Sunday, April 22, 2007


Castle Vale Pedal Power

Friday, the whole of Year 7 at Castle Vale School had a go on one of the Home Of The Wriggler bikes. As part of a project they are working on in class, they felt what it was like to try and power, one, two, or three lights via a dynamo. To add a sense of drama the entire year group were attempting to boil a small cupful of water. Both the day and the temperature peaked just before lunch as both pupils and teachers got locked into trying to get the thing boiling, they raised the temperature to a fraction over 80 degrees before fatigue and hunger took over.

Year 7 at St. Albans School therefore retain the School Pedal Power Water Boiling Crown. Well done them, better luck next year Castle Vale


Thursday, April 19, 2007


Marie Zimmerman

We first met Marie Zimmerman in Manchester, 1999. The dramaturge David Tushingham had brought her to see It’s Your Film. She sat and watched and then, over coffee, she talked. She spoke with a lucid steely passion about theatre, what she had seen and what she imagined.

As the director of Theater Formen 2000 in Hanover, Marie plucked us from international obscurity to place us in a programme alongside the stellar names of Peter Brook, Pina Bausch and Jan Fabre. These were It’s Your Film’s first international performances. When tickets for the show were not selling as well as everyone had hoped, her response was not that the show had failed, but that she had not booked enough performances for it. She asked us to stay another week, if this were possible she would guarantee a sell-out success. Marie had an extraordinarily powerful sense of how a relationship should be built between a City and its Festival. She seemed to take a personal pride in It's Your Film and its subsequent success. We in turn were proud of this pride.

From this time on Marie kept tabs on us. David would see the shows and occasionally, when Marie was in London, we would meet. Marie would talk and listen with a deep seriousness that made her dry wit all the more rewarding, she drank coffee black and smoked endless cigarettes. It seemed the whole of world theatre had her mobile number and were unafraid to call her. Discussions were always interrupted as Marie leapt from the table to answer the latest call, leaving David to explain what her current thinking was. Eventually our patience, and hers, paid off.

In 2004 Marie commissioned the first international performance and only world version of Of All The People In All The World. Once Marie believed in you she made it clear she trusted you and valued you, I drew a great strength and power from that trust. Marie put huge resources and personal credibility into Of All The People In All The World without ever having seen it. She took an enormous leap of faith but never appeared to blink. Marie believed in the power and importance of art, she believed in artists and there was never a whiff of compromise about her. She was a woman of extraordinary vision. We owe her an enormous debt.

The last time I saw Marie was in Vienna. She had commissioned The Cleansing Of Constance Brown. I was in the city on a site visit and had been told that she would be away. Marie sustained a fearsome work-rate for years, living on planes, seeing an extraordinary amount of theatre all around the world. I was delighted to find Marie’s mercurial diary had shifted again. She was in her office, in a cloud of smoke, tired it seemed. We exchanged pleasantries and our pipe-cleaner hug. That night when Mathias left the street restaurant table to be with his family I realised that, for the first time, I was alone with Marie. Her conversation was, as ever, an education and an inspiration. We talked about the show that was about to be made and what we might make together in the future. I knew at the time that was a special moment.

Yesterday I met up with Wouter for the first time in nearly two years. Marie had introduced us in Stuttgart. Wouter had worked closely with Marie and her husband Freidrich for years, a mind melting apprenticeship. On the 11th floor of a decaying former Post Office building in Amsterdam, looking out over the city, Wouter spoke of how he had left Marie for a new job. He had seen the toll her life was taking on her and didn’t want that life to become his life. We didn’t say what an amazing woman she was; it wasn’t necessary.

Yesterday Marie Zimmerman died.

Today Wouter called and said Marie would have liked the fact that yesterday we had met up to talk about theatre.

Our deepest sympathy goes out Friedrich, David, Mathias, Wouter and all who worked with and loved Marie as we did, I did and we all still do.



Lottery Cut

It sounds like a number of artists will be for the high-jump. Principally as, with lottery funds being diverted to pay for the London Olympics, taking up the high-jump could be more lucrative than making art.

Artists whinging about money is unedifying and demeaning, but on this occasion it appears justified. In the midst of careful strategic planning, lobbying and development by the Arts Council the Department for Culture Media and Sport and let it be known (bad news is, if possible, never announced), the Grants4Arts fund, which delivers National Lottery cash to arts organisations, is to be cut by 35% next year.

This is the fund that helped underwrite Of All The People In All The World’s UK tour in 2005 and is contributing significantly to The Cleansing Of Constance Brown being made. As we receive some revenue funding from Arts Council England we try not to bid into Grants4Arts much, but when we do it is for projects we feel are highly significant for the companies development. A 35% cut spell bad news for us, but potential disaster for companies and individuals without revenue funds and without our momentum and reputation, at an earlier stage in development.

It would be galling enough if the money were a direct transfer from Artists to Athletes, but in truth the money will go to building contractors and security guards. The whole country is paying for urban regeneration in East London, a worthy cause indeed, but not something that should rob us all of cultural opportunities.

Chopping budgets around until they balance is a swift business for accountants, but developing a strong culture takes much time and continuity. This sporting spasm, for all its talk of sporting legacy, will leave an equivalent bleak artistic legacy. This is a shame both for those who value their art and those who value their sport, as what should be a great celebration is rapidly stirring up resentment and cynicism. For those of us who value both sport and art is a double disappointment.

Prepare to tighten your belts, we may need some lumber support.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Constance Brown: Day 20

45 minutes of good material are on the table, we ran it all today. The trick now will be trying to get it all to hang together in a coherent manner. The missing fifteen minutes are on standby with lots of ideas for missing scenes and linking moments. Piles of props are needed along with dozens of costumes, we've yet to get the set, lights or sound but I think we are in pretty good shape.

Tomorrow is Jan's Birthday, we are celebrating with trip to Cafe Soya and an evening of experimental theatrical fragments (click on the link).



Thursday, April 05, 2007


Constance Brown: Day 17

For the last week we have been sharing our devising space with a team of builders. They have generally kept themselves to themselves and have politely resisted the urge to heckle our less successful improvisations. Instead they have chosen to mock our mid-process vacillation by cracking on with a piece of their own time based art. In what appears to be a homage to Station House Opera they have taken a large pile of breezeblocks and built a wall to seal us into one side of the workshop space. Inept project management on the part of our landlords means we still can’t close our own roller shutter doors from the outside. The builders are good sorts though and have been persuaded not to brick us in entirely, they have left us an escape route.

Next week starts with Nina coming in to see what we have been working on so she can start proper work on the soundtrack. We are currently in that strange phase where we have been developing material using existing music long enough to start thinking of it as the show’s official soundtrack. This music is influencing the tone and pacing of scenes but beyond that it will leave no trace on the show.

It probably isn’t a gross breach of rehearsal room confidentially to reveal the show’s current working soundtrack.

Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock: Funkadelic

This seems to have taken over from One Nation Under A Groove.

I Got Rhythm: Lester Young

Spot on for a change of tone.

Overture To Orpheus: Louis Andriessen as played by The California Ear Unit
Seems to work with two quite different scenes.

Echo Deck: Primal Scream
Though not so much now we actually know what we’re doing.

Mozart’s Requiem
Unfortunately once this is playing anything looks fantastic, it knocks your quality control out of whack.

Kaddish: Towering Inferno

In particular The Bell and the title track.

Akira Original Soundtrack Recording
Today Track 3 was played a lot.

Happy Easter everyone.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


The Constance Brown Team

We held off casting the final performer in The Cleansing Of Constance Brown until we knew the kind of performer we needed. Now we are delighted to have completed the team by recruiting Jan Pearson, whose performances we have admired from a distance and close up since 1989. Late last week she became the obvious choice, we made some calls and by some miracle she was free and will start with us tomorrow.

So the full line-up reads:

Gerard Bell: in his debut with Stan’s Cafe.
Jake Oldershaw: a long overdue return to the devising team.
Jan Pearson: in her debut with Stan's Cafe.
Graeme Rose: a founding member returns.
Bernadette Russell: edging towards ‘regular’ status.
Craig Stephens: of course.
Andy Watson: Lurid and Insane’s President returns.

Sound: Nina West (with additional material from Richard Chew)
Lights: Paul Arvidson

With vague directions from me... Roll on Day 11.


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