I was in the room when he kicked her in the stomach. She was pregnant. Her scream was piercing. I was in the room when he drew blood back into the syringe before injecting himself with heroin. I was in the room as others left, unable to cope with what was unfolding in front of them, only a few feet away. I was in the room, at the first showing in London of the play Trainspotting at the Bush Theatre, back in 1995 before it was made into a film. As the eponymous blog says, it was ‘in-yer-face-theatre’.
Theatre is often tarred with the same brush as poetry; that it is elitist, not for the masses, etc.. Some of which may be true, but outside of the honeypot of the West End, in fringe and regional theatre, much of what goes on is done with an inclusive face. Pioneers such as Joan Littlewood, who was called the doyen of working class theatre, conceived such ideas of ‘Fun Palaces’ that linked art and science in a more participative way. Although she did not succeed in this venture it has been revived today in her honour, championed by the writer Stella Duffy, who has said of them: “A revolutionary place that would be both temporary and moveable. A space that would house arts and sciences together. A place by and for the people. The original design says that in a Fun Palace you could see a show, learn about painting or mechanics, listen to a symphony, try starting a riot, or lie back and look at the sky.” Elsewhere, the Hull Truck Theatre, has been innovative in putting on many working class dramas, with John Godber as its artistic director, and notable plays such as ‘Bouncers’. I have worked myself with small companies and theatres such as Sandpit Arts, and The Space theatre, with two of my plays about the Arab Spring.
This spirit of inclusiveness in theatre, is brought into focus with Anthony Anaxagorou’s poem, This Thing Moves. The poem is part of his residency at the Bush Theatre, and is an homage to its history. “This things moves /all the way into the arms of a theatre/far out west. 1972 raised above a pub,/makeshift and ordinary/it was never supposed to last/it was never supposed to work/adversity filled its seats way before people did.” It is theatres like The Bush that grow because of their independence and creative strategy of being different. Anthony’s poem really reflects this success. (more…)