We all know the big un’s to watch out for in the first few months of 2010; Red, currently running at the Donmar Warehouse, the West End transfers of Enron and Jerusalem, Peter Brook at The Barbican which also houses the eclectic Bite Season for 2010 and work by the legendary Pina Bausch, Trilogy at The BAC and of course the London International Mime Festival.
But what about the smaller venues – not just the BAC’s or The Riverside Studios’ who consistently punch above their weight, but the truly off-piste theatres – The Blue Elephant Theatre, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Cock Tavern to name but a few. Unlike the big theatres these small houses can only programme up to 3-6 months so no need to book miles in advance – these are things you can see in the very near future so check your pre-planned nature at the door and get a little trigger happy.
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?
Set just 15 minutes away from Oval Tube Station lies Camberwell’s best kept secret – The Blue Elephant Theatre. Established in 1999 by writer and director Antonio Ribeiro, it was originally known as a showcase for foreign political theatre, but with the arrival of Jasmine Cullingford as the new Theatre and Programme Manager in 2006, the theatre’s remit became much wider. Now in 2009 it boasts an eclectic and vibrant programme which encompasses a myriad of performance art forms, from dance to surreal cabaret and re-imaginings of classic texts.
Further to my post on the Blue Elephant last week, I was fortunate enough to interview Jasmine Cullingford who runs the space and will be posting this interview over the next couple of days…please watch this space.
But now reviews and views on a bizarrely brilliant Swedish cabaret and a sparkling outdoor Much Ado….
Joanna Lumley has now leapt into the Green Party fray after her admirable win for the Gurkhas. I wish that this formidable opponent would also bring onto the agenda another much smaller, though clearly still important, issue in her repertoire. Lumley is a patron of The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell and surely the woman who charmed a dour Prime Minister can raise the unjustly low profile of this imaginative and daring venue.
Along with The Camden People’s Theatre (whose new show Sprint: adventurous adventures in theatre could be used to describe both of these spaces’ programming choices) The Blue Elephant Theatre is dedicated to a programme of work which crosses art forms in a mixture of performance art, devised pieces, classical texts, dance and experimental theatre. Bold choices for two such small players. But where these choices seem to pay off for The Camden People’s Theatre, its specificity raising it’s profile, The Blue Elephant Theatre is a much lesser known animal. This seems a real pity because although it is quite hard to get to (Camden is very central – even in the theatre it’s always location, location, location) the work put on there is always unique, questioning and innovative.
I have seen an intriguing production of The Duchess of Malfi, a modernist performance art revue and am looking forward to the Swedish cabaret I am going to see next Wednesday. Now although each of the pieces that I have seen have been flawed, the interest ignited from seeing them drives me to see their newest piece (which, by the way, has had a very credible review in Time Out). Along with their dance programme and young people’s theatre/community projects this is clearly a varied assortment of work and as the theatre world wakes up to the potential of the cross pollination of artistic forms The Blue Elephant Theatre is just the space to lead the charge.
But first we must all find the elephant, and it is honestly well worth the hunt.