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Science & Theatre

Tassos Stevens – all round Theatre Good Guy – we could with more like him:

is colloborating on a sciene and theatre get together

he asks (and see here)

Tell the story of a specific moment in your own work where something you did in practice advanced your understanding of your work (or your theory). Tell the story of that moment and what led to it, in as much detail as would help a lay-person to understand the process in that moment and what happened next.

So if you’re a scientist, then tell the story of an experiment – where practice advanced or confirmed your understanding – especially one that was satisfying and/or surprising in some way. If you’re in theatre, then tell the story of a similar/analogous moment in your own work – where practice advanced or confirmed your understanding – especially one that was satisfying and/or surprising – whether or not you conceived it as an experiment.

Post your answer to

“The Soho Theatre hosts an event on Monday 15 May, bringing scientists and theatre artists (especially writers) together to talk about experiment as part of our working process, aiming to broaden our own understanding of how we make our work, look at common ground and differences, cross-fertilise ideas and practically investigate the nature of experiment in theatre. This is a launchpad event which hopefully will be the start of an ongoing conversation and exchange, with further events in the future.

The event takes as a working hypothesis ‘the theatrical event is an experiment’ and its corollary, ‘the experiment is a theatrical event’, and takes the evidence for and against this. A working group of scientists and theatre artists, especially writers, will workshop for two days prior to the performance, dramatising experiments and testing artistic ideas. The public event on Monday 15 May will present findings as a piece of theatre to engage the audience, with the ‘conclusion’ being an open discussion.”

New Soho Theatre Artistic Director….

Lisa Goldman. See here.

She was one of my first writing mentors (at the Soho Young Writers). She has always come across to me as extremely passionate on all levels, particularly politically.

I’m still very interested in everything she does and I couldn’t get any tickets to see her well praised Hoxton Story. It will be interesting to see what she does in a building.

She will probably be the most political and perhaps experimental AD in a prominent UK theatre.

It’s a good choice out of a very difficult selection, I imagine.

I wish her and Soho all best luck and wishes. I don’t think they will need but be prepared for a shake up and for more political theatre.

Talawa talk theatre

Have been busy and tired and I think I’ve caught another cold.

Had little energy for blog thoughts, they have flitted in out and out. Like the judge in the Da Vinci Code case putting a code in his judgement. I thought that was funny.

Anyway, here is something to go to if you are interested in “non-white” theatre. Or I guess I could say Black, but I think in its widest posssible meaning.

Talawa Theatre Company invites all Black theatre professionals to come together and talk – simply talk, network, cross bridges but most importantly figure out where we are, where we would like to be and what matters most to our art and practice.

Talawa is alive and kicking and passionate about Black theatre. That’s why we are creating a time and a place for practitioners to meet and air their views, for new synergies to be created, generations to be bridged, plans to be made where everyone feels welcome. This is our SALON, a collective discussion aimed at regenerating, celebrating and caretaking our own arts movement.

Each time we meet, there will be a short, provocative address by one of our leading thinkers, a brief Q&A session, and then it’s up to us to keep the conversation going so that we discover each other’s views, find out what we’re doing and would like to do, and create links and strategies in a comfortable, informal environment.

Talk Theatre will be held upstairs at the Bath House pub at 96 Dean Street, Soho, on the last Wednesday of each month starting on the 31st of May. Doors open at 6.30 and the address and questions begin at 7.00.

Rachel Corrie Silenced in NY

Theatre that creates political controversy has often used the “verbatim” process of late. I find this intriguing. I wonder if this is a response to the overwhelming onslaught of media reports today, when one can hardly ever go back to the original source and ascertain what shade is true and what is just a shade of fiction.

What’s it all about? You know. Life, the universe, everything. This thought flicks through my mind, relatively often. I have never been able to answer it satisfactorily. However, I believe Rachel Corrie had a real go at it. She died believing she was defending disadvantaged people’s lives. Her words echo on perhaps more powerfully after her death.

I remember reading some of her letters in 2003 in the Guardian and was moved.

“World majnoon?” I thought.

Tom Stoppard may argue that free speech is not a right. However, even those who believe she died protecting smuggling tunnels are poorer for not hearing her words played out. To silence Rachel Corrie is to make the world a poorer place.

New York Theatre Workshop decides to postpone indefinitely a staging of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” presumably due to political pressure.

See Guardian here, Nation article here, site on Rachel Corrie here and here. There are also several blog opinions, eg here.

Is free speech a right?

Tom Stoppard argues free speech is not a “human right”.

See here.

He argues amongst other arguements

“A ‘human right’ is, by definition, timeless. It cannot adhere to some societies and not others, at some times and not at other times. But the whole parcel of liberties into which free expression fits has a history. To St Augustine, religious tolerance would have been an oxymoron. The concept of pluralism as a virtue is a thousand years more modern than St Augustine. To say, therefore, that the right of free speech was always a human right which in unenlightened societies was suspended from the year dot until our enlightened times is surely beyond even our capacity for condescension.”

In an absolute sense.

Interestingly, there is a sense that speech is a right.

One of the only things humans have been able to do from year dot is express themselves in language and art. It is one of the attributes that (maybe) seperates us from animals.

Stoppard argues that “free speech” is no right.

However, I would say “speech” is a right. It is part of what it means to be human.

So is the ability to speak freely.

I suppose the right Stoppard talks about is the right to do that without fear of retribution – but one can’t take away fear either – that is also what it means to be human.

On a semantic and philosophy level, it’s interesting to note the differences.

Pinter’s shaky faith

MB:…In the age of infinite electronic possibility, do you still have a positive faith in what theatre can do?

HP: The mere fact of audience and actors sharing that specific moment in time, the intensity of the life that passes between the stage and the auditorium, means there’s nothing quite like it. So yes I still have a faith, a shaky faith, in the act of theatre.

Harold Pinter and Bryony Lavery interviews

Lyn Gardner meets playwright Bryony Lavery, where she talks about overcoming accusations of plagiary.

Pinter in conversation with Billington

MB: …You spoke about the way a play is engendered by a line, a word or an image. Also about the way characters resist you and take on a life of their own. But is there not also a conscious part of you that is organising the action and the characters?

HP: I’m not aware of my consciousness working in that way at an early stage of writing. After it’s got to a certain point, I then work very hard on the text, quite consciously. In other words, I just don’t live in my unconscious the whole damn time. I keep an eye on it. But one of the most exciting things about being a writer is finding the life in different characters whom you don’t know at all. To a certain extent, you’ve got to let them live their own life. But there’s also a conflict constantly going on between you as the writer and them as the characters. Who’s in charge? There’s no easy answer to that. I suppose, finally, the author is in charge. Because, whether the character likes it or not, all I’ve got to do is take out my pen and do that (a gesture of erasure) and he’s lost a line. It may be one of his favourite lines of dialogue [laughter]. But I’ve got the pen in my hand.


Thoughtful piece on getting into Beckett

“{late Beckett}…This is the point at which Beckett has reduced, condensed and distilled his preoccupations into passages of startling purity and sharpness. It’s as if Beethoven had stripped a whole symphony down to a handful of notes, each deployed in a way that evokes great flights of composition.”

I like Beckett and I find him a very different experience to read than to watch and engage.

Anyone seen much of the on going Beckett?

Review: The Cut by Mark Ravenhill

I have to admit a possible bias. (In what will quite probably be) my only time as an “actor” on the London stage was in a reading of The Cut at the Young Vic, I played the (non-speaking) role of Gita. I had high hopes for the play and of course higher expectations more often lead to disappointments. Expectation were raised even higher as others mentioned they liked the play.

Incidentally, I believe one of the inspirations for the title is the street name “The Cut” which is the road that the Young Vic and Old Vic are on. The Paines Plough Wild Lunch of 2003 was inspired by “the brilliant variety of street names and places in Lambeth & Southwark”, a fun way to try and title and being a play.

It had
America Street by Ali Taylor
Waterloo Exit 2 by Helen Raynor
Jubilee Gardens by Dystin Johnson
Cold Harbour by Gary Owen
Orpheus Road by Ursula Rani Sarma
The Cut by Mark Ravenhill
Southwark Street by Kevin Sheedy
Brixton Water by Chloe Moss

There were three acts/scenes and the first act, which was probably my favourite, was pretty similar to the reading back in 2003.

The production and acting were superb but I was left feeling a little cold by the play overall because of the specificity of the theme or rather the lack of it.

Paul works for the government administering the cut – a nasty medical operation that eliminates desire and memory (I think) and looks like it could cause death. However, he feels extremely guilty about this especially the secrets he keeps from his family. The first scene, shows him reluctantly administering the cut only after some convincing from the (willing) patient/victim and after he has laid bare his guiltily conscience. The second scene shows the debilitating effects on his family life and the thirds scene shows him in jail as a new government has come to power and washed away the old order.

The play hints and resonates with oppressive political regimes. The historical cycles of overthrowing state authorities only to be replaced by equally oppressive but different regimes. It harks to the corrosive effect it has on people working for regimes. It also touches on the governmental faces of state cruelty and to the extent of the disappearance of memory, also the disappeared in Latin America.

However, therein lies the plays weakness to me. Others may like the vagueness of this world that Ravenhill conjures but unlike the surreal, brutal world of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed (which was also in many ways non specified) it seems to me that the Ravenhill’s world lacks detail. I don’t know anything about the regime, I’m not sure why I should care about the characters and I understand the arguments of freedom of the individual vs state and social conformity, I don’t really see them played out,

It feels too general, in a world where specifics matter. I don’t think the world had to draw on specifics in our world like the disappeared or ethnic cleansing but I’m not sure of the rules Ravenhill’s world was based on. So I left feeling a bit cold, a bit hollow and a bit disappointed but perhaps this my lack of cleverness and engagement.

PS The production was great. Mckellen acted superbly and Grandage brought together the lighting (Constable) and sound (Cork) extremely adeptly in a very well paced telling.

Theatre blogs I’ve recently come across

After various travels for work and holiday, I’m back for the foreseeable future.

I whizzed by Milan, Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and stopped for a little more time in Singapore and Malaysia. I don’t recommend whizzing by any of these places, but travelling like this does bring home the vast differences and amazing similarities between humans and cultures. Almost all of these places had a theatre of some sort as well although I didn’t manage to get to any!

Time to catch up on some other blog reading

Alison Croggan keeps an insightful blog on (mainly) Australian theatre, Theatre Notes. By chance, I think I met her once or twice at Cambridge when she was there (via Sophie Levy, a poet worth watching out for) and then completely independently I came across and read her “Books of Pellinor” (or rather only books 1 and 2, as 3 and 4 are not our yet); The Gift and The Riddle – which are fantasy books primarily aimed at younger people, but I have a (not so secret) weakness for children’s books (good story and character led fantasy and other genre). The Gift and the Riddle are very worth reading, a whole league above standard children’s fantasy fare.

Andrew keeps a blog and a London theatre blog here. He left a comment recently suggesting that if playwright’s were given money perhaps there would be less plays “born out of struggle” – for good or bad.

Butts in Seats gives an arts management perspective from the US (the writer is currently in Hawaii, I think, as a theatre manager)

George Hanka’s Superfluities tracks mainly New York theatre but also thoughts on theatre and arts in general. George Hanka is also a playwright.

And last but not least, Parachute of a Playwright by Australian playwright, Ben Ellis. More musings on theatre with an Oz focus.

  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen