Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh, Mr Portal!

Just getting ready to go off to south-west Wales for ten days of intense R&D work and (I hope) equally intense unwinding. This is, of course, to a Londoner, psychologically equivalent to going to Greenland for five months, and getting everything ready to go is becoming increasingly laborious as I fret about whether they'll have things like biscuits and paper there and whether I ought to take galoshes (despite having no coherent visual sense of what galoshes actually are).

I appreciate that those readers who have banked with Thompson's for some time will have endured longer hiatuses in what we at HQ like to call our 'service delivery patterns'. In fact I guess it's probably at least a fortnight since my last post anyway. But given that we're talking not about ten days of radio silence but five months on -- to all intense sand porpoises -- the dark side of the moon, I thought that I should leave behind me some pointers to current instances of interesting and notable cultural activity that might help you while away the long autumn hours till my return. (You may scoff, but despite it having been 19 degrees today, the nights, my dears, are drawing in; summer is no longer here, and the time is, by any reasonable measure, incontrovertibly wrong for dancing in the street.)

So let me be your cyberpilot, won't you? See how this snazzy outfit of wraparound mirrorshades, electric blue snood, Eurobeat unitard and Starlight Express rollerboots helps me to look the part. Whoosh! Whoosh!

First stop on our itinerary is the spanking new and extremely toothsome Archive of the Now, an online library of readings by a dizzying number of the most formidable and exciting poets currently at work in the UK, painstakingly assembled and curated by Andrea Brady and hosted at the Brunel [University] Centre for Contemporary Writing. No doubt it's going to continue to grow and develop in wondrous ways, but it's already, right from the get-go, an awesome resource for anyone interested in this busy and chronically underattended area of work. I was lucky to be exposed to this broad tradition of innovative and exploratory modernist poetry as a student, but many people aren't, and inevitably find themselves concluding, faced with the inert and supercilious work of Britain's "mainstream" versifiers and the cheap fatuities of supposedly "alternative" performance poets, that they just don't like, or don't get, poetry. One of the pleasures of running the reading series at CPT a few years back was exposing people in just that position to the thrilling and provocative work of folks like Sean Bonney, Peter Manson and Geraldine Monk (all represented in the archive), and watching their mouths fall agape -- in some cases, never to close properly again.

There's a huge amount of material already in place at the Archive, waiting to be discovered again and again. Particular favourites of mine at the moment are the sets by Tim Atkins, Elizabeth James and the branstorming Jow Lindsay -- but I should think you could put a blindfold on and click on the dropdown at random with a pretty good chance of having your ears invigorated out of their sockets and your brain reconnected to your [beat] hip bone.

(I can't remember now if I meant 'barnstorming' or 'brainstorming'. Or 'branstorming', in fact.)

A quick blog-plug. Ben Yeoh. Terrific young playwright. Not just going places, but already getting places, good places. Keep an eye peeled, 24/7.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, Mark Ravenhill, who is apparently now under contract to write fifteen per cent of the Guardian every day [check out the new improved byline pic], has chosen to pay some of this month's rent by reworking his signature piece on the Sarah Kane he knew. I'm a bit puzzled as to why he would consent to do so, and presumably thereby visit upon himself the opprobrium of those many spectators to whom this subroutine might now be starting to appear to be crass, self-promoting and, in a dozen ways, as cheap as chips. I suppose he has a largeish phalanx of admirers to point to his unassailable sincerity: which is, after all, how the neoconservative West was won. I, of course, wouldn't presume to comment..., except to say that, whatever Ravenhill might have to gain from it, this constant reiteration of some order of common tendency between himself and Kane has the effect of obscuring and distorting her work, which belongs in another tradition entirely, stronger and more perseverant and necessary than the 'In Yer Face' group that Ravenhill so eloquently and satisfactorily represented.

Anyway, all this arises because the Barbican next week has a Schaubuhne production of Kane's Blasted (yup, in German, art-fans). I hope I might make it to one of the last performances; it's not her best play, but it's important nonetheless, and to see a production from Germany, where Kane is even more revered than is increasingly (and properly) the case here, could, I think, be revelatory.

Meanwhile, if even Sarah Kane is a bit four-to-the-floor for your tastes, there's an intriguing all-day event on Saturday 11th November at Chisenhale Dance Space. The name -- Perspectives 2006: Shifting Ground -- is a bit blah but the line-up is anything but: as you'd expect from a bill curated by live artists including the always-interesting Rachel Gomme, Rainer Knupp and Rajni Shah. The afternoon session looks particularly tantalising: Doran George, Matt Davis (who curates the terrific Field series at the same venue) and an intriguing young artist Tim Jeeves, as well as my sometime collaborator Theron Schmidt, among others. Chisenhale seems to be going from strength to strength, and while the 'is it dance or is it live art?' remit of Perspectives might be -- at least from a theatre perspective -- so much tailchasing, it should clearly be possible to take a view around that question and let the work, whatever it is in itself, speak.

And the following week, Tate Modern has -- if you can hear bongos, by the way, it's just my heart, impersonating Sophia Loren in the proximity of Peter Sellers -- a Charles Atlas season. It's impossible to overstate the importance of Atlas in (or near) practically every notable underground culture in the UK and US over the past two decades: from artists' film and video art to club performance and avant garde dance. A hugely important moment for me as a chrysalitic teenager was happening, quite by chance, on Atlas's video of Michael Clark's seminal Because We Must, late one night on tv -- this would have been, I guess, around 1990, when Channel 4 were still incorrigibly alternative (and not yet aiming, as they now do, lower than a mole's ankles); I guess I saw Jubilee at around the same time and the same spot on the dial, and a glimpse of Philippe Decoufle (and Bruce Weber's Broken Noses, come to think of it) on the genially chaotic Club X.

Anyhoo... I'm booked in to all but the last of the screenings, and I know you'll want to be too. So I'll see you there, I guess.

And finally. (Though it's a big 'finally'...)

Once Rhymes... was open at the Oval House, I suddenly had daytimes back, for the first time in (what at any rate felt like) ages. Which meant a lot of afternoon quality-time in cinemas -- especially the increasingly sorry and depleted Curzon Soho, and the consistently (and rather reassuringly) sorry and depleted Odeon Covent Garden.

I made a few notes on what I saw, with Thompson's in mind -- I wouldn't call these reviews, exactly, they're too scribbly and inchoate to qualify for that, but I thought they might be fun to post and start a conversation or two. (That reminds me, Williams, we're still due a fight about Bertolucci's Dreamers...)

Most of these films have probably moved on from your local arthouse by now, except the last, so I apologise for not posting these as I went along, which would have made more sense.

I was intending also to drop in a few words on some art shows -- Fischli/Weiss at Tate Modern, Richard Wilson at Barbican Curve, Cerith Wyn Evans at the ICA -- but I haven't got time now. I guess they'll keep till I'm back. For the little my two-penn'orth is worth (hint: somewhat less than 2 new p.), all three exhibitions are worth seeing, though only one and a half are actually worth seeing.

Anyway, here are the not-quite-reviews. I await your responses with cheerful trepidation.

Till my return, my dears: Inuulluaritsi!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(That reminds me, Williams, we're still due a fight about Bertolucci's Dreamers...)

It is true, we are! I had forgotton, you know. Well, once you are back from sunny Welsh Wales, fight we will. Or talk very heatedly about it all, at any rate...