Bellyflop have consumed another of my meagre articles. It is a continuation of the performance and photography series and looks at the work of Markus Schinwald.
You should go and read it. After all you wouldn’t like to upset the Belly… it is infamous for its ferocious appetite.
The Workington Playgoers recently finished the run of their production of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Things We Do for Love’. The play is set in the London home of the uncompromising Barbara (Nicola Woodier). Accustomed to her own routine her unyielding sense of order leaves little room for intimate relationships. So much so that at the age of forty she has never had a serious relationship with a man and has little in the way of friends and family. Among the selected few allowed in her life is her lodger Gilbert (Roy Blackburn) and her childhood friend Nikki (Rachel Holliday). However when Nikki comes to stay, she not only brings a new person into Barbara’s life, she also brings a man whose actions instigate the unravelling of all that has gone before.
This is ambitious material for The Workington Playgoers, a play that questions the nature of our relationships using comedy, sex, violence and an underlying sense of tragedy. This ambition extends beyond the substance of story to the set design itself. ‘Things We Do for Love’ is set within the three levels of a house which consist of a basement, living room, hallway and first floor flat. The play requires that these areas are continually visible to the audience and the challenges in creating such a sizable set in such a restricted space are clear to anyone who has set foot in the tiny Theatre Royal. It is the biggest set ever constructed in the Theatre Royal requiring 11ft of scaffolding.
Before the play begins the set has an undoubtedly impressive effect. However it is not without its disadvantages. The actors had to adapt the projection of their voices to be clear on every floor. The upper flat was the most restricted by the theatres confines and much more insulated than any other section of the set. Initially this made the dialogue seem quite muffled and difficult to hear. However the cast seemed to adapt and overcome the problem as the play continued so this is a minor criticism and one that I imagine was side stepped altogether later in the production run.
The cast not only conquered the difficulties relating to the structure of the set but also defied the restrictive structure of the characters themselves. At the start of Act One the characters begin as relationship stereotypes, the stern spinster, the lonely widower, the eager victim and the devoted boyfriend. However as the play develops these confined characters are revealed to be flimsy facades that soon reveal hidden depths. The cast handle such transitions and contradictions admirably and with style. Cynicism gives way to genuine belief begin as the complexity and realism of the relationships are revealed.
‘Things We Do For Love’ was a brave and unexpected choice for the Workington Playgoers. Such a play was an unusual sight to see on the Theatre Royal’s listings. Despite the fact the play deals with some difficult themes it manages to do so in an entertaining and accessible way. For theatre to have a relevant place in Workington’s culture it is essential that there is no trace of old fashioned theatre elitism and that at its heart it provides good solid entertainment. This production definitely lived up to that criteria and personally I hope it sets the precedent for similar works in the future.
Alrighty. I’m writing a few articles for different arty type magazines so hopefully I will be updating on Thursdays with, well, words. Words directly from the articles, quotes, other peoples articles. Plenty of words. It will probably mainly cover art related subjects but it is a pretty broad spectrum – film, fine art, music – whatever it is I happen to be researching and writing about.
If that is your type of thing be sure to check back then.
This week: Empty Shop Syndrome.
Yep the latest thing hitting the British high street: artists. A truly terrifying thought on many levels. It was covered really well in Fiona Flynn’s article for Q-Art London and the subsequent debate in A-N magazine:
“Art spaces as alternatives to shops are, I say, no help to struggling retailers who need spending punters back on the high street. Indeed, to suggest that art spaces can act as a counter-balance to retail blight isn’t just mistaken, in terms of helping other shops attract customers. The idea of art as a government policy tool to dampen the effects of the recession and give a cheery outlook on blighted high streets demeans art itself.” Fiona Flynn.
“It is true that thousands of shops will close this year, and this trend will continue. This is widely acknowledged to be a result of a cataclysmic change in our habits, an inevitable result of Web2 where goods can be selected, paid for and delivered the following day. Combined with the withdrawal of lines of credit and the difficulty of parking, the future of town centres looks bleak indeed. Perhaps we should start thinking that maybe this is the future of town centres, as places to buy local produce in an environment dominated by music, fun and art, the good things in life.” Dorian Kelly.
I’ve also recently written an article for a small arts magazine that covers the basic structure of this debate (it has been submitted but not confirmed as accepted yet so I won’t be putting it online for a little bit). However I would be really interested in anyone’s thoughts on it all. Do you side with Fiona and think these schemes have little in the way of merit or use? Or do you think this is a case of creative individuals finally staking a decent claim in the retail landscape? Personally I am rather dull in my opinions on this matter as I fall somewhere roughly in the middle. I think these schemes have a lot of potential to offer (and I have seen some of that action firsthand) but I feel there is a lot of half arsed attempts out there too. The lazier offerings not only cheapen the whole idea but can also be worrying distracting from the main point: that we are in recession, change is needed and that can only occur through well planned and forward thinking proposals.