Mary Jane, Joe and their two teenagers, Maz and Kev, are happy. Even Mary Jane’s mum, confined to a wheelchair and trapped in her own mind by age and medication, is happily restful. Their lives aren’t perfect, but they love each other and relish their middle class, heteronormative, suburban existence. Joe’s a teacher, Mary Jane’s a tax inspector, Maz wants to study fashion and Kev is obsessed with video games. They are undeniably normal, until Mary Jane has a stroke whilst doing the ironing and the four of them are changed forever.
The first generation of immersive theatre fans are growing up. The twenty-somethings who discovered Punchdrunk in their early days are 30-somethings. Now immersed in nappies and temper tantrums as well as non-traditional theatre, these new parents will have high expectations of children’s theatre.
Will Adamsdale’s standup/solo performance creation Chris Jackson is a motivational speaker and life coach, and the audience is at his seminar to learn his life changing methods. Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar! teaches you the importance of attempting meaningless or impossible actions, or “jactions”, in our lives that are otherwise filled with purpose. Adamsdale’s script has a clear narrative but somewhat lacking in follow through – we never really learn precisely WHY we should be filling our time with jactions, but the character’s detailed biography and emotional journey through the Christmas story is satisfyingly seasonal.
On Sunday night, theatre people ( and hopefully others) up and down the country tuned in to BBC Four to watch Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council England take over the former BBC Television Centre, now a building site for luxury flats. Over two hours, four theatre companies streamed their work for live audiences in the comfort of their homes, to push the boundaries of theatre’s adaptability to the popular small screen and to challenge typical TV programming. I watched in bed and with Twitter open so I could keep half an eye on #livefromTVC; it was a gloriously anarchic experiment that I hope ushers in a new era for telly and theatre even though not every element worked as well as it could have – but that’s the point of experimentation.
Nearly everyday we see news of refugees fleeing war torn lands in search of safety abroad. No matter how the press spins objective facts to suit their own agenda and their readers’ opinions, the perspective of these events unfailingly separates “them” from “us”. These people running for their lives are The Other that we must either keep out or allow in. It’s all very black and white, heavily doused with an air of superiority; we either look down on them as vermin that need controlling or as victims that need handling with kid gloves. We never really hear from these refugees, though. It’s all, “me, me, me” and a flamboyant display of either virtue or condemnation.
I’ll admit that I seldom go to BAC. But I have always liked — even loved — that it’s there. It’s a major home for emerging theatre companies, and even if I miss them at the beginning of their lives there, I acknowledge that the building has a major role in developing the talent of the future and the future, in turn, of the theatre.
It is here, after all, that my favourite British musical of the century so far — Jerry Springer the Opera — was born. It’s also where the 1927 company, whose show Golem transfers to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios next month, began.
So it was particularly distressing to hear of the fire that engulfed the venue yesterday — and utterly destroyed its venerable 120 year old Grand Hall.