Hallowe’en already? It seems just the other day that I was reporting from the Edinburgh Fringe. Somehow we’ve crept into Autumn with me hardly noticing – perhaps because summer in Scotland felt so like autumn, but then in a reversal of the usual order we had summer in September and October this year!
Well, what can I say? Sorry for the long silence – but your editor hasn’t been idle, I have in the meantime edited our luscious and lovely print magazine, Total Theatre 23.3 Autumn 2011, available by subscription firstname.lastname@example.org or from specialist bookshops such as the National Theatre Bookshop and Samuel French.
This autumn edition includes features on the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam, on Proto-type Theater’s truly site-specific Fortnight at Mayfest, and on enterprising North London venue Jacksons Lane. The fantastic Mr John Fox is our Voices candidate; Total Theatre Award winner Adrian Howells is the subject of The Works; and there are reviews and reports from festivals galore – Edinburgh, Norfolk & Norwich, Brighton, Nottingham European Arts and Theatre (NEAT), and Birmingham’s BE. So, that’s the magazine, then… job done, plug over.
Meanwhile, out in the wider world, what’s been going down these past few months? First major event for me this autumn was the launch of a new artist-led festival, BR-116 – created by Anglo-Brazilian company Zecora Ura in collaboration with LIFT, and held in venues and public spaces across London. Collaborating venues included: Theatre Royal Stratford East, Arcola, Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre, and Trinity Buoy Wharf. The festival featured work presented by English and Brazilian artists, the latter roster including Flavio Rabelo with Take-Away, in which he sits slumped in flowing gown and mask on a pavement inviting passers-by to take him away for a walk and talk; and a very beautiful and delicate night-time garden piece by Olgas Lamas called Sirva-se. (‘Help yourself’ – do we detect a theme here?).
BR-116 also included a series of commissioned performance works for public spaces and public transport in London, and in a rather odd coincidence not one but two of the Total Theatre editorial team were, independently, recipients of commissions. Yours truly (under the auspices of my alter ego Dorothy’s Shoes) presented a piece called Behind the Moon, Beyond the Rain which took participants (and any unsuspecting members of the public who got embroiled) on a fairytale quest across the East End that involved singing on buses in Stratford, carnival dancing across a footbridge at West Ham, making paper boats to sail on the Thames towards the O2 (‘and they sailed in their boats across the water to the great palace from whence came the sounds of drums and trumpets making merry music’ – Grimms Fairy Tales), picnicking in an enchanted forest at East India Dock, and seeking out trolls under a rickety bridge in a Tidal Basin bird reserve. If you’re interested in learning more, seehttp://dorothysshoes1.blogspot.com/
Then came Alexander Roberts’ RageWalk London, in which participants wrote their rage onto pieces of paper in a burst of free writing, which they then carried close to their hearts as they walked through London’s streets and journeyed on buses and tubes carrying empty white placards. When Trafalgar Square was reached, they were invited to refer to the writings and pick a few key words or phrases to transfer to the placard, which was then held aloft from within a chalk circle drawn on the ground.
If you’d like to hear about Alex’s experience of making and presenting this piece, then see his article on that subject in the Winter 2011-2012 edition of Total Theatre Magazine (out in December). Alex has a longterm interested in work sited in public spaces, and as well as being an artist, theatre-maker and writer, is also a producer and festival director – having set up the Public Space Programme with an inaugural festival as part of ArtFart in Reykjavik. Is there no end to the boy’s talents?
Other work presented for this inaugural BR-116 included a trip on boat and train with MP3 text and music accompaniment, by Brazilian artist Gustavo Ciriaco, and the Nomad Café foraged food picnic on the DLR. This all came together with workshops by esteemed Brazilian companies LUME Teatro and Taanteatro, seminars, film presentations, and a version of Zecora Ura’s The Selfish Banquet, held at the Royal Festival Hall – guests at that included Pippa Bailey and Rupert Thomson from the new Summerhall venue/arts project in Edinburgh.
It takes the form of a feast of food and discussion in which people bring food to share, all of which is luxuriously heaped onto a main banquet table, then guests make themselves a plate of food and move from table to table, experiencing different discussion topics led by facilitators placed one to a table. A very lovely take on the ‘symposium’ – which literally means ‘with wine’, banqueting and earnest discussion being inextricably linked throughout history.
The next BR-116 will take place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, January 2012.