My recent trip to see theatre in London

I used to see this every day when I lived in London. It's Tower Bridge. I used to live in Tower Hamlets and felt like London was my home. Last weekend, I went back for an extended working weekend - to move the rest of my stuff out of my old flat in a hired Ford Mondeo and to see some shows. It was the first time I'd been back to London for more than 24 hours since I stopped being freelance and moved to Cardiff to start working for National Theatre Wales. I felt like I did when I first came back to Cardiff after living away for so many years. It was familiar, but I no longer felt part of the fabric of the city. I used to be able to read the energy of what was going on around me, to instinctively snake my way through throngs of tourists taking their time to clog up the pavements. But now I was a tourist in a town that had been my home for so long. Maybe I am perpetually homeless.

I found this photo of the view from my old flat. I took it when I was in London the time before this one and it was the London marathon. This sums up how I feel about London, or how I felt this past weekend! Massive crowds rushing and sweaty. Excitement of something going on. The fast paced nature of life lived on dirty main roads to Essex...

I was in London to see Soho's Everything Must Go, an example of a format that our Response programme could take. The writers and actors only had 2 weeks to write and rehearse the show - and it was reassuring to know that if you do have great writers and fantastic actors, the quality of work won't suffer if work is produced in a concertinaed space of time in a rapid response to a set theme - in this case, the credit crunch. The limitations can enhance and enable creativity and artistic development. The writing and performances were great and the presence of a Hide and Seek Sandpit-type game 'Ponzi' was exciting, although it would have been even better if as the audience, we were included more in the performance and weren't simply passive observers, taking a step back from the issues involved. I went home and took this picture looking towards my familiar landmarks: HMS Belfast in front and the Monument to the right. And on the left, Boris 'the right kind of snow in the wrong quantities' Johnson's offices.

The next day, I did my 'The Apprentice' walk over the Millennium Bridge and walked to the Unicorn Theatre to see Sarah Argent's production with Theatr Iolo Under the Carpet. It was a beautiful piece of work and watching it from cushions on the floor, I was following the eye-line of all the 3-year olds around me and seeing the play from their perspective, which added a totally different and magical element to my enjoyment. It was a gorgeous play and I wondered why 'adult' theatre wasn't often as magical, transformative and imaginative? There were children at the end of the play who were so involved in the world and with the characters, they wouldn't leave until the actors came back out and they could say goodbye. It was fantastic seeing a play with such an attentive, involved and committed audience as those 3 year olds. Congratulations to Iolo and Sarah! I left desperate to find some cupcakes as delicious as the ones on stage...

So I went to Sydenham! London Bubble have created The Odyssey as part of their Fan Made Theatre initiative. I have been following the progress of Fan Made Theatre since it started in March. Audience members pay to become Stakeholders in the production and they can then vote on what projects they think should be put on, they can attend rehearsals and they get a complimentary ticket for a performance of their choice. It is all done through a website, where artists could submit ideas for a production they wanted to do for Stakeholders to vote on. Again, there were similarities with where our thoughts are going towards our Response programme, so lots of food for thought. The Odyssey was a promenade performance in Sydenham Park and the cast were fantastic - some Welsh faces in there too! The supply of a bar was most welcome as were the multiple seating options (rug, camping stool or folding chair, depending on comfort required and what you could be bothered to hoist around the park). Fantastically inspiring to see London Bubble continuing to produce quality community-lead plays - and with their trademark (in my mind at least!) puppetry - after the funding cuts of last year.

Then it was back to East London to pack up my stuff and drive the Ford down the M4 back to Cardiff. I wailed out Britney's Greatest Hits through the Severn Bridge and didn't mind paying my toll at 3am one bit. I was happy to be coming back and rediscovering my new - and old - home.

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Comment by Catherine Paskell on July 13, 2009 at 1:12
Gary - Since I was 'born to make you happy' and if we are 'lucky' the Severn Bridge probably has CCTV - there might be recorded proof that 'oops...I did it again' and couldn't control myself from singing the 'toxic' pop. 'Don't let me be the last to know' if you fancy joining me in a spot of Britney karaoke-blogging!
Comment by Deborah Powell on July 11, 2009 at 8:24
Your pics evoke a 'displaced' response in me too! I have often made that journey over the Millennium Bridge to gain some perspective from the rigors of the City & loose myself in the Tate or at the Globe!
Have loved the idea of Fanmade since I heard about it too! Such an innovative way to counteract Arts Council England's funding cutbacks. And picking up on some earlier discussion threads on this network, this is audience participation in a very real, very connected, loyalty-inspiring way; from the very start of the process with ideas submission, voting & rehearsal attendance to the end-production & celebrations. Just perfect!
Comment by Gary Owen on July 10, 2009 at 23:57
I wailed out Britney's Greatest Hits through the Severn Bridge

How I wish there was video of that moment.

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