So the observant (and faithful!) of you will have noticed that I have been absent from this blog for the last 2 months. I won’t make excuses, but this has been due to a massive bout of upheaval and hopefully the last move I’m going to have to make for a long time.
Now that I’ve come out the other side, and into a very sexy face lift for this tired old blog, I took some inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw and it all ‘got me to thinking’ – is change destructive or just a necessary part of life?
All the theatre companies that I respect have embraced the old maxim ‘nothing is certain except that everything will change’. The Russian company Theatre Derevo who not only refuse to be tied down to one building but move entire countries when things get too cosy for them in one place; Theatre du Complicite’s constant shifts to stay at the forefront of experimental theatre whether it be physical clowning or multi-media based epics; Nicholas Hytner’s continued variation in programming at The National Theatre which perfectly reflects the ever changing state of the nation; Punchdrunk’s infinitely varied theatrical explorations/art instillations and school explorations. These are all artists who will not allow their work to become stale or to sit on their laurels.
Because too much of one thing can definitely become a bad thing. Although we see this in all walks of life (10 years of Labour anyone?) in theatre it seems a particularly essential problem, being as it is a transient art form. Life constantly changes so what better to reflect it’s immediacies than theatre?
What makes it worse is that some of the biggest thorns in our side are past heroes; kings who refuse to relinquish their thrones. Max Stafford-Clark’s appalling lazy production of Dreams of Violence and his insistence in producing work by a writer who is vastly inferior to the others he has bastioned (but whom is conveniently his partner) only heightens his current inadequacies, which are embarrassing when put up against his earlier innovations. But he is only one of the monoliths of theatre who quite frankly need to move on. Those iron fisted rulers of the Manchester Royal Exchange, Braham Murray and Greg Hersov also need a lesson in the benefits of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. How’s about some new blood people? Even Katie Mitchell, once an enfant terrible of the theatrical world, and even now regarded as one of our most innovative and avant-garde directors, has become synonymous with a style of actor/technician performance to which she became wed for far too long. The Waves and Attempts on Her Life were different plays, but could anyone actually tell them apart?
So who are the up and coming champions we should be giving a chance? Well in my humble opinion the following are pretty damn brave: Jasmine Cullingford’s instinctive and diverse programming at The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, Laura Kriefman’s new writing initiative Ignition at the Tristan Bates, the intrepid The Factory troupe of players and that agent of adventure Coney. This is of course to name but a few, if you have any names you want to put forward as the new pretenders to the throne please do, I’d love to expand my knowledge of fresh theatrical talent.
Change of style, leadership, venue, home and partnerships whether personal or artistic; all these can only be good things if the current status quo has gone stale. Sure it will be painful, but the fittest will survive. Let’s be cruel to be kind – we only want the strongest and best at the forefront of our theatrical culture, those brave enough to walk into new places and spaces and start again. Let a new reign begin.