Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Coming Soon

Just wanted to mention that I discovered this afternoon that the first episode of Annie Griffin's brilliant Coming Soon is on YouTube. Can't believe I've never thought to look before.

For those to whom all of the above (except YouTube) means nothing: Coming Soon was a three-part comedy shown on C4 in 1999, centred on the activities and personal relationships of an experimental devised theatre company called Le Jeu. It's the only contemporary satirical treatment of fringe theatre I've ever seen that's got it pretty much dead right (though the hapless T.I.E. company Legz Akimbo in The League of Gentlemen had their moments). It's excruciating at times, at least for anyone close to the world being sent-up -- especially in the company's craven pursuit of funding.

It's a remarkable cast: Vicki Pepperdine is superb as the appalling director Jen; the company includes Ben Miller, Julia Davis, Huw Chadbourn (one of the early members of Forced Entertainment), the wonderful Elaine C. Smith, and Joanna Scanlan from The Thick of It; and other turns include David Walliams, Omid Djalili and a characteristically o.t.t. Paul Kaye. Writer/director Annie Griffin went on to create The Book Group and the slightly misfiring feature-length Festival but for me this is her best work: it's savage, barely affectionate stuff, and anyone who's ever been inside a dysfunctional rehearsal room will be watching from behind the sofa.

Here's the first of the five YouTube videos that comprise episode one -- watch the rest over there if you like it. I'm going to see if I can track down the other two episodes anywhere.

p.s. Perhaps I can mention while I'm here that I spent this evening at the Sit Room [see my post below, 'Reviewing the situation'], listening to three truly remarkable readings by Sean Bonney, Sarah Kelly and Tomas Weber. Sean's new work in varying degrees of proximity to Rimbaud I thought was particularly exciting, and had him throwing shapes that I think we haven't heard from him before. Jonny Liron gave a semi-improvised performance too, after the readings, which was unusually coolly specific in its offering: careful, cogent and just beginning to open up what I took to be a new dynamic in his pursuit of a revivified language of radical theatrical instantiation. It felt in some ways quite muted and minor (in both key and scope) and yet I can see we might be looking back on it in a couple of years' time as a key moment in the trajectory of Jonny's distinctive development as a theatre artist. That might not be exactly the direction of development I'd have asked Santa for, but it could be exactly what we need. We'll see.

Jonny and I were talking in the break about how his curation of these events (of this was only the second -- but already it had twice the size of audience of the first) is in itself an argument, and one with which he is even more personally identified because of the overtness of the identity of the Sit Room as a live/work space, whereby, as Jonny himself said tonight, he effectively had someone of the calibre of Sean Bonney doing a reading in his bedroom. If you follow through the various logics of the upstream/downstream theory of artistic (and especially theatrical) development, there could hardly be a more important or significant project than this currently being attempted, anywhere. These evenings feel incredibly precious and exciting, and to be so close to them is, for all their wonderfully relaxed and informal tone, the biggest, most energising rush. It feels like something becoming possible that has previously only been wished-for, and something becoming visible to exemplary and potentially revolutionary ends. If that sounds overheated: well, come along to the next one, and feel it for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Coming Soon is the best thing I've EVER seen. THANKS CHRIS.

simon kane said...

I am baffled by how attractive I'm finding Joanna Scanlan in this.