Sep 30, 2007

It's all me, me, me these days...

Well, it's been a rather breathless few weeks. Let's do a bit of a round-up shall we...

First and foremost, the show I was directing at The Arches in Glasgow came and went.

The show itself went well, I think. It was an interesting experience coming back to directing a piece of new writing after a year spent fizzing around the countryside for our site-specific project - plotting routes, co-ordinating volunteers, writings scripts, cobbling together a story. There is something immensely satisfying about the experience though.

When I was 11 or 12 I, like so many boys of my age/generation, worshipped at the alter of Games Workshop, a sort-of strategy game based in dizzyingly dense universe of magical armies, valiant heroes, and the kind of utterly earnest, and staggeringly epic narratives that Homer/Tolkien would have been proud of. The thing that really made this particularly gaming world (the only which I was ever a part of) truly captivating though was that to create your own unique army, you would buy the characters you wanted/needed (depending on how my parents/I looked at the matter) and paint them yourself.

This was undoubtedly my favourite part. I would spend hours labouring over each inch-and-a-half high figure, starting with the undercoat, choosing the main colour scheme, picking out highlights, detail, adding symbols, transfers, covering the little stand on which the character stood with grass and the occasionally decorative rock (or, severed arm depending on just how evil said character was meant to be) - the whole thing was a joy that I spent far, far too many days of my childhood on (days that could have been better spent learning that once you hit 13, an ability to paint small metal representations of wood elves well does not impress girls or boys).

I think that its this very same precise, meticulous joy that I take in directing a show. This is especially true when it's one written by someone else. You already have a shape, a figure, same as anyone else who was given that play. The joy comes from bringing that to life - colouring it, adding your own flourishes, completing it - turning it into something utterly unique, a beautiful, polished, discrete entity in its own right. This is how I go about creating a show. And although directing in this way is never going to truly excite me in the same way as some of the other projects I've done/am planning, there is an undoubted sense of childish contentment that comes from the whole process.

And as for the show itself. Well take your pick: Our internet friends at View from the Stalls were staggeringly generous:
Although it didn't quite have that magical spine tingling or jaw dropping moment of "Black Watch", "Lysistrata" or "The Recovery Position", "Your Ex Lover Is Dead" is right up there as one of the most enjoyable productions I've seen this year.
Joyce MacMillan in The Scotsman, less so:

A predictable collage of ideas from every recent date-movie about the fact that relationships - shock, horror - don't always last, the show is presented as a mock film experience, with great theatrical invention and skill.

Well, I liked the last part. Though she does go on to call us Talent Wasted, which I suppose is better than no talent at all.

Also I must at this point mention The Arches, for those who have never been there. It is a gorgeous, labyrinthine arts centre, nestled in the centre of Glasgow, under the citie's railway arches. During the festival in particular its a thrilling hub of activity, shows, club nights and music gigs filling the dark, cavernously atmospheric brick arches that make up the space. What I particularly love, going back to my earlier post on theatre buildings, is that they have made no attempt to transform the space into a Theatre. Concrete floors below you, great brick arches and air-conditioning units glinting metallic silver overhead - it feels real, industrial, mysterious and exciting. It also feels not like a (heavily subsidised) resource or a (utterly worthy) gift to Glasgow, but a part of the city, the events and the work there connected to the city in a very real, physical way.

Fortunately for us, Jackie, who programs theatre for them, was more on Statler than Joyce's side of the fence on our show and would love us to go back in some capacity - and the idea of creating a show specifically for that space is one that I am absolutely relishing.

[On the subject of which, for anyone who might be interested, it looks like very soon I might be developing Exposures with a similarly exciting theatre dahn Sarf. Will tell you more when I know more...]

So Thursday night I left The Arches and headed straight for the overnight megabus to get back to London to go back to work Friday morning. (glamour, darlings, oh the glamour of the theatre). The coach was appropriately crowded, hot and uncomfortable and made bearable only by the fact that I had finally treated myself to a copy of From Hell, to pass the journey. Now I am not a regular graphic novel/comic book reader but Alan Moore is, frankly, a genius and as with anyone who is truly great in their field, regardless of whether you know anything about what he does who will undoubtedly enjoy it. From Hell, unlike the diabolical, cardboard-setted, Johnny-Depp-Starring Cock-a-ney catastrophe that was the film version, is a rich, thoughtful and utterly compelling look not just at the Whitechappel Murders, but at late Victorian society as a brutal incubator for the 20th century. Go buy it.

Now with a link that Jeremy Paxman would be proud of, Alan Moore also wrote V for Vendetta about a future (though I think the 'future' date that he used was about 1997) fascist government ruling great britain. Which leads nicely into this:
Thousands of demonstrators planning to march on Parliament to call for the withdrawal of troops from Afrghanistan [sic] and Iraq have been told that their protest has been banned.

The Metropolitan Police told organisers of the Stop the War Coalition that no march would now be allowed “within one mile of Parliament” while MPs were in session.
Now forgive me if I'm wrong but surely its parliamentarians that are being protested against here. Hence to be most effective is it not required for them to be in session. Why should MPs be protected from loud bellows of disaproval at their actions more than anybody else should? Or has sitting and jeering at the opposition in parliament suddenly become an activity that can only be carried out to quite whistle of birdsong and the occasional click of a tourist's camera.

The exclusion zone is another of of those pieces of our recent history that stagger me every time I think about it. As David Rees said, "Hello, history? Umm... you are judging these people right?"


Andrew Haydon said...

I admire you for owning up to your former Games Workshop addiction in a way that I absolutely never shall in a million years.


Andrew Field said...

I did realise after having posted this that it revealed that I was once a fantasy war gamer and read comics...

Maybe the next post will be about how much I love sports and cars and once climbed a mountain using only my left hand. Or not.