Thursday, 2 October 2014

Donald Does Dusty

Margaret Kirk looks forward to a work from the King of the Drag Kings

Diane Torr creates work that is humorous, intimate, accessible and serious. Emerging from her formidable intellect and compassion, Donald Does Dusty has a personal origin, but encompasses broader matters.

DDD is a tribute to her brother. “He died of Aids in 1992, and was an extraordinary person, going from this housing estate near Aberdeen to be a wealthy property dealer in London,” says Torr. “He died at 43, and seemed so unfair that he never lived to enjoy the fruits of his labour.”

The show homes in on Donald’s youthful fascination with Dusty Springfield. “My brother somehow knew that Dusty was a lesbian. She was like a light for him,” she recalls. Perhaps importantly: “He performed Dusty – I’d be the one who watched him.” This was Torr’s first contact with drag. “He would dress up in my mother’s clothes – her evening dress and fur stole, long diamante earrings. Then I’d get bored, and he’d throw a tantrum.”

Since Torr is most famous as a drag king, with both workshops and performances, this early encounter appears crucial. As Donald was an actor, his influence on Diane’s path seems key. “He would make jokes that he would dress up as me and I’d dress up as him, and we’d perform together – but it never happened because he died.”

Donald Does Dusty is a personal work, but grapples with themes of gender identity, family relationships, inspiration and mourning. Torr’s consummate stagecraft, sensitivity and desire to communicate with the audience promises a moving and thought-provoking evening.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Hey Harry Help!

Hey Harry,

I did want to start this conversation slowly: a few general questions about anarchism as a ideology within theatre, the role of performance within activism. You know, abstract stuff that opens up a chat, finds common ground, gives us a framework. Terms of reference, shared assumptions, that kind of thing.

Only, as always, events have caught up with me. I am not the biggest fan of the Conservative party, but I nearly soiled myself when I read David Cameron's thoughts on human rights today. Let's recap his words...

Of course, it’s not just the European Union that needs sorting out – it’s the European Court of Human Rights.
When that charter was written, in the aftermath of the Second World War, it set out the basic rights we should respect.
But since then, interpretations of that charter have led to a whole lot of things that are frankly wrong.
Rulings to stop us deporting suspected terrorists.
The suggestion that you've got to apply the human rights convention even on the battle-fields of Helmand.
And now – they want to give prisoners the vote.
I’m sorry, I just don't agree.

Let's pause there for a moment. Apart from the rather odd tricolon here - he starts with the most frightening thing (terrorists!), and ends on a bathetic note (prisoners getting the vote), I can't quite get my head around Cameron's process here. He seems to be saying the charter of the European Court of Human Rights 'we should respect.' then goes on to say the interpretation are 'frankly wrong.'

I'm sorry, Dave, I just don't agree. If we accept the basic foundation, don't we have to accept its working out through its application? 

I am actually pretty frightened by the thought that Britain might drop our human rights. It's not just the company we'd be keeping (Belarus, Greece during its junta period): it's the idea that a 'British bill of rights' would somehow replace the universal quality of 'human rights.'

So - I am wondering where you'd stand on human rights? I think that they are a fiction, something we made up, but that they represent an ideal - a Platonic Form of social justice that defines us as individual beings of worth - that governments can work towards. They can never be reached, but each attempt makes the world a little better. And a British bill of rights suggests that rights are not universal, but belong to a nation and its citizens. 

And so, other nations, other citizens, can't share those rights. 

I rather hope I am over-reacting. How do you understand this?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Introducing Grahame Fair and Bertie Cushions (on Hamlet at The Citz)

Eric and Gareth talk Kimmings

Eric: Won't it be necessary for the role model that Kimmings is looking for to be a kind of 1950s' character?

Gareth: How do you mean?

Eric: She seems pretty much conservative - in terms of sexuality. Obviously it is for kids but it doesn't teach them how to deal with the 'next part of life'.

Gareth: You mean that she avoids dealing with sexuality altogether, rather than challenging the models presented by Lady Gaga or Katy Perry?

Eric: Pretty much: but I can see how it is difficult to breach the subject of sexuality at all with kids! There's a lot of red tape around it.

Gareth: The problem is honest conversation over exploitation, perhaps?

Eric: Whaddaya mean?

Gareth: Well, it is difficult to have a chat with preteens about sex and sexuality identity. It is a taboo. On the other hand, they get bombarded with images of sexuality by pop musicians, which turns fashion and sexuality into a product. I think Kimmings is trying to empower young people without engaging sexuality at all.

Eric: She is trying to make their own role models and not have to think about 'that kind of stuff': that chat is not for her to deal with!

Gareth: Yes. 

Part lecture, part dance-off, part ethical debate and part gig, That Catherine Bennett Show is a story about family activism, children's rights and a belief in your own power to change the world which follows thetrue story of Bryony and Taylor’s quest to make Catherine Bennett a world famous role model for the masses. Their tale involves storming the Houses of Parliament, being played on Radio 1 and getting their message right into the CBBC headquarters.

Catherine Bennett is embodied by Kimmings and is totally managed by Taylor. She sings songs about things other than love, fame and money,treats children as the philosophers and question-askers they really areand talks about women’s rights and being an activist at nine years old. This entertaining and educational show proves that an alternative role model for the young is possible and that important issues can be tackled at any age.

Originally commissioned by Southbank Centre as part of Imagine Children’s Festival, That Catherine Bennett Show returns as part of Southbank Centre’s Why? – What’s Happening for the Young? Festival.

For ages 6–9

Eric: Hang on. If it is for kids, why are we talking about it? Isn't that up to the 6 - 9 year olds to discuss?

Hulk and the Vision get Real (Miss Prissy)

Hulk and The Vision Get Real (Ballroom style)