Friday, March 31, 2006


A bilingual phone call with Denise Namura. She's very keen to come and do a workshop in the Laboratory, though she'd like to bring her partner with her (they always work together - he's the one with the Wuppertal background). We'll be able to do this if we get the ALG funding we asked for - and we should hear any day.

I seem to be spending much of my time waiting at the moment. The key to the whole year is the London venue for Dis-Orientations, and though we've been talking since October, we still don't have confirmation. The second we do, all hell will be let loose. Till then: thumbs are metaphorically twiddled.

Meet Phill Ward, Michael Gieleta from Cherub and Manoj from Collage to talk about a possible expansion of the Laboratory. Phill's idea is that the Karamel Club at Chocolate Factory 2 could be an ideal space for workshops of the kind we're running, plus development work on scripts and the like. This would be a bouncing-off point to develop a central admin function within the building, which our two companies, and two others tba, could be part of. Manoj agrees to fund the post in its initial stages, as an investment in company and community development. Very promising.... Collage has some fantastic spaces in that building: I've been to see the training rooms, complete with video editing space.

More emails to and from Ghana. There's interest from the university's drama department, and Ama Ata Aidoo sends me her schedule for the year. If I'm to meet her, I think I'll have to go in late July. Not ideal for university terms, I suspect - but I think she's the crucial contact.

Time to go and phone venues again.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sweat and the City

I spent Thursday morning lugging the huge pieces of wood which made up the original Orientations set to the goods lift in Chocolate Factory 2, and then dumping them in the rubbish tip outside. Collage Arts have let the other half of the space to a graphic designer and his set-designing chum, and I need to clear enough stuff to accommodate them. Not sure yet what effect this will have on the office: but at least after I do my one-man stage management job there's a certain sweaty satisfaction in having get rid of something we've been meaning to chuck out for years.

Head down to the City, where Vanessa from Arts and Business has arranged for Owen and myself to meet up with Deborah Regal, who is no less than a Vice-President of JP Morgan, and therefore a very serious player in investment banking. On the way down, I catch an interview with Jay McInnery on the radio, talking about his new 9/11 novel, in which a central character is an investment banker. "These are the people who are running the world", he says. "The least we can do is treat them seriously". Indeed! What's fascinating about talking to Deborah is the links she sees between her work and ours: most of which are to do with being creative about the structures within which we operate (banking / theatre) and about cultural dialogue (she tells us about meetings in Saudi Arabia, where even a female Vice-President has to wear the veil). We'll see how this potential relationship develops, but first impressions seem to be very favourable in each direction. Not sure what she'll make of some of the ideas in our work on the subject of global capitalism..... but isn't that the joy of making theatre in a democracy? We can talk to people, and we don't always have to agree with one another in order to co-exist.

I get a very positive email from Ama Ata Aidoo. I've been looking at her work for a big production in 2007, and she's very positive about the idea. "Honoured" is the word she uses! She's honoured...... Time to set some balls rolling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

March of the Administrators

What's the collective noun for administrators? Whatever it is, I've met it over the last few days. Wojtek's departure has focused for me just how crucial it is for us to have somebody working on admin - partly because I'm not very good at it myself, and partly because of time. It doesn't have to be a single full-time company administrator (though that's probably the ideal): and for the moment I'm looking at a number of models. Phill Ward, who's leaving Collage, has a scheme to administer a number of theatre companies, and that sounds like a good one if he can raise the funds for his own salary. Kath Gorman, who was our EU consultant, is now talking to me about some fundraising and working with a colleague of hers on marketing for Dis-Orientations (a really crucial one, this - since I really don't have time or knowledge, and it's ever more basic to the work). And Penny Mayes, who is setting up a new tour booking agency, wants to take on the Science project for next spring. All this is good news, of course, and focuses my own work, which would otherwise be rather haphazard at the moment as I wait for key decisions which will finally let things go ahead on the project. "They also serve who only stand and wait".

Josip sends me a DVD of a company working in France called "A fleur de peau". It's run by a Brazilian choreographer called Denise Namura and her German colleague Michael Bugdahn. Wonderful work: at times very reminiscent of Pina Bausch in its blend of the balletic and the mundane - I feel very close to this desire to show theatrically what is happening spiritually underneath the drab details of our daily lives. Josip's suggestion is that we should look at involving them in the Laboratory: and, as usual, I think he's right.

Friday, March 10, 2006

From Prison to the Private Sector

The morning at Brixton Prison. I've never been in a prison before, and the endless locking and unlocking of doors and gates, combined with the colossal amounts of barbed wire and the net over the exercise yard ("to stop people throwing drugs over the walls") rather freaks me out. The wing itself looks uncannily like the set of Porridge, with lines of men queuing to get their lunch, before they take it up to the cells to eat it under lock and key, while the warders have their own lunch break.

Brixton is making huge strides in terms of generating positive activities for the inmates, which serve as a surreptitious way of giving them important skills (like improved literacy, team work and so on), which may help the to avoid re-offending once they're released. Given that some of the men I see today have been in prison 20 or 30 times, you can see why this is important. My visit overlaps with a lady called Sue, who does music work with them, and the initial contact came as a result of us having worked with South Bank Education, who have also been doing music here. There's been film work too - apparently they're in the process of editing a film about being Muslim in prison(which about 1 in 7 of the prisoners at Brixton is: half of the prison chapel is now a mosque, and there's a resident imam, who cuts an intriguing figure as he moves through the Dickensian buildings). What they've not done much of is theatre, because (they tell me, rather flatteringly), they've been waiting for the right people. They like ur intercultural remit, and they like the idea of devised work. Scripted plays are going to be problematic when the literacy level is so poor - but the improvisation to script process might actually help build literacy skills.

I'm quite excited by the possibility of making a piece here (and very aware of the challenges!). My enthusiasm takes a few steps backward when I'm told it would be up to us to raise the funding. Not that I think it would be hard - art for social change is what the Arts Council is all about these days - but I'm concerned that it shouldn't get in the way of our core programme. Community work like this should relate to, feed into and feed off the company's professional work, but it can't knock that professional work out of the centre of the company's mission. I'm very wary of doing anything which might shift us from being artist-led towards being funder-led.

Thinking about all this, I shift ground to Butler's Wharf, and the offices of Arts & Business. I meet Vanessa Robinson, who looks after their Board Bank - people from business who might be interested in becoming trustees of arts organizations. She's very optimistic about finding somebody who'd be attracted by our international remit, and who might be able to give us the boost we need in terms of scale, visibility and sales. Well - let's see......

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Getting Closer

A few bits of good news. UNESCO give their endorsement to the Dis-Orientations project. It isn't money, but it's certainly valuable - there's only about fifteen projects worldwide that get this vote of confidence each year: so that puts us in the big league for intercultural dialogue. I manage to get Louise from Riverside on the phone. It turns out we've both been thinking the same thing: that this show belongs in Studio 2, rather than in the extremely intimate surroundings of Studio 3. It's taken me the whole development process at Central to get to the idea Louise had from the start: that this is a show which (both physically and in marketing terms) can and should fill a middle-scale space. I love Studio 2: I've spent some wonderful nights there - The Dragon's Trilogy first time round, Deborah Warner's Electra with Fiona Shaw......

Meanwhile, I try to set up the workshop we've been planning with Patrick Young from Theatre for a Change in Ghana. Infuriatingly, it turns out that all the rooms we used to use for rehearsals and workshops have been let out to Mountview Theatre School. We had been looking at April 1st and 2nd - but if I don't get a room by the end of this week, then I don't think that's going to happen.

I spent most of yesterday grappling with this computer crashing on me. Finally got myself back on line at 10pm, thanks to "Sean" in AOL's call centre in Bangalore. While the drivers loaded and the PC re-booted, we had a chat about his life out there. It was 2am, and he was being a nocturnal creature, living under what's clearly a pseudonym, giving out succour to the West. There's a play in that somewhere......

By the way, there are some great photos of Dis-Orientations in its Central School form at Just follow the links!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Post-Natal Depression

This always happens after a production - one day I might even get used to it. I think it's to do with something we talk about in both Dis-Orientations and Orientations: the way in which the theatre can feel more real to its makers than the apparently "real" world. It feels very grey to walk out into a world which is less heightened, less intense, more - well - mundane.

At present the mundanity consists of trying to give the project its professional structure. We still don't have definite dates for our London run, and everything else depends on that. All the rest of what we're doing (casting, marketing, PR, even the co-production agreement with the Yue company) is to a degree dependent on this.

I spend Monday afternoon with Guy Chapman and Chloe from his office: who are both very excited about the splash they feel this show could make. The same is true of the producer Christopher Ager, who I meet at the Actors' Centre on Wednesday. He was at Central last Saturday night, and feels the show has "commercial potential" (which I'd not even started to imagine - but he clearly knows what he's talking about). But Christopher needs the show to have been launched in London before he can make anything of it elsewhere. I do a consultancy session with Lucy on Thursday, and a seminar on advertisisng copy on Friday (during which I draft quite a decent bit of blurb for the show). It feels like everything is in place except the thing which will let it all fly. It makes me feel restless, broody, a litttle lost.

I go back in to Central on Friday night to see Brixton Stories: Biyi Bandele's play, directed by himself and performed by the four black actors in the third year. It's a mad, magical realist take on the contemporary black experience in London, and I find myself laughing a lot. But it doesn't have the power of Bandele's plays with their roots in Africa itself (his versions of Things Fall Apart and Oroonoko are both quite brilliant). Beside these, this play feels a bit slight, a bit lacking in raison d'ĂȘtre.

I start to plant some seeds for 2007. Talk to Paul and to Rebecca Gould about further development of our science piece, and move forward the ideas for more work with Africa. Also make a first contact with Penny Mayes: she's keen to work with us on the production side, and now Wojtek's gone, I really need somebody there. Even if it's just a friend to talk to and stop this job feeling so very alone. I guess that's one of the reasons for the post-natal depression: you direct a piece, and you're surronded by people. Then the piece ends, and they all just disappear.