Monday, 9 November 2009

Back in London: Who is this city and what has it learned?

Well, it’s been a good 60 hours or so that I’ve been back in this familiar-ish city, which, when you measure it up like that, does all kinds of strange things to my perception of time. 1 hour x 60 doesn’t seem so very much, yet 6 hours x 10 seems like a heck of a lot. Once during a play I got slightly bored and decided to calculate how many days I’d been alive, and I believe it was around the vicinity of just under 10,000. Which is strange, when you think if I’d been paid a dollar a day for my entire existence, I still wouldn’t be able to buy a house or even a particularly nice car. Not that I would turn my nose up at being given a dollar a day. Any takers?

Oh, right. Still avoiding the subject line of this blog post, aren’t I? With some half *ssed though elaborate tangential pseudo-math. Good for me and good for you for reading.

I spent the weekend at Arts Admin, first watching Chris Goode do his thang, his first time performing poetry since the Forest Fringe tapes in Edinburgh 2 years ago, and the next day meeting Jack Bond and Victor Spinnetti at a playreading of one of Jane Arden’s shows at the Artslab. The play, “Vagina Rex” dealt with feminism in a very hands-on way, though I think I’ll be more interested to watch Jane Arden and Jack Bond’s film collaborations through the BFI just as soon as I can get my hands on them. There was a lot of talk about whether or not there was a contemporary theatre of outrage - whether contemporary audiences could be radicalized the way that audiences were in the 1960s. I did take issue with the discussion's suggestion that theatre has lost its "can-do" attitude. I find nothing less helpful than the tendency, when discussing the 60s, to suggest it points to the sated attitudes of the youth of today. People still can-do, and are doing. We just live in a baby-booming society that idealizes the projects of its youth, occasionally ignoring the fact that rather than disregard these projects, our generation has been inspired by them, learned from their failures, and will (hopefully) make something happen. Wow. Bit of a rant. Sorry, what else were you expecting from the blog?

Quite a wonderful feeling came out of this reading, which was that they began discussing Jim Haynes, one of my heroes, the founder of ArtsLab and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, and mentioned that they would be showing a video interview with him. I couldn’t wait to see what the man looked like – when suddenly, a familiar face came on the screen. It turned out that I had already met Jim in Paris 2 years ago. I had gone to his house for dinner, and he’d seen me do a monologue on the Golden Hour tour and gave me the warmest most congratulatory smile afterwards. He is such a down to earth man that I’d had no idea I was monologuing for the same Jim Haynes who played such a large role in inspiring me to found Forest Fringe, but there you have it. I’m glad this feeling had 2 years to ferment before coming to light. It’s a vintage I can keep.

On a different note, I am questioning whether I have to stop stewarding at Arts Admin, even though I love the building, the events and everyone who works there. I keep running in to professional contacts while I do it, and in our little industry nobody (including myself) seems to know quite how to handle the co-director of a venue having to break off conversation to clear up the rubbish in the room and to put away chairs. I’m in two minds about this – one part of me thinks just clear up all the better and let the world get used to it – if anything, it should demonstrate Forest Fringe’s down-to-earth, can-do attitude, of which I’m very proud. Another part of me gets nervous in these situations and is less bold. Demystifying the less glamorous aspects of theatre, stewarding, for example, does make me buzz with excitement a little. The real question has to be, am I being subversive or simply foolish? (Story of my life!)

So there’s me in London, avoiding my laundry, breakfast, and date with the Odyssey. I really am back.

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