Collaborate or die…..discuss . More Friday musings

One of those weeks where for no other reason than it happened that way I’ve seen a lot of stuff! Over at the SJM the fantastic cast of Tony Ramsay’s clever new play The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare dropped by and the Eastern Angles team were fortunate to see an early run through of the play. And with just over a week to go it’s in pretty fine shape even without the elusive shed (and yes you’ll have to come and see it to understand that reference)! The play explores the intriguing life of John Clare through the prism of a parallel contemporary story and I have to say it is something of a tear jerker! Along with new shows from the New Wolsey and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds it features in Lyn Gardners theatre picks of the week.

The piece has an interesting mini history. It’s been commissioned by The John Clare Cottage Trust for their We love words festival which runs from 8 to 15 September and has a packed programme including Clive James, the lovely Roger McGough, John Hegley (and his crouton from Luton) and our very own Keely Mills. It’s a new collaboration for us – but one that has emerged undoubtedly from the company’s work developing short ‘local’ pieces for Peterborough like Our Nobby, Lincoln Road and Crossed Keys. After it finishes it short run in Peterborough the work doesn’t end there. We’ll be reviving the show in a new version ready for our spring tour 2013 – which I’m currently hard at work booking. If you’re in East Anglia and are interested in the company coming to your village hall or community centre then now is a good time to get in contact (

Collaborations have been something of a theme this week. At somewhat short notice we had to prepare a short paper on all the partnership working we have been doing in Suffolk and how that contributes to both tourism and economic development. It’s only when you start listing out those collaborations do you realise quite how many you are involved in! And almost every other day brings new opportunities, partnerships and collaborations emerge. Earlier this week I thoroughly enjoyed a fascinating catch up with Real Circumstance (@realcric) which itself came out of last weeks Creative Colchester session which I blogged about here.

‘recent pyschological experiments have demonstrated that exposing people to unfamiliar perspectives fosters creativity’

Also crossing my desk was the RSA’s report ‘Creative Gathering: more purposeful together’ – one of a series of case study papers emerging from the Citizen Power project in Peterborough. ‘People are more purposeful together’ says one participant ‘we now understand the power of coming together’ another. The report goes onto show how the gatherings were ‘not just talk but a trying out of ideas, a chance for people to share practice, to develop new work together and ultimately reach new people’. It aimed to create a ‘space where people can meet, debate share knowledge and expertise, learn and practice’ leading to a more ‘connected and cohesive arts community’

It’s an interesting read without saying anything new or un-expected. Very few of us would disagree with its sentiments. Whilst its fair to say the reports findings / outcomes are far from unique it is useful to see them recorded in this way. As interesting is Chris Grady’s discussion on collaboration or competition for What’s on Stage. We’ll certainly miss Chris’ honesty, pragmatism and common sense when he leaves Bury Theatre Royal for pastures new in the freelance world.

Creative collaborations were very much in evidence in terms of the other work I’ve seen this week. On Tuesday the arts centre hosted Emma Pollock and RM Hubbert – both playing solo sets but clearly revelling in the moments of collaboration (the tour EP which features most of those collaborations is a must buy by the way). For more info see here

I’d first seen Emma collaborate on the Phrased & Confused tour which also featured Chris T-T and Brendan Cleary. One of the results of that tour was the song ‘Glorious Day’ – a setting of the Cleary poem of the same name.

There is a wonderfully errie quality to Pollock’s voice – perhaps most noticeable in the run of four new songs performed in their ‘raw’ format and before (as Pollock puts it) they go through the band process. Those songs in particular leave you with a memory of a haunting, beautiful fragment which hovers, falls and sweeps around the arches of the arts centre (‘this place has a very special acoustic’ Emma had said earlier). I think even the Angels who must have once adorned the walls here would have enjoyed ‘I’ve been making a demon of you’

Then on Thursday it was off to Colchester Mercury for Hard Places. Hard Places isa truly international collaboration between the Mercury, Tinderbox and Rage Productions Mumbai. A piece about family loyalties, enforced borders and the impact of recent history it starts slowly – so much so I wasn’t quite sure where it was heading – or more importantly why. But it’s worth hanging in there. Twenty minutes in and the third character – mother ( an utterly compelling performance by Jasmina Daniel) appears and quickly the piece takes on a whole new dynamic, driven both by the narrative and the mother/offspring relationship. It’s ending took me completely by surprise (runs until the 15th September after which it heads off to India – here is Glen Pearce’s **** review for Public Reviews.

Then on Friday it was back to the SJM for MTP and Frinton Summer Theatres productions of Tom Foolery. As @ijoeallen put it on twitter ‘I loved it. Camp as tits. And charming as ever.’ though I found some of the material more dated than I expected. Not that I’m complaining – was a very entertaining way to spend a Friday afternoon – especially numbers like this:-

(in a link that is to neat to miss we should point out that John Clare playwright Tony Ramsay (together with his partner Kate) is also something of a tango expert though I dont think they teach the Masochism Tango)

Then it was off to first site for their latest private view – but that I fear is subject of another blog – as at 23:56 this blog is at risk of not being a set of Friday musings!


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