What is the most exciting theatre that is happening now?  (What Should I See?)

Convener(s): Lucy Cassidy and Alan 

Participants: Ellie Dubois, Elis, Simon Wilkinson (I forgot to pass round the sheet!  Please add your names here if you were there)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

We exchanged recommendations of exciting theatre (and ways to see it if it is still touring).  There is a list of some of the things mentioned below.

What do we mean by exciting?  We discussed work that had been exciting and spectacular but had left us feeling empty and whether anyone had seen any work that was a large scale spectacular but had also connected with them emotionally and intellectually.  We discussed entertainment and theatre and spectacle.  Entertainment/theatre/circus –for example a show like Holiday on Ice is seen as spectacle but in a different light could be viewed as theatre.  The difference perhaps due to how it’s defined and described. 

Does theatre need to be spectacular if it is to keep up with the technological advances of today’s society?  When people have the capacity to make High Definition Video at home, some theatre feels very pedestrian in comparison.  We discussed work that is small-scale non-spectacular and still exciting.  Someone mentioned a Norwegian story teller’s performance, with a very lo-fi back drop and no spectacle to speak of.  The show created was incredibly exciting and the audience were on the edge of their seats.  Strong storytelling was suggested as key to an exciting and fulfilling theatrical experience.  In response the Belgian Teenagers show was mentioned.  A non-narrative piece that could only happen in a (small) theatre – truly exciting and made people feel when they left the theatre that walking down the street anything could happen.

Richard de Marco (Edinburgh) was mentioned – so cheap that you could go to a variety or work in a day. Do you ever nip in to theatre?  No!  It’s too expensive.  What about if it was free?  Would you? Pay What You Can nights can be a good way of taking risks in the theatre you see.

How do you find the gems in theatre? particularly small scale performances that may only appear for a few days?  We all see a lot of rubbish theatre in our attempts to see work that we love.  How do we find out about the good work?  Looking on blogs was suggested.  Friends making recommendations.  Certain people that you trust and know that you will like what they recommend.  How could this work on a larger scale? Like when you are standing in the queue for a show at Edinburgh festival and people talk to you about what they saw the day before and make recommendations to you.  BAC have a note in their programme (or programme notes): if you liked this . . .  this is happening elsewhere in London.  However some people said that they don’t trust their recommendations (seeing the recommendations as nepotism – and more in their interest than in you having a good experience).  It was suggested that theatre companies could act like bands do: listing their influences and other bands (in theatre’s case, companies or directors) that they are interested in or rate.  Theatre Companies could do this (on their programme notes? On their websites) to increase and expand audiences.  Need to be careful to keep audiences trust and not abuse this by doing favours for friends.

Most of us have friends that make recommendations to us but how do we find out about good work that pushes us out of our comfort zones as theatre audiences?  How do we find that? Consulting artist blogs for recommendations? Ellie (BAC production intern) said she gets sent to see things (that she perhaps wouldn’t choose to see) – and has really enjoyed these recommendations. What about a Theatre Life Coach / Theatre Swap / Theatre Exchange / Theatre Personal Shopper?  Simon Wilkinson and Lucy Cassidy are going to develop this idea (see below for description of how).  We’ll also put a list of recommendations on the NING.

We should tell theatre makers that we wanted to see their work and it was too late/sold out etc. That there should be opportunities for theatre that is successful to grow and expand (like the mask of the Red Death).  Some discussion around this – the price of the tickets etc.  The National Theatre still sells £10 tickets for shows if you queue in the morning.

We discussed exciting theatre versus good theatre.  And that sometimes a Big Budget panto might be incredibly exciting and send the kids in the audience wild but this doesn’t mean it’s good theatre.

Recommended Performances and Companies (Past)

(Please correct any mis-spellings, mis-hearings and errors)

  • Heart (in Gdansk – Poland) Directed by Jan Clater
  • Fuerzabruta
  • The Sultan’s Elephant
  • Kitchen (Gobsquad)
  • The Dying of Today (at the Arcola)
  • New Electric Ballroom
  • Twelfth Night (Filter)
  • Out of Joint’s Macbeth
  • Once and for all  we are going to tell you how it is so will you shut up and listen (Belgian teenagers)
  • Corum Boy (National Theatre)
  • Uni bum bum train
  • 6 Characters in Search of an Author (Headlong)

Recommended Performances (Coming Up)

  • A Capoeira version of the Baccae at the Arcola (Director: Noah . . . – fantastic reputation)
  • Spill Festival (all around London)
  • Romeo Castelluci
  • Faulty Optic (grotesque puppetry at Shunt Vaults) £5 Wed and Thurs
  • Live Festival
  • Mime Festival
  • Hotel Media (Midnight to Dawn) Zecora Ura
  • Conclusions and Actions:

Alan is going to make a list on the Nim of where people can recommend work and companies

Personal Shopping for Theatre – Lucy Cassidy and Simon Wilkinson are going to set up a small version of this online: We could develop a simple website where you could search for an advisor who has a profile listing the kind of theatre they are interested in.  Perhaps if you wanted to expand the theatre work you wanted to see, for example see interesting puppetry (but didn’t know where to find the really good work or which companies to follow) you would choose an advisor who lists puppetry as their interest and make a request to them that they email you (say over a six month period) to recommend excellent performances of this type that you must see.