On Friday, I was invited out to Royal Holloway for the opening of Helen Gilbert's new Centre for Research in International Theatre and Performance. I used to teach there quite a lot - but haven't been back for years, in spite of being in regular contact with Helen, and some contact with other people in the department there. Chris Megson, sporting a new beard, sat next to me during Joseph Loach's lecture which launched the whole thing. We were both a bit blown away by the range of scholarship on display. To discuss a native American museum and casino in terms of Orphic myths and Miltonic theology is pretty complex stuff.
The whole idea of a research centre in this area is very exciting for us, of course - but especially important at the moment, since its first project is around the performance of indigenous identities. Helen's already contributed some of her funds towards the writers who came to Origins in May. Now that we're looking towards further festivals, the dialogue with the centre could be really productive. On Friday, they had a wonderful indigenous Australian performance poet and film-maker giving a short presentation. I talked to her afterwards - we knew all the same people, of course!
Simon Anderson emails from Canada House. They're running a series of films in partnership with the National Maritime Museum coinciding with their current exhibition, The Northwest Passage: An Arctic Obsession, and have asked me to introduce the one on October 13th. Here's the full programme:
Arctic Film Programme
Canada House, Cockspur Street entrance, Trafalgar Square, London SW1Y 5BJ
Doors open 18.30 for 19.00 start
Advance booking only through the National Maritime Museum on 020 8312 8560.
Film double bill:
Henry Larsen's Northwest Passages (1962, 27mins)
Norwegian-born Superintendent Henry Larsen of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was the first man to navigate the Northwest Passage
in both directions. In this film he relates anecdotes of his voyages in the tiny schooner, the St. Roch.
Northwest Passage (1970, 26 mins) Dir. Bernard Gosselin
It took a supertanker like the U.S.S. Manhattan, assisted by a nimble icebreaker, the Canadian John A. Macdonald, to realise the dream of centuries: the navigation of a commercial sea lane through the Arctic channels. This is a record of that historic expedition, filmed in colour from both ships and from a reconnaissance helicopter. Commentary by ships' navigators and observers, and shipside sounds of formidable sea ice groaning, straining and cracking make this an adventure rarely seen on film.
The Necessities of Life (2009, 102 mins) Dir. Benoit Pilon
Set in the 1950s when a tuberculosis epidemic in the Far North forced many Inuit to go to various Canadian cities for treatment. Tivil (Natar Ungalaaq) is taken to a sanatorium in Quebec City. Uprooted, far from his loved ones and faced with a completely alien world, he finds himself unable to communicate with anyone.
Atanajurat: The Fast Runner (2001, 161mins) Dir. Zacharias KunukCannes Camera d’Or winning Atanajurat is Canada's first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. An exciting action thriller set in ancient Igloolik, the film unfolds as a life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural characters.
Before Tomorrow (2009, 93mins) Dir. Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu
Circa. 1840, some Inuit tribes still have never met any white people, although rumours circulate about what they might be, where they come from, and why. Before Tomorrow tells of a woman who demonstrates that human dignity is at the core of life from beginning to end, as she faces with her grandson the ultimate challenge of survival.
Passage (2008, 108 mins) Dir. John Walker
It was news that shook the English-speaking world. Celebrated British explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128 men had perished in the Arctic ice during an ill-fated attempt to discover the Northwest Passage. More shocking, they had descended into madness and cannibalism. Passage is a story of incredible sacrifice, stunning distortion of the truth and single-minded obsession. It challenges the way we look at history.