Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be selected as a Festival Writer for In Between Time, an international festival of performance held in Bristol. I was given a shiny pass, which said Press on it, so naturally I put on my Press hat, cried “what a scoop!” and headed down to the festival.
The festival had programmed an exciting smorgasbord of work related to/responding to the theme of Storm, including commissioning an installation which, several times a day, turned the Pero’s Bridge into a Wuthering Heights theme park.
Because of all the Fog. Because there’s like, load of fog in Wuthering Heights. On the moors. Isn’t there? Or am I thinking of Jane Eyre? Or the short story, “The Fog that Drove Everyone Insane.”
OH FORGET IT.
One of the privileges of being gifted a press pass involved working on a writing project with Guardian Reviewer’s Maddy Costa, and receiving a masterclass in theatrical review from Lyn Gardner. For Maddy we were tasked with writing a response to the theme of Storm and the many ideas/images/thoughts/patterns/shapes it spider diagrammed off into.
Death! Life! The future! Childhood! Climate change! Penguins! You get the idea.
The responses from the 8 Festival Reviewers were placed on the Gathering Storm mini site, embedded within the IBT festival site.
I chose to write a poem of sorts, a response to the theme of childhood, focusing on the glass half empty future of my unborn child. Trust me, it’s as fun as it sounds. It’s a laugh a minute. You will need a doctor on call for those broken ribs. Although I don’t think they can fix broken ribs. I think they just wrap a towel around you and send you home to sit still for two weeks. So maybe just get a comfy chair ready, along with a box set.
I would suggest The Affair. That’s pretty good. Or the third season of Dexter. Actually, what am I saying? Gilmore Girls. All the time forever. I’ll come round and break your ribs so you can watch all 7 seasons. WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Maddy placed my poem next to postcards from her seven-year-old daughter and a few of her classmates, which are “addressed to grown-ups, telling us the things they would like us to change to make the world a nicer place for them to grow up in.”
It makes for a wonderfully disturbing juxtaposition, and can be viewed here.
I attended a variety of events: panels by international producers on the future of art, schizophrenic cabarets of karaoke, vogueing and full body flesh morph suits, and a journey through Knowle, lead by teeangers who encouraged a brief resurrection of my inner child, demanding I play on monkey bars and run up and down muddy hills at night. Bastards.
The day after a show we were to email Lyn our review, for feedback. Which meant Guardian reviewer and revered theatre critic Lyn Gardner would read our reviews.
Writing a concise, succinct, well structured review for the first thing I saw, the previously mentioned two hour schizophrenic cabaret or (to give it it’s official title) (M)IMOSA / TWENTY LOOKS OR PARIS IS BURNING AT THE JUDSON CHURCH (M) proved tricky. It was a bacchanal talent show of karaoke, neon twerking, Kate Bush impressions and delicious nudity.
I should have just said that.
Instead I spent three and a half hours on one good paragraph, and the rest was the on-the-nose ramblings of a dreary drama student with one hand in a Chicago microwaveable deep dish pizza and the other in her pants.
The pressure may have got to me, despite the fact it was a very relaxed situation.
Lyn was very quick to put us at ease when we first met her – she was here to assist us, rather than reprimand or pit us against each other. There was no set blueprint for our reviews, no clear formula to stick to. No torture room for those who failed to use the word Brechtian. She didn’t expect 8 carbon copies of the same thing. Instead she encouraged us to explore, experiment, do whatever we thought most useful for us and our journey as writers/dreamweavers.
I chose to write the review for the next show I saw, Nightwalks with Teenagers, in tandem with Will Drew, another Festival writer. His first review was a tad dry, and mine was a tad moist. Combined we made the perfect roast chicken (review.)
Basically we got a bit drunk and had an excellent discussion about our differing experiences with the piece we had just seen, chatting about how it made us feel, and it can be viewed here. I think it’s a rather interesting writing experiment, which some lovely lines. It sort of reads like a scene for an offbeat play. Maybe quite a pretentious one, because I am a pretentious drunk.
The Official Festival Drink – Rum, something else, an umbrella and juice.
Overall, it was a enjoyable, eye opening, relaxing, terrifying, muddy, sasquatch (?) of a weekend, and I hope to be able to do it again. As in get drunk, learn to think outside my writing box and see great live art.