Posts tagged ‘picton place’

27 September, 2010

Theatre Souk

Natural Shocks in Between Death and Nowhere (or The Stairwell) at Theatre Souk

Natural Shocks in Between Death and Nowhere (or The Stairwell) at Theatre Souk. Image courtesy of theatredelicatessen on Flickr

3-4 Picton Place, 14 September – 16 October 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

If George Osborne slashes public subsidy for the arts on 20 October – something most of us have now privately accepted as inevitable, I Value The Arts campaigns notwithstanding – then to survive, theatre will have to start behaving like any other commodity: subject to the same market forces as a falafel wrap or a wire sculpture.

Theatre Souk, then, is a glimpse of the near future. Eleven companies have pitched their stalls in Theatre Delicatessen’s Picton Place building, there to vie like costermongers for consumers’ attention and pocket change. Theatre Delicatessen aren’t charging their tenants rent, so transactions are uncomplicated by overheads, processing fees or middlepeople: what you pay is, ipso facto, what the product is worth.

The experience calls to mind more than one kind of marketplace; the limited amount of time available, compared to the number of acts on offer, makes of us speculators as well as consumers. The set-up encourages judgement of artistic merit in terms of return on investment: is it better value for money to see as much as possible, spending recklessly but spreading your bets? or to invest conservatively in high-yield products like .dash’s Chaika Casino, which can potentially provide a whole evening’s entertainment for a one-off entry fee?

Your decision in this regard reveals something about your attitude towards money, and about the ways you judge the value of an artistic work; it’s then up to the works themselves to challenge those attitudes and judgements. The Lab Collective tackle our demonisation of bankers in Matador, a one-man play that’s simultaneously an apology and a shaming accusation. Flabbergast’s Puppet Poker Pit is an amoral morality fable starring a violent, foul-mouthed puppet determined to renege on the ultimate poker debt.

Only HalfCut truly follow through on the potential of the Souk format by allowing customers to pay more for a more intense experience. It’s at once playful and tense, asking penetrating questions about the commoditisation and value of people, their bodies and their comfort, while still clearly being all in good fun. But this marketplace’s must-buy product is Natural Shocks’ Between Life and Nowhere, a heartbreaking yet life-affirming aerial partner dance devised especially for the building’s stairwell.

If Theatre Souk is a projection of theatre’s likely future post-spending review, can George Osborne cut subsidies with a clear conscience, knowing theatre will survive commoditisation? Not quite. The Souk as a whole has an entry fee; fees for individual performances are a premium on top of that, an upgrade from a bland economy-class evening spent wandering the fee-free interstices to a business-class experience with in-flight entertainment. Whether it represents a failure of Theatre Delicatessen’s experiment or a piece of veiled anti-cuts propaganda, Theatre Souk positions theatre firmly as a luxury commodity.

Crew includes Jessica Brewster, Frances Loy and Roland Smith (joint artistic directors)

Need a second opinion?

Advertisements
14 September, 2010

Theatre Delicatessen and the site-specific Souk

Recorded for theatreVOICE at 3-4 Picton Place, London, 13 September 2010

Interview: Jessica Brewster. The Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Delicatessen talks to Matt Boothman about the company’s occupation of derelict spaces in affluent areas of London, and about Theatre Souk, a ‘theatre marketplace’ in which acts and audiences haggle over what each performance is worth. Recorded at 3-4 Picton Place, London.

You can listen to this interview using the player below.

If you’d like to download the episode, right-click here and “Save As”.

You can also click here to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes.

18 February, 2010

Mercury Fur

3-4 Picton Place, 17 February – 13 March 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Theatre Delicatessen couldn’t conceivably have picked a more ideal play with which to kick off their latest found-space residency. Mercury Fur is a perfect fit for a bold young company (provided it’s staged with maturity), as well as for the space, a disused office block just off Oxford Street – though it may not be exactly the right play for the moment.

Accessed via a fire escape overlooking a bleak concrete non-space hemmed in by buildings, the space is dingy, litter-strewn and neglected – but the soft furnishings remain intact (if grubby), a solitary unbroken china bowl is discovered amongst the empty crisp packets, and a dark, weighty wooden bookcase endures against one wall. It’s a setting immediately evocative of the play’s alternate London: of affluence and prosperity run rapidly to ruin.

Hastily tidied and swept, the space becomes the setting for a rich city worker’s sick wish-fulfilment, organised by a group of youths in exchange for the means to their own survival. The young cast – especially leading duo Matt Granados and Chris Urch as tight-knit brothers Elliot and Darren – fearlessly harness and ride Ridley’s powerful dialogue, embracing the thought-provoking contradiction between their determination not only to survive but to protect one another, and the means they’re willing to use to achieve that end.

This is the play’s first major London revival since it opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2005. Having since arguably passed into canon, it’s unlikely to cause as much of a stir this time around; and though Ridley’s near-hopeless future may chime with the national mood of doom and gloom, the breakdown of civilisation via widespread habitual hallucinogenic drug abuse is hardly the apocalypse du jour. We only have ourselves to blame for the crises we face at the turn of the teenies (climate change and the credit crunch), while outside agency plus human nature plus time is the formula for the end in Mercury Fur.

Hence, while in no way sidelining or shying away from the violence, Delicatessen place heavy emphasis on the role of Elliot: the de facto guardian of humanity’s culture, mythology and history, by dint of being the only non-user in the group, and therefore the only one that remembers the world as we know it. The childlike eagerness of Darren and Naz (an incongruously innocent-seeming Mikey Bharj) for tales of life before the fall, and the delight Elliot takes in the telling, provide the only threads of hope that either the characters or the audience can grasp.

It’s evidence that the controversy that greeted its premiere was not all Mercury Fur had to offer; even with its shocks somewhat blunted by foreknowledge, it just takes the right company in the right space to reveal the heart behind the horrors.

Written by Philip Ridley

Crew includes Frances Loy (director), William Reynolds (designer/lighting), Fergus Waldron (sound design), Anna von Eicken (costume design) and Roger Bartlett (fight director)

Cast includes Debra Baker (Duchess), Mikey Bharj (Naz), Matt Granados (Elliot), Isaac Jones (Lola), Jack Sweeney (Party Piece), Chris Urch (Darren), Tom Vickers (Party Guest) and Ben Wigzell (Spinx)

Need a second opinion?