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I’m going to write down a date. Friday the 10th of September 2010. One day everyone who has ever written – or read – a theatre blog might want to remember it. The day that the Royal Opera House not so much poked themselves in the eye as repeatedly bludgeoned themselves with a heavy instrument (an instrument which, in the subsequent health and safety report, they spelt incorrectly). The wonderful irony to the whole thing being that whilst the storm was raging the ROH’s Head of Digital Marketing, Rachel Coldicutt, was at The Media Festival Arts talking about the importance of open data. It is indeed all in the timing.

I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account (or analysis) of the events because you can read them first hand on Intermezzo’s blog, with the legal view here and the marketing view here. I also feel it needs pointing out that there were two distinct issues that got tangled up on Friday, issues which should be separated out:

1. The specific case and what it shows about theatre bloggers, blogging and theatres.
2. The perception of the ROH within the arts community (which is bundled up with the issue of funding and the level of fear that is – justly – prevalent in much of the arts community about what the Autumn funding cuts will look like).
I’ve lots to say on the latter subject but, for today at least, I’m going to stick firmly to the former.

Theatre blogging is a niche pursuit. But then going to sit in a darkened auditorium and watch people speak – or in the case of opera, sing – someone else’s words multiple times a month (or some times a week) is also a niche pursuit. The internet, in all its multifaceted joy, allows a niche to flourish. Like attracts like (or compels like). It not only cements tendencies (that of reading about theatre, of continuing going, of knowing more than you could ever keep in your head), it also allows tendencies to grow. Knowing there is a community of people out there doing the same thing – theatre-going is a tribe as much as anyone else. Of course not all repeat theatre goers blog but, in 2010 with the ease of google, I’d be surprised to find a repeat theatre-goer (who wasn’t directly involved in the industry*) who had never read a theatre blog. These people – the people whose names might otherwise be simply one in a marketing database – should be hugely valued (and respected). And if not now, then when? As we get ready to batten down the hatches and weather the oncoming storm Theatres should be respecting these people more than ever.

Theatre blogging, like all individual blogging, is massively democratic. A “name” will only get you so far. But you can make yourself a name within the community. There are many, many ways to do this – most are a niche within a niche, either because of their predilection to certain types of theatre or because of their locality – but what unites theatre bloggers is their dedication (have you tried going to see multiple shows and then coming home and writing them – without being paid to do so? It’s bloody hard work when, frankly, you’d rather be in bed). Every single one of them, even the most world weary or caustically brilliant (you know who I’m looking at), love of what they write. They want theatres to succeed, they want the next show they see to be the best thing they have ever seen, they want to share their excitement (or, as it may be, disappointment).

Recently the Guardian Theatre Blog made me want to put my fist through my computer. From the moment I saw the title of the article – Five stars in their eyes: can you trust unpaid theatre critics? – I knew it was most likely going to result in my feeling the need to jab a knitting needle in my eye. Theatre bloggers, with their wordpress and blogspot accounts, are unpaid. Some might occasionally get free tickets but by and large they pay for the privilege of sitting in a theatre’s seat (or standing as the case may be) and then come home and write about it for free. I was genuinely pained when I saw that the article had caused Jake Orr, who founded the – excuse me for the expletive – fucking important A Younger Theatre, say that he was “somewhat down heartened and questioning the value of what [he writes]”. No one comes out as a fully formed theatre critic. What you need is dedication, some degree of writing flair, a willingness to see a lot of theatre, the knowledge you can always learn (or re-learn) and a whole bundle of passion. Theatre bloggers in the UK have these characteristics in abundance. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be writing about theatre and people wouldn’t be reading them. For me a critic is only as good as my relationship with them. Through my reading – whether I visit their blog in a vaguely stalker-ish manner on a hourly basis or whether I drop in and out according to interest in what they’re reviewing – I know their biases, I know their specialisms, I know where I stand in relation to them. This is what matters. That they also entertain, inform and (sometimes) provoke me is all part of the package.

What blogs create – something which Twitter’s popularity amongst the art-prone has intensified and broadened** – is a web of community. Forget six degrees of separation, I’d decrease it to one degree for the online arts enthusiasts. What role you play in this community can be as diverse as any real-life community might be (whether you see yourself as the Mayor in waiting, the person drawing graffiti on the bridges or occasional tourist who wants to see the major attractions). Words spread (with some voices, as in any community, being louder). In the offline world I’m often asked about shows people should see and I clocked recently that my default response is to fall back on what the “buzz” is on the theatre blogs. Theatre bloggers are word-of-mouth amongst friends magnified – because anyone who can access the internet can be their “friend”. If you under estimate the scale of this community and its ability to communicate – well, then you end up with the Royal Opera House on Friday.

As Intermezzo says on her latest post on the subject theatre blogging is here to stay. I first blogged about theatre-going in 2001, I first bought a theatre ticket directly because of something I’d read on a blog back in April 2007 (when I didn’t even live in London) because of this. It’s laughable that it’s 2010 and many of our major arts institutions haven’t realised that blogging exists as more than a vague concept (or something that someone in their marketing department does in a half-arsed, vaguely inept manner). The theatre companies who have embraced social media (and embrace means more than just being there with your twitter account RTs of positive comments and Facebook page of official photos) are largely the ones without buildings (there is a notable exception up in Stratford). When you’re filling spaces with hundreds of seats every night it’s easy to forget the individual theatre goer sitting in E23 up in the Amphitheatre. When every person you engage with your work matters – as it does for many small and medium sized companies – you don’t forget the individual. That ticket sale – those future ticket sales – matter. That’s why these companies understand that “social” goes both ways.

Having been a long time blog reader I’m happy to say that theatre blogging in the UK is more exciting than it has ever been. It’s also expanding at a faster rate than I’ve ever seen before. Am I surprised that Friday happened? Absolutely not. Maybe the ROH is lucky that it happened now and not six (or twelve months) later, just as the Tricycle is lucky that this happened in 2008. It’s time, however, not just for (if an organisation is lucky) having one person in a marketing department who knows what a theatre blogger is. All it takes is a clear policy, a lightness of touch, and the humility to remember that these people buy tickets to your shows.

Remember that love I mentioned earlier? That love is for your industry, your venue, your show. Embrace it, don’t stamp all over it in steel-capped boots. Why shouldn’t press photos be available to bloggers as long as they’re properly credited? Given that you have charged them money for your product why shouldn’t bloggers review show whilst they’re in previews? Talk to us. We’re bloggers, we love a conversation. But – and here’s the big lesson – bloggers will not bend to you. Five years ago, maybe, but not now. This community – it’s too big and vocal, for that. You need to adapt and respond to us, not the other way around. Change, innovate, blaze a trail. You might even learn something.

*I’m constantly shocked when people inside the industry can’t name a theatre blogger.

**Not every tweeter blogs but I’d guess 97% of bloggers tweet.

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Last year my Latitude journey started with a rush across South London (halfway through which I realised I’d forgotten my oyster card), complete with bags, tent and over-sized Cath Kidston roll mat in order to deliver the major component of not mine, but someone else’s, MA. After that, this year was going to be blissful and stress-free and, crucially, devoid of me swearing at a Goldsmiths College printer.

Or that was the plan.

Now it is raining in Suffolk, the trees are beginning to bend from the wind and I have been sat on a non-moving train somewhere in Essex for almost one hour. And it’s not that I’m stressed – I’m sitting down and not hitting a printer – but more that I’m stuck here whilst the teenage girls on the seats in front of me have begun hitting each other with their roll mats. Then – at the point when I’m considering mild physical violence – we’re unceremoniously dumped off of the train at Colchester station. Overhead line failure! Chaos! Teenagers bound for Latitude!

It continues in this manner for twenty minutes or so, but with added incomprehensible tannoy announcements that go something along the lines of “Baaaaaah…shufffle…rustle…THERE ARE NO TRAINS…rustle…shuffle”, before I’m back on a train with someone else’s luggage in my ear. Thankfully for both you and me (really, do you want another paragraph of my travel woe and increasing need to use exclamation marks?) pretty much the next thing I know I’m on a shuttle bus to the site (luggage taken out of ear), the sun is shining and all that is left is for myself and @cat_elliott to voice our not inconsiderable opinions on the changes that (from the online map) have been made to the Latitude site. For, yes, attendance at three out of five possible Latitudes has filled me with many opinions and views, of which I am not reluctant to share. Because – did anyone else notice that they’ve moved the comedy tent?

Aherm.

Flash forward to arrival and, being a two mallett campsite (smug, us? Well, yes), our neighbours have borrowed my mallett and we’re sat on the grass drinking Pim’s. Which is how any Latitude should begin. Albeit next year I’m going to make sure I check exactly how many of my tent pegs I’ve destroyed before arrival at a windswept campsite.

After the preliminary wander around the site – did I mention that someone moved the comedy tent?, the annual don’t look down toilet trip and a trip to the hog roast van (other than maybe Early Edition and blue splashback jokes, nothing says Latitude to me more than a hog roast. Which probably proves I should spend my time at Latitude eating less pig) it was time, in true WBN form, to check out the theatre tent. Which also has been moved! And only has one entrance! And a queue being marshalled by stewards as opposed to a random free-for-all survival of the fittest. If I could use the word without sounding like a numpty (and believe, I have tried) I’d say awesome.

We’re just in time for Les Enfants Terribles‘s The Vaudevillians which combines song, a murder mystery and pyschopathic puppet. Now before you read on here you should note two things: i)I spent the first half of this show standing at the top of the raked seating (more uncomfortable than it sounds) and ii)it is only partly in jest that a WBN catchphrase for new writing is “cut the first 15 pages!”. As @cat_elliott rather asutely noted the opening monologue of this show sounds like one of those vaguely poetic McDonalds adverts and though it is all very competently done I can’t help but feel that The Vaudevillians spends a lot of time circling before it gets to its point. If I were being flippant I’d say something like SHOW ME THE MONEY here. There are some lovely touches – the mime artist has the kind of pay off that must have made the company squeal with delight when it was realised (and if they didn’t squeal with delight then they should have, it’s good) – but touches can’t disguise a show which is a good twenty minutes longer than it should have been (I’m being a little bit polite here, at one point I thought it might go on forever and I’d have to spend all my Latitude watching it). Plus, and again this is a particular rant of mine, the show was being played on a thrust stage but had clearly been directed for an end-on audience. Not good.

Post The Vaudevillians there was a mass exodus (undoubtedly in a bid to not-quite-see Tom Jones play in the woods) whilst I staked my claim to a prime spot for the RSC’s The Thirteen Midnight Challenges of Angelus Diabolo.

[Interupting this broadcast for some backstory – I know, if I was dramturging this blog post I’d CUT it all: the RSC and I have some Latitude history of the not entirely pleasant kind. I came along to their 2008 show, ostensibly written by Anthony Neilson, fresh off the back of thinking that Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia was one of the most original, brilliant pieces of theatre I’d ever seen. It was midnight, my first Latitude and the RSC. I was expecting magic. And what I got instead were two actors wearing ill-fitting black leggings and reciting lines from Eastenders. By the time the zombies came out of the woods – the one moment when I thought theatrical magic might explode upon us – it was too late. I was filled with contempt that the RSC thought they could treat an audience in this manner just because we were at a festival. I raged at the most basic of misunderstandings. Cut to 2009 and the RSC did manage to pull it round slightly with a solid if not exactly spectacular midnight performance of witchcraft and witchburning that at least gave a nod to its Suffolk setting. Plus this was at least spooky enough that when I saw the lead actor in the foyer of the Globe a few weeks later I was sufficiently spooked by his presence to step backwards and hope he’d stopped the witch burning and all that]

Back to 2010, Angelus Diabolo is a reworking of the Faust story, with an under-talented but over-egotistical actor making a pact with the devil. And, you know what, I’m actually laughing. Proper, this aches slightly laughter. Whilst also cringing slightly for the poor audience member who is unexpectedly dragged on stage to have his bottom fondled. Plus as the play goes on I actually start to feel some of the huge emotional pull that the final minutes of the Faust story bring with it. But – and, oh I hate to have a but given how much more I enjoyed this than 2008’s effort – it still feels under-developed and, well, like the RSC aren’t taking their Latitude effort entirely seriously. Because this one could have been actually good (as opposed to ‘good for the RSC at Latitude’ which isn’t the tag they should be striving for) if they’d shaved off some of the audience indulgence and oh-we’re-the-RSC-we’re-going-to-lampoon-ourselves-for-being-serious-and-Shakespearean. Me, I’d have taken a real-time Angelus vs the Devil final confrontation (because the actor playing Diabolo was more than good enough for it) and had them thrill me to my core. Some times you really shouldn’t be scared of dropping the gimmicks and just being excellent.

And with that it was time to crawl back to the campsite to dream of actors having their fingers cut off…

Did you know I have a ‘thing’ about water? Not a ‘thing’ thing, just a writer’s thing. I blame early indocrination on Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath and T S Eliot – and, oh, I could go on. Thus far in my writing life I have made characters fall into the river Cherwell, mythologise a trip to a Scottish loch, dance in a fountain, skinny dip in a lake as 1999 passed into 2000 and decide the future of their thirty odd year relationship by a duck pond. Indeed in a first draft read through of that particular play the most universally loved aspect of the play was the ducks and I understood why. I could list the one hundred and one metaphorical/ literary/ allusive reasons I come back to water time and time again, just like I could try and list the reasons why I could never live somewhere that wasn’t (at the very least) near a river. And why I have to make periodic trips to see the sea or else I might combust. But I’m sure you’re smart enough to guess them – or, better still, invent your own more complex ones.

The water thing, then, was part of the reason that I immediately loved the idea of Hannah Nicklin‘s The smell of rain reminds me of you. The idea is that you submit your (true) stories of kissing someone in the rain. As it happens, in the depths of my ‘Unblogged’ file I had one such story I’d already written up (but then, as the title of the file it resides in suggests, had never published because of things like scruples and privacy and the fact that the blog post concerned goes on to talk about my watching the son of someone famous take drugs in the lobby of a hotel. Ah, those were the days). So I found said blog, cut and pasted the relevant bit as – crikey – four years later I know I’ve shared much worse.

So now it resides as part of the growing collection of  The smell of rain reminds me of you. Th0ugh, no, I’m not saying which is mine (though, if you know the lyrics of Gary Lightbody then it shouldn’t be too difficult). And if you’ve got a story and feel even vaguely writery then you should add yours too to what is fast becoming a beautiful, funny and often moving project.

[As a side issue should anyone feel like taking in other weather conditions I have a cool snow story too].

I felt the need to finally break my blog silence today (if the fact I have only blogged about once before can count as breaking a silence).

That is for one reason. In Deptford (which in SE London nestles between its trendy student cousin New Cross and rich sometime snobby uncle Greenwich) a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions is taking place.

I have grown to love Deptford during my time in London. It is where my place of work resides so I have spent lots of time walking its streets. I love its awesome market and the quirky nature it holds, and its inhabitants all possess. One of its gems is being taken away however. And without a sad whimper.

The Deptford Arms on Deptford High Street is closing down. Without warning and without any sign of a petition or anything. It is being replaced with a Betting shop… Or should I say ANOTHER betting shop. PADDY POWER coming soon! – It says in the windows of the boarded up pub. That will mean that a 100m stretch of Deptford High Street will have at least four bookies. Nothing seems to hit home more about the fact we really might have to deal with a recession (apart from the actions of a Tory government –… Liberal who?) than countless Bookmakers popping up everywhere when everyone else is closing down. Suddenly gambling with risk and chance is the only way some will find to make ends meet – to find a way to gain the wealth people feel is at least acceptable. It is this risk that seems so more appealing when your pay check no longer stretches further than one pint (thus the closing pub)

… So where do the arts fit into the changing face of Deptford High Street (and changing name to Betford or perhaps Debtford). Two things:   The Deptford Arms closing is tragedy of Shakespearian proportions because it is the place Marlowe met his tragedy. It is where Christopher Marlowe is meant to have been stabbed and it had still existed till this very day (does anyone know if it is still the original building? – answers on e-postcards, please) until Paddy Power decided to move in and give the people extensive choice on where they want to gamble their money and loiter in until about 9pm (!). The second thing is it reminds me of something that someone from Birmingham Rep once said at Exeter Uni at a conference at some point (my memory is profound). We seemed to be just approaching the recession then and many people were pondering how this would affect the arts. The chap from the Birmingham Rep stated that a recession meant that theatre had to take MORE risks and not play safe like he felt most would. He believed that it would be risk that would find the success stories and that a recession meant artists had to be even more creative, think even further away from the dreaded box to find the next big thing.

It is in this regards that I think performance should follow the example of Betford. We need to gamble to find the products and shows that will give us cultural wealth. Even if we remain short of pocket. It is that empty feeling in our wallets that should make everyone push the boundaries of theatre to find the next huge show.

So pay heed big theatres and producing houses. Pay heed companies and artists who think now might be the time to play safe. People short of money will take a risk on something they think could be new and great. Not safe, old and more of the same. They can’t afford it. Pay heed or find your establishment go the way of something similar to Marlowe’s now defunct watering hole. Pay heed or watch your theatre become a Foxy Bingo bingo hall.

Charlie.

Today I took myself, my phone and a bag of nibbles (a girl needs to eat after all) and, in aid of Empty Shops Day, walked around my neighbourhood taking photos of – well, as the title of the day may suggest – empty shops. There was a bit of added fun in there as I only moved to Lewisham – South East London – three weeks ago (obviously I had to leave Streatham – in South West London – just before it turned into a political hotspot). Lewisham, or to be more specific Forest Hill, isn’t entirely an unknown quantity for me – I lived here for seven months when I first moved to London. So I was intrigued to see what has (or hasn’t) happened to the area in the time I’ve been away.

First the good news – there was a cute coffee shop in what had formerly been an empty shop at the bottom of my old street.

And – well, that was that. None of the other shops that had been empty back in 2008 had been occupied. And there was now a whole new bunch of empty shops to go with them. Empty breeds empty – after all why would you choose to open a shop in an area that is pretty much deserted?

Empty Shop (Clothing Retailer)

It seemed even more acute to me after attending Brixton Village’s first late night opening the previous week. I think everyone involved in the #BrixVill project knows this is still a work in progress but if I think back to the space merely six months ago it’s difficult to comprehend how much has changed. As well as some of the start-ups continuing after the rent-free period has finished there are new businesses that started independently of the project. There’s a real buzz about the place. And I’m incredibly proud that Write By Numbers got to be part of the story (as much as I blushed hideously when Lovely Julia introduced me to one of the new shop keepers as being from the theatre company who were instrumental in getting people into the market for the first time, I’m intensely proud that we – and the other brilliant, crazy, hilarious art projects that occupied the market over the course of the three months – made a difference).

Empty Shop (Blockbusters)

In two days time I’m going to be voting for people who are going to have to take responsibility for what has happened to Forest Hill’s shops. As I see it nothing short of something on the scale of Brixton Village will do. It doesn’t need to be the same plan – but it does need to be as audacious, to take risks, to look to the surrounding area, to see that trade and arts and communities are all bound up. Empty shops speak loud for a community. What we do with them speaks louder about who we are – and who we’d like to be.

Empty Shop (Post Office)

The odd thing in my walk was that the area with the biggest concentration was, without doubt, Forest Hill – an area notoriously full of reasonably comfortable commuters. Where do they shop? Sainsburys aside, not in Forest Hill that is clear. If this decline isn’t halted what will Forest Hill be in ten years time? A notch on the East London line with a fabulous museum, a lot of flat conversions and a population who spend their money in chain stores in central London.

Empty Shops (Pets, Cafe, Junk)

I think as a theatre maker I react to all this space with the awe of endless possibility. What I could do with just one of those spaces. What we could enable other people to do. All the ideas and experiences it could generate – not just for me, but for others too. The arts matter in lots of ways but I think the Empty Shops movement shows how they have a real, direct effect on communities. Waiting for what Friday morning will bring, that’s the challenge we all face.

NB: You can see all of my photos on the WBN Flickr page whilst all of the photos from Empty Shops Day are here.

I suspect that this is a subject that I’ll be returning to in more detail in the coming weeks but I think Sam West’s speech at Manifesto for Theatre Conference deftly makes the case that everyone in the arts should be shouting loudly about now.

I’m going to talk about hat wearing.

And that’s not just because I like hats (though I do) but because it’s something I’ve been very aware of since, just over 18 months ago, I decided to stop writing in my spare time and decided to do the thing that paid my rent in my spare time and write in my full time. Being a writer means you’ve got a lot of hats to wear.

“What do you do?” is an easy enough question. But how do I answer it?

Well, there’s my Writer Hat. I write plays. I’ve got a half written novel. I write blogs.

Then there’s my plethora of Write By Numbers Hats. I’ve got my Artistic Director Hat. I’ve got my Marketing Hat. I’ve got my Accountant Hat. I’ve got my Tea Making Hat. I’ve got my Planning Hat. I’ve got my Workshop Leader Hat.

I’ve got my Literary Associate Hat. My Dramaturg Hat. My workshop Assistant Hat.

I’ve got my Journalist Hat. I’ve got my Columnist Hat. I’ve got my Reviewer Hat.

I’ve got my Shakespeare Hat. Given that this is the hat that (most regularly) pays my rent I’m reasonably fond of this one. But it’s the one I define myself least by.

And what do all these metaphorical hats mean? Hat- hair I guess.

Having had the luxury of spending a good chunk of January/February entirely wearing my Ovid Reworked – The Brixton Project Hat I’m very aware now that I’m back to the hat swapping routine. Some of that is very exciting – I am itching to get back to work on some of those stories that are floating around my head and commit them to the keys on my laptop. My head is buzzing with new plans, new opportunities which The Brixton Project has opened up for us. But some of the hats are, I know, hats I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear if choice were an option. They’re hats I wear, to borrow a phrase from Avenue Q, “only for now”.

But I know if I were to go back to Writers School (if such a thing exists) I would tell anyone thinking of writing to get ready for the hats.

It was pointed out to me this week what an absurd thing it is for people to do to sit in a darkened room with a group of strangers and be transfixed by a person on a stage pretending to be someone else. And I’m sure if you thought about it too hard you’d have to nod and say – yes, it is an absurd thing. Make believe and all that.

But me, I always liked make believe.

And this week I had one of those reminders of how stomach-churning, hairs of the back of your neck raising theatre can be during the last twenty minutes of Mother Courage and Her Children at the National. To be entirely honest I’d gone out of curiousity rather than expectation (in one of those random gaps that occur in theatre-going I’d never seen a Brecht play on stage). The most used word about the production from those I’d asked about it was “long”. And long doesn’t bother me – once you’ve sat through a Wagner opera then “long” isn’t something that scares you – but when the first thing that springs to mind about a production is its length? Not so good.

And yes, Mother Courage is long. With a first half of two hours I don’t think I’m being controversial in saying that it is too long. And, yes, having a live band on stage (and slowing up the action even more) was a little self indulgent. Okay, rather a lot.

But – and this is one of those huge, clunking buts – I was never less than engaged. I loved the invention. I loved the humour. I loved the money I could see had been spent. I loved, loved Fiona Shaw as a Mother Courage that you were at once compelled and repulsed by.

And I would have gone home happy enough with that. Then in one of those moments that only come around every so often everything just came together in the last twenty minutes of the show in such a way that it split my world a little. Brecht’s story, the acting, the directing, the sound, the lighting and then, oh, the music – and I wanted to scream. Wanted to jump up and bang with Katrin. And then in the play’s dying moments as eternity stretched out in front of me I wanted to melt into the sound of the voice, and the drum beat, as Mother Courage continues as she must continue. Wanted this not to finish as I cried and my heart broke a little and I saw something that I can’t articulate but which I understood completely.

Could that moment have been written? No, of course it couldn’t. It compelled me so completely because it was a product of more than words. The effect of light into darkness, of a rhythm in a song, of a quiver in a voice.

Which is probably why I find myself here, writing for performance and not writing a novel because all of the stuff you can’t control, all the places your words can go – that’s what excites me.

Just over a week ago I packed my bags, bundled myself into a National Express coach and (once the seemingly never-ending journey had finished) spent what turned out to be a slightly longer than anticipated break in Leeds. I’d vowed to have a work-less, theatre-less week and though I was nearly distracted by a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at  an old haunt of mine I actually managed it. Then I ended up re-visiting years gone by first on a friend’s then on my parents’ bathroom floor and, well, nice end to a holiday and all that.

But now I’m back in London and it does mark, I suspect, the moment where I pick up in earnest everything I need to be doing. A year ago this week I started my MA and now, as I returned the last of my library books, it’s another sort of challenge.

First up? The 513 new theatre related blog entries that have collected in my RSS reader in my absense. I may be some time…

Charlie and I are sitting deep under London Bridge Station in Shunt Lounge. We’re about to watch a show which involves a marshmallow and a teddy bear. I’m rather hoping that I might get a marshmallow*.

The Stage Manager closes the black curtains to my right. That’s it; we’re contained in the bowels of the world.

“We’re trapped now!” Charlie exclaims. “Maybe forever”.

I consider this for a moment.

“There are worse places to be forced to spend eternity”.

And oh, there are. Because Shunt Lounge is the type of place where you just stumble upon the unexpected (last night: a room full of taxidermy which we were led to by a path of candles, the candles making me think of sinister fairytale entrapment). It’s the kind of place where I come out with fifteen new ideas for shows which I want to create (and that’s not just the epic portions of vodka speaking). It’s a space that just crackles with creativity and insanity and weirdness and all those other things that make it very special indeed.

But it’s not going to be there much longer what with the London Bridge redevelopment taking over (I heard a rumour – which I hope to be unfounded – that it is to be filled in with concrete as foundations for whatever it is that is being built on top of it. Talk about a flippin’ metaphor). There’s a new venue in Bermondsey Street which I’m sure will be as wonderful and ramshackle as the London Bridge vaults by the time that Shunt have got their hands on it but, well…I’ll miss the magic of this place.

*I didn’t. Bah.

Write By Numbers is a new-writing theatre company. This is where we blog.

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