Thursday, 5 November 2009

reason for it all

I watch a lot of theatre. Most of the time it feels like hard work. I often feel disillusioned and frustrated, or worse, indifferent (for a truly inspiring piece of writing about this feeling, read this blog post by Amanda Palmer). And then, occasionally, I'm fortunate enough to have an experience that reminds me why I've thrown myself into this whole theatre malarky in the first place.

One of those experiences was this past week at the Barbican, watching The Team perform their show Architecting. They are astounding. They are unapologetically ambitious - the themes they tackle are epic in scope: reconstruction - personal, national, global. They are for the most part excellent performers. And they are also my age. I was at the theatre with the Texan - we run a theatre company together with a few other people we met at drama school. We left the show near speechless, shaking our heads. It felt like a wake-up call, reminding us that we also should be making theatre like that: we have the abilities, but perhaps of late we have lost the drive. We need to sit down and reassess why we want to make theatre. I don't think there is one correct and constant answer to this - we discover new reasons for working all the time - but the question is important and one that we need to ask ourselves repeatedly.

We need to make theatre from material that is close to our hearts and deeply personal. I don't mean the stuff and drama of our daily lives, although I do not dismiss that either. I mean our ideals, our politics, our beliefs. We need not to be afraid of taking ourselves seriously. The Team take themselves seriously, and so they should.

The day after seeing Architecting, I went to a free exhibition at the Museum of Everything near Chalk Farm. This was also deeply inspiring, a collection of outsider and folk art. Most of the artists never thought of themselves as such and were unrecognised in their lifetimes. I wandered around the exhibit, and felt somewhat in awe of our human desire to create, without hope of an audience. Pieces of art made because they must be made, and then in many cases shut away for years without anyone ever seeing them. Scattered throughout the exhibition are pieces written by contemporary artists; one struck me in particular for the way that it summed up how I felt about watching The Team. The artist described his first encounter with his fellow's piece of art, and said that what he felt was envy, but a positive kind: ultimately he was glad that this work existed.

So, all in all, a thought-provoking few days in London. I'm back in Wales now for a week or so, and glad to be back. I cross the Severn Bridge with palpable relief; I like there is such a tangible boundary between where I've come from and the place that is my home for the present.

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