Since Mark Shenton was kind enough to write a lovely paragraph noting my return to the blogosphere at his own unstinting blog for the Stage, it feels like I ought to justify the compliment by actually doing some actual writing. There's still the epic pile of stuff I saw in Riga to plough through writing up, not to mention starting to fill in some of those blanks a couple of posts below.
My good intentions were mildly derailed yesterday by a commission from the Guardian blogs for a piece on YouTube's effect on theatre. The result was a bit of a top-of-my-head whizz through all the relevant points that I could call to mind at half eight on a Wednesday morning, but it did lead to an interesting conversation with David Benedict yesterday evening after Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray about the way in which audiences actively construct meaning in the theatre, and with audio recordings – essentially both involve the willing suspension of disbelief – in a way that isn't as true for filmed performance. It is a strange phenomena. I'm not sure it's wholly true that TV or film, or videoed performances *necessarily * make it impossible to suspend disbelief, but our familiarity with reading the medium differently certainly means this is far from the default method of watching. It reminds me of a beautiful description that Anna Teuwen, one of my colleagues in Riga, came up with in a stream-of-consciousness meditation that she wrote on the performance Appel d'Aire, in which she reflected on the dream-like transitions in the pieces dramaturgy and mise-en-scene:
“the performance can be seen as being about another dream as well - the spectator’s dream. The tiny little piece of reality that all people in the theatre-space share, vanishes and transforms into endless individual imaginary landscapes each with their own stories that everyone who is watching lives through. In this way, this piece exemplifies the experience of individual perception in theatre, the dream of art of being a source of dreams*.”
[*In the subsequent discussion of her critique, some focus did centre around discussing the last clause with the conclusion that the second use of “dreams” might be more usefully read “individual imagination”, or similar]
A lot of the discussions we had in Riga centred around this curious phenomena of the individual perception from within a communal experience. This seems to be quite a central and fascinating area at the moment, from Chr*s W*lkins*n's recent altercation with the boys from The F*ctory (like it needs any more exposure online), back to Chris Goode's discussion of audience. It also taps into the movement in upstream theatre/live art/performance concerned with interactivity, immersive experiences and shows with individual audience members seeing a piece one at a time, as well as the equally prevalent movement that creates work of such abstraction that the signs presented on the stage need to be actively constructed and assembled by each audience member as they watch. Given that such pieces are generally still watched in silence, conferring with one's neighbours in order to achieve any sort of degree of communal understanding is probably frowned upon.
It's a subject to which I expect I'm going to end up returning both in my Riga posts and no doubt again and again in various musings prompted by performances, so I'll stop turning it over for now.
One of the nice things about being back in London for an almost sensible amount of time (my next international jaunt isn't until the end of the month), is that I've been able to gradually start catching up on all the blogs and things I didn't really get time to read during August. Not only was I not writing, but I was barely reading, either. As a result, when I got back from Edinburgh, it felt like I was totally out of the loop with anything that was going on back in London, let alone having the faintest idea of what was going on in the rest of the country.
A great new blog that is well worth looking at has been recently started by the uncompromising playwright and musician Nick Gill. As well as talking about some of the projects he's working on, and sharing audio files of bits of sonic engineering he's done, it also offers some interestingly provocative views on musical theatre and, in his latest post, a description of writing a new play over the course of a single weekend. It also anthologises the passage on writer's block from The City, which I loved as a piece of writing when I saw it. I would be linking to these posts individually, but I can't work out how to. Perhaps my browser is just being silly.
It's also been nice to catch up on reading the notebook section of Tim Etchells's website. Etchells has a great eye for a story or thought, and writes beautifully, as you might expect. Halfway through the August entries, there is also the exciting news that there is to be a performance of his piece Drama Queens at the Old Vic on the 12th of October. No doubt it has sold out now, but if nothing else, it is fascinating to see a theatre, which is generally quite conservatively positioned, opting for a gala performance by an artist quite as upstream as Etchells. One can hardly dare hope this bespeaks the shape of things to come at the building, but it's a nice thought.
Elsewhere, one of the more unexpected experiences I had in Edinburgh this year – again at Forest Fringe, of course – was meeting Deborah Pearson while she was doing her “Advice Booth” and being thanked by her – mide advice session - for a note that I left on her blog bemoaning the lack of recent activity, which, she said, had caused her to start writing it again. Alas, her Forest Fringe co-artistic director Andy Field is still insanely busy, currently preparing his show Exposures for the Dublin festival. It is probably as a result of this ludicrous level of artistic productivity that the promising Forest Fringe blog itself seemed to suffer a premature death only a few days into the festival. That said, flicking through the aforelinked blogs I did come across this enormously warm piece by Lyn Gardner from early in the festival, which again reminded me how much I had loved the shows I caught there.
Another blog to which I should direct attention is that of the director Tom Hescott (another “Confessions of...”, interestingly), not least because its most recent post carries a fine personal tribute to the late, great Ken Cambell.
Lastly, not that I didn't plug it all heavily in my last post, I should point any of my readers who aren't already also avid readers of Chris Goode's Thomson's Bank of Communicable Desires to head over there immediately. Apart from anything else, there's been a flurry of recent activity all of which is shot through with Goode's inexhausible wit, warmth, rigour and dazzling breadth of reference and intelligence.