The British Library are delving into their archives to shine a spotlight on those at the forefront of technical innovation and those behind the scenes in some fascinating events this Spring
The Explore Theatre Season runs from March 9th to 29th and features three events online and two events in-person.
ONLINE ONLY Pioneering Progression: Joan Littlewood and Theatre Royal Stratford East (discussing the pioneering Theatre Workshop Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East) Wed 9 Mar, 19:30 – 20:45
ONLINE ONLY Theatre of the Absurd? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Stage (recalling theatre maverick Ken Campbell’s extraordinary first stage production of the cult show at London’s gigantic Rainbow Theatre) Fri 11 Mar, 20:15 – 21:15
IN PERSON EVENT ONLY Anything Could Happen Next: A Celebration of People Show (The UK’s first alternative theatre company) Sun 13 Mar, 14:00 – 16:00
IN PERSON AND ONLINE Peggy Ramsay: Queen of Agents (celebrating the legendary Peggy Ramsay and her unique contribution to theatre) Tue 29 Mar, 19:00 – 20:30
I am sure that these will be popular so please do book early to avoid disappointment.
Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving?
The British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting preliminary applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is Monday 15th November 2021 at 12 noon GMT. Full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website.
The Programme has funded over 430 projects in 90 countries and has helped preserve manuscripts, rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and temple murals. The programme aims to digitise archives at risk of loss or decay and, where possible, to relocate the material to a safe local archival home. The digital copies are deposited with the local archival partners, and are all available for researchers to access freely through the British Library website.
This year, they are accepting applications through their online portal between 1st and 15th November. However, in the meantime, they are providing Word and PDF documents for applicants to perfect their preliminary applications before the online submission.
If you know of an archive in a region of the world were resources are limited, we really hope you will encourage them to apply. If you have any questions regarding the conditions of award or the application process, consult their website or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone with a theatre archive needing care and funding to survive, please ensure you apply!
13th June – GLOBAL INDIGENOUS VOICES at the British Library. Third in a series of Global Voices Theatre events, this was presented in association with Border Crossings as part of the tenth annual Origins festival 2019 . Fifteen-minute extracts from five plays from New Zealand, Alaska, Canada, and America were given a rehearsed reading for an audience of around 150. The event was guest curated by Madeleine Sayet and presented by Global Voices Artistic Director Lora Krasteva and Producer Robin Skyer. Global Voices Theatre is now an Arts Council funded organisation, yet another reason to celebrate their continued development.
18th June – CASH COW by Oli Forsyth. At Hampstead Theatre Downstairs until 20 July.
Tennis is a dynamic and
exciting visual game. CASH COW, as presented here, is. so static and non-visual
that it could play on radio with no loss whatsoever. A smart set and some fancy
lighting does not change the fact that this is a talk-heavy, resolutely un-visual
The play’s viewpoint is rather
belied by the title. Two parents are told that their ten-year old child is
exceptional at playing tennis, so they invest effort and resources into honing
her talent. So begins a 20-year journey studded with tennis coaches,
globe-trotting, using drugs to manipulate natural development to fit the rigid
playing schedules, separation on different continents, and much more. Money is
the driver, and the child pays the price.
So at what point did that
ordinary, hopeful parent become too pushy, and then manipulative and then all-consumed?
We see the slide down the slippery slope of good intentions, as the parents
lose control of – and contact with – their daughter. At what point did their
child become artificially induced into being a product? At what point did the
parent start to refer to himself as the manager and promoter? And at what point
did the parents sit down and agree “I made her” and “she owes us”?
Anyone can see that the
extremes that the parents go to seem bound to engender damage in youngsters who
need space and help in exploring themselves. What is very telling is that every
discussion with the child featured in the play is dominated by the parent – and
the (unseen) child’s answers are always one word- OK, no or yes. The child, as
far as I remember, is never even given the respect of a name- always referred
to as her, she, love or honey. So at no point in the whole 20 year span of this
story do we ever hear the parents having any sort of discussion with the child,
asking for her own ideas and what she wants to do.
At one point it is suggested
that the coach is physically abusing the child, and the parent’s rightful
initial revulsion is rapidly distorted by the calculation of the effect that
any action will have on their investment, causing the audience to draw parallels
– so surely both the coach and the parents are abusing the child, just in
distortions of relationships climax with inter-familial lawsuits and the ending
is effective, suggesting the price of “success” is not worth the paper its
As the distortions in
behaviour happen incrementally over time, the play’s jumping about in time helps
us to see the differences in a more marked way, but the audience have to do a
lot of work in placing the pieces. Where it backfires is that the scenes are so
short and bitty that one tires of the monotony of the concept, trying the
audience’s patience and making the show feel much longer than its 90 minutes.
The fact that I have not been
a parent or a child prodigy may colour my take on this, but I found it
impossible to care for any of these characters, or to be particularly drawn in
to this long 90-minute piece that a lot of the audience watched with their eyes
Perhaps this show will be a
wake-up call for those countless parents out there who are driven to push their
child harder than they once pushed themselves. Perhaps it will cause them to
consider the price that will be paid by all parties. And whether kids should
just be allowed to be kids.
21st June – Royal Central School Graduation show – a musical A PERMANENT STATE OF EMERGENCY. Final year students in a specially-commissioned new musical, directed by Sue Dunderdale.
27th June – THE BASEMENT TAPES – seen as part of the Incoming Festival at New Diorama Theatre in London.
It is always exciting to see
new work from other parts of the world visiting the UK and so I was intrigued
by this New Zealand originated show which sounded full of possibilities. Sadly,
most remained unrealised after this disappointing, overlong hour.
You spend a lot of time in the
dark during this show. About half of the running time, in fact. Listening to a
taped voice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for great theatre, in my opinion.
We are in a basement of a
house in New Zealand. A teenage girl rummages around in boxes of her dead grandmother’s
belongings in a superficial attempt to sort things out, making more mess as she
goes. The piece gradually morphs into a kind of spook story as the discovery of
a cassette tape player and some significantly labelled tapes reveals the voice
of the deceased grandmother describing in dreamlike detail a murder that she
may have committed.
There were significant moments
of potential when I hoped that the show would spark into life, with the
discovery of the tape machine and tapes: the smell of a garment embodying the sensory
memory of the grandma was also a telling moment: also, the first notes of the
dead grandma’s voice. All had much more potential but they appear to have just
been used as punctuation.
However, the indulgent dancing
to loud music which occupies the first five minutes, the poor and immature jokes,
as well as what felt like padding to fill out the hour started to try the
patience. When we strayed into spooky
territory with weird lights and sounds, it all just got a bit daft. Miserable
old sod? Maybe. But it appears I was not alone. The teenagers sitting just
along from me were checking their twitter feeds repeatedly while all this was
going on. A group listening to a voice in the dark can be a very interesting
experience, but here it just didn’t seem to ignite. Mind you, the illuminated
exit signs and phone screens dotted around the audience didn’t help.
This could have been a very
touching examination of teenage experience of bereavement, but it proved very
hard to care for this careless teenager in this teenage Stephen King mash-up. The
soundscape created was just OK but could have been a lot more textured and
interesting (and scary!).