Monthly Archives: October 2009

Around the Blogs: Number 2

Once again taking the lead from The Clyde Fitch Report to take a tour around what all those theatre bloggers in the UK are going on about.

At A Hectic Phase In The Life there was a reflection or two on Howard Barker.

At A Younger Theatre Jake revealed why he really, really doesn’t like one man shows.

At Carousel of Fantasies Matt brought some urban decay to the BAC.

At Confessions of a Playwright our attachment to the idea of the lone genius was questioned.

At The Corner Shop Blog it was almost time for opening night (plus a rather spectacular to-do list)

At Fin Kennedy Fin broke his hiatus to tell us his blog was going on hiatus.

At Hannah blogged about apathy (or rather the myth of apathy), something which after the reaction to that edition of Question Time seems even more pertinent.

At Helen Smith Helen had her second dream about Playwright and one-time blogger David Eldridge.

At John Morrison The Power of Yes proved that it was continuing to underwhelm bloggers.

At Killing Time Dave Windass stepped into Annie Hall. Well, almost.

At Life in the Cheap Seats Webcowgirl saw rather a lot of one of the stars of Silence: The Musical, and rather liked what she saw.

At Miching Malchio it was the proliferation of reviews which was up for discussion.

At Nabokov NewsBlog there was some rather impressive packing going on.

At Paul in London Paul suffered for his art and went back in for the second half of Carousel: The Songs of Jacques Brel at the Barbican

At Pirate Dog Alex Sierz responded to Matt Trueman’s thoughts on liveness and in his effortlessly concise way maybe hit the proverbial nail on the head.

At Russell’s Theatre Reviews it was all about the touring production of Beauty and the Beast. I saw UK Production’s version when it was last doing the rounds 18 months or so ago and would rather have my fingernails pulled out while watching Waiting For Godot than repeat the experience. But, with the brand behind it, it seems like there are many more regional audiences to traumatise before it dies.

At Shenton’s View Mark Shenton had a timely reminder about the problems of buying theatre tickets.

At That Damn Yankee Jason Ferguson continued to explain British Theatre to Americans, this time with the aid of a fire curtain.

At The Guardian Theatre Blog Andrew Haydon considered his relationship to (man of the week) Howard Barker and, subsequently, the terms by which we judge theatre. My (limited) experience of Barker in performance has done nothing but leave me cold – though the other half of Write By Numbers would say the opposite of that – and as anti-intellectual as it might sound for me theatre is at its most compelling when it engages my heart as well as my head. In that way the title of Haydon’s piece is a no-brainer: yes, of course we should watch plays for pleasure because I can stay at home, save my money and read dry critical theorising on the internet for free.

At View From The Stalls the task was to puzzle out what actually happened in Memory Cells with even its Director getting in on the action…

At West End Whingers it was a trip to the almost universally adored Enron which which was on the cards and, perhaps inevitably, it just couldn’t live up to the hype.

On Raised Voices

I’m not really here – I’ve ingested far too many lemsip-type medications in the last 48 hours to be left in charge of either a computer or a blog – but I saw the link to the following article and I couldn’t help but come here.

Today Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, gave a speech at the ‘Culture is Right’ conference which set about making a case for maintaining investment in the arts.

I’ve not yet had chance to read Davey’s full speech but I cannot state how important I think it is that we – all of us – start making our voices heard. Arts matter. And some times that needs to be restated.

Unasked Questions

Yet another interesting post over at 99seats – this time about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of writing rather than the ‘how’. For, as I know from my own experience, writing groups tend to focus only on the ‘how’:

“There is a problem, though, and it’s exactly this: the focus is on craft, style, but rarely, if ever on substance. The focus is on the How and never on the What. Or even more importantly on the Why.”

Of course people need to know how to structure and use form and image and metaphor and etc etc (sadly my experience of reading unsolicited scripts points to the fact that these aspects of the ‘craft’ of playwriting do get ignored) but some times you do need someone to stop you and ask: why?

If there is one question which haunted everyone during my MA it was the one which our course convener would utter at some point during every class: why now? And, I would argue, the case can always be made for good art (case in point: Alan Bennett’s The History Boys would have withered at that question and that play is, however you look at it, bloody brilliant). Whilst equally I do not want to sit through a hundred different plays about – say the financial crisis – because it is a ‘now’ topic. But what was so brilliant about asking us that question is that it forces you to examine what you’re writing and why you’re writing it. And – maybe most importantly if you’re looking to have a play put on and suchlike – why anyone else should care.

Over the course of the year we spent many, many more hours talking about the whats and the whys than we did about the hows. That meant that some times you would have to say ‘ I don’t know’ or question someone on the ideology of their play which some times made you want to go somewhere quiet and rock in a corner.  And whilst I can’t speak for anyone else, just having that question floating around made me a better writer. My answer to ‘why now?’ may be as simple as ‘because I have to’. But I’m not scared of either asking it or having to answer it – and the more writers who can say that the better.

Around The Blogs: Number 1 3

One of my favourite recent-ish discoveries is the Clyde Fitch Report and one of the things I love about it is it’s From The Blogroll section that takes a brief look around, well, the Blogroll. So in blatant theft I’m going to start doing the same thing here once a fortnight. It’s a bit different to what I write for Whatsonstage as I’m going to stick to UK based blogs and undoubtedly be a little bit more flippant than I am over there.

So, if you’re sitting comfortably, here goes…

At A Younger Theatre Jake became part of the play and reviewed Tim Crouch’s The Author.

At Carousel of Fantasies Matt Trueman took Roger Foss to task for his dismissal of interactive audience-led theatre in The Stage. Given my documented obsession with One & Other I’m with Trueman on this. And I can say that and still be in raptures over Stoppard and Shakespeare etc etc. Because that’s what’s great about theatre. Difference.

At Confessions of a Playwright there was what can only be described as an accordion moment.

At Hannah blogged about A City Staged and the kind of embracing of the possibilities of social media for theatre which makes me a little sick with excitement. It even made me want to have been in Derby so I could have taken part. (My only connection with Derby is an interesting evening in a club in the early noughties when my feet stuck to the floor and where I probably should have worn a polo neck. So, believe me, this is saying something).

At Helen Smith it was all about a giant knitted poem. And murder. Agatha Christie would be proud.

At Killing Time Dave Windass found paradox and Apostrophe Use Gone Mad in the same sign.

At Life in the Cheap Seats Webcowgirl quite probably could have done without having seen Jane Horrocks  in Annie Get Your Gun.

At Miching Malicho there was an adventure in the streets of York with Belt Up production of The Trial.

At Paul in London the interval of Mother Courage led to the revelation of what Rah-Rah Gay is.

At Pirate Dog it was all about a monkey upstaging Kevin Spacey on stage at the Old Vic. Which almost makes me want to see Inherit the Wind.

At Postcards from the Gods Andrew Haydon most definitely didn’t agree with Michael Billington on David Hare’s The Power of Yes.

At Russell’s Theatre Reviews the Young Vic’s production of Annie Get Your Gun continued to astoud – so much so that it was re-christened Annie Get Your Act Together.

At Shenton’s View Mark Shenton discussed the questions that the launch of Love Never Dies failed to answer. But not – WHY? For the love of God, why?

At the Guardian Theatre Blog Lyn Gardner sent out a plea for more Rupert Goolds in British theatre. Goold had me at his production of Six Characters in Search of an Author which delighted me more than almost anything I saw in the first few months of living in London. Also if we are to go by his photo on Gardner’s blog then he also has rather impressive hair. So winning all round.

At View From The Stalls there was Shakespeare aplenty in Lend Me Your Ears.

At West End Whingers it was third time unlucky for Annie Get Your Gun and, well, you should just go and read as it’s the Whingers doing what they do best.