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British theatre

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The House We Built - Artistic Optimism And You

A cast taking a much earned bow, we’re sure, at the Royal Opera House. Lemon and Honey tea all round, gang!

A cast taking a much earned bow, we’re sure, at the Royal Opera House. Lemon and Honey tea all round, gang!

Hello Baz-ites! Team Baz here, salutations! It’s been a fair while, but be assured we are busy bees with some exciting stuff in the offing, it’s all very exciting, eee...and all to be revealed soon. In the haze of activity here at Baz HQ, we just wanted to take a minute, just a few, to recognise, in the face of all this hostility that’s enveloping the country, how the arts are starting  slowly, to resist division and lift each other up. The arts are a lot of things: underfunded, mainly, and whilst it has shown itself to be making moves in a positive direction we here at Baz implore the arts community to go further, be better and more unified than ever before.

We’d be pretty removed from reality if we weren’t aware of the deep political divisions threatening the unity of this country, and Baz is resolutely not one for internet mudslinging -but we aim to make our views clear through our use of the classics. We originally founded Baz to address the lack of classical roles for women, in order to be the change that we wanted to see. We started out in that way, yet through the years (10 of them, count them, happy birthday to us) we have seen the arts slowly evolving into a platform for all kinds of voices that before now had been ignored. We also realised that our take on the classics would be so much more powerful if told by a whole slew of talent that the arts, generally for centuries had ignored. We here at Baz saw that the status quo was in need of opposition - and we felt compelled to speak up about it. For too long classical stories were told only one way, and by the same kind of people and we wanted to disrupt that.

But hey, let’s be honest that’s all very well and good, but we all need bums on seats don’t we - and we all use Twitter and social media for promotion, as we should. However, out there, in the real world, there has never been so much inclusivity, with mother and baby matinees, actors with varying abilities enjoying more visibility than ever before - there has been much more noise in hard hitting pieces for The Stage about the disproportionate gender difference between the number of male to female playwrights. Generally there has been much softening of the arts towards women - and towards the BAME and LGBTQ artists too, with bursaries available at Talawa and The Soho designed to support these communities. Also in class structure: Working Class Artists on twitter is a hub of opportunity and encouragement for art’s general struggle with hierarchy.

This confusing online/offline disconnect in theatre goes against the grain. Traditionally art brings together, celebrates, discusses, supports. Our online community should reflect that. Art does, after all reflect society. Gone are the days in centuries past, where theatre is both a tool of the monarchy and of the state - Ampitheatres acted as news bulletins, the Globe allowed people to learn without reading, and the nobles, kings and queens in the castles used the players to try to guilt each other into admitting to murder...or are we getting our Shakespeare muddled? Either way, theatre and politics have been uncomfortable bedfellows over the years, and their pillowtalk has been plenty. We should indeed, hold any action a theatre or company takes that is reductive, negative or non-progressive to task and undoubtedly the best way to do so is online, but we should also lift each other up and support. 

It’s small, and young but the positivity is starting to bloom.The arts community, apart from great lip service, also puts its money where its mouth is. We were so very saddened to hear that, the excellent Graeae Theatre company, who we much admire, suffered some structural damage to their offices in Hoxton. Our hearts went out to them, and frankly, it put a worrying precedent in our heads, especially as with the roar of political unrest becoming, despite our best efforts, a low-level hum that underpins most things. Despite the worry, once again the arts community took non combative action and donated money and their support so that Graeae can maintain the great work they do. A win for the enlightened and kind.

And it’s spreading, all this goodwill: we scroll ArtTwitter now and theatre companies and professionals are retweeting each other’s Kickstarters, foregoing traditional job postings by appealing directly to like-minded individuals, supporting each other’s works in progress, going emoji-crazy for their friend/artistic crush/colleague’s first night - and all this on the same app Trump uses. Change is happening. Big arts organisations too are picking up the mantel - just a few days ago Spotlight held an industry conference to welcome debate, discussion and to show what they are doing to make casting a more even playing field, the Royal Society of Literature funded a nation-wide survey so that writers could explain and ask for the things that would make their craft easier, and more fair. Across the board, discussions are being had, thoughts are being heard, and efforts are being made.

Impressive house we building, here. It has many bedrooms, welcomes all, and has a great sea view.

There’s a succinct difference between inaction and not engaging. In our opinion, the arts is learning to not engage in the mudslinging, the faux wringing of the hands or most importantly the sinking to their level. Quietly, but firmly, the arts, and theatre itself is doing it’s best to be more inclusive, more welcoming and push a Utopia that frankly, we’d all like and deserve to live in. Here at Baz, our mission statement from the start has been to commit to 50/50 gender casting, whilst maintaining our original aim of shaking up the classics in women’s favour. Over time, this mission statement has spread to encompass representation from a wider variety of communities that we see in our society, and for the same reason, that of marginalisation. For example, we’ve been honoured these last few years to make such wonderful friends and contacts that inspire us on our journey: from learning basic BSL ourselves, attending wonderful workshops that explain the necessity of Relaxed Performances and how they are needed, and also how they are implemented and just generally how to reflect the theatre we see and respect flourishing in these dark times. 

Blimey. We’re all excited now - and beyond to show you all what we’re cooking up! Soon, Bazzers. Soon.

Until then, keep it up - truth, freedom and love. Put that on your t-shirt.

And because we love it so, here is the excellent Sophie Stone giving her Jacques from As You Like It: All The World's A Stage, But This One Right Here Is Sophie's

Much love, fight on! (in that cool way you do)
Baz x







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Location, Location, Location: Promenade's Place

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Car Park - Baz's dreamplay, 2016, Laura Moody being amazing on the Cello

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Car Park - Baz's dreamplay, 2016, Laura Moody being amazing on the Cello

Helloo again Bazzers, on this the eve of summer! Could it possibly be true that we are about to get...warm? The evenings are drawing out and it’s a lovely day to be outside - this is promenade weather - and for the uninitiated we ain’t talking about parasols and lace. No, we of course refer to theatre occurring in pub gardens, on roofs, underground train arches, as we found last summer at The Vaults - truly live, truly unpredictable, and truly vulnerable to plane noise, but hey you can’t have everything. We kid, we love those metal birds, who needs soundscapes? *rolls eyes but we love it* 

One of the main things that Baz’s manifesto set out to achieve from the start was accessible theatre, for all - we have massive respect for London’s rich theatre history and it’s theatres - the old and cherished and the new and bold. The only thing is that these beautiful, gold-embellished venues aren’t meant for throwing around paint in and climbing up curtains - the kind of crazy thing we are wont to do - exhibit A being a half-full bathtub being splashed around in every night at The Vaults, that kind of thing- therefore a lot of high profile theatre events tend to stay in the traditional realm, with lots of revivals. And that’s great- far from underestimating our rich theatre and playwriting history, we honour it, we hope, by moving the action to new and unexpected places.

In 2011, we performed Macbeth in a crypt in Holborn, in 2013 the entire Greek Myth canon in a single room in Shoreditch - for us, it’s about taking away as much as possible and seeing  what we can still work with. Great theatre companies like Punchdrunk take over full warehouses, and almost all of the then abandoned Battersea Arts Centre for their projects, marking, we feel, the first shift we felt in the industry away from seeing promenade, experimental theatre as gimmicky or worse, looked down upon. Our most recent production, a version of Strindberg’s dreamplay at the Vaults in London, moved our audience, from courtyard, to stairwell, theatre, to tunnell and beyond, on a scene by scene basis. The majority of our audiences didn’t bat an eyelid about being moved from space to space, sometimes able to sit, sometimes not - Bazzers unite - but those who were being introduced to us, seemed bemused, occasionally annoyed about the upheaval. For us, theatre is a group activity - it’s not sitting with your feet up and eating popcorn - in essence, we don’t want you to be too comfortable, all the time.
 

Er, take that last statement any way you want. We are experimental, after all and that is what we want you to do.

But what remains is the irksome idea that sitting down in a beautiful dark room that is adorned with cherubs is still the standard - Baz loves that stuff more than anyone else, but that’s partly why we made our manifesto in the first place. We of course don’t want to do a disservice to major theatres doing excellent and ground-breaking work, on and off west end - Lucy McCormick’s devilishly entertaining Triple Threat at the Soho is a definite pick - go forth and see it and then never forget it, really just try- but when a member of the Baz Team got to go to a piano recital just recently: where applause is restricted to between movements, coughing is a killing offense and the line between performer and audience has never been so clear: in status, in skill, in tone in such regimental fashion - makes us seem a bit moany over here in Theatreland. Sort it out, classical music concerts. But in all seriousness what do we, and other experimental theatre companies have to sacrifice in order to court the proscenium arch audiences and break through to the mainstream, you ask? Well thank you for asking, but we counter with maybe that it shouldn’t ever be mainstream-ised (is a word, shut up) and that we belong in the weird crowd - discovered by all you delightful weirdos (or Bazzers in this private circle *raises champagne glass*) as you perhaps tell your friends about this bonkers piece of theatre you saw, or you post it online….and maybe that’s the true future of experimental theatre: it’s not, by its nature, there to to earn a place in the prim and proper books of history - it’s meant to be a live, thrown against the wall, one time only event. Truly utopian in nature - anyone can do it! It can happen any place, any where - it’s groovy like that. Viva abandoned cark parks, real parks, fake parks with astroturf, roofs, underground stations, crypts and night clubs in the daytime, your front room - anywhere we can make theatre together... and let’s all arrange to meet back here to see the panto in December.

What do you know. Maybe there’s room for us all - even if you have to stand a little bit. Look at these people, they're loving it! Cheers!


Love,

Baz x

 

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