This is the showing off section.
You know the drill:
“What I’ve done, who I am, yadda, yadda, yadda”.
So, to offset against all that, let’s start with a bit about a woman who inspired the theatre world & risked it all for her craft.
It’s my firmly held belief that Joan Littlewood changed the face of British theatre for working class actors and audiences alike. I also think she was absolutely ‘on the nose’ when she said:
“Theatre should be free, like water, love or air”
Accessibility is the name of the game.
The arts should & must be for everybody.
Everyone needs to experience what Joan described when she once said to an interviewer:
“Have you ever seen people who’ve never danced before, dancing?
They become so beautiful and alive.
That’s what theatre is, you see?
And that is the crux of it for me.
Communion. Community. Caring.
We all need a bloody good laugh, to relate to others, to learn a little & to experience a bit of magic.
Get On With It!
OK, OK, back to ‘this is me’.
As the great Dorothy Parker once proclaimed:
“Excuse my dust!”
What’s Yer Label, Mabel?
I won’t bore you with a list of jobs I’ve done. Instead I’ll pop down some labels wot I can justify should I be asked because the world seems to like labels – and so, here’s some labels I can offer back to the world:
Joan Littlewood Inspiree.
“Cobblers!” I hear you holler. “Stop showing off & get back to ‘who you are’, you great ninny”
The Fine Art Of Boozing
Memory Lane Alert!
I’ve been knocking about in the arts game for about 30 years now – sounds like a cue for a blues number.
(Imagine a bit of ‘dirty blues’ underpinning the next section – zaps it up no end!)
“BRUVVERS PANTO – PAY WHAT YOU CAN”
[Mike Mould ran Bruvvers, which he’d brought to the North East because he wanted to “Take theatre to the people” having grown up in London’s East End experiencing the work of Joan Littlewood & Theatre Workshop].
So off I went to see my first bit of theatre – along with about half of Chopwell village.
By 1989, I’d decided drama was something I had to explore further. I was like a junkie for workshops. So, I went & looked into drama schools. At the same time, I didn’t want to be around what I perceived to be ‘luvvies’.
So, after a bit of research & the purchase of Theatre Games by Theatre Workshop’s Clive Barker (who I got the honour of working with a little later), East 15 Acting School stood out to me as it was the nearest in practice & philosophy to my own youth theatre experience.
I got the prospectus & knew for sure I had to audition there. It spoke about ‘exploring further’ & ‘risk’ & ‘fun’ & ‘play’ & ‘improvisation’ & ‘inclusion’. And it had original, colourful, insane artwork splattered on it. This was a definately different type of training. They seemed to work by their own rules & practices & they seemed edgy in their desire to explore further.
The school was on the outskirts of town, near Epping Forest – so these were definitely the outlaws of theatre training! The Dick Turpins of the drama world! They appealed to me more & more.
“Stand and deliver! The story of your life!”
I’d like to bring things to a close by sharing what I was taught, from an early age:
You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
In ‘The Rebel’ by Tony Hancock, the incredible Irene Handl (as Mrs Crevatte, the Landlady) goes to Hancock’s room to have a gander at his “genius”.
There was only one Irene Handl
The scene is everything:
(Pointing at a piece of artwork)
Oh my good gawd, what’s that ‘orrible thing?
That, madam, is a self portrait!
Who of? Laurel & Hardy!
Whenever I make work I always ask myself:
What would Mrs Crevatte make of it?
That keeps things real.
Life is nowt without the likes of Brendan
The late, great Brendan Behan, who always kept it real (surreal!) once wrote:
“The only bad publicity is an obituary”
True words Brendan, bonny lad, true words.
So in the end?
To end where I began – with the foremother of modern theatre herself! (Or at least with those she had inspired)
Joan was the beginning for countless numbers of arts folk.
She took no prisoners, she took risks, she took the piss, she inspired with her work and her actions.
There aren’t many who deserve the label ‘genius’ – but Joan Littlewood was a genius.
She once told Philip Hedley:
“I built my life on the rock of change”
Yes Joan Maud Littlewood, you most certainly did that.
And I am one of legions who had a door opened to them thanks to your efforts – we built our lives on the changes you made to our culture.
We owe you a debt.
But let’s not get sentimental. I’m told you’d hate that shit!
Instead I’ll continue to do my bit in the fight to ensure those doors Theatre Workshop fought so hard to crack open – stay open.
That’s how our debt can be repaid.
“Everyone an artist”
Too bloody true.
We’re on it Joan!