Home Truths: Theatre at Home

Feature in Issue 23-4 | Winter 2011

The Canny Granny on theatre from the comfort of her own sofa.

Through a change in fortune, I find myself confined to the sofa. My cat, Amstrad, is on his ninth life and counting, so while I’m stroking him to keep his healing hormones up I’m typing this one-handed – hang on in there, old pal. Confined as I am, I’ve been internet shopping for theatre, wondering what art you can enjoy from afar… Yes dearies, watching The Mighty Boosh on Dave channel is officially no longer the most fun you can have in slippers!

This year’s DIY workshop series at Artsadmin had good news for far-flung makers of queer theatre because Chris Goode ran his course ‘on a descentred basis’. He sent them a communication every week, ‘invitations and stimulus materials’, then they all met up to share at the end. It’s an inspired idea. I wish someone would send me stimulus materials, all I get is reminders from the library. (Where has that copy of Fear of Flying gone? I must ask Grandpa if he’s seen it.)

The Public Space Programme also used communications from afar. Artists including Tim Etchells, Phil Smith of Wrights and Sites, Gob Squad, the Icelandic Love Corporation, Samo Gosaric, and Georg Hobmeier all made up rule-sets which were interpreted by participants in Reykjavik in public spaces, leading to strange choreography and urban journeys. If you find a stranger in your garden they may not necessarily be trying to make off with the family sapphires but rather be trying to cross the city in a straight line. Fine, but please don’t tread on my Physalis.

Theatre from afar might revolve around little tasks, like on Miranda July’s website ‘learning to love you more’, which tells you to, among other things, interview your parents, and then post the results on her site. I interviewed mine using an ouija board. (Me: Mum is that you? Mum: Yes. Me: Send me an instruction and I’ll perform it. Mum: Wrap up warm. So much for that long-distance collaboration.) I got more joy with Little Wonder’s guided walk along Regent’s Canal, Vagabond’s Voyage, which is audio downloadable for free from the Camden People’s Theatre website. Who needs a director, or even actors? Rotozaza’s Wondermart is also an mp3 which you download, then use to cause havoc in your local supermarket. It had me fiddling with the freezer cabinets and waltzing down the aisles with my trolley – and the best thing was I still came home with a lamb shank, Yorkshire puddings, parsnips and a key lime pie for afters. Perhaps that was because I did it in Welsh.

Tim Etchells did away with all the trimmings entirely and simply texted a vivid piece of theatre to audiences for Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The show was all in the imagination – unlimited special effects, fireworks, galloping horses … cheap! Don’t let the coalition hear of it, they’ll slash physical theatre – I mean actual theatre – completely.

A less Spartan option is provided by Once Art and Ceremonies. The show Kitchen Sink Drama comes in an almost-too-good-to-open parcel like a treasure hunt – a sea voyage in your own sink. Using the postal service endows artefactual richness. Tracey Emin cottoned onto this when she launched her ‘Tracey Emin Museum’ by selling ‘Emin Bonds’ to benefactors with the promise of posting them artworks which would increase in value – she sent them letters and videos and boy oh boy did they increase! Someone told me she put up a poster when she lost her cat and even that got nicked. I’m thinking of starting ‘The Museum of Gran’. Bonds start at £200. (Cheques to Long Tailed Tit Towers, SE22 0PD.)

It’s not just your imagination you can animate from afar. Sitting on the sofa can leave you intellectually razorsharp if you sign up to the Argument Room, a monthly live debate you watch on webcam and join in the online discussion forum – two parallel arguments! It’s really satisfying for your online discussion points to suddenly be put to the guest – this month Beatrix Campbell! Lucky really cos when I voice my thoughts on the topic of gender equality in my living room I’m met with purrs and snores.

Hold on a minute, I can’t actually hear any purring... Amstrad has gone, folks. I’ll miss him. But at least I can type with both hands now. I’ve just ordered Brian Lobel’s piece (which is posted to you) called Or Else Your Friends Will Have To Do It (hosted by Chelsea Theatre’s Sacred festival) which guides you in making a mix CD memorial for yourself – ‘a reflection of mortality and responsibility’. I think my days are numbered. I feel it in my bones. So I’ll do one for me, and one (strictly cat-related) for dearly departed Amstrad. And while I’m there I’ll order myself some groceries from Tesco, some flowers from Interflora (for the garden burial) – and the iPad 2. Night night.

The Canny Granny is Laura Eades. She’s indoors a lot at the moment. If you’d like to collaborate across the divide by post, video, text, postcard, walkie-talkie or other means, email Laura at laura. eades@hotmail.co.uk In 2012 you will find her online at www.totaltheatrereview.com

Rotozaza’s Wondermart: www.wondermart.co.uk

Little Wonder’s Vagabond’s Voyage – the audio tour: Search the events archive at www.cptheatre. co.uk

Brian Lobel at Chelsea Theatre’s Sacred: www.chelseatheatre.org.uk

Tracey Emin (exhibition now finished, but you can have a good look on this microsite, and also, remarkably, write her a letter here): www.loveiswhatyouwant.com

The rules to The Public Space Programme: http://thepublicspaceprogramme.tumblr. com/post/3433938670/the-guidelines-foreach-rule-set-are-as-follows

Chris Goode’s DIY workshop details from last year’s Artsadmin workshop season: http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/prof_dev/diy/ diy8_chris_goode.html

Tabletop theatre by post from Once, highly recommended for a weird night in: www.once.uk.com/table-top-theatre

The Argument Room: www. theargumentroom.net

Voice recognition app for those confined to the sofa and unable to use both their hands to reach out to the world: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/dragondictation

This article in the magazine

Issue 23-4
p. 18