Postcapitalism and theatre meeting 24 March

Around an ageing laptop (mine)
with tiny tinny speakers
Paul’s nine minute and forty five second summary
of his four hundred page book
from a parked car parked in a car park in rainy Haverford West
we gather.
Across a big wooden table
we set forth
to ask where we are
and why

It’s just us

is full of potential
potential pitfalls too
with no set task at hand
or set person tasked to say
this is what we’re going to do today

Do we even trust each other?
Do we even know each other?

We’ll get to know each other
We’ll gain a sense of who we are
We’ll take a census of who’s here
We’ll come to a consensus about process
We’ll process a dissensus in content
We’ll sense
When it’s there
We’ll sense what’s in the works
A project a production a thing that we produce
A book
A zine
A blog website facebook page online platform database
(do we know anyone who’s good at online stuff?)
A festival
A network
A movement
A manifesto
A skills-sharing cooperative
A collective

There is a swell
Of energy and conversation
It swells and dissipates
Today we gather round
Circle and take steps
But we will not bridge the distance
of the big wooden table
between us

That’s OK

We speak
of short and long-term goals
of stairwells

There’s paper
I’ve brought forty sheets
Of A1 paper
The roll of paper
That I’ve brought
For the paper exercise
(‘cos you need paper for a paper exercise, right?)
Has not been unrolled
The roll of paper
Stays stuck in my hands
Remains rolled
There’s paper
And there are pens
But we do not put one to the other

Pens and paper will be for next time


Games and Improv night – Young Vic 08/12/15

I think I missed out the session on 1 December, and now I can’t find my notes. But here are the games we played on Tuesday 8th:

Passing the clap around: Clap at the same time as the person next to you. You can pass it across the circle using eye contact / play with “holding on to” a clap before passing it on.

1-2-3: in pairs, repeat “1-2-3”, try to “mess up” the person you’re playing with. Replace the numbers with an action / a sound. Play the game as a scene (the Olympics / undercover police officers, etc.)

Stop and starting: the group walks around the space, a leader tells them when to stop and when to start. One person who is tapped on the shoulder keeps going when everyone else stops; the group follows them with their eyes.

A and B: tell each other what to do

Extreme spatial relationships: Based on the work of Anne Bogart (Viewpoints). Recommendation: Lukas Angelini is a good London-based teacher for this.

5 steps to heaven (5 levels of panic): get small groups to do an activity (eg chopping wood in the forest). There is a sound (eg a wolf howling) which gets repeated five times. Each time the tension mounts in the activity, on the 5th one the group runs away.

Comic stops, double takes, suspensions: out of John Wright’s physical comedy vocabulary.

Alphabet game: divide the alphabet into the group. For example, if there are 4 people:
1 takes: a, e,i, m, q, u, y
2 takes: b, f, j, n, r, v, z
3 takes: c, g, k, o, s, w
4 takes: d, h, l, p, t, x
Then one person calls out words and the group has to spell them, with each person only saying their letters

Pass the object: the group mimes passing and object around which changes as they pass it to one another.

Blindfolded beaters: two people are blindfolded, they are allowed to each take 3 steps at a time. The “beater” has to touch the other one with a rolled up piece of paper (or something that won’t hurt when it makes contact with the other person). However, the beater is only allowed to touch the person they are chasing after three steps (after two steps or one, they lose). Have the group make sure the blindfolded ones don’t walk into walls.



Games night – Young Vic Directors network

Some of the games we played + recommendations for books about games / devising:

– Counting as a group: if two people say the same number at the same time, we start counting again from “1”

– Capture the bottle in the middle (two teams, everyone in the team has a number – a referee calls out numbers, no crossing over the middle line until the bottle is picked up, the person who makes it back to their side without getting tagged wins the round…)

– Fish and chips: like zip zap boing but with bits that people make up as we go along

– grandmother’s footsteps: with extra “team” elements – passing the keys along, going over a chair,putting on clothes etc.

– chairs: everyone sits in chairs spread around the room. there’s one empty chair and one “walker” who starts as far away as possible from the empty chair. To stop the walker taking the empty chair, one of the people sitting has to touch it, leaving their own chair open, which the walker then tries to capture. Nobody is allowed to return to a chair they have left. The last person whose seat is captured by the walker / the person left standing with only their own chair to return to becomes the walker.

– prisoners on chairs: with “guards” who have to tap the “prisoners” on the shoulders when they try to escape.

– mirroring: good for creating a relationship of intimacy between performers

– living theatre: walking round in a circle and stopping and starting in synch

– Group mirroring and guessing who is the leader


Impro by Keith Johnston (who came up with the status exercises I introduced)
– Viola Spolin
Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops by Max Stafford-Clard
Fires in the mirror – a youtube video about the making of Anna Deaveare Smith’s play
The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre

Group chat at the Slung Low Hub

Dhal in tubs, tea in mugs
Legs wrapped up in tartan rugs
Plucky little Aga having trouble drawing
Wafting rosemary and coffee
Underneath a patchwork awning.

Kick off with tales of the beautiful game
The class of ’92, Samoa 31-0 down to the Socceroos,
Tigers in Hull, red jerseys v. blue
Football a metaphor
But actual stories too
Of fans and families
Fathers and daughters
Dedication to the cause
And when the crowd roars
Shouldn’t that sound give us pause
To ask
Where are the theatre fans?
Where are the fanatics who’d give their life for amateur dramatics?

They’re in Camelot
Where magic lives
Where chants become incantations
Where verbatim leaves us speechless
Where moved beyond words
The audience struck the actors dumb
And stood beside them to pay tribute to the dead.

When we open doors
Wide enough
To let the magic in
What demons do we usher in behind?
Would you risk it
For a biscuit and a cup of tea?
So let’s brew a budget big enough
To make Theatre with a big tea
A radical cuppa
A revolutionary brew
Just me and you
Tea for two
Let’s have a chat
What more can we do?
More than that
We’ll hold open the door for you
The same door that we came through
We’ll hold open a space for you
You’ve got your own voice
That’s not something we can give to you
So here we’ll hold a space your voice can echo through.
And when the best thing in your life
Finishes on Thursday
How will we care for you?
How will we care for you when you’re the carer
Taking care and taking the stress
Of saving 118 billion for the NHS
One person sees you
But you’re invisible to the rest.
We owe it to you
To look you level in the eye
And tell your story back to you with honesty and pride.
Will that be our measure of success?

Arts and Activism at the Oval House – quotes

With Daniel Bye, Lucy EllinsonChris Garrard, Emma Frankland, Anna Galinka, and Aleks Sierz. Quotes are unattributed, out of context and possibly inaccurate. They’re here because I liked how they sounded. So, for the benefit of those who weren’t there, but mostly for those who were:

“crack people’s consciousness”

“asking people to speak about their personal manifestos”


“the real good art is happening and the real good art is trying to keep BP out”

“activism or protest is inherently performative”

“different manifestations of the conversation I’m trying to have with the world”

[on activist art] “the audience doesn’t know it’s going to be an audience”

“it’s definitely more effective than doing fucking nothing […] sums up my whole life […] this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever said”

“[placing] the importance of speaking out above her own comfort”


“I’m still chewing on that”

[on preaching to the choir] “sending the converted out into the world with the holy spirit in their hearts”

“mildly inflected by depression” [again, “inflected”]

children against global warming

radical renewable art and activism

Participatory Theatre: the Politics & Ethics (03/11/2015)

A talk with Zoe Svendsen at the Young Vic. As usual, I took quotes rather than synthetic notes. I should emphasize that this is not in any way an attempt to summarize or analyze what went on or what was said: the quotes are given here completely out of context, and I cannot guarantee that they are all 100% accurate (even as we transcribe what we hear, we are liable to unwittingly make alterations). I noted them down because I liked the way they sounded as they were spoken. This goes some way to explaining why I note down  quotes in general – it has to do with the pleasure of listening to people speaking well. I initially thought this might be of use to people who weren’t there, but it is really more like a gift to the people who were. Zoe Svendsen speaks well, and much, which explains why there are lots of quotes.

Political parameters

[on participation] A tool for expression, like video

spectrum of how the audience engage with theatre

theatrical arsenal

what does it mean to take part […] what does it mean to rehearse for something

British administrative life

Why is it not enough just to talk about it?

if we needed to practice for something what would it be and [in 2009] the answer was climate change

establishes the social relation and the aesthetic relation at the same time

audiences wanted to do the right thing

really clear and gently clear

play school style instruction of how to deal with nuclear war

the performer is also a conduit to another world

take the specific social dynamics out of the space

tried to make it look a bit Microsoft

a structured sense of time

when we didn’t have a moment of the computer thinking, people didn’t believe their voting was real

we wanted to conceive it as a practice

the virtuosity of the performance was denying the live-ness of the performance

a pleasure in effort

we over-managed the social dimension of the space

British people are very good at making that sort of small talk

a functional space

a hybrid set of experiences

a beautifully eclectic audience

[on other types of participative theatre] the subject matter is the social relations in the space that is created

the political potential of the world

frustration with binaries

that good will that people have

the seriousness with which the task of participation was addressed

enabling a platform from which the imagination can be unleashed

a slowing-down of the judgement of others in that situation

reward the effort but not the achievement within those values

precarity […] radically extended over the last few years

incursions of capitalist practice

service-culture relation to experience

consumer culture of “bespoke theatre for you”

telling a story rather than delivering a bespoke experience of their design

metaphors that are bound around game-playing

performance strategies rather than character as such

tacit forms of management

the thematic dynamic of the game

a territory

each piece of the project made the next bit

the lie of choice

a really small amount of text opens the imagination

playfully punitive