Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reviewing the Year

Division - Drum Theatre, Plymouth

Well, it's what people do at this time of year, isn't it?  2012 wasn't a year when Border Crossings was at its most visible - but because of what we've been doing behind the scenes, 2013 is going to be our busiest and most exciting year ever!  The highlight of the year was our month in Shanghai, devising our new show Consumed, which goes into rehearsal early in the new year, and will be on tour till the end of March.  It also looks set to go back to China in September - watch this space.  We've also been working very intensely through the year to develop the next Origins Festival, which is planned for the autumn of 2013, with some amazing new venues and an even more ambitious and inspiring programme than we had in 2011.  I was lucky enough to get to Australia, Canada and New Zealand during the course of 2012, so I've been able to see some amazing work and build the contacts we need to make it all happen here.

The other important aspect of our work in 2012 has been in participation and learning.  Lucy Dunkerley joined us in May, and has spent her first months with the company building our work in this area.  Her project Intercult, which accompanies Consumed, is going to be an amazing opportunity for young people across London.  During 2012, we also worked with young refugees in Plymouth (see photo above) to create a performance called Division, which brought them into a direct dialogue with the city's leaders.  We worked with the Africa Centre and Chickenshed to present educational and participatory programmes around African performance, with the talk by our Patron Peter Sellars proving a particular highlight.  We also concluded our Heritage Project with London's Maori community, launching our website in June.  We've also been continuing our work with the Platform for Intercultural Europe, helping to shape policy in Brussels.  

2012 has, of course, been a great year to be living in London, and the 2012 Festival was full of inspiration for people working in international theatre.  The Globe to Globe Festival included some terrific work, and Peter's Desdemona at the Barbican was a highlight.  But the most exciting productions of the summer for me were both in LIFT - the epic Gatz and the deeply provocative and inspiring Ganesh versus the Third Reich.  The latter is my production of the year - theatre which questions so many assumptions around disability and culture, and which manages to be very funny and deeply moving at the same time.  And beautiful to look at too.

This was an Australian play, and I actually saw it as a showcase in Adelaide.  The trip down under was very rich theatrically - but my other highlight would have to be Hone Kouka's Tu in Wellington.  Hone has been working for a long time to find a distinctive Maori dramatic form, and in this play he triumphantly gets there.  The staging in an urban marae, drawing off traditional movement and employing the natural traverse of the space, was simply stunning.

Closer to home, I much enjoyed Cheek by Jowl's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, with a great central performance from Lydia Wilson, and the National Theatre finally bringing Howard Barker into its fold with Scenes from an Execution.

Having spent a lot of the year travelling, I also read a great many books, mainly on the glorious e-reader.  But the most invigorating novel I read this year was the one you couldn’t get on Kindle: Timothy Mo’s Pure pulls off the seemingly impossible feat of approaching Islamic terrorism in a comic mode, without trivialising or belittling its subject.  Mo ventriloquises a wondrous range of narrators: I especially enjoyed the portrayal of an Oxford don and M16 recruiter, who is just a little less omniscient than he believes.

Natasha Soobramanien’s Genie and Paul is a tightly plotted first novel, shuttling between Mauritius and London so that wave after wave of culture-shock breaks across the reader.  Great for those of us who have Mauritian family connections and work with the culture there to see the Mauritian novel in the hands of such an exciting new talent.

China in Ten Words by Yu Hua explodes the myth that the last thirty years of Chinese history represent a fundamental break with the past.  Yu demonstrates how all the key characteristics of today’s China have deep roots in the era of the Famine and the Cultural Revolution.  Which leads us on to the ideas in Consumed...  Happy New Year, everybody.  

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