Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yolande Philpott - Aromatherapist

I am glad my daughter has put up a website, so you can now contact her easily. Yolande Philpott - Aromatherapist and Holistic Massage Practitioner

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Act Without Words

I just went to see one of NoFit State's new projects - still in development, and preparing to launch further afield, I hope. Mundo Paralelo (parallel world)

I loved it!

I've seen a lot of shows in my life, more in my youth (when live shows were more or less the only option) and less recently (when I can use YouTube to catch acts I missed in the past, or simply want to see again, like the wonderful George Carl.)

Live shows remain quite different from recordings of any kind. So to see a live show in a small and intimate theatre remains a treat.

To put this in context - if you don't follow my life, my stream of thought, my previous experiences, etc - I worked in an area which people tend to call 'circus skills' but which seem just as at home in the theatre world when called Music Hall, Variety and Vaudeville, or even on the street.

Traditional 'circus' focused entirely around these kind of acts, whereas theatre-based shows merely used them as filler between comedians and singers, and other 'top of the bill' acts. The performers of specialty acts had to keep moving on, as they had spent years honing these brief but strenuous displays and always had to seek out new audiences. Singers could learn new songs and come back next week, just as comedians could get some new jokes.

I always had a love for these acts that specialized and dedicated insane hours to perfecting something out of the ordinary - but they almost got killed by television, which would show those perfect five minutes (a life's work) to a few million people and then ask "what else do you do, for next week?"

At least they could travel outside of their language zones, as non-verbal acts work almost anywhere in the world. So they traveled endlessly.

In the second half of the twentieth century new acts didn't have places to hone and polish their routines (like the old Variety and Vaudeville circuits) and circus and variety were 'dying out' (although rumours of their death were perhaps premature). A whole new world emerged from fringe and experimental theatre actors and cabaret artistes mingling with performance artists, seeking new venues, reviving and combining old skills, and creating new audiences.

'New circus' (so-called) opened opportunities for supporting and developing this very popular aspect of the performing arts. It created mutant performers - part variety, part actor, part dancer...

NoFit State (in 25 years) has always experimented - moving from alittle Big Top with family-oriented shows, to warehouse-based community-involvement shows all the way up to an international touring show in their unique venue (the UFO tent), drawing on many influences, and creating a distinct company profile which has attracted a range of international performers, designers and directors to work with them.

The recent ambient shows, aimed at young adults, have felt more like being in a club with wonderful stuff happening all around you.

Now NoFit State have begun work on creating a show that could work within the traditional proscenium arch theatre, but not in the form of a play. Many theatre buildings started out filled with the dramatic effects possible within the frame of the stage - trapdoors, revolving scenery, and other special effects - but once film took over they stopped competing in that magical realm, and reverted to some kind of 'flat' realism.

Mundo Paralelo returns to the magical roots of theatre, using all the resources of the hidden spaces in the wings, below the stage, and up in the flies.

The child giggling through the first ten minutes felt like the audience to work for - as the performers exploited all the tricks possible in a theatre, that touring circus is deprived of.
Circus has always been a sculpture, something seen in three dimensions, with very few 'secrets'.

In a theatre it is possible to play with the hidden areas, flying things in and out. We had a music soundtrack (supplemented by live musicians on stage) but no language as such - just humans entering and leaving the stage every which way. I don't intend to break down the show into individual parts, just yet, simply to exclaim at what fun it is to see such a show. Something that doesn't rely on language to be enjoyed. Something full of glee.

A show that makes a child giggle, as well as an adult smile.

It seems worth remembering that the Surrealists loved Circus and Variety (as opposed to the literary, bourgeois theatre of the Academy Francais, etc.) References to Beckett might seem pretentious, but Waiting For Godot works best performed by great clowns like Max Wall (the bowler hat business comes straight from Laurel and Hardy). In Act Without Words I Beckett experimented with an empty stage; a bewildered protagonist teased by ropes lowering objects down from the flies, some simple stage props like cubic boxes; the performer like a rat in a maze, trapped might be very deadpan, but Beckett really should make you laugh and sigh (he, like Joyce and many other funny writers got claimed by the po-faced intelligensia).

I loved the emotion in this Mundo Paralelo show, and the laughs, the gasps and sighs. When the performers don't voice an opinion about what you are witnessing it becomes essential that the audience create a soundtrack (I don't mean canned laughter) just as they had to when challenged by the silence of the wonderful (wonder full)mime of Marcel Marceau in his prime alone on stage, or (for instance) the unique Mummenshanz - who defied all categories of mime, mask, puppet, dance and comedy - transfixing a worldwide audience with a unique show, in which the audience formed the only soundtrack.

Mundo Parelelo seems full of possibilities to me. In this, its first week, it achieved a magical level of universal theatre - something that works outside of language limitations. I so look forward to its development and evolution.

My thanks to all the company and crew that provided the show this evening, and I wish you luck in pitching it to the wider world. Either way, and whatever your fate, thank you for a magical evening that reminded me of the best shows I saw as a child, all of which made me want to play in the arts in the first place. Recommended! Delightful!

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Back Story

Work on the autobiography has slowed down...some of it has been computer problems (but those are excuses, while I still have pen and paper), some (as ever) technical problems with writing, itself.

How much do I remember? How much old archive stuff can I find to refer to? What can one safely say about people still living (in terms of their privacy, not in terms of being rude about them!)

I don't bear any grudges, to speak of (a few scars, maybe). As one get older it becomes possible to take a wider view of experiences...when I became an adult and an incompetent parent I became much more forgiving of my own parents (I realise they did they best in the circumstances they found themselves in).

Forgiveness feels so much better, anyway - forget the religious advice, or the moral stance. Forgiveness (even if only one-sided and not mutual) drops a whole burden of resentment, guilt, and other negative emotions.

I don't write this in expectation that many people outside my intimate circle would necessarily find it interesting (although I guess I have a pool of Star Wars fans who might find some of it interesting - and even people who wonder how New Circus emerged in the second half of the Twentieth Century. But I don't kid myself.

If no-one else, I would like my descendants to have a few clues to follow, as my own dad's early life seem wreathed in mystery to me. So for Yolande Philpott, my daughter from The Sixties, and her daughter Matilda (who thinks of me as Grandpa Toby, a role I love); for Keili Jorge Philpott (my son from The Seventies, now living in Oz) and for Finlay Pearl (who will reach the age of 16 this year) I want to put down at least a little of what I experienced, why I acted as I did, and made the decisions I did, etc.

It has been a fun life to live, maybe I can turn some of it into an interesting read.
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