Monday, November 22, 2010

52 weeks, 52 fringe venues: Venue #12 Oval House

It is worrying that I am merely a couple of months into 52:52 and already I am being filled with joy at the thought of a venue that is merely a bus ride away from my house. Oh, Oval House theatre. Thank you. You do not know how much my soul (and my oyster pre-pay account) owes you. Not just because there is a bus but because - I can get a bus pretty much from my door to your door. In my life as it stands this is a thing of much joy.

Transport aside I've got some affection for Oval House if only for the fact I got my first professional Dramaturg credit there. Positioned on the community/ developing artist end of the spectrum (they even have an artists' advisor) they are a gloriously multi cultural space in a way that many larger theatres can but dream of. Some way from its origins of being set up by Christ Church College alumni. In keeping with their developmental aim in addition to their main programme they house lots of scratch performances and rehearsed readings. So just a little bit up my proverbial street.

It's somewhat fitting that I'm here for something explicitly developmental - a rehearsed reading of two short plays, under the banner of Talkback, which have been created through Kali Theatre's writers' programme. For those not familiar with Kali, it's a company which specialises in new writing by women from South Asian background. The emphasis in Talkback is (and hear my boxes being ticked) on views of what it is to live in London today.

There is a problem with this though. Namely, the ethics of me judging these pieces in the way that I have judged others in 52:52. I certainly don't judge a rehearsed reading in the same way I'd judged a staged production. Added to this, which is negotiable territory, is the fact that these pieces are in development. For some of these writers, the programme informs me, this is the first time their work has been performed in public. And even if there's not some sort of reviewers code then there's my own code of not stamping over someone's fledgling work. And if people aren't doing fledgling work on the fringe then where else can they do it?

Needless to say I write a mini essay on the feedback forms provided.

Fringe Quest Lowdown:

Production: Talkback - rehearsed readings from Kali's writers' programme

Type of space: Two studio spaces plus gallery and cafe.

Type of productions: Emphasis on emerging practitioners/ its community. Labels itself a "presenting" house in as much as it does not produce but it does support (and cannot simply be "hired").

Nearest Station: Next to Oval Tube station. Or, if you're me, by the 185 bus stop.

Seating: Individual seats, configuration changes but okay rake.

Condition of toilets: Perfectly acceptable.

Bar produce: On the night I attended the cafe bar was offering jerk chicken and assorted accompaniments for £6.00.

Other comments: Free wifi (with password helpfully visible) and books in the cafe.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Meeting

"And Alice Cooper?" I ask between mouthfuls of chocolate brownie.

"That is item 3" BillyTheKid replies, pulling out a crumpled receipt.

I blink. "You've made us an agenda that includes talking about your life?".

"Only on the back of a receipt when I was on the plane".

BillyTheKid displays the receipt. It's from a pub.

"An agenda on the back of a pub receipt is exactly what an actor would do". If the subtext isn't clear here, I am rolling my eyes quite a lot.

"Read it to me then".

"1 - Edinburgh funding application with 1.1 the application, 1.2 jazzing up my portfolio and 1.3 pitching".

I nod. That part at least is fairly straight forward.

"Item 2 - my current blogging whim. 2.1 setting up, 2.2 getting an audience, 2.3 the look - but then 2.3 might well be the same as 2.1".

"Yes" I say in my I've-been-blogging-since-before-I-knew-to-call-it-blogging voice.

"Item 3 - my life".

I sense this is where we're going to diverge from more traditional agenda setting.

"3.1 Alice Cooper. 3.2 Backup 3.3 The Crazy One. Only I think we might swap 3.1 and 3.2 around."


"Item 4 is any other business and then Item 5 is your life".

BillytheKid pauses.

"Though we can bump that up if you want to."

I'm laughing too much to actually form a sentence.

"You're going to blog this aren't you?"