message from Keira Knightley.
Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5:
Acting lessons are like a fire extinguisher in a glass case, and I don’t think I’ll ever need to get myself into an uncomfortable enough place to break the glass.
To look at someone looking can be very moving and it is too rare in film. TV is the worst. Even Golden Age stuff lays it on thick.
Don Draper is randy, Nucky Thompson is angry.
Emotionally where I am right now: those nether-regions around airports. My life, a cocktail of brief quotations.
What am I doing in my art?
Uncertainty rules and uncertainty is not concise.
Previous lives, I enjoyed theatre but it was never a thing. Then I moved to London in 2011 and more and more it was theatre which got me.
The Almeida Theatre will be the setting for most plays discussed here.
Approximately halfway between the stations of Angel and Highbury & Islington, the Almeida Theatre seats 325 people and I went there for the first time at the start of 2014 to see a musical of American Psycho.
It’s not like I have only seen shows at the Almeida, or that all of them have been good, but all of them have gone for something. And I like it there. It is welcoming, tickets are cheap, the audience more mixed and a bit happier.
Theatre can be so attractive.
To reach you, a good show will have circumnavigated the pathways where compromise, miscommunication, misinterpretation, laziness creep in and devalue a good thing, arriving as a showcase for human collectivism.
Our Town by Thornton Wilder.
A production directed by and starring David Cromer. It originally ran off-Broadway for 654 shows!
I went twice.
Both times moved to manly tears.
Thornton Wilder. A name I knew, but airily. Like the name of a star in a sky vast with gaps of knowledge.
I like Rupert Goold’s vibe. He is the Almeida’s Artistic Director. He writes in the programme, “it’s even said that it’s been performed every night somewhere in America since 1938,” which is RIDICULOUS.
David Cromer played the narrator, setting up and stopping scenes. Scenes of drab-clothed actors talking in British accents. British accents worked to locate a 1930s American play in our lives, rather than as hokey Americana tribute. British accents was another way to eliminate those air gaps that allow removal from an experience of art. Likewise, the barely-set – lots done with a couple tables and a few chairs – left the actors to carry the show, with help along the way from its secret weapon, the lighting.
Lights at full, David Cromer stepped out holding his phone aloft to start the play. He demystified. You were not captured by story but dealing with the events.
Life undramatic – the play calls to see afresh the over-familiar – family, weddings, death – to find value in the seemingly mundane. A lesson art does well to reaffirm.
The outrageous does appeal to me. But usually it is the little things which have that profound impact.
You know those spots where borders meet and you can jump between countries. Profundity is like that. It is very close to cloying, mundane and conservative.
I am going through some stuff. Not feeling part of an adult world.
Specifically, the Olds. Joylessly bulldozing through every show and exhibition, they wreak a devastating influence on culture. Wallets stuffed with membership cards, they are money and are given endless re-iterations that Constable and Turner were Painters and they were British.
Discovering the Internet in 2004, the Olds use it to buy tickets for events in the far reaches of the future. Which means free spirits – anti-planners, such as I – are excluded from art. Shouldered out by Google Calendar ones, we are the anachronisms.
Our money is no good.
They (financiers and Apocalypticos) would rather have it in the bank, and fast, to be invested in sub-portfolios of tears. Profit, profit, profit. The world is money-mad.
I was, however, an adult with American Psycho, my ticket got months in advance, after Bret Easton Ellis, author of the novel upon which the musical is based, tweeted a Kickstarter for the show. A musical of American Psycho, I figured, no way it could be boring.
Musicals. Troubled troublemaker.
Stephen Ward the Musical.
About a society osteopath embroiled in the Profumo affair.
Had a stylish beginning. Waxworks: Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Stephen Ward … who comes to life and says, “I don’t mind admitting, the last place I expected to finish up was as an exhibit in the chamber of horrors. And not even at the main HQ but in Blackpool, if you please.”
With a dense book, an ambiguous figure at its centre, I was sorry this show did not catch. I liked how it held up as corrupt the police, politicians, judges of Britain, and that this should come from Baron Lloyd-Webber, of Sydmonton in the County of Hampshire.
One review interpreted Stephen Ward as Male Lechery vis-à-vis fond days when men could whisk young girls off in their sports cars. A reading which I cannot entirely disregard.
The failure of musicals is met with a devilish relish. Thanks in part to their being thrust at audiences in such a grandiose and anachronistic manner.
American Psycho has grand ambitions but a gentle berth in a teeny theatre in London is just right.
Due credit for choosing American Psycho as the role to sever his past.
Real You subsumed – the role of a lifetime – you embody the Doctor 24/7. On tours of duty, somehow Matt Smith never convinced. As a family entertainer. It was like he did not really understand children, or how to interact with them.
How much does the Director bring?
In this age of outrage, American Psycho is more contentious than ever. Horror, satire, comedy, pastiche, portent: there are a ton of ways to come at it.
Director Rupert Goold went all-out, channelling a superbly brash spirit that melded gloriously with its Superstar Hot Ticket Buzz (an energy not to be disregarded). Goofy and camp, I liked its English flavourings.
Alan Bennett, to whom I will send a copy of this and therefore I apologise for the stuff about Olds because I like you and my prejudice stems from an immaturity where I react irrationally to stuff like when Olds bang on about house prices, about how much the value of their home has increased in the last year, month, week as if there is any innovation, risk, work – the tenets of capitalism – attached to the value of property increasing, but I am sorry Alan, you were saying, “Less of this, more of that, the director is in the first instance an editor and so it is with Nicholas Hytner and myself. He likes action more than he does discussion so it’s often the more reflective passages that get cut though they’re not always lost.”
What Hytner does is LOUD and I should love to see another’s take on People or read the rejected drafts of The Habit of Art.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis:
I pick up today’s Post that hangs from a Smithly Watson glass magazine rack and scan the gossip columns, then my eye catches a story about recent sightings of these creatures that seem to be part bird, part rodent – essentially pigeons with the heads and tails of rodents – found deep in the center of Harlem and now making their way steadily downtown. A grainy photo of one of these things accompanies the article, but experts, the Post assures us, are fairly certain this new breed is a hoax. As usual this fails to soothe my fear, and it fills me with a nameless dread that someone out there has wasted the energy and time to think this up: to fake a photograph (and do a half-assed job at that, the thing looks like a fucking Big Mac) and send the photograph to the Post, then for the Post to decide to run the story (meetings, debates, last-minute temptations to cancel the whole thing?), to print the photograph, to have someone write about the photo and interview the experts, finally to run this story on page three in today’s edition and have it discussed over hundreds of thousands of lunches in the city this afternoon. I close the paper and lie back, exhausted.
Patrick Bateman exists in a society that has no use for sensitivity. In a staging of overkill, peopled by cartoons, Matt Smith presented a human.
The next play Rupert Goold directed was King Charles III by Mike Bartlett.
American Psycho and King Charles III – two lives in tailspin.
Both productions moved through the natural, surreal, camp, presenting irreverent, funny, messed-up worlds. King Charles III had none of American Psycho’s overload. Surely I am Puritan but in its economic use of effects, I found it more theatrical.
Like the discussion of a tank positioned outside Buckingham Palace – that became something so visual.
An actor took the stage waves of warm nostalgia it was Nicholas Rowe AKA misspent youth watching Young Sherlock Holmes at Christmastime.
He played the leader of the opposition; a politician of aristocratic aloofness. Adam James was the Prime Minister; a politician of managerial blandness. Two actors encapsulating what is so vomity about our rulers.
Not voting is opting out of a system that seeks your vote only so that it can boast of having a mandate to continue being hideous.
Who waves flags for parliament?
I am not talking multinational-tax-evader-arms-trading oligarchs. I mean on ground level – grass roots – who is seeing their needs met or imaginations inspired by this lot?
When politicians are only good for creating enemies – foreigns, the EU, benefit scum – who hates best is all that differentiates.
King Charles III had the best end-of-first-half. Charles marching into the House of Commons – with a sword – to dissolve parliament.
It’s what we want!
Our God-given Royals to rescue Britain from the phonies and charlatans who care not a jot for its people.
As I write I am reading Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Buddha of Suburbia. A coming- of-age tale set in the 1970s. There is a lot of theatre in it.
Christ, Creamy Fire Eater, you are one hundred percent total prat, that’s exactly what they’re like, these people, actresses and such-like fools. The world burns and they comb their eyebrows. Or they try and put the burning world on the stage. It never occurs to them to douse the flames.
Which, too neatly, made me think of Little Revolution, Alecky Blythe’s play set around the London riots.
It was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins.
I want to see more shows by him. His take on Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II at the National Theatre was my favourite of 2013.
“A mess! An absolute mess of ideas!” a neighbour announced at half-time.
Lately, artists are attracted to bringing it all in – uncensored in material, style, voice.
Ask what art I make, I do not know what to tell you.
Step inside a gallery of sound video paint sculpture performance text, I do not know what to tell you.
Rarely succeeds because it is really hard. To arrange the pieces so that they work together and individually, not become stodge – stuff stuck in the blender – but it has to happen. Our heads in a multi-lane bombardment, art must make sense/dissonance of that.
Edward II worked. The parts served the big picture to create a defiant and epic sweep.
Actors in the audience, anachronisms, an unadorned National Theatre, lovely three-way kiss (can’t lie: hadn’t seen one before) worked to locate a 1500s play in our lives.
Projections as well. Edward II had lots.
Sometimes stuff gets so widespread, it is like WE DO NOT SPEAK OF OBVIOUS THINGS, e.g. why are artists still putting a word in neon and getting away with it?
I think often about projections.
Improved and cheaper technology, of course you see more, and not just in theatre.
The projections in American Psycho absorbed the stage, creating a swirl of scenes and sledgehammer cuts – capturing Patrick Bateman’s delirious journey.
Edward II had live and recorded video, titles. These brought messiness, battled the mad proportions of the Olivier Theatre and I reckon were used excessively in order to irritate Olds/Puritans/Curmudgeons.
A lot of the time though, I question your necessity, Projector.
When used inelegantly or as a cheat. Needless titles of place and time. Needless distraction, like there is not confidence in the people on stage. Ugly graphics. Or projections on ill-proportioned screens, giving me the business-conference creeps.
There is the theatre of doing something on stage projected live. Fräulein Julie at the Barbican was presented as a movie made live on stage. The set, sound, editing, lighting, camera work laid bare. The audience loved it but I found it all so complicated. Are we applauding craft?
Working in a cloakroom one night, chatting to a colleague.
“I have just been to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” I said. “It reminded me of Once.”
To which my colleague told me, “They have the same Movement Director, Stephen Hoggett.”
Now I see the title a lot but I knew then not what a Movement Director was.
I like what Stephen Hoggett does in these shows. It is very human. A dance not showy but of precision and rigour.
Stephen Hoggett is an enabler of the movie adaptation. Through small movements, actors create cuts. This makes for fast-moving theatre and removes the need for projections, vast sets, revolving stages.
It is cinematic choreography and his influence can be seen on many stages – creating theatre that is stimulating but occasionally forgettable.
For example, Chariots of Fire skipped through scenes of the movie. The movement, brisk and imaginative. As an exercise in transferring a movie to stage it was very successful and … pointless?
Mike Bartlett adapted Chariots of Fire but it is King Charles III which is a zillion times more necessary.
It is no far-fetched notion that Charles will be an involved Monarch. Accompanying her longevity, Elizabeth’s masterstroke has been to not express an opinion about anything.
Of Scottish Independence, she was reported to have said that she hopes “people will think very carefully about the future.”
While Queen Victoria was still alive, the future King Edward VI is reported to have said, “I don’t mind praying to the Eternal Father, but I must be the only man in the country afflicted with an eternal mother.”
Her face on everything. Who has lived in a world without Elizabeth? Maybe losing Lou Reed was to prepare us.
More Buddha of Suburbia.
Critics always say his work’s ‘austere’ or ‘puritanical’ because he likes bare raked stages and theatres with their brickwork sticking out all over the place and no props. As if my mum and the working class like that. They want comfortable seats, French windows and sweets.
Onto the bare raked stages of Edward II and King Charles III, the Royal procession arrived. This is the ceremony we uphold – in the face of absolute poverty, when the building is literally falling to pieces, we invest in jubilees, follies, great carnivals of wealth.
Encapsulate politics but artistically we cannot be boring. Bedroom tax, immigration, banking, I do not care to see in any art form, but the emotion of these systems, I do want to see.
You guys. Artists. Just don’t read reviews ever. Even the good ones will drive you crazy b/c those people don’t know Any Thing.
That is a tweet by the composer Nico Muhly, whose writing often strikes me as very wise.
One finds, in good reviews, still the dangerous instinct to analyze trends rather than notes, imagined patterns rather than musical ones.
The National Theatre.
To see Great Britain by Richard Bean, a play about tabloid hacking, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Had my day tickets, front row centre, where I was swept along in the bustle bravado. It was entertaining. But it was the theatre of theatre comedy. Big big big. What I mean is, are these jokes really funny or does putting some jokes in a theatre make allowances? Either way, it sits uncomfortably. Many nights the theatre can still feel Old. We are back in the Good Old Days, belly-laughing at foreign idiots and women with massive tits.
Great Britain ends on a this-is-what-the-play-is-about speech. These confuse Super Earnest with Powerful Theatre. I feel one coming – actor alone, addressing the audience – I say it is a total writerly failure.
Great Britain was lame, Little Revolution not quite there. King Charles III was the play which got to what this Britain is about.
It was a work which relished the irrationality written into our being by this land of Lords, Mayors, Lord Mayors, Black Rod.
People say the Royals do not have any real power anymore. Celebrity is power, sure, but theirs is something deeper. A hold over psyche-spirit-souls. I was in the thick of the Diamond Jubilee. Make no mistake, the country’s nuts.
Gilbert and George celebrate the country’s nuttiness, obsessions and maladies.
Those silver capsules.
Everyone had seen them – nitrous oxide, helium, crack – accounts differed as to what they were. All we knew for sure was that whatever they were, they were definitely gay.
As straight society – normal people – slept or tended to its children, homosexuals were marauding the streets, littering parks with the fallout of their depraved lifestyles.
Gilbert and George formed a new collection around images of the capsules. Their round silver forms in patterned piles alongside women in full face veils, Queenie, white van men.
Butting up, dualities, that’s where you find the British psyche. Which is why I recommend Gilbert and George to any writer seeking the real flavours, fetishes and hysterias of Britain over the last fifty years.
Some insane relative we do not name, riots are the British Family Secret.
With Olympics around the corner, it was vital to quell this unrest.
I was at this time an enemy of the state. Unfaithful to Hardworking Britain. They were the days of job applications. Wherein the box I ticked defined me ‘currently workless’.
When suddenly: London 2012 vacancies flooded the Job Centres Plusses. No way could you not get a job that summer.
A giant work scheme, London 2012 was an island of peace. Spared media-political negativity, in a respite from scaremongering, grave warnings and the #LongTermEconomicPlan, Britain had a job.
I like Rupert Goold’s vibe.
With his tweet, “I have honestly never seen anything as original in my life,” he sold me my ticket to Mr Burns.
The Almeida has good marketing. King Charles III’s tagline “a future history play” is something that communicates.
Meanwhile, the Royal Court Theatre is actively dissuading sales with press releases which ask, “How do you save 22 million pounds? Mark and Hilary, the leaders of the Council are about to find out.”
Michael Billington’s review of 1984 at the Almeida concluded:
I worry that the theatre is rapidly
becoming a place of dramatisations
rather than original drama
What is the point of a musical of American Psycho?
The novel is still so present, its influence on culture, especially humour, enormous. So in, say, the scene of men comparing business cards, there is something pleasant-pointless about revisiting it as theatre.
With age you veer to Fundamentalism. In attitudes to art, this could be because you believe you have seen it all or you want to stop learning. In which case, I would say I am a believer in Medium Specificity, and am therefore opposed to the adaptation.
ALL MUSICALS ARE ADAPTATIONS
Art is found in finding the right place (tempted to end there, I go on …) for an idea.
Once lives entirely fully on stage in a way the movie does not, therefore I would argue the movie was a means to develop an idea for the stage.
The dramatisation is the reboot. The comfort of familiar stories.
Written by Anne Washburn, directed by Robert Icke.
A play in three acts.
Act One, post-apocalypse. A group sit around a bonfire, recalling the “Cape Feare” episode of The Simpsons, piecing together its jokes and events. Act Two, seven years later, troupes tour performances of old TV shows. The group rehearses their version of “Cape Feare”. Act Three, seventy years later, a performance of the episode in full. It has warped into a decadent ritualistic musical.
The ideas of Mr Burns are interesting but I was bored. It was fast-moving and slow.
‘Managed dissatisfaction’ is a term I appreciate. Netflix uses it to describe traditional television broadcasting.
Like drivers, food, cleaners, we want stories On Demand. Those stories are often told with a quick-quick-move-it delivery.
A lot of contemporary art lies in fragments. Scattering tools, process. The technique relies on accumulation.
In its three acts, Mr Burns covers a lot but does it accumulate?
This play cuts the fat (fragmentary storytelling flatters an audience: we are asked to speculate, fill the gaps) but in doing so, does it evade responsibility?
King Charles III moved swiftly yet it enjoyed seeing through the stages of how discontent would crumble into revolution.
Bret Easton Ellis is going on a lot lately about Generation Wuss. “The I-like-everyone ethos that our culture is drowning in.” But set this ethos against our world of trolling, the polarisation in opinion results in a critical blandness. Which is conducive to Anything-Goes Art: chuck out a load of ideas in a load of styles and there will be Something For Everybody.
Ideas can be presented while abnegating character development or accounting for actions. Act Two of Mr Burns ends with a shooting. Shock, suspense and … a cliffhanger to nothing.
Unearned Emotion in art.
Art which wants to go straight for the hard stuff – the highs, lows, deep emotion – frequently signalled with music.
Slap on an emotive song, that’ll do the work.
With music, Mr Burns came to life. When in Act Two, the troupe started singing, finally it gathered energy. But that energy does not belong to the play. It is pop’s energy.
To love your subject.
There is always referencing in art. Pop, royalty, religion. Whatever it is, it must come from a place of love. Even the villains, their villainy must be loved.
Had Mike Bartlett approached his Royals with contempt, it would have formed shallow and sour writing. Richard Bean’s Great Britain was peopled by horrible characters, platforms for the writer’s contempt. Whereas Bartlett wrote human beings with distinct ambitions. Royals playing their role in dynasty.
William and Kate here pursue a managerial style. The world needs no more managers. No way does Britain want shirt-no-tie Kings. Monarchists will tire of streamlined business-like figures, indistinguishable from financiers and politicians. Without pageantry, what use is British Monarchy to the people?
Even the clownish Prince Harry aspires to integrity in King Charles III – he is seeking to find his place, and his eventual compromise reinforces the fall of his father.
I did not feel love for its subjects in Mr Burns. There was little about the characters which stuck. Its use of pop music derived sniggers – at some Britney Spears or Ricky Martin – those sniggers of recognition.
So: I did not like Mr Burns.
But: standing ovation.
Real enthusiasm, buzz in the crowd. (You always feel the mood as a theatre chucks out.)
I read this TV review by Emily Nussbaum in which she said:
Sometimes, a divided audience is a result of mixed messages, an incoherent text; sometimes, it’s a sign of a bold experiment that we are still learning how to watch.
Rupert Goold tweeted:
The lesson from #mrburns is that if you program avant-garde work you have to run it long enough to find its audience.
Avant-garde … who says that? I like Rupert Goold’s vibe.
At the Camden People’s Theatre.
Nights were someone crying at the audience. About being single, not having a job, getting old.
It was not my theatre.
Was I Curmudgeon in need of narrative staged theatre with intervals in which Olds drink drinks pre-ordered on iPads using apps for pre-ordering interval drinks – whereas Camden People’s Theatre, and the like, what was that?
Avant-garde? Experimental? Terms so middle-of-the-twentieth-century.
Shows that fall between stand-up, sketch, performance art, monologue. I get why you would choose the venue of theatre.
Comedy’s homes are dim caverns and brute arenas, damp with blood and booze-breath. Art galleries house the most hostile, cold and evil of audiences.
I speak from experience.
Victim of manifold tortures at the hands of art audiences. Why are they so mean to you, Paul?
Performance art is rarely prescribed. Duration, form, story. The audience is unsure of its role – do we have permission to laugh? – and so defences go up. This guarded uncertainty – crossed arms, impassive expressions – forms into hostility. The performer is viewed as a lump of art, and threat.
Marina Abramović’s 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery, London.
Talking with people about it, amidst my blah-blah what it came to was sincerity. Sincerity was something I was missing. Sincerity was something I needed.
My sincerity is not rhetoric, lectures, In Conversation With, symposia.
These are Higher Education and Higher Education is a debt machine industrial complex shrouding art in an institutional fortress held up by the illusion that empowerment comes only with state certification.
Jamie T: “Write your own books and write your own spell checker.”
Entering the Serpentine, watches, phones, cameras removed.
You then could enter the gallery.
Is what I thought, as I entered and saw a cluster of Youngsters standing on a platform, eyes closed or staring blankly.
The format changed through 512 Hours but the times I visited, there was a central room of standing meditation, a room of beds and a room of walking exercises.
I came to this show really not liking Marina Abramović. My reason for visiting then? I suppose I wanted my anti-Marina tirade affirmed and embellished.
Why was I scornful? Were they not seekers too of a deeply emotional art?
Marina Abramović’s biopic The Artist is Present is just an endless stream of crying babies to her show at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and this disgusted me.
Is what I thought – until gradually, the atmosphere, its uncertainty, I liked it. What were we doing? A reluctance (Britishness?) pervaded the space, without obliterating the experience. The atmosphere was not cynical, ironic. Nor was it hyper-emotional.
I had to deal with my participation. Get over my ironies and contempt and ask what I was doing there. The show placed everyone as performer. It gave a collective and private experience. One that required you get through your self-consciousness.
Maybe I did fall, a little bit, in love with Marina. Before leading me into the Idiot Meditation Circle, she whispered: “Try.”
And she was right. I do need to try. I need to try a lot harder.
The Internet Arts were feeling museological. Wrapped in a meanness and obscurity, creating experiences that never felt complete. I was always a text or performance or web-platform short of the complete picture. It was a world in which my voice could only ever be far away.
I do not know an artist in London who has not been evicted from their studio because of apartments – apartments, apartments, apartments – full of people imposing curfews, drinking bans, closing times, licensing any gathering, song sung, drink imbibed, like they want to live luxury-apartment lives in a city without any interference from the city, and as for affordable housing, puh-lease, look at my P60s, tell me what’s affordable, and if a city is diversity, what then when it has all gone to apartments (apartments in developments with names like The Source, The Scene, The Exchange, The Place … super Satanic) leaving what studios there are with nutcase rents and run by corrupt foundations who can fuck right off with their charitable status, so the Internet Arts could have been catalysed by the impossibility of maintaining a studio.
I am uncomfortable around the weeping Marina inspires. But so often these tears are the tears of the young. Are they alienated by their own generation?
Marina said, you are here, here is the art. For better and worse, doesn’t theatre say the same?
Art which is not sure-footed, it commits without knowing the outcome and explores territory that will never be feel-good or elicit the five stars.
Holding neither prospect nor interest in mass appeal, Speculative Art is victim to the austerity ideology.
Turner, Constable and an adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four – not Speculative Art.
I feel so done with you. In this age of cynicism, we need you and your told-you-so missives less than ever.
Visiting him is a masochism and this play, honouring its period in greys and browns, lifelessly re-affirmed Orwell and his endless commandments.
I took exception to a scene of torture in which the audience is invoked as complicit. It symbolised but did not permit crowd participation.
Proper crowd participation came at the Barbican, during Thomas Ostermeier’s production of An Enemy of the People.
»Die Wirtschaft ist nicht in der Krise, die Wirtschaft ist die Krise.«
“The economy is not in crisis, the economy is the crisis.” This line was in a scene of public debate which transitioned to involve the audience.
It kicked off. Everyone shouting, no one listening. There is no agreement. Bringing to life the level of debate we have in this country: a shitstorm.
One audience member made a claim I have heard before: you are disallowed to speak genuinely of inequality if you have money to spend on tickets to the theatre.
For the usual reasons, I am anti-Monarchy. Flag-waving, curtsying, wedding fever, schoolchildren lining streets as one of them drives past … the Royals infantilise us.
NEVER WILL I ACCEPT AN HONOUR.
My favourite thing about British Prime Minister David Cameron is when he publicly supports bands.
And of course, in terms of popular music, Hull has a fantastic record. I remember, some years ago, that great Housemartins album which was London 0 Hull 4.
To love your subject.
The ghost in King Charles III.
A masterful construct.
Upon its appearance, there was laughter. Diana … could it be? Incredulous, uncomfortable. Those are laughs of value.
What is our relationship now to Diana? The deification, damnation surrounding her life and death was lurid, it feels like another country in a far-distant era.
100 Great Britons, the BBC poll of 2002, placed Diana third and Shakespeare fifth, which does not mean a great deal but it means something.
The ghost provides an OTTness necessary to art. The audaciousness is delicious to behold and is a provocation that will prevent the play from being fully assimilated by the Establishment.
Just as I am not sure we are comfortable acknowledging Diana anymore, Britain has a way of forgetting.
The riots remain mysterious. Their coda will always be 24-hour Magistrates locking up the poor. As a way in, therefore, we could celebrate the riots as a moment of freedom and expression.
Freedom and expression – what is your relationship to art?
Was Little Revolution even about the riots? or was it about responsibilities of the media? community responses? class division? or the manipulations a writer must go through to create a piece of theatre?
It was verbatim theatre, created from interviews made during and after the London riots.
Little Revolution strained. It skipped around scenes and the narrative never found its drive.
Our Town, which followed, skipped around scenes and I initially found it inconsequential. But somewhere it clicked; the pieces accumulated and its episodes mattered.
Little Revolution involved a ‘Community Chorus’ of young actors. This encapsulated its sense of missed opportunity. They should have been at the centre of the play but were instead demoted to occasional skits and lots of milling around while the grown-ups talked.
Youngsters in audiences, desperately unhappy.
Slumped forward, death-mask expressions, their bodies spell M-I-S-E-R-Y. Dragged to these temples of elderly ferment by some cruel outreach scheme or teacher’s belief in the power of art.
Same with Classical.
The misery stems partially from not knowing when it will stop. What if the cellist keeps playing, forever and ever? and what about the bastard next to the cellist, turning pages? every page a lifetime of hardship.
My night at Little Revolution, there were many Youngsters. A good thing of course, but alas, they were in misery.
I was with them. I wanted Little Revolution to take me in there – into those CCTV images. Only did the scene of a police stop-and-search become something immediate, exciting. Little Revolution needed more of this but remained outside, giving voice to onlookers. And one thing we had enough of from the riots is comment.
I have not had much to do with verbatim theatre.
It is good to hear real (real!) voices. How strange and beautiful spoken English can be.
But this brought another problem: sniggers. Placing some voices in a theatre caused sniggers.
Placing herself in the play – Alecky Blythe as Alecky Blythe, making recordings for what will become Little Revolution – the writer acknowledges that she is manipulating the story. This is there in the ending. Blythe returns to one of her best interviewees hoping he will provide some concluding remarks. She then stands reflecting a moment, before closing her Mac.
Snap to black.
It was an ending I found clumsy, imposing a significance that was not there.
I hoped Joe Hill-Gibbins would bring more fun to proceedings but maybe this verbatim thing is too restricting.
Director chained to dialogue. Actor shackled with headphones relaying their dialogue. It is not a trusting or giving way to write.
Going back to Our Town.
The lighting, by Heather Gilbert, I liked so much.
A canopy of what looked your basic house lights. Really bright, really unsexy as you entered and when the play began.
Sat facing a bank of seats, I found myself watching people watch the play.
Rapture and boredom.
I don’t know how actors do it. In my ill-fated performance art, I respond so intensely to expressions and body language, which I know is stupid – joy can lie behind a grim countenance.
Somewhere the light dimmed. What had felt hard and practical, turned to a warm, heavy glow, gathering actor and audience in a collective moment. It was something hypnotic and completely intimate.
Craving permanence, in my world of documentation, archival inks, a GoPro strapped to my head, theatre is out of time. But there I am present and every show is unique. Even the Legendary Performances. Each lasts a couple hours then becomes a muddle of feeling, association, misremembrance – that stuff which connects.
To my cloakroom colleagues
who talk about art, thank you
typeset by Sam de Groot