Week in review – Sunday 8th March

Theatre trips
After last week’s fiascos, it was a welcome change to see some brilliant shows…

Dead Centre’s ‘Lippy’ at the Young Vic and Gecko’s ‘Missing’ at BAC

In a normal week Lippy would have been the highlight, but that award goes to Gecko’s Missing’. Both shows were beautiful meditations – Lippy on the impossibility of crossing the divide between ourselves and other people, the present and the past; and Missing on how the narratives of our past continue to shape our present. As well, both shows were outstanding explorations of theatrical form.

Lippy started with a wonderful twist – a mock post-show Q&A. The subject of lip-reading was introduced, the difficult of ever really being able to interpret what other people are saying explored, and various elements of the preceding ‘show’ alluringly dropped in. I knew nothing about Lippy beforehand, so assumed this was going to be the entire show… it was amusing, interesting, but I did wonder how they were going to keep it going for 75 minutes. I needn’t have worried. The reveal into the show’s next portion was a spectacular coup-de-theatre – one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in a theatre. The wordless sequence that followed was stunningly choreographed, beautifully executed, and both magical and terrifying at the same time. Ultimately the show’s second half could probably have done with some trimming, but it’s mix of Artaud, Beckett, Joyce, performance art and movement was intoxicating. The questions it asked were innumerable, but ultimately for me, at it’s heart was the impossibility of ever truly interpreting the events of the past or each other. We’re really all alone on this planet…

When I fist saw Gecko ten years ago, I would have firmly classed them as theatre. Frequently now, they are referred to as a dance company. It’s a mark of how they have developed, and the beguiling hinterland they now inhabit between the two worlds. My relationship with their work is slightly love/hate relationship though. The first time I saw them (performing ‘The Race’ in 2005), I adored their energy, fun and unabandoned joy. They were so playful with their exploration of modern life and created beautiful images out of very little more than a treadmill and puffs of chalk. Since then, they’ve grown up, and I haven’t always enjoyed the results. Many of their shows have been slow, ponderous – always an absolute treat for the senses, but frustratingly oblique. ‘Missing’ felt like the summation of that early energy and all the aesthetic lessons they have learnt from their more indulgent shows. At its centre was a wrenching narrative – the central character’s childhood trauma, the present damage it still has, and the fantastical ways the character attempts to deal with those early experiences. The imagery was wonderful, and the story and acting heart-breaking. Above all though, the show gave me an incredible amount of space to infuse my own life into the story. The cornucopia of languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish, German), the ambiguous characters, the non-linear presentation, the lack of prescriptive story-telling – Gecko never tried to lead the audience to clear conclusions about what the show might be trying to ‘say’. It was a wonderful lesson in telling just enough to allow us to follow a basic story, but never too much that might close down our own dreams and interpretations.

East 15 Physical Theatre Showcase – I’ll be directing these students in a month or so, and seeing their showcase was incredibly exciting. Their physical abilities are brilliant, they explode off the stage with their sheer youthful exuberance, and they work together as an ensemble superbly. ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ is going to be a challenge for both them and me, but it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to.

Week in work
It’s been a tough week again with Boy In Darkness. Having finished the script last Friday, we only left ourselves a week to properly stage it. Well, when I saw ‘we’, I mean ‘I’. There have been a few hard lessons I’ve learnt during the course of this show, and one of the hardest is that the five weeks rehearsals is not the same as the three weeks. Perhaps blindingly obvious, but not something I fully appreciated until now. I spent the first week of rehearsals as if I had four more to go, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since. Gareth (bless his socks) has worked insanely hard throughout, and so we did finish the week with a half-decent run that bodes well for next week. But of course, now we have to hand over to tech rehearsals, so time is ticking away! However there is so much in Gareth’s performance that is exciting, the set looks amazing, and I think the show is going to be a real treat.

It’s also been quite a humbling week in other ways. Not only have I had to come to terms with the mistakes I made in earlier weeks of rehearsals, but our movement director Svetlana Biba came in twice and showed me everything that I could have been doing! What an amazing talent she is – a supremely gifted physical performer with an incredible visual imagination and a brilliant directorial eye. Sitting in the corner watching her work I felt pretty useless… In two afternoons her impact on the show has been immeasurable, and the way she has unlocked Gareth’s physical abilities has been amazing. A real lesson in directing which I’m utterly grateful to have received, no matter how painful it might have been to sit through.

Moving forward, my aims for the coming week are to bring a much more mischievous and humorous layer to Gareth’s narrator, greatly improve the visual storytelling, and really bring out the coming-of-age story that I think lies at the heart of this piece. Lots to do, so fingers crossed!

Rehearsal set...

 

Other cultural highlights

After getting frustrated watching Ewen McGregor and Charley Boorman’s ‘The Long Way Round’ on a low-res YouTube link I ordered the DVD, only to discover minutes after it was on Netflix anyway!!! Anyways, have been loving this series. Normally I find travel programmes kinda boring, and I guess this reflects my own travelling tastes. I enjoy holidays most when I’m either relaxing on a beach, or doing something adventurous like kayaking or mountaineering. There’s this middle zone where you just kind of wander around looking at stuff which I find tedious. Maybe when I was inter-railing aged seventeen this was cool, but I guess then, the adventure was to be inter-railing at the age of seventeen! Ultimately, I’m just not that interested in other cultures… or not as much as I feel I ‘should’ be. Having worked in tourism for ten years and spent so much of my own time travelling, I just find sightseeing kinda boring now. The experience itself of being on holiday is more important to me, the countries I’m visiting a backdrop to this. I want to be relaxing, having an adventure, or spending time with family and friends. The Long Way Round reflects this – the countries they visit and the people they meet are incredibly important, beautifully shot, and culturally fascinating… but the adventure of Ewan and Charley motorcycling around the world is the real story, and even this, ultimately, plays second fiddle to a beautiful bromance between two very funny men.

Music
After a couple of weeks of non-stop Four Tet, I’ve been re-discovering my love of Tom Robinson’s ‘Introducing’ podcast on Radio 6. His taste is impeccable, and the absence of a DJ blathering away wonderful. More than anything, the music is stunning – a great mix from intimate acoustic numbers to punk to weird electronica. Joyous.

Reading stuff
So I’ve turned a slight corner with Proust. I was getting totally frustrated with its slow pace, it’s meandering prose, it’s horrendously difficult French. I thought, this is beyond me, I’m going to read Dumas instead. But actually, reading the first few pages of Les Trois Mousquetaires, I found myself immediately missing Proust’s exquisite writing. For all its difficulty, it is a truly wonderful mix of poetry and prose. So I decided to change the way I’m reading it. Now, I’m just taking it one paragraph at a time, one page a night. I read the page twice in French, check the vocab I don’t know, and then read my English translation to make sure there’s nothing I missed. So it takes a while. But instead of my normal way of reading books – which is generally a rush to find out what happens next – I’m now seeing every page as a treasure-trove in its own right, if only I take the time to really explore it. And I’m falling in love with the book again, with it’s meditative pace, and the space it takes to examine the minutiae of life. It’s quite zen… I might even describe it as an exercise in mindfulness. And given that it’s the last thing I do every night before falling asleep, I feel like it’s genuinely affecting my life and my waking thought patterns. If nothing else, it makes reading Ulysses seem like a doddle!

Miscallanous Thoughts
Not much time for these! Although it’s been amazing to see the sun come out and the hints of summer arriving. I can’t wait to get on my bike and start exploring the world.

The week’s highlights

– Gecko’s ‘Missing’ at the BAC and Dead Centre’s ‘Lippy’ at the Young Vic

– Taking the Versys for a couple of rides.

– Getting to a full run for Boy In Darkness

– Discovering ‘The Long Way Round’ was on Netflix

– Watching and learning from our movement director Svetlana

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