Tales From Ovid: If I could change Brixton…

In the next few days I’m hoping to have the chance to catalogue all of our Brixton Village responses to our Wall of Change on our website but for now, they’re all up on our Flickr page which you can see here. The range of responses is both interesting and touching.

On pretty much the first day we opened our shop this tag appeared:

Brixton Theatre

I nodded when I read it but, two weeks later, I’d changed my mind slightly. I wouldn’t build a theatre, I’d ensure there was a space for theatre. And that space doesn’t need to be a theatre-building in the traditional sense. It just needs to be somewhere where people can perform – theatre, music, dance, spoken word, fire-eating – whatever category of performance they choose.

It doesn’t need to be the same space every week, there just needs to be a space. And while we’re at the subject of space, I’d throw in space to rehearse, space to workshop, space to meet. And I think we proved during our residency that all that space doesn’t need to be traditional either. Crikey, we rehearsed, workshopped and performed in a series of empty shops without heat at the end of January. Forget money (well, not entirely some of that might be nice but I know we’re looking down the shrinking corridor there), give me space.

For think of what we could do with that space. What the others like and unlike us could do.

And the first thing I’d do?

I’d start this process by making Shop 82 the first space for performance.

Audience - by Ash Finch

Everyone involved in the Space Makers project have proven that the audience is there.

Snap - by Ash Finch

So, just the space then.

Shunt The First

Charlie and I are sitting deep under London Bridge Station in Shunt Lounge. We’re about to watch a show which involves a marshmallow and a teddy bear. I’m rather hoping that I might get a marshmallow*.

The Stage Manager closes the black curtains to my right. That’s it; we’re contained in the bowels of the world.

“We’re trapped now!” Charlie exclaims. “Maybe forever”.

I consider this for a moment.

“There are worse places to be forced to spend eternity”.

And oh, there are. Because Shunt Lounge is the type of place where you just stumble upon the unexpected (last night: a room full of taxidermy which we were led to by a path of candles, the candles making me think of sinister fairytale entrapment). It’s the kind of place where I come out with fifteen new ideas for shows which I want to create (and that’s not just the epic portions of vodka speaking). It’s a space that just crackles with creativity and insanity and weirdness and all those other things that make it very special indeed.

But it’s not going to be there much longer what with the London Bridge redevelopment taking over (I heard a rumour – which I hope to be unfounded – that it is to be filled in with concrete as foundations for whatever it is that is being built on top of it. Talk about a flippin’ metaphor). There’s a new venue in Bermondsey Street which I’m sure will be as wonderful and ramshackle as the London Bridge vaults by the time that Shunt have got their hands on it but, well…I’ll miss the magic of this place.

*I didn’t. Bah.

On Space 1

Time Out made a good point when they mentioned improving theatre bars…theatres should be places you go simply to meet people, to hang out…and then maybe fall into some theatre along the way”.

So said a friend of mine over lunch today (no, I didn’t pause to write that all down, a little bit of blogging first person narrative license there). I rather love the idea of stumbling into a performance (or a performance stumbling into me) as might happen at Shunt, just as would frequent the wonderful cafe at the Arcola simply for the sake of being there if it didn’t take approximately two hours and a lot of hair pulling for me to actually get there. The BAC has not enough seats for the space but wonderful places to sink into arm chairs and hide whilst the Tricycle has incredibly cheap food served by gloriously eccentric men.  The National‘s good for a meeting, or a quick sit down, but feels terribly, terribly corporate. And if the balcony at the Royal Court is an absolutely beautiful spot to waste some time in the sun then the prices of the bar would require me to extend my overdraft.

It is, I feel, the sense of community that my friend was getting at. Eating and drinking is inherently social after all (or at least it should be). And if we put performance into that community then what does both the performance and the community gain? People who wouldn’t normally see a performance? Or a performance that engages directly (and meaningfully) with its audience?

Though I hadn’t thought of it in such terms very early on in the planning of Reasons For Listing myself and Charlie decided that it was clear that it needed a non-traditional theatrical space. Maybe it was my love of coffee and cake but we soon struck upon the idea of cafe spaces…

There’s certainly the issue of space when we talk about theatres and their bars/ cafes. It’s a case of re-imagining and seeing entire buildings as a theatre – and not just an auditorium with a bar tacked on in order to swell the coffers during the interval. Why should performances only take place at 2.00pm and 7.30pm in an auditorium? It’s easy to pay lip service to the idea – hey let’s stick some music in the bar pre-show or some art on the walls – but it takes more imagination to embrace the concept. A 24 hour space where I can eat, drink, have a cup of coffee, take my laptop, hang out, meet people and stumble on performance (of all kinds) – that’s what I’d like to see.