Ok, I admit it. It’s been far, far too long. For reasons too many and various to go through here, as you may have noticed, Postcards ended up taking a lengthy summer holiday. This is partly because every time I started to write a “Hello, yes, it has been a long time since I last wrote” piece, the laptop on which it was written would get stolen or die. I’ve been through two since I last posted. The other main reason is that after Estonia I was completely burnt out from watching theatre, talking theatre and writing about theatre. Knowing that Edinburgh was coming up, and since July was very quiet in terms of openings, news or discussion, I thought I’d take a couple of weeks’ break from writing about theatre. As it turned out, I did end up seeing and writing about quite a lot, it’s just none of it was here, but there was a Guardian blog about Gob Squad, a Guardian blog about Hamlet, a Guardian blog about something Nick de Jongh wrote in the Standard about radicalism, and then yesterday a Guardian blog about the need for British theatre to stop ignoring Europe, there were also reviews of:
This Wide Night – Soho Theatre (FT)
A Slight Ache – National Theatre (FT)
The Shadowmaster – King's Head (Time Out)
The Mikado - Union Theatre (Time Out)
Edward II – BAC (Time Out)
As a result of this “break”, however, I never got round to writing the piece I wanted to about Michael Billington’s review of Six Characters in Search of an Author (although that was also partly down to politics and cowardice), or my reflection on the remarkable page-sized non-review of Rimini Protokoll’s Call-Cutta in a Box. I don’t suppose I ever will now. Tragic, I know. Here, I have also put in place-savers for While We Were Holding It Together, the second part of my reflections on the BaltoScandal festival and my review of the new – well, it was new when I saw it on press night – Katie Mitchell piece at the NT, ...some trace of her. Hopefully, sometime this week I'll find time to write them all up.
After this largely uncharted second half of July, Postcards, like everyone else in the known universe, went to Edinburgh. During Edinburgh what little I had to say that was printable went to the Guardian, for reasons of sound financial sense. Thus:
The myth of the golden age of the Fringe, a reflection on how one experiences theatre, something about the Total Theatre Awards, and a more theoretical macro look at the economics of “Fringe”.
After all, the primary purpose of this blog is for longer, wider, less user-friendly and more recondite (read: nerdy) discussions than those that the Guardian hosts, and for collecting my non-printed reviews, and I didn't really have much time for that, for reasons discussed below.
Someone did suggest that I should also post my printed reviews here too – I’m not sure about the legal position on that one. I can’t imagine I’d be depriving Time Out of too much revenue by having the reviews here as well as on their website, but then it’s mildly less work to post a link than to copy and paste the article from their website: - unless they make a howling cock-up by mistake, I firmly believe that editors/subeditors improve my writing every time they go near it. With the FT, there is the problem that the review goes behind a pay-per-view screen after about a week or so, but by that point, it’s often a fortnight since I wrote the piece, and so pasting it up then rather buggers up the otherwise useful (well, it was kind of useful before July) chronology. Anyway, I’ve strayed miles from the point already without having even managed to say anything useful yet.
As I’ve already noted elsewhere – twice – Edinburgh was unusual for me this year as I was chair of the selection panel for the Total Theatre Awards. This basically meant that rather than hitting the ground, along with the rest of the press, by heading for the Traverse for two days underground working my way through their programme and then heading over to the Pleasance, Underbelly and Assembly Rooms to cherry-pick their offerings before starting to pick up shows by friends and companies whose previous work had impressed, and waiting for word-of-mouth recommendations to start trickling in (this year ‘trickling’ is right). Instead, I arrived in Edinburgh and was promptly plunged into a fairly heavy schedule of shows that I would never have chosen to see in a million years. As you’d expect, this had pretty mixed results. For some reason, I mostly seemed to get sent to south Asian dance pieces, or at least that’s what it felt like. This eventually paid off with me seeing one of the most unexpected highlights of my Fringe, the sublime Hamlet Episode. I also saw a lot of utter dross, the worst of which – which I shan’t embarrass by naming here – completely recalibrated my idea of what “unremittingly dreadful” can mean. There was also a lot of well-meaning, middle-ground stuff with which, in a four or five show-per-day schedule, I started to lose patience very quickly indeed.
Outside of the rigours of the Total Theatre selection procedure, I saw a reasonable smattering of shows, most of which I enjoyed, and will try to write-up in at least some form at some point, but by the time I left Edinburgh I had again hit my theatre wall and knew that I only had until the following Wednesday to get my enthusiasm back before hitting the Homo Alibi festival in Latvia. As a result, I think I probably missed most of the agreed artistic “hits” of the Fringe. Not ideal, but there it is. That said, I suspect that very little on the Fringe could have cheered me up as much as what little work I did manage to catch at the wonderful Forest Fringe. Tinned Fingers’s By Morning It Will Be Dry Enough For Tennis (twice), Paper Cinema and Kora’s The Night Flyer, Lucy Ellinson: In State and the first two parts of Chris Goode’s live anthology of upstream poetry (some of which is now available online as sound recordings – and is still well worth a listen) all left me with the feeling that the whole day, if not week, or even month, had all somehow been worth it. Chris's own account of the Forest Fringe experience says everything I'd like to and more. Similarly, his account of the excellent Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller installations at the Edinburgh Fruitmarket Gallery makes the urgency of writing that up seem much less pressing.
Over the next few days, I'm hoping to get back into the swing of regularly blogging here, as well as at the Guardian, along with ongoing reviewing for Time Out, the FT and CultureWars. After all, there's the whole of the Homo Alibi festival in Riga to tell you about. By the time I've got all that up to date, along with editing a lot of texts for the FIT Mobile Lab workshop and keeping on top of the new stuff coming it, it'll probably be time for me to bugger off to Nitra in Slovakia for the next of the FIT festivals. This one is showing the German version of Simon Stephens's P*rn*gr*phy (I can do without the extra web-traffic, thanks), to which I'm looking forward immensely. I didn't see the British premiere in Edinburgh, and now I'm rather glad that I didn't, as I'll get to experience the proper premiere version before seeing the Brit version in its inevitable London transfer.
So, yes, hopefully it won't be so long before the next post. And hopefully I'll have remembered how to write and/or think again by then too. Nice to be back, though.
[egotistical author photo at the top of this piece by Iona Tallia Firouzabadi - I wouldn't normally put a picture of myself, but I'm really rather fond of this one, and it somehow manages to capture pretty exactly the spirit of the last couple of months :-) ]