Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a post about Entitled by Quarantine. It’s basically just some ME ME ME crap.
Generally speaking, it suits me to blog about a show immediately after returning home from the theatre, while everything is fresh in my head and I’m buzzing with excitement. I think our immediate response is often the ‘realest’, and too much reflection can cause me to wank on and on about the fucking aesthetic relationship and what Kant would say or some bollocks like that. If we respond quickly, we respond truthfully.
Not so this week. I saw Entitled by Quarantine on Thursday night and it’s now TWO WHOLE DAYS LATER. I had been pretty staggered by my emotional response to the show, a piece created around the get-in and get-out at a theatre and performed by real theatre technicians, as well as a few performers (and a writer) who spoke openly about themselves. I was sobbing very early on and erupted into full shoulder-shaking snorts regularly thereafter. Everything that was said just chimed so completely with me. The relationships we have. The work we do. The things we create that go unnoticed. The decisions we make. The decisions that somehow get made for us. When the show ended I walked home completely stunned, and have spent a considerable amount of time staring into the middle distance ever since.
I won’t go on about it here (yeah, right) but I’m in the middle of a massive work project at the moment. I’ve never done anything like this before and am consistently challenged by it. Some days I feel like I have the best job in the world and other days I just want to crawl under a rock that’s been painted with a massive ‘FUCK OFF’. I’ve also just started my final year at uni and am COMPLETELY SHITTING MY PANTS about the future, short-term and long. Watching Entitled gave me these beautiful little insights into the lives of a group of (*cleares throat*) theatre professionals; their hopes but also their regrets, and it scared the crap out of me. I could see myself in all of them, and suddenly felt a bit like I was about to make a huge fucking mistake with everything. So, for the last couple of days I’ve been thinking hard about boring adult stuff and asking boring adult questions like ‘Is it important for a future employer to have an HR department?’, ‘Should I join a union?’, ‘Remind me again why I gave up a perfectly good job IN A FUCKING THEATRE WITH AN HR DEPARTMENT AND A FUCKING UNION REP to get an ARTS MANAGEMENT DEGREE?’ ‘What if I can never afford another holiday FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?’
PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC.
Tonight I worked at an event which is part of the big work project that’s been stressing me out so much lately. At the end of the night the guy who commissioned us said it was the best one yet, and in the car home my bosses asked me how I thought it was going because they’d noticed how totally broken and ragged I’d been looking. It was so nice to be asked. For the rest of the journey I charted pretty much every mood swing I’d experienced since April, and felt listened-to again. It made me wonder how the guys from Entitled feel about having made their show. I wonder if being able to talk about their experiences lifts their spirits too. I wonder if they’ll take a bit of that back to the next project they work on and feel that little bit more valued.
I also wonder if they’re members of BECTU and whether they have a worthwhile pension scheme, but that’s something to wonder about some other time.
The Observer has printed its Autumn Arts Calendar today, including the usual categories of art, dance, pop, classical, etc etc. In some ways I’ve found it useful, because I tend to dip in and out of films and exhibitions and stuff if the topic/content particularly interests me, and would never purport to have my finger on the pulse. I’m quite looking forward to the Postmodernism exhibition opening at the V&A because I like art to be witty, and it was today’s Observer that let me know it was happening. While I’m sure there is an art buff somewhere decrying today’s paper for its obvious choices and no-brainer populism, I appreciate the heads up.
The theatre picks though? HONESTLY. It’s nothing but obvious choices and no-brainer populism! The theatre on offer in this country is far more varied and exciting than this stuff-featuring-people-you-know-off-the-telly. They’ve even managed to make Decade, the new immersive Headlong show about 9/11 which will be designed by Miriam Buether (she of boxing rings and snaking bar tops), sound like a staid think-piece. They’ve included Jerusalem, OF COURSE, which is a perfect show that everyone needs to see, if only so we can let Mark Rylance get on with the rest of his life already. There’s the new thing by John Tiffany for NTS, which will probably be excellent, but every single other thing is written by Mike Leigh or directed by Richard Eyre or inspired by Chekhov or starring Anna Chancellor or Joanna Lumley or Michael Sheen or “reunites” Clarke Peters and Dominic West from The Wire. All of them (even Decade really, as it’s a National Theatre production) are in big, static, traditional theatre spaces, and all bar Decade are going to require their audiences to sit still and shut up in neat little rows.
When I go to visit my parents I have a regular rant at them for buying The Times because RUPERT MURDOCH DIE DIE DIE, then sneakily have a flick through and start up a new rant about how boring and irrelevant its theatre coverage is. At this point I rave about The Guardian embracing new forms of theatre and new forms of arts coverage, with its own blogs and Noises Off overviews and willingness to adapt. The Observer, its sister paper, has fallen on hard times in recent years and has adapted to them, with fewer sections. In many ways their ‘New Review’ is great, as I like to find articles on science and computers and great mathematicians alongside the critics, but are these really the HIGHLIGHTS of the new season? REALLY?
If you’re interested, here are some of the shows I’m most looking forward to this autumn:
Going Dark, by Sound&Fury: These are the guys who did Kursk, which was set in a submarine and the entire audience had to squeeze into a space that had been recreated AMAZINGLY, with perfect sound design. This time their show is about astronomy, and uses lighting and immersive sound to “wonder at the cosmos and reveal how one man’s vision becomes illuminated by darkness.” SQUEEEEE MOTHER-FUCKING SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE
The Wild Bride by Kneehigh: This opened in Kneehigh’s Asylum tent in Cornwall but I’m going to see it at the Lyric Hammersmith. It sounds like Kneehigh’s usual mix of music and visuals but The Stage review also says it has PAIN and CHAOS and HORROR and THE DEVIL. All very good things in theatre world.
Entitled by Quarantine: This is touring I think, after a brief stint in Edinburgh this month. Quarantine only ever work with real people, rather than professional performers, but instead of being reality show bollocks, they tend to be really revealing portrayals. Their installation at Fierce fest involved audiences singing along with servicemen and women to some karaoke favourites, which was fun but ultimately bittersweet. Entitled is apparently about theatre techies. Can’t wait to see what they do.
Umbrella Project by Hannah Nicklin: Hannah is my mate so I’ve been lucky to hear about the Umbrella Project from the horse’s mouth. Its outing in York is still an R&D experiment, but Hannah works with audio to connect people and places, so I’m expecting this to be touching in a similar way to Quarantine’s work; showing us a different side to our surroundings.
Hatch: Fresh, by all sorts of people: This is a free evening of performance art and theatre and exciting, unusual artistic experiences created by people like Action Hero, the Other Way Works, and Dan Bye. And it is happening in Leicester, which is ALMOST UNHEARD OF.
Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre in London: Transferred from the RSC, and I wasn’t organised enough to go first time round. I am expecting great things. Full-on levitation and shit. I reckon I’ve paid enough to have pencils hovering in front of every face in the entire auditorium.