A huge thank you to everyone who supported Machines For Living at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!
We had a great time and you can read all our press, Twitter love and see our photos here on our Storify page.
We owe a huge amount to our co-producing partners The Blue Elephant Theatre who commissioned the show for its first run in May and have supported us ever since. Click here to have a look at their fantastic new season programme!
In critiques of Mess by Caroline Horton at The Traverse this year, one word seems to come up over and over again: metatheatre.
I was surprised to see this word used quite so obsessively, perhaps because I associate it with my own over-use of it in over-excited undergraduate essays about Renaissance drama. Look, it’s everywhere! Yes, because all Renaissance drama and indeed most theatre ever has an awareness that it is theatre. It’s modern day naturalism which is the exception.
Mess also comes from an old theatrical tradition: clown. The esprit de clown is joyously well executed but there’s very little that is new in the form of Mess. It’s a long-established genre which takes ‘metatheatricality’ as a given. The genius is not in the metatheatricality per se but in the unexpected hybrid of clown and the subject of anorexia. Yet the word ‘clown’ is relatively hard to find in critiques of the show and, where it is used, it feels as though it’s being tossed around rather loosely.
For what it’s worth, I loved the show. At times I wondered if it should have been darker, more searing. But as for Lyn Gardner’s criticism that it focuses too much on symptoms rather than causes, I thought that was the most refreshing aspect. The people I have known with anorexia were anxious children who became anxious teenagers who became anorexic teenagers. It seems to me that they were born anxious. It never occurred to me to ask, ‘What made you this way?’
Of course, we should be angry about the way a certain female body image is aggressively promoted and ask how culture, consumerism or pressures relating to things like school exams makes that anxiety worse. But I don’t mind that Mess wasn’t the place for that anger.
I enjoyed instead seeing Boris – a clown, like we all are – neither railing against the world nor analysing Josephine’s psyche, but looking for pragmatic ways to say and do the right thing to help his friend to eat something that day.
Posted by David Ralfe, Company Director
Click here for more information about Mess by Caroline Horton, Traverse Theatre, 2-26 August 2012
We’ve had lots of support from Building Design magazine and they surpassed themselves at the end of our run at Blue Elephant Theatre by persuading renowned architects Kate Macintosh and George Finch to write reviews of Machines For Living!
Kate and George both worked for the Greater London Council in the 1960s, when our play is set, designing huge housing projects such as Lambeth Towers and Dawson’s Heights in Dulwich. We were lucky enough to spend a day with them whilst researching our show and it was a real pleasure to have them in the audience!
You can read their thoughts on the show in an article called ‘A Morality Play For Our Times’ (!) here.
With thanks to Elizabeth Hopkirk at Building Design
Let Slip in Edinburgh... and how to help us get there!
In just two weeks’ time, Let Slip will be on their way to the Edinburgh Fringe!
We go back into rehearsals tomorrow, so I’ve spent the last few days reviewing footage we took of the show when we presented it at Blue Elephant Theatre and trying to identify moments we might change or adapt. It’s a strange mental process, trying to distance oneself from something you created in order to see it, warts and all, for what it is!
We still have some fundraising to do before we can get to Edinburgh. If you can help in anyway with a donation, small or large, please click here to donate via our WeFund page or watch the video below if you’d like to find out more about where your money would go.
If you saw the show in London and liked it, spread the word! If not, we hope to play for you in Edinburgh.
A response to Alex Chisholm’s article, ‘The End of New Writing’?
I highly recommend Alex Chisholm’s excellent article on new writing in Exeunt. She makes interesting and vital points about the danger of theatres’ attempts to help writers develop their scripts, as originality is squeezed out by homogenous received wisdom about what a good play should be.
She also, very pertinently for me, laments what she sees as a false opposition between ‘new writing’ and ‘new work’. However, I don’t see the two as opposites. I think ‘new work’ is a revision of the term ‘new writing’ which doesn’t exclude plays which have a writer or script at their centre but which can include theatre which doesn’t or theatre which is impossible to read because text is combined with movement/dance/music/puppetry/multimedia (you name it) in a way which makes the idea of a written ‘script’ impossible.
I make new work for theatre and so have more in common with playwrights writing new plays than most other people in my industry. But I feel dismayed when I see that a theatre has a New Writing Department because my creative process has little to do with writing anything down. I don’t have a script I can send them, I can’t attend a writers workshop to develop my ideas and, as a result, it can feel like I am being shut out.
Perhaps this is just semantics. But, as it happens, only yesterday I read the introduction to the Traverse Theatre’s Edinburgh Fringe season brochure, written by newly appointed Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin. She writes,
“We are proud to place the writer at the heart of this fantastic Festival programme… Performance is stripped back this year as the words take centre stage”
In fact, it’s an exciting programme, broader than this might suggest. But one can’t help but feel that O’Loughlin is planting her flag in the ground and sending a clear message about what kind of work she wants to programme and what she does not.
There are also examples of funding opportunities which hype themselves as ‘supporting the best emerging theatrical talent’ but which require scripts to be sent in as part of the application. I feel this is like claiming to support the best young painters but actually only supporting painters who paint with the colour red.
In her article, Alex Chisholm rightly points out that the best theatres already blur the lines between new work and new writing. I encourage all venues to keep blurring them and to consider whether they need to stop talking about new writing and start talking about new work to make this happen.
Posted by David Ralfe
Alex replied on Twitter to say:
@let_slip glad you enjoyed it. We had good discussion here in #writingtheseason about whether changing language would make a difference…. more theatres seem willing to take broader view of what is new writing & new work. & intersection is where exciting much work is
Thank you to everyone who came to see Machines For Living at The Blue Elephant Theatre in South London. We had a fantastic four week run and it was a pleasure to make the show and perform it in such a wonderful theatre!
Do have a look at The Blue Elephant’s website, here. They programme some of the most exciting work in London, with an impressive commitment to new writing and physical or visual theatre.
We’re now counting down the days until Machines For Living opens at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We’re on at 3.30pm every day at Zoo (Venue 124, The Aviary).
If you’ve already seen Machines For Living, come again or spread the word!
Machines For Living is about Brutalist tower blocks and we were lucky enough to interview architects, architectural historians and residents of tower blocks as part of our research process. We’d like to thank all of them for giving their time and sharing their knowledge and experiences. We couldn’t have made the show without you.
It is very touching when people share stories from their lives and we were aware that we were handling something very precious when we used this material in rehearsals.
Kate Macintosh and George Finch were two of the architects we interviewed. Both of them designed residential blocks for the Greater London Council in the 1960’s, the period in which our show is set. They came to see the show and shared their thoughts on Building Design Magazine’s blog, in an article called ‘A Morality Play For Our Times’ (!). You can read their reviews here.
Have a look at our Twitter feed, for a retrospective of our run at The Blue Elephant Theatre including rehearsal shots and links to some of the most interesting articles we found about tower blocks, cities and architecture.
“Less about bricks and mortar than the tragedy of hope versus reality, it’s an informative and entertaining play that demands we look at its subject matter from a fresh perspective.”—The Stage on Machines For Living, click here to read the full review
Into rehearsals for Machines For Living. It came into being as a scratch in October 2011 and after seven more months of research and preparation we’re in the rehearsal room at last.
The research process has been a joy. A week spent in the library at The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), afternoons spent watching documentary films and, best of all, interviews with residents of tower blocks and architects.
Now we’re spending our days making the show at the wonderful Blue Elephant Theatre, where Machines For Living will open on 22 May.
Click here for more about the show or here to see photos of our rehearsals.
We’ll be unveiling poster artwork and our video trailer very soon!
Last week we were lucky enough to meet Paul Bird, author of the Single Aspect blog (here) which scrutinises housing design and policy in the UK.
Single Aspect has been a brilliant resource during our research and it was a delight to finally meet Paul. This is a particularly interesting article he wrote about Kate Macintosh’s Dawson’s Heights building in Dulwich.
I’m off to visit Dawson’s Heights this afternoon because on Thursday, we’re going to meet Kate in person. (And we’re mildly hysterical with excitement!)
Paul also put us onto this brilliant video. Watch out for the excellent clown moment at 2:08!
“Every straight line was to savour; every right angle was suggestive of a brave and powerful future. Le Corbusier’s vision was powerfully seductive: it offered a cleaner slate than any that had gone before. It offered architects the chance to design their way out of the organically evolved city.”—Estates: An Intimate History by Lynsey Hanley
Interview with Stuart from The Blue Elephant Theatre
Delighted to read this interview with Stuart Cox from The Blue Elephant Theatre, in which he talks about the wide-ranging and vital work BET do with young people in Southwark.
India and I were lucky enough to work on the Speak Out! Forum Theatre project he discusses at the start of the article. It really was a brilliant experience and we were lucky to work with such a fantastic group of young people.
Find out more about BET’s Community & Education work on the Participation page of their website.
Just read an article, published in The Quietus a few days ago, about Trellick Tower (below) and its use in Damon Albarn’s music videos.
Do click here for the full article, and keep your eyes peeled for Trellick in the three music videos below.
In its short lifetime, the Tower has been held up as an example of modernism’s beauty and aesthetic abhorrence. It’s been synonymous with crime, rape, drug addiction and murder, and been reborn as a trendy place to live.
You can follow this journey through the 3 videos below. And then, for good measure, watch David Guetta turn Peckham’s Aylesbury Estate (round the corner from The Blue Elephant Theatre) into a jungle gym of high-camp free-running.
We’re knee-deep in research this week, for our new show Machines For Living. Our copy of new independent film Utopia London was hand-delivered yesterday and we’re looking forward to cracking open to popcorn and watching it this afternoon!
Trailer looks fantastic. Can’t wait to meet film-maker Tom Cordell for an interview later this week. Find out more about his project here.
A couple of weeks ago, we were delighted to welcome Nicole Pschetz into our ensemble.
Nicole moved to the UK from Brazil in 2003 and trained at the International School of Corporeal Mime in London (see their excellent website here). Since then she’s toured shows all over Europe, with Theatre de L’Ange Fou and her own company Energinmotion (Facebook group here).
She’s a fantastic presence in the rehearsal room and we’re proud to be working with her. You can see some of her work in the videos below.
Keep your eyes peeled for a brand new Let Slip website and Machines For Living video trailer coming soon!
God bless the internet. This weekend I discovered Azonto, a style of music and dancing from Ghana.
I love the music. And I’m fascinating by the dancing. There’s very little information online but apparently this is a modern take on an old form of Ghanian dancing, in which the movements are based on household chores like ironing and washing.
Which made me think, there’s an Azonto comic-dance-theatre piece to made!
Check it out in these videos. Not much footwork but big extensions of knees and elbows and a compulsory big smile.
If you like the music, go seek You Kill Me by Sarkodie, You Go dance by Akexi Bees and Yenko Nkoaa by Eduwoji.
After I posted the video for William Kentridge’s take on The Nose, my friend George at Clout Theatre showed me this short film by Andrei Khrzhanovsky, with music by Alfred Schnittke. It’s like Magritte meeting those Letterland videos I watched as a child.
Clout have been working on a piece inspired by Daniil Kharms' short stories, called How A Man Crumbled. Their delightful trailer is below and you can look forward to the show premiering soon. I saw a work-in-progress a few weeks ago and it looks incredible.
Further reading: Stock your brain with Russian absurdity by wallowing in The Overcoat (Gogol), Bobok (Dostoevsky), The Snowstorm (Tolstoy) and The Old Woman (Kharms).
Hello, I searched the tag 'Lecoq' and found your work labelled 'work at L’École Jacques Lecoq'. I'm doing a presentation on Lecoq in school on Monday and I was wondering if I could use your photo as an example. Also, any information that you have on your experience with the school would be brilliant. Please reply, Hayley!
Yes, feel free to use the photos. Youmay also like to look up two more companies from my class: Rhum & Clay and Clout, if you can find them online.
If you send me a list of mkre specific questions, I’ll do my best to answer them over the weekend.
Very soon, we’ll be announcing London dates for our brand new show Machines For Living!
Inspired by the architects who believed tower blocks would create urban utopias, Machines For Living tells the story of a couple who believe they can design life.
The piece was first commissioned as a scratch peformance by The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. Since then, the company has grown and we’re extremely excited about making Machines For Living into a full length piece for Spring 2012.
In the new year, we’ll be re-launching this blog and using it to sharing all the research we do for the show.
In the meantime, we invite you to head over to our brand new Tumblr. It’s an online notebook where we share all the work we do to develop the show.
A huge thank you to everyone who came to see Hamster Town. I had a great time and really hope to be able to take the show out on tour, in the future.
Click here for full credits for the show, including all the people who came into rehearsals with me and were so generous with their ideas and my long list of thanks to people without whom the show wouldn’t have made it onstage.
Most memorable performance? Without doubt, the show with an audience of two. We chatted and got to know each other as I was starting the show and they were as excited as I was by this unexpectedly intimate kind of performance. It was a real experience and a pleasure to tell the story to just two people. Though I’m relieved that audiences for the other nights were rather more substantial!
The Camden Fringe continues until the end of the month and Camden People’s Theatre has more great shows coming up.
Don’t miss Autojeu’s How To Climb Mount Everest, from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st August. The Director trained at the Phillippe Gaullier school in Paris, which is the Lecoq school’s deformed but delightful slightly younger brother. It promises “puppetry, mime and audience interaction”. What more could one want?
If you’re in Edinburgh, click here for details of my former Lecoq classmates’ shows: Shutterland and Flynch, Looking.
Please stay in touch and come back soon for news of future projects.
Hamster Town is steaming ahead. Click here to read Spoonfed’s brilliant review. The show is on every night at 7.30pm until 17th August. Please come along!
Once you’ve made it as far as Hamster Town, you should stick around for Simon Kane’s superb show Jonah Non Grata, straight after mine at Camden People’s Theatre.
And for your daytimes… I’ve already hyped the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern but will do so again. I’m still lost in brightly-coloured Catalan reverie. I’ve seen a fair bit of Miro in my time but this exhibition took my breath away.
Ron Arad’s installation at The Roundhouse is also superb. Pop by any time during the day for projections inside a beautifully curated space.
I was taken to The Roundhouse yesterday by a lighting designer I was meeting for the first time. As we chatted, I asked what she loved about lighting. She said, “Hiding things.” What a brilliant answer.
“Ralfe’s ability to take the quaint and make it something almost Lynchian is wonderful… there’s something in Ralfe’s strange relationship with the animal which is oddly compelling and he’s such an affable, engaging performer that this makes for a very enjoyable hour.”—Review from Exeunt magazine, read the whole thing here.
“… managed to see Hamster Town at the CPT. It was wonky, lovely aceness. Love is purchases”—Simon Kane on Twitter, last night. Be sure to catch his show Jonah Non Grata at Camden People’s Theatre, 9pm each night, straight after Hamster Town.