Jan 21, 2008


April is the cruelest month, an American once said. He was wrong, of course. It's undoubtedly January.

Today was fittingly the day on which you are most likely to commit suicide, the brief respite of Christmas and fast-abandoned New Year's Resolutions giving way to the unremitting greyness of an extended English Winter.

Self-immolation appears to be all the rage in this barren corner of the internet these days, with the theatrical blogosphere fast becoming an e-version of the Wisconsin Death Trip, the dusty corpses of once devoted scribblings slowly flaking into oblivion. Even the Guardian blog, in all its professionally maintained glory, is drowning in a quagmire of inanity and mindless vultures chewing on the bones of the increasingly puerile Arts Council debate.

Apologies if this all comes off a trifle glum but, well, I am left wondering what it is I'm doing here these days.

I worry that my thoughts are switftly moving beyond crystalized to a sort of mindless litany, where words like intimacy and liveness are unthinkingly regurgitated as a response to almost anything. It may be as a consequence of banging my head against the mercilessly unresponsive wall of theatres and funders who claim interest in your work and then disappear for several months without even the courtesy of fake out-of-office autoreplies, but I am feeling a little, well, stale.

Maybe I'm just getting slowly suckered in to the desolately brilliant Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton - an endless round of suffocating drinking and desperation played out across London and Brighton in the restless year prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. It's a wonderful book, though its bleakness is as intoxicating as the endless rounds of whiskies and beers that its characters survive on.

Anyway, not wanting to go gently into that good night, I've been thinking a little about what I can, or indeed, should do about it. And after a Christmas of deliberation, I needed, I decided, a project.

For Christmas I got myself a copy of London: City of Disappearances and I've been enjoy it ever since. It is a brilliant, discordant, breathtakingly wide-ranging collection of essays and stories and poems and anecdotes by people including Iain Sinclair, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Will Self amongst others. Peeling back endless layers of skin from across the length and breadth of the city, the book is a meandering encyclopedia of forgotten characters, unremarkable streets, grubby metropolitan histories and magnificent impossible mythical bullshit. It also made me realise that a passing knowledge of three bus routes a couple of decent bars does not really make a city a home.

So here is my plan. In some long-delayed attempt to live up to my stolen name I am going to try and make my own map of the city in which I have been squatting for the last year and a half. It will be a map of walks, of places I find interesting or frightening or wonderful. I am going to try and get out more. Out of the house. Out of Zones 1 and 2. So if you have any recommendations please do let me know. (And if anyone enjoys an early morning walk of a weekend, ditto.)

And for each I am going to write something. But more than this. With the same incessant mumbling as Chris suffers ringing in my eyes ("How is this like theatre? How can I make use of this?") I want to map the city as an endless series of theatrical possibilities. Borrowing from Mike Pearson's completely brilliant book In Comes I, for each location or walk or point of interest I want to suggest a piece of theatre; or rather, a few half collected thoughts that could with time become a piece of theatre. I want to think about how theatre can reflect the city, how theatre can use it as a playground, and how it can change it, or change our relationship with it.

Each post should be hopefully be a map, a story, a few semi-coherent ramblings and an open invitation to collaboration, all sweetened by a few pretty pictures.

So that's the plan. We'll see how it works out. Hoepfully the first one should be up in a couple of days or so...

[UPDATE: Turns out I completely unfairly slandered the good Mr Billington here, who I had heard was reviewing Paso Doble but in fact didn't. So Apologies and have removed the offending segment.]


Statler said...

Ah but Andrew, you need to look at the positive side of today being the most depressing day of the year - One more hour and then you've already made it through the worst day of 2008, so the rest of the year shouldn't be a problem.

Like the sound of your thoughts on locations - just found out today that Grid Iron are doing a show with Dundee Rep staged in a former Jute Mill in April, so that's something to look forward to. Sure you'll find yourself some inspiring locations.

Alison Croggon said...

Hey Andrew, chin up - and your city project sounds like a wonderful idea (did you see, I ask egoistically, my review of Sinclair's book?) I confess to similar doldrums, though the weather here is the polar opposite to yours. I think it's part of the giant organice rhythm of the net...or something...