Last week was a rather extraordinary and rich week of theatremaking and spaceholding. It started with a joyful evening of fun cabaret created by West End Frenchies and managed by our alum Mountview MA producer Mathilde Moulin. A small posy of us producers and friends were there for a fun set by Francesca Fenech and friend entitled Guilty Pleasures and then a host of mainly very good open mic performers – offering us songs in French and English. My first time at the cabaret and at Toulouse Lautrec Brasseries where we were made so welcome.
The next day was Casa Latin American Theatre Festival and a performance of Osma, a naked theatre performance piece adapted from the short stories of renowned Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst. Surtitles in English, visceral and completely embodied performance in Portugese, and a chance to learn more about this sensual, sexual, surreal writer who was (and still is) ahead of her time.
After the performance, as part of my own research into Clothing Optional Theatre and the question How do we choose to reveal our bodies through life performance and art?, I was invited to be part of a panel with the performer and a learned expert of Hilda Hilst. A lively discussion with the audience on the politics of theatre, the liminal space between sexuality and sensuality, pornography and art, and the need to revel in and reveal the human body as a natural part of our lives and our art. Delighted that there was so much interest in the (now sold out) clothing optional performance of Hair which I have been working on promoting with my colleagues at Target Live and the show’s Manchester and London producers.
Two packed days of teaching, meetings, workshops, tutorials, and learning how to be a better academic person whilst at Mountview and then off to see some more theatre. The 3rd Yr Actors at Mountview have split to be part of two companies – the first are part of realizing the world premiere of a Mountview commissioned play by Dan Murphy “Gidea Park” . I was breathless with the power of the writing, and the unexpected twists through the exploration of families caught up in a criminal disappearance. It felt at times verbatim as London Road, whilst also taking us on secondary path to explore Floyd Collins like the media circus. I suspect we will very soon be seeing this piece receive its commercial, or major subsidized house, professional premiere – and maybe by then some of these graduating students will get to reproduce their roles…and get paid. Congrats to them all and to director Hannah Joss.
In counterpoint to this was the David Greig surreal self-centering dream poem, of time and connecting encounters in San Diego where each actor follows their own tracks and is offered phenomenal opportunities to enrich their characters which at times criss cross through stories and space, and at others intersect for short scenes and less surreal narrative. This is a company of actors who must have put their faith in the text and the surety of their director, Richard Cant, to deliver them safely from takeoff to eventual landing and a phenomenal standing ovation (as was also rightly won by the Gidea Park cast). Two inspired and inspiring plays which played to the strengths of a culturally diverse company of actors who will end this year, I feel sure, getting loads of work.
Its only a few years ago that these actors would have been signing up for various youth theatres and summer schools to hone their craft and mature their life skills. One such organisation is Youth Music Theatre UK which is heading toward its 15th birthday, and I am proud to have been a founding trustee and to have had the pleasure of cheering many many companies and creatives as they devise and present new musical theatre work across the UK. On Sunday I facilitated a day where the Youth Forum of 25 representatives from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gathered to explore where we/they can take the company next.
With the help of Open Space Technology they together created an agenda of over 50 items which were important to them, grouped these into 34 different breakout discussion groups across 5 solid hours of intense work. Piles of reporting on massive flipcharts came flying towards me as the day progressed, and it will be fascinating what will have been proposed for the future, challenged about the past, and recommended for immediate improvement. It is a tribute to the current Executive and Trustees that they have asked me to run three of these sessions, two with past and present creative practitioners, and this weekend with young performers from 13 to 25 plus a few alums heading towards 30. Every suggestion from al three sessions will be gathered for consideration by the board, shared with all the participants, who will be updated on how progress is going as action is taken.
Generous, hard working, focused, passionate, articulate, and determined young people who want the widest possible array of future young people from across every geographical and societal mix, to have the life changing experiences which they have relished. They were quick to realise the risks ahead for any young company seeking to be inclusive and viable. Government is sidelining the arts, which any self-respecting politician would have seen was a barking mad cop out if they had just spent an hour in the space on Sunday. Local government is being squeezed to focus on anything but the support of the healing, teambuilding, inspiring, empowering arts that we know work for local and national society. And the ballsup of Brexit and the stripping of capital out of the country seems to be doing everything 48% of the country predicted, taking us into scary territory where families will be making choices on how they spend their ever reducing discretionary spend. Maybe I exaggerate the risks to YMT:UK and others like the company. But I do not exaggerate the sheer joy and exemplar experiential display which was electrifying the conference room all day Sunday.
In the midst of all this there were skype calls and report preparation for the planned visit of 15 Chinese theatre producers in November, budgets for Mountview Catalyst festival 2018, some short surgeries, a quick visit to a new musical showcase (followed by a long hopefully helpful critique to the producer, and a chance to join a movement and voice workshop as a naked and experimental practitioner led by the inspiring Calu Lema. Busy week.
This is, I see, my 188th blog – hope my reader is enjoying their time with them all. Have a great week. And spot the west end leads in this pic from a very early YMT show.