‘The Drowned Man’ – “Have you ever seen nature inside out? When the sun stands at midday and it’s as if the world was going up in flames?”

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Half way through ‘The Drowned Man’ I found my self watching exactly the same scene I had seen once I had felt my way through a maze of stacked boxes and darkness after being bundled out of the elevator and told to ‘be careful on the streets.’ I realise that I have found myself in the position of a very real flashback. This had already happened, only now, I know the names of the two men, had some idea of why they have been acting so strangely, and knew exactly what their fates would be, where they would go, and the people they would meet. Indeed a strange feeling, made even stranger when one of the men looks into my eyes, examining me deeply, as if looking into his own future, and yet staring past me and through me as if I was not there, but giving me the feeling that I really am part of this experience.

Punchdrunk’s newest production of ‘The Drowned Man,’ where two similar stories run in parallel, is loosely based on Büchner’s unfinished and fragmented story of ‘Woyzeck.’ A lowly soldier driven mad by jealously by his adulterous wife ending in murder and death. In this production this simplicity of a story is vital, because whilst spending time following the main characters is important for those who crave a satisfying story my advice to all those wishing to be ‘punchdrunked’ is to follow for a while, but not to let your hankering for a story thwart your curiosity. Whilst running through the trail of all four floors, the imagination and the boundless ingenuity of the set designers ensures that even if you are alone in a room, drawers can be opened and investigated, phone numbers rung and personal letters read – which at any moment could be snatched out of your hand by a character taunted by your seemingly invisible involvement and intrusion.

The set works in a way that at one moment I found myself in a raucous party where jealously and intense envy operated almost unnoticed through the vast crowds of other audience members and loud music, to being caught inadvertently in a caravan in a seedy looking film trailer park where two characters share a romantic exchange uninhibited by the slightly awkward situation which I haunted. This production has hailed the role of the audience member. As well as capturing glimpses of the characters’ stories through my unanimous mask, I found myself making up my own story, running around the set to the incredibly dynamic music created by Magnus Fiennes affecting the movements of the actors and myself.

Curiosity augmented with fear at what might be round the corner really heightens this performance into an experience. Frustration is rife and there is a constant ubiquitous hardship in losing a character in the flurry of people, but this is a space that forces you to make illicit, irrational and daring choices as an audience member. It coerces you to choose which corner to turn, and which door to take in this seemingly endless space, choosing to ignore ‘do not enter’ signs and snubbing the advice of characters. The blood drenched girl I ran after at one point took me down to the parallel world which marred my understanding of the production at first, but her wild movements and emphatic dances, matched with little speech mirrored the world I had just come from and increased the vitality that this performance gave to me as an audience member. The production and the choices made by all those all involved gave me enormous scope to imagine whatever I wished. Still a day later I am thinking about the lives of many of those imagined and absurd characters in an equally impossible world, scrambling to get a grip of reality and yet obsessed with the celluloid space which was dually inhabited.

To tell you to go and see ‘The Drowned Man’ does not seem to be enough. It is an experience first and foremost, and one that I have no doubt can be experienced again and again. It will leave you asking questions, wanting to open more doors, turn over more papers, and stretch the limits of ‘audience member’ set in place by traditional theatre that little bit more. It will undoubtedly leave you gasping for air in this inexhaustible, man made world, dissimilar to our own and yet teeming with uncertainties and questions that are maybe best left unanswered.

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable’ runs until the 30th December at Temple Studios, London

Thoughts of a Games Maker Post London 2012

It’s hard to put all the experiences I’ve had into words. During the games British athletes were constantly coming off the track and trying to explain how the crowd were what spurred them on; made it worthwhile; helped them win; and are forever in their favour. This is something that I feel as well. I feel as part of London 2012 as if I were an athlete, part of Team GB and part of something which could not have been any greater than what it was.

There is a sense of achievement that comes hand in hand with welcoming thousands of spectators every night. I welcomed every single guest that handed me their ticket, shared my stories and experiences with them and became part of theirs. I cannot hold back when I say that I am so incredibly proud that I was part of the greatest team, in fact I wish I could do it all again. There is nothing more humbling and liberating than receiving over a thousand thank yous a night. It’s the greatest feeling to know that you are doing something good and worthwhile which people, old and young, from every nationality appreciate.
My greatest memories of the games do not simply lie connected with the athletes and what the achieved as it may do for many, but also with what they made the crowd achieve. For five short weeks London was transformed. Whilst scanning tickets I was not met with disgruntled spectators who having stood up, squashed against a tube door for half a hour, had to wait a hour in a security queue that did nothing other than tell them to throw away their water, patiently move as one with the huge crowds coming into the park, walk miles whilst being annoyed by people dressed in purple and red, parched from the lack of water, and watch athletics that was less than inspiring. I was not met with such people, because London achieved something that simply meant that such moods were instantly irradiated. Instead people came in leaps and bounds, families raced each other down the queue lines, took photos of us scanning their tickets, asked us how our days had been all before we could even get a word in, and everyone, of all generations, were inspired.
Some days I came home so happy that all I wanted to do was stand in the stadium for another 10 hours. Sometimes all it took was a simple look at my accreditation to know my name and to be personally thanked by a spectator to catch me off guard and make my etched-on smile even wider. To have some one stop on the way out to thank you for doing such an amazing job when all you were doing was saying goodnight to people and helping a few lost wanders find their way to the correct station, is a delight which seems like I shouldn’t have had because I was enjoying myself too much. Showing a few people directly to their seats was exchanged with a handshake and an enormous thank you, and offering to be the personal photographer for families of all nationalities was met with joyous faces and eternal thanks. There were times when I’d simply be walking to the station in Kent and people would stop me on my way and ask me about the games, people on their bikes rode past shouting ‘well done Games Maker!’ and kind strangers at bus stops went out of their way to talk to and congratulate me on what the games makers had achieved when a particular day didn’t end as brilliantly as yesterdays. I was only one out of 70,000 and yet I alone felt like I had made the games.
I feel spoilt. I feel like I haven’t deserved all the thanks that I was given. Talking to friends at home who had been at the games genuinely questioned what it was that we were told in our briefing rooms, what we were given to eat, that meant that everyone, even the poor games makers on the last mile, who had never been into the park, were so incredibly happy all the time. The truth is that we all loved it. There was no binding contract to being a Games Maker, no threats if we didn’t come in one day, only people saying what an amazing job we were doing. We were all doing an amazing job because we loved it so much. The excitement and the buzz never got boring or old. It was a privilege I cannot believe I’ve had and one that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry. I don’t feel like I should hold back in telling people my tales of the Olympics because I feel so incredibly lucky to have been there. I feel so privileged to have spoken to sport enthusiasts, been there for young inspired children who have asked if I can do the trade mark Bolt pose with them. I have wished athlete’s nervous families to pass on my luck, found lost children with ‘Wenlock fever’ and reunited them with their parents, helped journalists and broadcasters lug their very expensive filming equipment up and down the stairs, and run with a athlete’s disabled coach in a wheel chair right round the stadium just in the nick of time for them to see their young star reach that gold medal they so deserved, all whilst catching a lot of world class athletics myself.
For me there is nothing at all that could come close to replicating the sound and atmosphere of 80,000 people standing up and belting out the national anthem in honour of a triumphant Greg Rutherford or Jessica Ennis amongst many others. It goes without saying that the atmosphere is indescribable and other worldly. Mo Farah’s final 5000m on the last night of athletics is some of the most exciting sports I’ve ever seen. The intense sound of a 80,000 strong audience cheering, shouting ‘GO MO!’ screaming, jumping up and down, and waving flags is the most jubilant, happy and all encompassing feeling of genuine unadulterated delight I’ve ever experienced. It’s difficult to comprehend the elation and atmosphere that was felt when after 600m of sprinting at the front, Mo Farah finally crossed the finishing line, double Olympic champion. It’s moments like those when it’s perfectly acceptable for a games maker to hug the Swedish athletes that have been joining in with the great British support that were standing just behind. Never have I felt such glee and swelled celebration. It’s something I will not ever forget. I’m truly grateful to my 17 year old self for submitting an application, I certainly won’t forget the things I’ve seen and heard, the wonderful people I’ve met and the feeling that I really was an important part in making Team GB our greatest team ever.
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A world celebration: My experience as a 2012 Olympic Games Maker

It’s over a year ago since I applied to be part of the Olympics. It’s over 7 years ago since London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics. I remember counting down the days from 200, going to interviews, training days, picking up my games maker uniform, and finally it’s here. The greatest show on Earth, they call it. I started my shifts on Monday the 23rd July. Wary of how I was dressed (in the oh-so-wonderful almost metallic red and purple games maker uniform) I left the house and hopped on a train that took me directly outside the park. It’s so easy to find, and the transport information volunteers were already keenly positioned to guide officials, athletes, games makers and members of the public exactly where they wanted to go. The park itself is huge. I find it hard to picture it full of people instead of just a few tottering around here and there. My sister and I found it nothing short of magnificent. The landscaping and the thought put in is enormous, and still as we were walking in for the first technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony there were workers everywhere placing the last details, working right up until the 11th hour.

Upon entering the briefing room I was aware that I was just one of a crowd. It is quite surreal to be sitting in a room and looking around seeing clothes clones of you everywhere and looking at people’s feet and seeing the same shoes on everyone’s feet. Yet despite this, our team leaders went out of their way to learn our names, and a bit about everyone. This way we all felt comfortable asking for help, going for breaks with each other and generally sharing the experience with a group of enthusiastic people. Before long it was 5 o’clock, and people were beginning to stream in. What stuck me was the friendliness of everyone. Whilst we were scanning and checking tickets, spectators who had been following the lead up to the games had heard of the games makers and many were eager to find out how it was, and what we would be doing. The enthusiasm from the public was so refreshing, especially after such vast amounts of criticism in the press lately.

After the rush had subsided our team leader told us to go and have a look inside the stadium, and to make the most out of this historical event. So after around 3 hours of greeting spectators it was our turn to feast Danny Boyle’s vision. It felt incredible to watch something that only a small fraction of the world will see live. The stadium was set up in a kind of way in which you were not merely a spectator, but actually part of the event. There were moments when all I could do was stand and soak in every single moment. I count myself extremely lucky to be working within the stadium. The opportunity is incredible and the opening ceremony is something that we can all be extremely proud of. This was highlighted when the audience left their seats and once again the bridges were teeming with people rushing to get their trains in time. The sense of achievement that I felt when saying goodbye to thankful and buzzing people on their way out was wonderful. Our final team debriefing of the day showed that our help was greatly appreciated, and despite being weary and tired, everyone agreed that they could wait to come back for more.

 The beautiful weather really placed the cherry on the top of the day and people watching from the ticketing bridges was fabulous. Amongst officials, journalists, film crews, spectators and athletes from every nationality, I spotted Tom Daley and his young diving squad having a photo taken of them all doing handstands in front of the stadium and many other participants exploring the park before competition time binds them to a relentless timetable. The jubilation and the excitement shines through everywhere. Despite what the newspapers may say, it really can be seen that everyone is psyched about the Olympics and it is something that as the hosting nation, we should all be immensely proud of. It shouldn’t be showcased as an opportunity for Great Britain and London to show off all it has to offer, because to most people London is already a great city. Instead it should be viewed as a celebration, not only of sport, but of architecture, culture and of all people.

At which point did the nation break?

What is it that Tim Henman had that Andy Murray doesn’t? A little bit of humanity, a personality, a care, conviction? That’s what we all thought. It seems that after the 2012 Wimbledon final there were plenty of others including Murray himself that were reduced to tears. So we have it. Our new tennis champion has got feelings. Who would have thought! I cannot help but question the approach some people take on Murray’s apparent lack of character. He is not a celebrity, nor someone who seeks to convince us that he is. He is a tennis player and that is his job. It is not his job to be eloquently spoken, a master of the English language, nor should he put on a mask to shroud his true self. The fact of the matter is, is that Andy Murray is probably just a man who is a little shy, and though he is our nations pride and joy we cannot expect him to jump up and down with joy after a victory when he has just spent three hours of running up and down a court.

In fact there is so much controversy about Murray’s surprisingly heartbreaking emotional outburst that the Guardian have even posted a poll asking readers whether or not his performance and speech changed the way they view Murray that so many tennis fans have found hard to love. The majority vote? Yes. Yes, of course the nations’ mind was changed. So a positive change for the Scot, who is apparently now more well respected than before. And yet I cannot help but feel if I were Andy Murray, this type of poll, these headlines repeating the same thing over and over, ( “Tearful Murray loses on court, but wins the nation’s heart” from The Telegraph and “It was the day a nation came to Andy Murray” from The Mail) – headlines which discussed things over my personality – would affect me more negatively than the articles and reports written about my poor (or otherwise) loss of the Wimbledon champion title.

Perhaps as a nation we’re finding it hard to accept a new athlete. We’re skeptical that it will amount to nothing and we’ll simply be stuck as the nation who had a champion who could never quite go all the way, yet at the same time we are hopeful, as Andy is. “I’m getting closer,” he says before having to pause to regather his thoughts and compose himself after his tearful defeat. Indeed he is. His fourth Grand Slam final, his fourth defeat, probably not his last, but certainly not the only determinable outcome. He is our champion, and someone that as a nation we should all be proud of a support. We are the ones who spur him on. If it’s one thing that we have learnt from Andy Murray’s heartbreaking defeat it is that the claps, the cheers, the shout outs, that although might not be registered all the time in his facial expressions and words, certainly mean a lot to him. For those words to the nation that Andy Murray expressed on court, it is clear what our role is. We should continue to show our support and our gratitude and celebrate a wonderful sportsman, in spite of a Grand Slam champion victory or a defeat.

Bleak Scandinavian Skylines

‘The Bridge’ is the latest series to grace our screens and give Britain nail biting drama from Scandinavia. It follows the success of ‘Wallander,’ ‘The Killing,’ and ‘Borgen,’ all of which have received high praise for their script and execution. Being half Danish I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into the award winning series, ‘The Killing’ that all my relatives had been talking about. Though my friends may say I am being biased, I can without a doubt say that this is some of the best TV I have ever seen. It is engaging, fast paced, twisted, intelligent, and whilst it makes me incredibly jumpy and hide behind a cushion, I cannot stop watching.

‘The Bridge’ is no exception. It is a collaboration between public broadcasters from both Denmark and Sweden, with a mixed cast from both countries. The reason for this? A body, found on the Øresund bridge that links the two countries, directly on the border line. The catch? The body is cut in half; half Danish and half Swedish. Danish and Swedish police forces work together to solve a crime that escalates every week — though differences between the two nationalities are clear. At the head of the Swedish investigation is Saga; a peculiar character who appears to be lacking in the knowledge of social conventions and who at times seems laughable, yet others extremely vulnerable as she is unaware of her social awkwardness. Her headstrong nature is contrasted with the Dane, Martin Rohde, whose relaxed tendencies makes Saga’s comments stand out as hilariously funny and naive. An unlikely pairing, and an unlikely crime, yet they leave me wanting more each week. Watching with my flatmates, we were quickly drawn in by the tangle of subplots and the serial killer, whose voice we hear, but who cannot be tracked, and who has a social conscience. ‘The Bridge,’ like ‘The Killing’ and political drama ‘Borgen’ draws upon fault lines in society including the concern over immigration, homelessness and exploitation of child laborers, highlighting and tackling real life political and social problems that many script writers find easy to simply gloss over.

Scandinavian dramas seems to have created somewhat of a cult following. It is something I look forward to; my flatmates and I discuss the plot lines, our theories, I occasionally laugh at their pronunciation of the Scandinavian names and their attempts to talk the language that they are all now so interested in learning. I feel that not only does Britain get incredible television out of these dramas, but that my friends (and indeed the whole country) are learning about a more obscure language, they get to see countries which wouldn’t necessarily occur to them as places to visit, that are rich in culture, beautiful to see and where I spend my summers. Britain, I feel, is often very insular in its culture, sticking to its own productions, own traditions; the arts is an easy way in. It introduces people to a European country close to home, yet never really considered. ‘The Bridge,’ as a haunting and beautifully produced series, with an amazing script will undoubtably leave a first time Scandinavian drama viewer wishing they had watched ‘The Killing.’ They will quite possibly rush out to buy the boxsets for both series, and without a feeling of guilt, happily sit for an entire weekend watching 30 hours of spectacular drama, escaping from exam stress and the real world and delving into a world of suspects and Red Herrings galore.

‘The Bridge’ is on BBC4, Saturday 21:00 – 23:00 or on iPlayer

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

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A severed cows head covered in feasting flies and a pool scarlet blood naturally formed on the wooden floorboards is not the first thing you expect to see in an art gallery. It would be more at home in a butchers — and a very unhygienic butchers at that! And yet the Tate Modern consider this ‘art’ enough to place it in the very first room of their Damien Hirst exhibition. In recent years Hirst has become a household name, and almost every person, whether an advocate for his work, or not, will know him as ‘that strange one with the shark.’

In someway Hirst’s exhibition seems more like a biology exhibit used for examining animals and anatomy. Aside from the bloody cows head entitled A Thousand Years, Hirst’s collection consists of an entire cow and calf cut in half, various animals suspended in formaldehyde, a collection of exotic live butterflies and cabinets upon cabinets of drug wrappers and boxes. In his earlier years Hirst said: “I can’t wait to get into a position to make really bad art and get away with it. At the moment if I did certain things people would look at it, consider it and then say ‘f off’. But after a while you can get away with things.” His works are ambitious; whether they are bad or not in up to interpretation. Perhaps it is not his goal to create amazing art work that will beguile the viewer, but instead to challenge the very meaning of art. In a recent interview with the BBC he was asked what he thought art was as many people have contested his name in the artist’s sphere. His reply was simply that his pieces were in a museum; thus it was art. Dubious at most. There is no doubt that his art is in vogue. It is dynamic and shocking and of course it makes people talk. A walk around the National Portrait gallery will undoubtedly be a silent tour through an artist’s life, a time for silent reflection and contemplation. At the Tate, Hirst’s exhibition attracts both young and old talking, laughing, pointing, questioning and voicing exclamations of disgust and glee. It is an entirely different experience, sometimes his work misses the point and people speculate on what it all means, but other times his works are a hit. They can affect people in many different ways and evoke many responses, all of which are entirely valid.

Art to me is something that is new, it is exciting, it puts a different perspective of things or places common things in a new light. To me there is no doubt that Hirst achieves this. Yet simultaneously I want art to be something timeless, something that I could (if I had enough money) place in my house and admire daily. I can’t think of anyone who would want half a cow in their dining room protruding pity and evoking guilt as I sat and ate my beef steak. I do not think that you could call the exhibition enjoyable in itself, but it was interesting. Very, very interesting. It’s not often you can see a full sized tiger shark close up and see the four stomachs and tiny brain of a cow. You know, it would probably be as beneficial to a biology class as an art class to learn something for the exhibition, and not forgetting the economic business entrepreneur who would be writhing in jealously as they learned that Hirst’s piece,The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (the shark), was sold for $12 million in 2004. I see Hirst’s exhibition as a platform of artistic ideas. It is a landmark, something that no one had considered doing before. To me Damien Hirst is a creator, an inventor, a designer of something which embodies the natural and takes it beyond, displacing it and manipulating it. The idea itself is art, yet I am still to be convinced that Hirst is first and foremost an artist rather than a biologist, a businessman, or a creator of ideas. 

 

 

Damien Hirt’s exhibition is on a the Tate Modern, London until 9th September 2012.

Stop Kony 2012: My thoughts

The web has been inundated with claims to ‘stop Kony’, twitter has been taken over, #stopkony is trending worldwide, half my friends (including myself) have shared the embedded video on facebook, which has gone viral and stopped the world for 30 minutes. To a good cause? Of course, decreasing the evil in the world and replacing it with an army of goodness and peace is always seen as positive. There is no doubt that people like Kony should be stopped and face charges for their horrific offenses, but this does not mean death. Kony should not be killed, (and indeed I do not think that The Invisible Children charity advocates for this to happen) but it could happen. People, highly motivated and enthused by the extremely powerful footage which is masterfully edited and directed by Jason Russell could become enraged, so much so that emotion could take over in a moment of irrationality. Instead Kony should be understood and helped. We should stop Kony, but also learn from his actions, educated ourselves even when we feel we are so far removed and alienated from his atrocious acts.

The video that is at the heart of the stop Kony campaign starts with the slogan ‘there is nothing more powerful than an idea’ and Jason Russell’s voice then narrates, saying ‘the next 27 minutes are an experiment.’ This is what I don’t understand. An experiment for what? Why is this said? Perhaps it is my over analytical demeanor that notices how this statement stands out, but I cannot help but fixate over it. If the video is an experiment to see how many people it can affect, how many people will buy into something they are simply told and shown, rather than knowing the real nitty-gritty of situation at hand, then it has been successful. Already I have received event invitations, summoning me to take part in the night take over on the 20th April 2012. At university, meetings are being planned so the university body can ensure to create a response. If it is simply an experiment it has succeeded better than anything else I can imagine, simply with a video and emotion. There is talk that it is all just propaganda, and that the charity are indeed making money out of our purchases and human kindness. I cannot help but liken it to the Nazi regime – though this is a highly negative and most probably controversial view point.

Yet despite this it is something that ought to be highlighted and stopped. I do not for one minute doubt that what the Stop Kony video does is bad, because it does highlight something that the world population should be aware, not just in Uganda, but globally. This is happening all over the globe to varying degrees. Children are being abducted and used as instruments to be the playthings of grown adults, their own to manipulate not only physically, but also mentally. Kony is just one offender in this game, there are thousands like him out there. So the public asks why Kony? Why not someone else? Truth is that the public attention can only be directed in one way. Early last year we were all concerned with the rebels in Syria and Egypt and now we have easily, and swiftly, probably even without thought turned our attentions to one man. In a few months time most will probably have forgotten that day in early March when the web was taken over and emotion was written into us.

I support the spreading of this news, to many it is something new, a horrific truth in the corrupted world, but I cannot see how this is the best way to do it, especially in a world where communication can not only cease evil, but empower it. As already stated in the video, even before being placed online, Kony has found out about this ‘experiment’. He knows of his growing fame around the world and of course in light of this knowledge he has changed his game. Why lose if you can win? To hide, whilst we all shout that we’re coming to get him. But he can listen and hear us coming whilst he moves in the shadows unbeknownst to us all. For us to win at this game is harder than for him.

This campaign will no doubt do good, I just find it hard to see how so many people will actually help with the change. Of course, spreading the video around the world will help, but only to the minutest detail. It will be a springboard, but what is the springboard without force and without anywhere to jump to? I wonder how many of the people that have tweeted or used facebook to spread the stop Kony campaign will actually try and make a direct impact, and how many will just follow without having thought and deliberated about other global issues that we could at the same time and equally focus our attentions on.