Monday, November 30, 2009
Usually, this isn't an issue which affects theatre. After all, theatre tends to address a specific, often very localised audience, about particular issues and concerns. Often its power comes from its very specificity. But in the case of work created cross-culturally, and intended to be seen in more than one country, this is no longer so. And so, if we're not careful, the globalised cliches could easily sneak in through the back door.
The sentence in Mishra's article which set the alarm bells ringing ways near the end: "Perhaps, one day soon, a Chinese novelist aspiring for an international reputation will be able to steer clear of the misery of the cultural revolution or the massacre in Tiananmen Square (perennial favourites in the west). " Dis-Orientations includes (admittedly very subtle) references to both of these things, and the imagery continues into Re-Orientations. Does that mean we are simply doing what the West expects / wants us to do? I remember Wang Jue being worried that the image of China presented in the plays might be too negative (although I do feel there are many, many positive things we say about the culture). On the other hand, part of the point of this work is to deconstruct the exotic cliche of the Orient: if you don't show aspects of this, then you can't overturn it.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This morning, our new intern, Annika Magnberg, started in the office. She's from Sweden, and at the moment she's wrestling with how to turn three files into a single .pdf to send as a funding application. What a way to begin.
Good news from New Zealand - Creative NZ have invited me to the International Festival in March, and the British Council in NZ have agreed to fund the flight. This will be a terrific opportunity for Origins. What's more, I'll be doing some workshops with Taki Rua while I'm out there. Very exciting.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The amazing production of The Roman Tragedies which I saw at the Barbican on Saturday is also about theatre as life. Political theatre and political life, to be precise. It's a version of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra - all in six hours - by a company called Toneelgroep Amsterdam, directed by Ivo van Hove. I thought I was at least aware of the world's great directors - but his is a new name to me, and he is beyond doubt a really important artist. The production is "modern-dress" and multi-media - nothing new there - but in this case the use of video is so carefully shaped that it becomes about the way in which modern politics, modern life perhaps, is constantly performed from the camera, to the extent that only the image on the camera seems to carry any meaning. So, the scenes of private life (Coriolanus and his mother, Caesar and his wife) are filmed and relayed on TV and big screen - but all the scenes involving ordinary people, even soldiers, are cut. Not that there is any shortage of "the people" on display. The audience moves between their seats and the stage, where there are lots of sofas, and you can watch the highlighted action on a TV, as well as seeing the actors from another angle, choosing your own route of composition. This also means that you constantly see "ordinary people" in the play, consuming the action and so contributing to it. The form in which the theatre is used contributes to the meaning. There are no intervals as such, but lots of short breaks, during which sets are changed, and the audience buy drinks and food onstage, and contribute their thoughts on the show via a computer station - these are then relayed to the rest of us! So there's an element of real democracy about the whole thing. It raises endless questions about theatre and politics - not least whether politics might be turning into nothing but performance.
I've been thinking about this production ever since. Wonderful to be stimulated so strongly and to have my faith in the power of theatre so powerfully renewed.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The play is verbatim theatre, based on interviews with "illegal immigrants". I'm not a great fan of verbatim as a form - just because somebody "real" has said something, it doesn't instantly become valid as dramatic dialogue - but this piece was skillfully composed from five very intense personal stories, intercut with quotations from the likes of Jackie Smith, John Reid, and the Border Agency. The collage effect was what gave it the artistry - official lines juxtaposed with human truths to make a very clear and powerful political point.
The actor who'd invited me, Jeremy Tiang, speaks the words of a Chinese man who came to England for economic reasons, and works in Chinese restaurants for incredibly low wages, in constant fear of the police, while sending money home for his children's schooling. The loneliness which came through was very touching. Then there's an Egyptian driver, whose passport has been with the Home Office for two years, so he can't even leave the country(!), a political refugee from Ethiopia who went underground when the authorities refused to recognise the nature of his persecution; and a woman with a similar case from Ecuador, who cleans toilets all night for a pittance. The last case is a woman from Guatemala, who was deported because she had too little money. As always, the border controls favour the rich. It's only poor people who have problems moving around.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I end up offering the internship to a young woman from
Long and creative discussion with Gabrielle from Polygon. We’re both very pleased with the work we were able to do together on Origins, and want to continue the association. Some very interesting ideas about keeping Origins moving until the next festival through the education work, and for ways of building on the education aspects of the Trilogy. We’re thinking about linking workshops in
I went to see Architecting at the Pit on Friday. It’s a piece about