Saturday 23 November 2013

Anniversary Postcards

[a big thank-you]

Today is the sixth anniversary of the first blog I wrote after returning from the 2007 SpielArt festival in Munich. The first of the eight festivals I attended as part of the Festivals in Transition Mobile Lab for young European critics. That year changed my outlook, my perspective, my practice, my writing, my “criticism” and my life. And I’d like to say thanks again to Lyn Gardner for recommending me for it (“I worry I’ve ruined you for England forever,” she suggested when we bumped into each other at The Roman Tragedies a couple of years later) and also to LIFT co-founder, Rose Fenton, who organised the whole thing and who was a great friend and inspiration throughout the year. I should also thank the other brilliant tutors we had, especially Rok Vevar and Max Ryynänen, who between them made me question every assumption I’d ever had about how a theatre “review” should look or what it might do.

It seemed fitting that six years later, this September, I saw the first piece that we saw in Munich, Heiner Goebbels’s Stifters Dinge, again (see “cover photo”). This time at the Ruhr Triennale, albeit in its installation incarnation, rather than as the sit-down performance that we saw on that first night six years ago (17/11/07). Yesterday I also went and hung out with one of my Mobile Lab colleagues who lives in Hamburg and her new baby. And then, in the evening saw Revolver Traum: a play written by Lola Arias, one of the other artists whose work I first came across in Munich (in the form of Soko São Paulo, a collaboration with Stefan Kaegi of Rimini Protokoll. Of whom I’d also never heard before.)

When I was writing that chapter of Modern British Playwrights: 2000-2009 (a book about which one day I might shut up and stop plugging), I kept on realising that I only really date my “career” – such as it isn’t – from 2007. And that, problematically for the book, much of my early career felt like one long stint of critical evangelising about the work being made on the other side of the North Sea. Or else, often unwittingly championing the artists who would end up going over there to make work.

For example, perhaps the earliest marker of when I thought my reviews might actually be being read and were plausibly of any use to anyone at all was – as I’ve said before – when the National Theatre used a quote from my CultureWars review of Katie Mitchell’s production of Martin Crimp’s Attempts On Her Life on their website. Tomorrow evening I’m seeing the world première of Martin Crimp’s newest play, The Rest Will Be Familiar to You from The Cinema, directed by Katie Mitchell. In German. In Hamburg.

About a year later, in October, it was in Nitra, Slovakia, thanks to Festivals In Transition that I first saw Sebastian Nübling’s production of Pornography. And first met Simon Stephens. Roughly three full years before the world première of Three Kindoms at the Münchner Kammerspiele.

So, yes. Apologies for the sentimentality, but it’s been an amazing six years, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced them. And I just wanted to say a big thank you again, especially to Lyn, Rose, Rok and Max, but also to Andreja, Anna, Anna, Ewa, Eva, Dária, Goda, Gundega, Inta, Madli, Marta, Martin, Mark, Miriam, Monika, Ott, Patryk, Pete, Pilvi, Pippa, Riina, Toms, Vilmantas, Zane and Zane.

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