1986 THE NOISE ABOVE MY FRONT ROOM DRIVES ME MAD
- THE NOISE ABOVE MY FRONT ROOM DRIVES ME MAD was the first living room theatre production in my flat, though not yet presented under the title of BRIXTON heART ROOM. The performance grew out of movement workshops I held in the flat with friends and neighbours in the ‘BRIXTON GAY COMMUNITY’ every Sunday afternoon for about one year. I was at the time in the final year of my degree studies (BA Performing Arts) at Middlesex Polytechnic, London. The workshops were instigated to meet the assessment requirements of a ‘Performance in the Community’ module (tutor: Janet Goodrich) at Middlesex and the resulting performance was presented as part of OIL (OUT IN LAMBETH), a ‘lesbian and gay summer festival’, curated by Nigel Young and Peter Bradley. The text on back of leaflet and the programme of OIL are illustrated below..
The cast comprised of Jonathan Blake, Andreas Demetriou, Ernst Fischer, Massimo Rossetti, John Stanbridge, Malcolm Watson, Nigel Young.OIL (Out in Lambeth 1986) Festival programme, front and back. Click on image to enlarge.OIL Programme sketch. Click image to enlarge.Though many members of the cast had no professional performance training, most had experience in ‘putting on a show’. Jonathan Blake is an ex-actor, who still receives the odd cheque when one of the films he appears in is shown on television, but left the bright lights behind to focus on weaving and ultimately went on to study Gentlemen’s Tailoring at London College of Fashion before working for several years in London Coliseum’s costume department.＊
John Stanbridge had written a successful play for Oval House Theatre in Kennington, which had promptly commissioned him to write a second one. Malcolm Watson had appeared with ‘legendary’ drag group BRIXTON FAIRIES as well as with the late Brett’s (aka Madam Hunter-Gannon’s) brilliant VAUXHALL KUNST-THEATER. Jonathan Blake and Nigel Young also worked with Brett and Nigel wrote altogether three plays - SHOOT, THE RISK (both with Stephen Gee) and ON THE MOVE, which - between 1983 and 1986 - were all performed at Oval House Theatre; he now writes exquisite Haikus. Many of us had danced, walked, crawled, hopped or jumped on the spot in Andreas Demetriou’s dance extravaganzas at Oval House, where, as far as I recall, we also met Massimo Rossetti, who had been an enthusiastic and curious member of the audience and was the only one of our cast not living in the BRIXTON GAY COMMUNITY or its immediate neighbourhood.
Appearing in the OIL programme too and performing, where else but the Oval House, was PINK FEET, WARM BODIES, a gay dance company, formed in 1986 by Andreas Demetriou, Andrew Kean-Hammerson, also graduates of Middlesex Polytechnic, and myself. The company received support from Lambeth Amenities and was moderately successful on the London fringe theatre scene, but was amicably dissolved after only two productions, less than two years after its formation.＊More recently, the character of ‘Jonathan’ (played by Dominic West) in the film PRIDE (released on 12th September 2014, by Pathe) is loosely based on Jonathan Blake, who, together with Nigel Young and others was actively involved in the ‘Gays Support the Miners’ movement of the late 1980’s. The film was written by Stephen Beresford and produced by David Livingstone, who won the BAFTA ‘Outstanding Debut by a Writer & Producer’ award for their efforts.
1991 LIKE THUNDER
- The idea for the piece came about after a visit to a local library in Southwark. I was taking a small group to look at dictionaries. It was an exercise in assessing how well dictionaries define words. While I was perusing Longmans, Collins, The Oxford English, my eye caught the word ‘pogrom’. In Collins it was split into two in one part of the definition: ‘po’ meaning ‘like’ and ‘grom’ meaning ‘thunder’. All the dictionaries defined pogrom in terms of the usual meaning: an act of violence against Jews, but it was only Collins that made me think in creative and dramatic terms about the word.Most Jews in their 40’s will have relatives who will have talked about their experiences of anti-semitism from the last century on. ‘Like thunder’ seemed a perfect metaphor to describe both feelings and the physical realities: the horses’ hooves – like thunder, the rattling of train wheels as people hung beneath to escape – like thunder, hearts pounding – like thunder, hopes soaring (?) – like thunder.... (Nigel Young – for full text please see …………)AUDIENCE RESPONSES TO 'LIKE THUNDER'
––––––––––––––[The] evening was quite delightful. It has given me a new optimism ... such warmth of spirit, politics and hospitality seem very rare these days
––––––––––––––Thank you for a great evening. I laughed, I cried, I ate, I drank. Congratulations to you and Ernst for a super production.
––––––––––––––When I said that there was more going on in your living room piece than in Lindsay’s “Onanisma ...” (sic) at Saddler’s Wells, I really meant it! But each to his own, the devil for all, anyway ... Keep the faith, maybe one day the world will be a better place, shame we won’t be around to see it though!
––––––––––––––I meant to write sooner and tell you how much I enjoyed your play on so many different levels. It made me think and laugh and I know that both Alice and David were impressed with their first experience of ‘close encounter’ theatre – my description!
Tony, Margaret, Laura + Paul
Thank you both so much for a lovely evening... I enjoyed your performance very much. I found it thought provoking, moving and very sensitive. I just loved the set too!
––––––––––––––Enjoyed LIKE THUNDER very much, deserves a wider audience.
I thought I’d send you a fan letter. I really enjoyed last night’s performance. LIKE THUNDER is an excellent piece of work and I thought you and Ernst did it proud. I have to confess that the prospect of a living-room theatre performance caused me some anxiety, everything being so close, but I needn’t have worried. I hope you will be inspired to write some more. Perhaps we could hear Ernst speak next time. I also think you should charge or otherwise solicit donations, even though Ernst said that he felt uncomfortable with that...
1992 TALES FROM AROUND THE CORNER
WATCHING MS. MARYThe inspiration for WATCHING MS. MARY was Brian Aldiss’ novella Report on Probability A, in which two anonymous men (‘A’ and ‘B’) spy on a certain Mrs. Mary as she goes about her daily business, only to be watched in turn by on old man and a boy sitting on a grassy knoll in an entirely different dimension. These two again are being observed by someone else, and so on. This inter-dimensional ‘spy ring’ extends to a group of alien (as in: extraterrestrial) scientists or statistitians, who gather all the emerging data and incorporate it into a weighty report. Unfortunately I never found out what ‘Probability A’ was (or ‘B’ or ‘C’ might be), but the twin themes of domesticity/the everyday and surveillance/spectatorship seemed peculiarly apposite for a ‘living room theatre’ production.Prietzel’s invitation to make a film about my living room theatre practice (see illustration), all relevant material can be found on the MY LIVING ROOM IS A THEATRE page. Why I thought it necessary to also call the show The Gaps, I no longer know. I’m pretty certain though that this is not a reference to ‘the gaps’ between various dim ensions or to the gap between Tube trains and station platforms in London.That the issue of ‘gaps’ exercised me for some considerable time is evidenced by the fact that the term appears again in the subsequent show’s title (Several Short Scenes Appearing Through a Gap in the Wall), though there it seems to allude more clearly to the liminal space between ‘the domestic’ and ‘the theatrical’!
BRIXTON heART ROOM