Apr 9, 2008

That was the season that was - Winter edition


My goodness.

It was on the rolling stones side. It was Dylan's enemy. It was the name of a computer company who's mid 90s television jingle is at present stampeding round my head causing untold damage to better memories.

Time, they say, travels like an arrow - in my case that arrow is definitely fired from a high-powered crossbow held in the delicate hands of an 8 year old South African girl killing her first warthog while her father looks on admiringly. Which is as much as to say that I have been alarmingly busy.

Our show (and the plural in that is now consecrated by a beautifully designed website (not by us I hasten to add)) in Brighton is now but a few weeks away. Everything is looking good - the response to the hours spent trawling from shop to shop asking people if they wanted to be involved were largely life-affirmingly enthusiastic with the one magnificent exception of a huge, leather jacketed guy who owned a punk clothing store who let me natter my nervous introduction before cutting me in two with a resigned sigh and the line 'to be honest mate, I fucking hate the Brighton festival'. Can't say fairer than that. Apparently someone wants to interview us in a bath, which I'm not entirely sure about - festival or no festival that's the kind of try-hard wackiness I'm not sure I can get on board with.

Meanwhile I've been working on a couple of smaller things in London. Monday we did a Scratch of a new idea at BAC that involved the audience writing each other letters. In some ways its an extension of some of the reasoning behind using disposable cameras in the Brighton show - the fascination with finding ways to render the experience of the show lingeringly incomplete. To leave a thin thread of inbetween time trailing off into your real life; a letter from a stranger landing on your door almost after you've forgotten the whole experience. I wrote some text for it so I'll stick that up a bit later.

I'm also heading down to SHUNT Vaults next Wednesday for the Hide+Seek Sandpit. I'm creating a game that came about from the thought of how I could create a show that took advantage of the narrow footbridge linking the South Bank and Embankment and the memory that brought plopping to the surface of visiting the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin at the age of about 15. Despite not have eaten for about a week through a potent combination of staggering cheapness and horror at the youth hostel gunk served up each night (food that rightly deserved the to be described rather terrifyingly as ambiguous), I remember being completely mesmerised by the little private museum - bowled over by the life-affirming, creative brilliance of the ways in which people found of smuggling themselves and others from one side of the divided city to the other. Disguised as car seats, in home-made hand-gliders, in tunnels built over months of relentless work - this all to me feels like a kind of art or theatre more profound and meaningful than most of the stale and self important political theatre I've sat through. So anyway, do come along next Wednesday - it should be fun at the very least, involving various fragments of an installation being dismantled and smuggled across the artfully lit interior of SHUNT to be reassembled elsewhere, avoiding accusing eyes of an army of checkpoint guards out to stop you.

I've also been continuing to work on the Forest Fringe for August (we have a few very exciting companies lined up to do very exciting things now but are always looking for anyone else that has a good idea) and a show for the Carlow Arts Festival in May about a 5000 year old bog man on his birthday. In between that I managed to spend a fascinating day with Chris Goode and various other delightful people exploring ideas of space - at which it occurred to me that one of the strangest things about the internet is the fact that we seem to remain so utterly inept at describing, mangling metaphors in our attempts to stretch them over the top of something too large and indescribable to be contained by them. You know when people will quite contentedly talk about surfing the web (or is it net) that we're still struggling with a language for this thing we call the internet. (Meanwhile the internet (or teh internets) has quietly began creating its own language.)

I've also had the chance to see some (though not enough) theatre as well so, very quickly... Random by Debbie Tucker Green was sadly somewhat of a disappointment after the staggeringly brilliant Generations, it started beautifully - a simply-delivered joyously dissonant assortment of characters all voiced by a single actress - but quickly seemed to slide towards something much more linear and much less interesting as the tragedy of the narrative overwhelmed the excitement of its telling.

On the other hand, Mel Wilson's new show* (her last being another one of my absolute favourite things last year) is in some ways already in its very early stages even more brilliant and exciting than Simple Girl. Like that earlier show, Enter the Dame revels in the discordance between a strange, almost romantic, almost dreamlike (and in this case kind of dystopian) otherness and the delicate, honest and utterly mundane details of our own everyday existence. Like few other people Mel seems aware of what's possible in combining the rich, literary beauty of good writing with a kind of messy, fragmented and authentic liveness; no one can describe squeezing up against a packet of frozen scampi to let someone pass you in the narrow aisle of a supermarket with the rich, alluring beauty that Mel does. But in Enter the Dame she seems to go further (or at least be trying to) than the last show - inviting the audience themselves to exist in this mesmerising liminal space between desperately romatic and the utterly mundane. Set out as an intimate circle of tables and chairs, the lighting turns us into evocative half-lit shadows in a smokey bar; there's also some lovely moments of participation that can undoubtedly be explored more as the show develops. All in all a lovely, lovely piece that I can't wait to see again.

So yes, it's all been a little, well, deliriously busy - but in a good way, and accompanied by a soundtrack of effortlessly brilliant pop from a band called the Wave Pictures who are my new favourite thing. A divinely simple three-piece, they sing songs full of delicate beautiful stories that meander their way under your skin before whiplashing back into a fiercely churning chorus or an magnificently delivered punchline. They're like Sunday afternoon as a thirteen year old in music-form, or the band Hanson after they've been locked in a basement with Morrissey for five years. They are in short utterly wonderful and as they're on tour at the moment I urge you to go find them - or for those in London wait till May when I've persuaded BAC to give them a free gig in the cafe, which I have to say I am looking forward to like little else.

So that's about it for now - more soon though. I promise.

[*probably at this stage I need what I think is this sites very first disclaimer in that Mel's show was a scratch at BAC which, I think most people seem to know, is where I work]