Dec 4, 2006

That was the year that was

A confession: I love lists. So its a Christmas treat as much for me as for anyone who may read this to offer up my favourites of the year, some of which I hope may serve as present suggestions to the desperate. Who am I kidding, this is pretty much all about me wanting to tell you what I liked, in glorious, wonderful List Form. So without further ado...


Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
A magnificent odyssey of an album that finds its 20 year-old creator burying himself in history and the sounds of Eastern Europe like a young boy wrapped up in his grandmother's musty fur coat. It is a gorgeous, sentimental, nostalgic and ethereal exploration of an imaginary European landscape that haunts from the first note to the last.

The Islands - Return to the Sea

A boyant, clever little album from the most self-destructive band of the 21st century. Formerly the Unicorns (and now also, sadly, formerly The Islands), Nick Diamonds and J'aime Tambeur come together to create complex but infectious pop songs that seem to encompass (and in some ways surpass) all the best things in Canadian music at the moment, from Broken Social Scene to Wolf Parade.

The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

A glorious, anarchic, self-destructive romp through the underside of American teenagerdom - drugs and sex and drugs and sex and suicide and apathy and vomit. The opening lines of the album tell you everything you need to know:

there are nights when i think that sal paradise was right. boys and girls in america have such a sad time together.
sucking off each other at the demonstrations.
making sure their makeup's straight.
crushing one another with collossal expectations.
dependent, undisciplined, sleeping late.

The best album of the year.

Particularly in the Heartland (The TEAM) - Traverse/BAC
An heartbreaking little play that engulfs you in a beautiful kaleidoscope of Americana. A gentle but intruiging exploration of the mythology of the American heartland by an exciting, challenging young company and possible the only time I've felt myself choking up in the theatre.

Roam (Gridiron) - Edinburgh Airport
In the top three almost on the grounds of ambition alone - Gridiron didn't so much take over edinburgh airport as slip into it, surrounded by genuine travellers too-ing and fro-ing, to explore the transitory otherness of air travel. The beautiful, subtle glimpses of angel-winged cleaners wandering across the terminal almost made the show on their own.

Faust (Punchdrunk) - Wapping

A very different non-theatrical experience to that of Gridiron, more site-sympathetic than site-specific, punchdrunk took over a disused warehouse in East London to transport you to another reality. A breathtaking, life-changing absorbsion in the intoxication and temptation of Goethe's fable. The most startling, ambitious visual spectacle I have ever seen. It has now extended through to March '07 so make sure you catch it before then.


The Squid and the Whale
A whimsical but achingly sad little film from the Wes Anderson stable about the break up of a marriage from the perspective of the children. Best performance of the year from Jeff Daniels as the arrogant academic father struggling with his wife's success and his relative failure.

A gorgeously shot high-school film noir that is about as cinematic a film as you will see, fiddling with genre to joyous effect.

Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog's film on Bear lover/attack victim Timoth Treadwell is about the most perfectly balanced documentary you'll see. He slowly and carefully explores in a highly personal but never egotistical fashion this most bizare of stories, peeling away the comic absurdity of Treadwell to reveal the aching sadness buried in the reels and reels of hand-recorded grizzly bear film he left behind after his death. The kind of intimate, beautiful true story cinema so rarely achieves.


Hello Americans - Simon Callow
How do you tell the real story of someone as large (in every sense) and mythical as Orson Welles? In three volumes apparently, this being the second, charting the chaotic, fascinating and in the end disasterous period from Kane to Macebeth in which he went from boy wonder to Hollywood joke. Callow's feat is to make so much research and mythbusting so endlessly entertaining, and even, frequently, tragic.

District and Circle - Seamus Heaney
A simply beautiful collection of poetry - dark and haunting with a scope that spans the ages.

Black Swan Green - David Mitchell

I may be sucker for this book in that it seems to have been written entirely for me - so much if it everything that I never knew I felt when I was 13. But then, maybe that's its power, its a genuinely grown-up, thoughtful and intimate novel about being a teenager by someone accomplished enough to deliver that but young enough to still remember. There is something undoubtedly magical about it all.

So now its over to you, whoever you may be (I'm looking at you Tsquared)... any favourites from the last 12 months?

Dec 1, 2006

The sound of music (no not that one...)

In a Hamlet workshop today the director asserted the importance of feeling the metre in Shakespeare. Nor merely of being aware of it or utilizing it but of feeling it in a very physical sense. When an actor speaks Shakespeare well, he said, it will chime somewhere inside them.

Whereas language touches the mind it seems music touches the body in a very real sense. Last week we spoke to a performance artist who works with materials and the most startling and interesting thing she suggested was that there were only really two senses, seeing and touching. Smell is the product of particles of a material touching the insides of our noses and, more interestingly, hearing is the result of the waves of sound buffeting our ear in a very literal sense. Hence when we hear a piece of music it quite literally touches us. It is pre-cognitive. It moves our body first and the feeling it produces in the body (sadness, joy, pity, fear) is then translated into something the mind can comprehend. When language and music are combined then, there is the potential for the most powerful of experiences – in which the mind and the body are both simultaneously transformed.

The most obvious example of such an effect would seem to be opera. However, I feel that in this medium the balance between language and music is almost always tipped towards the latter – indeed even the frequency of a split between language and music in terms of a composer and librettist attests to an uneasy relationship between the two. The Rake’s Progress for example is always Brittan’s Opera, Auden and his words, regardless of their stature elsewhere, are required to hide somewhere in the shadows.

And this brings us back to Shakespeare and the chiming of his language. Ezra Pound suggested that ‘all good poetry aspires to the condition of music’. That it is in poetry, with its rhythm and metre, that you find the most perfect synthesis of thought and feeling. Shakespeare’s verse has the potential to physically transform an audience through its musicality. Othello’s rage, or Romeo’s love or Hamlet’s frustration are experienced by the audience physically – when performed well they should be chiming in the spectator’s gut almost before they have considered what is actually being said.

Thus the physical experience of Shakespeare onstage transforms the audience from spectator to participator. In a very literal sense they feel the characters, they do not merely watch them. This is why, for me, it is important that Shakespearean rhythm and metre are honoured. I have been taught how to speak verse since I was eleven years old and I love it. I adore this powerful transformative quality that it has. I recently played Romeo in the echoing grandeur of Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. I found that the very musicality of the verse was the most powerful tool allowing me to really experience Romeo rather than simply imitate him.

Nov 23, 2006

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You at the Royal Court

Before I left for the brutal north I had a chance to see Caryl Churchill's Drunk Enough to Say I Love You with Ben Yeoh (a stupidly talented man who I hope to be seeing a lot more of in the future), amongst others - his more coherent and well informed opinions on the piece can be found over here, for those who like that sort of thing...

As for me, I was tantalised more than I was impressed. There were hints of the greatness in there that make Churchill the most important British playwright alive to day (Pinter can shove it up his Krapp-hole).

The play's a two hander about the US-UK 'special relationship' played out as a gay romance in which (union) Jack will do anything for (uncle) Sam. At its best the play toys beautifully with the surreal synthesis of the political and the personal as the lovers flirt, fight and fondle over points of international diplomacy (who to invade, who to support). The names of enemy combatants (North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq) are flippantly tossed out as the couple nuzzle on the sofa and Vietnam, Kyoto and 911 are handled like lovers tiffs - that time you got drunk and kissed someone else, or the fact that you never put the lid on the toothpaste.

In so doing Churchill begins to conjure the absurdity of a world in which tabloid newspapers split every double page evenly between politics and celebrity gossip. Is it any surprise within such an environment that our relationship with the US is as schizophrenic as it is, aghast as we watch their actions on the news, then laughing along with Friends or Frasier as it comes on afterwards. Appalled by Guantanamo Bay but still taking our children to Disneyworld on Holliday.

America is the most dangerous, aggresive, powerful country in the world and yet still attempts to perceive itself as the home of freedom, innocence and the sit-com. It is this absurd dichotomy that Churchill seems to suggest, allows us to perceive the UK's 'special relationship' with the US within the personal narrative of a relationship (with undertones of the homosexual) between Bush and Blair.

It is when this schizophrenia is at its most absurd that the play really chimes. As Sam refuses to budge on Kyoto protocols only to cattily demand that Jack put his cigarette out. The laughter in the auditorium was as hollow and ironic as you will find.

Episode 4 (wherein I return to our nation's capital and appologise to William Carlos Williams)

This is just to say

I am back from
where it is
an icebox

and where
I was probably too
for posting

Forgive me
it was just vicious
so wet
and so cold


Although I have spent the last four years living either in Edinburgh or places much colder I was still left pretty gobsmacked by quite how miserable weather-wise Scotland was for the entire five days I was there. I think maybe it was the wetness that really got to me, though this is my own damn fault for only bringing a pair of shoes notable only for their numerous holes. After several days of the kind of intense puddles that you only get in cities with 600 years of cobbles and no sense of purpose I think I was pretty close to developing trenchfoot.

As I failed to mention it before I left I should probably say that I have spent the last few days flitting between Scotland's grand old dame and her slightly younger, slightly trendier sister Glasgow (the Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret of metropolises (metropoli?)), directing a scratch night at the Arches. For those unfamiliar, the Arches is a theatre venue that stretches out under the railway arches of central station (you can hear the sound of the trains occasionally shuffling to and fro above). Its a spiffy, exciting space run by a whole bunch of truly lovely people so if you happen to be in the area do check it out.

The scratch itself went stupidly well and from being the pretty much entirely unknown wildcard on the bill that the organisers confessed they were worried could be (for all they knew) cornea-tearingly awful, by the end they were all really keen to help us develop the piece into a full show. We may also get a chance to do some work at the BAC out of this as well, so all in all the wind and rain were definitely worth it.

I also discovered rather delightfully that this blog has a reader (albeit a friend of mine) - so hello to you.

Nov 11, 2006

Blasted at the Barbican

For me the problem with Sarah Kane is the idea of Sarah Kane. At the age of 23, her debut Blasted became the first play that people really tried to be self-righteously scandalised by since the 60s. Five years later she killed herself and the hard work of manufacturing a myth entirely incongruous with her body of work could begin. She became the manic depressive, writing her pain in ever more shocking, ever more outrageous ways. And thus a generation of budding young things imagined the path to posterity to be paved with outrageous sex and violence and unrelenting misery. Problem is, without the thought, care, ambiguity, intelligence and hope beautifully laced through Kane's ethereal writing, the entirely artificial 'shock' over Blasted would have faded quickly and left nothing behind.

This German production, at the Barbican as part of its impressive Bite '06 season, goes back to Kane's first play and takes pains to point out everything that was missed just over a decade ago. The infamous scenes of sex and violence are downplayed, hidden behind sofas and beds and coats, played out in darkness or half light. There are no loud and angry shocks here; even the blast between the Acts is a lyrical dream, the set slowly and smoothly seperating as a heavy rain of rubble pours gently onto the stage.

The play consequently becomes a quiet, slow, achingly painful dissection of the potential for inhumanity. It is the timing that is most startling in this production. Every silence, from Cate's first entrance and her long, careful examination of the glossy hotel room to magnificent last few moments, is teased out to perfection. Most startling of all is Thomas Thiem as the anonymous soldier. He describes his own horrifying atrocities and carries out brutal acts of violence onstage with a quiet, calm melancholy that is as terrifying as it is achingly sad.

Like Fassbinder's Pre-Paradise Sorry Now, Blasted explores the cruelty and a brutality latent in the everyday and its manifestation in the torture and genocide of war. However, in contrast to Fassbinder's unrelenting bleakness, Blasted, like Cleansed, its pseudo-sequel, is a play of hope. Here, as with everything in this production, the final image of humanity amidst the devastation of war is played slowly, carefully and, it must be said, beautifully. This is a production by a company that truly understands Kane, and in eschewing shock and awe for a deliberately slow naturalism they honour the complexity and the beauty of her writing.

Why is it then, that it has required a German company for such a powerful reading of a very English playwright (the references to Elland Road and Joeys being the only thing that really jars in the German translation). Well for a start they have been doing Kane well for a lot longer than we have. Her work was almost immediately embraced in Germany even while it was still scorned and simplified in this country. And that comes down to what we in this country, and they in Germany, are used to seeing in the theatre.

Kane's fierce, postmodern works are for me far better understood as part of a post-Brechtian German tradition that includes Fassbinder and Heiner Muller, than alongside Ravenhill and Anthony Neilson as some fatuous 'In-Yer-Face' movement deliberately constructed by certain smug tossers in the media to parallel the publicity hungry YBAs. Such a frame of reference does Kane and her work no favours.

Nov 7, 2006

Hamlet at the Pompidou Centre, Paris


Go on, say it to yourself, out loud.


It is a heavy, magical word, the saying of which instantly conjures a storm of signs and meanings; skulls, and stages, TS Eliot and Laurence Olivier, To Be's and not To Be's. If even to pronounce the word carries with it such a caravan of cultural baggage, then staging a production under this banner must be done in the knowledge that you are reaping the whirlwind.

Rather than keeping this intimidating knowledge somewhere in the back of their minds, The Wooster Group confront it head on. A company not unused to messing with 'The Greats' (their production of Miller's The Crucible, L.S.D, had the playwrite foaming at the mouth with indignation) this is nonetheless the first time the company has retained the original title of a work. Clearly this is set up as a confrontation from the start - Liz Lecompte the plucky David to this most mammoth of all cultural Goliaths.

And yet (as should be expected from the Wooster group) before we have even entered the auditorium the goal posts have been shifted. A slither of white paper insterted in the programme informs us that this is not a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet but a recreation of Richard Burton's 1964 Broadway version (recorded at the time to be screened across the country in thousands of cinemas in groundbreaking scheme known as 'theatrefilm'). Hamlet the play, no longer takes centre stage, the limelight instead shifting to the relationship between this present Hamlet and a past imagining of the text. Here then is Liz Lecompte and her company not as David but as a Matador, tempting the bull into charging then skipping sideways at the last minute. It is this that is the somewhat tantalising yet frequently frustrating game that the show proceeds to play for the next two and a half hours.

What the audience is confronted with is a cast of indisputably talented actors mimicking as exactly as they can the movements and speech of the figures from the 1964 broadway Hamlet that is projected behind them, and on television screens across the stage for them to take their cues from. Every camera change (there were 17 recording the broadway show), close-up, editing malfunction and screen flicker is represented. Closer to a gym work-out than a dance, the actors leap in jagged movements across the stage to change camera angle, arms and heads jerking back and forth as we see the figures on the screen behind do as the aging filmreel flicks and skips.

Meanwhile the film itself as been digitally touched so that Richard Burton and the other actors fade hauntingly, at many moments disapearing entirely to leave nothing but an empty set and the camera focused on an unseen body that the audience can only imagine from the actions of the live actor in front.

This exhausting, constraining exercise becomes the perfect metaphor for Hamlet itself, a narrative play hideously distorted by the weight of cultural reference that both company and audience bring to the show. A weight that means that a speech about suicide is greeted with warm familiarity and the report that two minor characters have been unjustly executed is always accompanied by knowing sniggers. All actors performing Hamlet are bound by the past, here, those chains are made visible, not disguised by gimicry or cod naturalism, but centre stage for all to see.

Within this context, the moments that work most effectively are Shakespeare's own irony-laden comments on theatre. The mousetrap becomes a fascinatingly anarchic experience in which the number of levels of performance taking place are dizzyingly impossible to pin down. Hamlet's famous solilquys are also imbued with a new sense of despair and absence in the production, as the actor jinks and stammers to an alien rhythm, while the ethereal half presence of Richard Burton (part actor, part Hamlet, part ghost) appears and disappears behind him, his famous voice echoing certain lines or even words. In addition the haunting presence of the ghost audience (laughing still from beyond the grave, or at least the end of the show) represent an uncomfortable reminder of the all to brief and transitory nature of all that takes place both inside and outside of the theatre.

And yet, is this clever meta-Hamlet enough to sustain the full length of the show? For all their quick footwork (both metaphorically and literally) the company never tackle the play head on, never attempt to subdue it or dismember it, leaving it respectfully intact. Indeed, by the end it appears that the undoubted power of Shakespeare's text has in fact subdued the company, as, stagefighting and all, the audience is treated to an almost traditional, almost, dare we say, naturalistic, finale.

And then of course, there is still a third Hamlet to consider, Richard Burton's 1964 broadway version. In its time considered revolutionary Broadway material not only for its simple set and its insistence on rehearsal room clothes instead of costumes, but also because in its filming and screening across the country it looked to give theatre to the masses, to democratize the medium by bringing Broadway to Des Moines and Jacksonville. In comparison (and indeed, in comparison with the company's own earlier work) The Wooster Group's knowing dance around the play comes off badly - an all too clever metatheatrical treat for those select few who can make it to the Pompidou centre in Paris.

Nov 2, 2006

Work Theatre Collective at the B.A.C

Last night I nipped on my bicycle and braved the autumn evening (now it would seem, testing its bite again after a long, lazy, slack-jawed summer) to go see Project E: An Explosion at the Battersea Arts Centre.

The show is the latest in a series of alphabeticalised spectaculars by the Work Theatre collective and for this particular piece they had an obscenely tasty £30-something grand from the Samuel Beckett memorial trust (nice to see the great man's name used by someone other than the estate that is so intent on condemning him to the status of a museum curio in the 'faithfullness' they impose on any new production - a batshit crazy notion - how much would still remain unknown about Shakespeare or Johnson if they had only ever been performed unedited, by an all male-company on a thrust stage?)

The show took the explosion as metaphor, image, and cultural artifact in our time - plucking from the either men (and it was just men) from Baudrillard to Alfred Hitchcock to sit alongside their fictional creations. This was when the show was at its most interesting - when Hitchcock's discussion on the nature of suspense nestled snuggly within a very Hitchockian suspense thriller that left us guessing when and where the bangs were going to come. And at its best the charming sunday evening BBC drama narrative was carried along on a heady stew of interesting ideas bubbling beneath it - the explosion as a tool for decentering subjectivity, and (most prominently) the explosion as an image, whether in film, propaganda or as 'a work of art'.

When these ideas didn't complement the central narrative so well it could feel a little like a reasonably acted C-rate thriller with excerpts postmodernism insterted like ad breaks to raise the brow a little higher. But generally it was a thoughtful piece and for that you are willing to forgive it its failings. So go see it.

Oct 31, 2006


A friend has begun to compile a book of brand new haikus. And some of them are rather spiffy. A lot of them however seem to imagine that poetry is the art of organises sentances into lines (in this particular case, organising 14 syllable long sentances into 3 neatly symetrical lines). Alack, if only it were that easy. Where are the turns, the rythms the images conjured in minutae, the 'aspirations to the condition of music'...? As I said though, some a really rather super and below are my favourites thus far.

yellow highlighter.
we used to work together,
before you dried up.

the first cautious move
my skin brushing past your skin
now we're holding hands.

Gravel under tires,
Especially when it wakes you,
Is a friendly sound.

Halloween’s coming.
I used to buy a costume.
Now I go as me.

The half of me that
Sis 'no more' is eatin aw
Ma 'nae-mair' awa.

Four paws, two grey ears
Woke, ate, chased butterfly, slept
I am a kitten

It rains on the old,
The ones left with George Crosses,

I particularly like the last one by a super young chap who was winning captain on University Challenge last night. One of my contributions is hidden in there as well. Any contributions from the floor...?

Something wicked this way comes...

Coming up to Halloween I would like to talk to you about fear. So come my pretties, switch the lights off and snuggle down, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll... BOO!

Scared? No... Sheesh, tough crowd.

I will say from the outset I am true fan of horror, even of the lowest-common denominator soft-core-porn-actress chased by the dying embers of a movie franchise and collapsing in a stabbing fury of nipples and false blood kind. The reason this form of manipulative awful film is still a pleasure, beyond the irony of its sheer awfullness? Because it can still scare you. It only takes a second, one bright idea or a single moment of tension. Fear is the great leveller. Anyone can scare you and anyone can be scared.

There is no reaction that is more gutteral and immediate than that of fear. It is the crystal meth of the masses - your heart races, time flies, you don't know where you are - all you know is that this thick, hot uneasiness has crept up on you and you want to it to go away.

Paul Arendt thinks fear in the theatre is dead. Which is a shame because it has the potential to be the most populist form of theatre while producing genuinely affecting, unconvential pieces of creative work.

The genre of horror, a wildly popular moneyspinner in other branches of entertainment, is practically absent from the stage…. In fact, there is so little shock and gore available that a tiny fringe theatre in south London can accurately claim to be hosting Britain's only annual festival of horror theatre. It seems theatre has no desire, or indeed ability, to scare.

Problem for me is, Arendt has it all wrong. Horror may be 'dead' in the red-seated, circle and stalls auditorium but I would argue it was never there in the first place. The live performance of horror, I can assure you, is alive and kicking and screaming.

Arendt traces his line of horror through Sophocles and Shakespeare to Grand Guignol and the present day. Now for starters its not like we don't get enough of the first two these days. Clearly if Arendt wants to argue that they were once the Hitchcock and Carpenter of their respective days what has changed is the reception or the nature of the performance not the plays themselves.

For the Hellenic audience Gods and monsters were as existant outside of the ampitheatre as in it and the experience of theatre was a great, quasi-religious spectacle communally experienced by the almost all of the polis. In such a heightened environment are stories of pregnant women miscarriaging in fear really so surprising? And as for Shakespeare and the Jacobean revenge tragedians, the audience may have relished the gore and suffering, but is there any evidence that they were scared by it any more than we are when we watch Shakespeare or Webster now?

Which brings us on to Grand Guignol which, far from being the last death throes of a venerable tradition I would site as the instigation of a new form of horror performance.

In the early 20th century, sophisticated audiences would flock to the smallest theatre in Paris to witness torture, execution, acid slayings and geysers of stage blood, unrestrained by the sniffy considerations of morality. This was drama as a roller-coasting ghost train, breaking taboos for the sheer dirty fun of it. Max Maurey, who ran the theatre in its heyday, would measure each night's success by the number of people who fainted during the show, and kept a doctor on hand in case of fits.

As Arendt points out, the schtick with the doctor was just that, a theatrical coup by a man with a nose for publicity; but that in itself tells us something vital about Grand Guignol's appeal. In truth the Grand Guignol plays were never that frightening. What was terrifying was the experience of Grand Guignol - it was the manipulation of the performance of going to the theatre that terrified audiences.

The Grand Guignol theatre was a tiny 300 seater auditorium at the end of a sinister cul-de-sac in the Pigalle district of Paris. The theatre itself was a poorly converted church that sat squattly in the middle of the road at the far end of the street. An evening of scares at the Grand Guignol started before you reached the theatre. You knew you were going to Paris' most terrifying spectacle, you were ready to be scared, and to get to the theatre you tiptoed down the dark, threatening, Impasse Chaptal, listening to mysterious moans and cries from the brothels and other dens of ill repute that towered around you. Your experience had already begun.

When you entered the theatre, the gloomy auditorium was littered with remnants of the Grand Guignol's religious past, iron railings round the boxes and two large angels hovering above the orchestra pit. The doctor skipped up and down the crowded rows nervously. The smell was the musty oppressive odour of the church (the origonal home of terror) mixed with the thick, pungent odour of the pork offal used for the tricks. This is not 'roller coaster' drama of the ghost train. This is the sinister, claustrophobic terror of the haunted house.

And in such an environment when the genuinely clever special effects of the Grand Guignol caused the gouging eyes and the severing arms to manifest themselves before you, you really didn't know what you were watching. It was not that the Grand Guignol Theatre complemented the drama, the drama complemented the terror of the experience of the Theatre building itself, and that terror wasn't over until you had once more traversed the cul-de-sac and made it home to a nicer, safer part of the world.

This was the true experience of the Grand Guignol, and this terrifying form of site-specific performance is still with us. Next time you find yourself at the Edinburgh fringe, take an hour out to go on a ghost tour. Be guided through dark, damp chambers (chambers that form part of the same underground you were happy to sit in and have a drink when it was 'set-dressed' as a pub or as the 'Underbelly' theatre venue) by a theatrical guide while actors jump out at various appropriate moments.

I myself in my University days used to guide people round these very vaults and I can assure you it is all theatre, the dark chambers were built in the 1800s and have never housed anything more frightening than a tramp or two. The stories we tell are theatre, performed for an audience prepared and expecting to be scared, in a dark, oppressive performance space. These places are the true descendants of the Grand Guignol. Again, the interchangeable stories are irrelevant, it is the performance of this theatrical space that draws such screams and faintings in both cases (and we did have faintings). And again as with the Grand Guignol, these tours are hugely popular with everyone from school parties of scottish teenagers, to American or German or Japanese tourists, to the excitable melee of fringe-going Theatre types.

And for those who stick there nose up at such cheap shocks, again I tell ye, go and see (nay, experience) Punchdrunk Production's Faust. Step out of Shadwell tube station and stalk nervously through the high rise council estate to a derelict looking warehouse. This is as much a part of the performance as anything that takes place inside the venue. And once you are in, when the lift attendant lets a group of four of you out on to an abandoned floor, with nothing in front of you but a barely lit corridor with a single small white statue of the virgin mary left in the middle of it, try telling me that the hairs on your neck aren't reaching for the ceiling and that the same hot, sticky treacle of fear is not dribbling down your throat and welling at the bottom of your stomach.

Far from being dead, terror and fear in Theatre (capital T) are as terrifying and as popular as they ever were. To find them you simply have to step outside the theatre.

Oct 24, 2006

The Return

Well. My goodness I have been away for some time. Just long enough to dispose of even the hardiest reader.

Now, like a train-robber returned from South America, I have been face-lifted and and hair-plugged into an entirely new shape.

So there will be things to come.

There will. Rest assured.

For now, satisfy yourself with a trip to Punchdrunk's Faust. An ethereal dream-like experience quite unlike anything else. It's power is in its gifts to the audience. As with music shimmering through your headphones on a rainy monday night walk, beauty you create yourself and treasure alone, is so much more beautiful.