It seems apt to resurrect things around Easter time.
Ends and new beginnings,
Questions raised, answered and not quite
It is a test of the mind
And of the will
And of the vision that lies ahead
But actively sought
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
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.
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.
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.
‘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
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.