Friday, October 31, 2008

In Praise of Roe Lane

For the last few months, Roe Lane has been working in the office on a voluntary basis, with the idea that she'll learn a bit about theatre while helping us through our chaos. As a result, we've now got our MySpace pages, our Facebook group, an inventory of all our props and costumes, a tidy office, posters on the walls from all our shows, and a list of venues who've been mailed and phoned about the Trilogy for Penny to follow up. Oh - and the image on the Trilogy page of the website is her work too.

This afternoon I finally finished the Arts Council application for Origins. An unbelievably complicated job! Roe read through the whole thing, finding all the little errors of grammar, the typing slips and the bits that weren't easy to follow. What will I do without her? She's going to Manchester next week to work on some rehearsed readings.....

Oddly she leaves us the same day that Angharad Wyn-Jones departs as director of LIFT. A great shame for us - she really loved our work and wanted the Trilogy to be part of the Festival. And a great shame for LIFT and London - she really was an amazing director. Visionary. I guess we'll have to start all over again with a new relationship now! Good luck to both....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Elsewhere on the web

The new website around diversity in the theatre, Sustained Theatre, has asked me to do an article about the Trilogy. Click here!

Also - our fabulous office intern Roe Lane has been working hard to give us an extra web presence on My Space.

Check out:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

London Film Festival

The London Film Festival has somehow escaped my radar most years, but this year I've got very excited about it, and spent much of yesterday staring at screens and absorbing "influences" for the workshop in February. I saw an Indonesian film called Under The Tree, which was fascinating in the way it treated lots of themes from the Trilogy - in ways we won't! I've been interested in its director, Garin Nugroho, since Peter commissioned him to make Opera Java for New Crowned Hope. In this new film, he examines motherhood from lots of different angles, against the setting of Bali, with lots of reference to the traditional dance forms and their re-tellings of Hindu myths. Fascinating for me, as I think about the third play, where motherhood is again a central concern. I realise it's actually been central to the first two plays, but I hadn't even noticed it as a "theme".

I'm still mulling over my failure to spot what's in my own work as I watch Atom Egoyan's new film Adoration, and listen to him taking questions. He clearly feels a bit as if this is something he shouldn't be doing: "My view of the film is only one view - it's no more valid than yours - and in any case this is only my view today - I'll have another idea next week..." Too right - if I've only just noticed how central motherhood is to the whole Trilogy!

Adoration is a fascinating film, with Atom returning to his process of scripting his own work as an original story - I much prefer the films he makes in this way to the adaptations of novels. In this film, he deals again with grief and mourning, with cultural dislocation, with adolescence, and with performance and technology. The scenes around internet chat-rooms are amazing. Great to see him for a chat afterwards - we've been friends since we worked together in 1998 (!), but we've not actually met up for four years. He's really excited about the way things have been taking off for Border Crossings recently.

While I think about these films and the Trilogy, I spot a Guardian obituary for Xie Jin, the director of the film version of The Red Detachment of Women. Amazing and wonderful that he should still have been around, making movies, well into the era of Deng Xiaoping and beyond. For all the dismissal, the fact is that the Cultural Revolution was really not that long ago, and its shadow remains very real. I'd like to find a way of emphasising this in the next version of Dis-Orientations, and in Re-Orientations. It's kind of there - but not enough.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now or Later

I went to the Royal Court last night, to see Now or Later by Christopher Shinn. It's a bit Shavian... characters who serve primarily as mouthpieces for political viewpoints - but the acting (especially from a wonderful young actor called Eddie Redmayne) is so engaging and so vulnerable that you get drawn into them as emotional human beings anyway. It's set on the night of the US Presidential election - and it seems to be now, except that the successful Democratic candidate is very different from Obama, whatever the poster image may suggest. Eddie plays his gay son, who has been photographed dressed as Mohammad at a party... with the obvious embarrassment factor when photos and video crop up on blogs.

Nancy Crane, who was in Dis-Orientations and will be coming to Shanghai to work on the Trilogy in February, plays the new President's wife. She's costumed as a cross between Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, complete with a product on her hair which she tells me is called "helmet head". Apparently politico women really do use this stuff. Nancy says that the Prime Minister and Sarah Brown came to see the play on Friday. Sarah, unlike the American political wives, has "no mask", she says. Nancy asked her whether she'd enjoyed the play: she said it was just nice to get out of Downing Street at the moment.... which you can understand!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Nobel Prize, and Mauritius

It's great news that the Nobel Prize for Literature should have gone to a Mauritian - Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. At the moment, all the coverage is reading him as a French writer - but in his interviews he is always very clear that he is every bit as Mauritian as he is French, and that he is very sympathetic to the disappearing lifestyles of the island culture. This is very heartening for me - I have strong family links to Mauritius, and our productions of Toufann, Mappa Mundi and Twelfth Night were all in some way related to that extraordinary, vital and diverse culture. It's also great that Le Clézio is talking so clearly about ecological agendas in writing, about the value of other ways of living and seeing, about what we can learn from First Nations (as well as Mauritius and France, he also lives in New Mexico!). Whether this will mean a sudden surge of interest in Mauritian literature (or even theatre) I somehow doubt - but at least it's a sign of a growing sense that the apparently marginal in terms of the global economy may be central in terms of cultural regeneration.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Origins moves on

The Festival looks distinctly more promising these days - not least because of a $75,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation in the US. So we can say we're definitely doing something now! Had a very useful couple of hours with Colin Hicks at the Quebec government office, much of which was to do with working out how to get other agencies involved.

I've been doing funding applications till they're coming out of my ears.... and am now working on the Arts Council one, which is of course crucial. Now it has another confirmed funder in it, it will look a lot better!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Watching is Work

Just recently, I've been spending a lot of time watching plays (I often do) and films (which is less common, at least for work - but fun!). It does count as work, because the plays I have to see to keep up with the art-form and the actors, and the films are possible inclusions in Origins. On Thursday, I was at the Centre for New Zealand Studies at Birkbeck, where I watched no fewer than nine films in a day - admittedly only two of them features. One of these was the wonderful The Waimate Conspiracy - which manages to turn Maori land claims into a comedy, without being remotely patronising (the opposite, in fact). What makes the film really satisfying is its exploration of different forms of truth and proof. The court refuses to accept that the oral traditions through which Maori tell and preserve their history count as "proof" or "evidence", so they are forced into "forgery", which bizarrely and wonderfully turns out to be more "acceptable" than their own reality... This is ideal dramatic material, of course, and the conceit of shooting it all as if it were documentary adds to the sense of a film exploring different levels of fiction, reality and performance, with clear political implications.

The same evening (you see, it really is hard work...) I'm at the Oval House, to see a new play called Yours Abundantly, From Zimbabwe. It's by Gillian Plowman, and seems in many ways to be autobiographical: like the leading character, Gillian has exchanged letters with young people and teachers from Zimbabwe. I find many of the moral dilemmas around disparities in wealth and our perceptions of one another very familiar, and very frankly portrayed. It's wonderfully designed by my friend Iona McLeish, who manages to use the entire space with a single rake - back-lit and smokey it gives a space of imagination for the Zimbabwean characters, avoiding the representational, which allows the play to be much more clearly about the written words and the imaginative engagement with Africa that comes from it. It's a very beautiful, economical, lyrical production.

And now I'm off to the Australian High Commission for a reception for Bangarra Dance. It actually is work, you know.....