Oct 14, 2007

Messing about on the river

Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping out with a little piece of agitprop performance art/riverside fun organized by James Erskin and Carrie Craknell of Hush, whose Mobile Thriller was a beautiful little show set in the back of a car chasing through the streets of a city.

In order to add their voices to those raised in protest against the expansion of heathrow, and to highlight the staggering number of flights that this will mean are traversing London's skies every day, the company created a touchingly simple piece of dance and a glorious paper-aeroplane making/throwing extravaganza for anyone who happened to be walking by. Unsurprisingly with the mouth-watering prospect of balloons and paper aeroplanes there were plenty of people (young and old) milling excitedly for the whole of the hour and a half that we were able to be there before being inevitably moved on by bankside security for blocking the pavement.

Beneath the air of delightful silliness surrounding the whole event I think there's something utterly important about this kind of thing. As I've said before, in London we are now living at a time when protest itself has to be sanctioned by government, essentially reducing it to the status of a pantomime, a state-approved dance of opposition, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

In such circumstances we need to find alternatives modes of protest. If the government reduces protest to theatre we must make theatre into a form of protest. Let's harness all of the creativity, dynamism and innovation of modern theatre to create a startlingly political new theatre on the streets of London. With balloons and paper aeroplanes and dance and games we can take to streets with political messages delivered in baffling and marvelous new forms.

Which is not to say that what we need is protest with a few gimmicks attached to throw the authorities of the scent. Instead we should begin with the incredible theatre already flooding the streets of London (from huge spectaculars such as the Sultan's Elephant to companies creating fascinating, intimate interactive projects like Blast Theory, Rabbit, Lone Twin and, of course, Hush themselves) and look at ways in which these forms of work can fill the vacuum of meaningful political process created by the government's protest ban.

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