Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year Blog

Happy New Year everybody! I'm typing this on my new iMac - which will hopefully contribute to the development of Border Crossings over 2010 and beyond.

2009 has been an amazing year for the company - by far our busiest to date, and one which has clarified and defined our aims and identity for the future. For a start, there's a completely redesigned website, courtesy of Sam Hope-Evans at Phuture Design, with social networking and all that jazz! Now the iMac's in action, we should be able to get much more exciting content onto the web, with more videos to whet the appetite for performances, screenings, publications, workshops and talks.

The fact that I can list all of these things as Border Crossings activities is largely due to the Origins Festival of First Nations, which was the biggest single event in an amazing year. Just to present so much work in those two weeks was incredible - but what was even more exciting was the way in which the programme managed to lay down a coherent vision in terms of political, spiritual, artistic, social and environmental thought. All of which has shown its importance more and more as the year has gone on, with the Copenhagen summit rounding it off convincingly. If a gathering of world leaders, with the express purpose of slowing climate change, can be so dominated by petty economic self-interest as to fail to produce anything of any value whatsoever, then boy are we in trouble. We have got to start listening to ways of living on this planet which present alternatives to the power of the market - and First Nations offer them. So there will be more Origins Festivals: and in March I am off to New Zealand to start working on the next one.

On top of that, much of the year has been spent working on the development of Re-Orientations, the third part of the Trilogy, which we'll be presenting next autumn. I can truly say that February and August of 2009 were two of the most extraordinary, creative and open times I can ever remember - and I think the play, which we showed as work-in-progress in early September, more than proves the point. There's still a lot to do before we can perform them, but the foundations have been soundly laid. So look out in the autumn in Soho and Shanghai!

Outside of the company, it's also been a rich year culturally. In my freelance work, I've particularly enjoyed directing my first Brecht, The Good Soul of Szechuan, for Rose Bruford College, and beginning to write MA materials for the same academy - a job I'll be continuing in January. At the theatre, the highlights for me were Complicite's beautiful production with Japanese performers, Shun-kin at the Barbican; the Toneelgroep Amsterdam's six-hour epic Roman Tragedies at the same, ever-fertile address; and the National's staging of Wole Soyinka's classic Death and the King's Horseman - amazing just to see the play at last, and especially so well done.

In film, the London Film Festival was a highlight again, with Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah the star event. Obviously a film for a future Origins - unless it's had a huge general release first, which is far from impossible, given the awards it's harvesting! I've also read some great books - all of which inform my work, and the choice of which is of course informed by the work. So, in the early part of the year, I read Xinran's China Witness while in China - making its insights into the lives of older Chinese feel all the more immediate and all the more poignant. This also helped me think more deeply about the theme of Elders in the Origins Festival: the way in which First Nations value their older people so much more than we do in Western societies - and the social meaning of that value. So it was also very warming to spend a series of summer afternoons in the garden reading Seamus Heaney's book of interviews with Dennis O'Driscoll: Stepping Stones. Here is the quiet wisdom of one of our own Elders.

I've also spent quite a bit of time with David Mitchell, whose novels combine plot-lines and locations in ways which I find very helpful in thinking about our own devised work. I thought Ghostwritten, his first novel, of some years ago, was even better than Cloud Atlas: and experienced quite a shock while reading Black Swan Green, which at times felt uncomfortably like my own autobiography!

Have a great year, everyone....