Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Last night I went to the second performance of the Weaver Hughes Ensemble’s Writers Ensemble, a three-month for a quartet of playwrights to create a new piece. During that time portions of the works-in-progress would be staged for an audience who were then asked to give their thoughts and opinions of the material just performed.

I’d missed the first reading, put on at the end of January, which meant that I was unaware how the individual works had developed between performances. That said, it didn’t make the experience any less enjoyable. Although it was a surprise to be asked to write down any views and opinions before the applause had subsided, rather than be allowed time to digest each piece.

With actors on a bare stage devoid of props or specific lighting cues, the segments that had someone off to the side reading the stage directions worked best. Otherwise, with people playing multiple characters and shifting unexpectedly between one and the other, it took a moment to work out who they were.

As someone mentioned afterwards, since each presentation was only a section of the individual plays, it might have been good if we had been informed whether it was the very beginning, from near the middle, or toward the end of the piece. Especially since the one sentence outline in the accompanying literature wasn’t always enough to establish their place in the narrative whole.

Saying that, one of the quartet was presented as a whole short play. Typical of the delightful Potdoll that earlier deadlines meant she couldn’t exactly play by the play group’s rules. Given her marvellous ear for dialogue, and ability to effortlessly slip back and forth between comedy and tragedy, such transgressions can be easily forgiven.

The event was staged in a tiny theatre in Battersea. Maybe it’s an age thing – by which I mean I’ve reached the point where I’m beginning to lose my marbles – but of late, preparing to head out, I’ve scribbled the address of where I need to be on a record card, tucked it between the relevant pages of the London A-Z before leaving, and then left it on my desk.

It’s only when I’m on the train or tube, well on the way, that I remember I’ve forgotten to bring it with me. Setting out early as always, it now means that the spare time is eaten up tramping around, trying to remember the layout of streets and particular street number from when I last glanced at the map.

Darkness had already fallen by the time the bus crossed Battersea Bridge and disgorged the passengers at the final stop of its long route. Vaguely aware of which direction I was supposed to be walking in, I trudged on, save for one brief diversion.

Without properly detouring further to walk right past, I stopped to gaze at the bland 11-storey building that rose above the low-rise housing estate. When I moved to London to waste as much time as I could at The Esteemed School of Art, this was the hall of residence for my first year: Ralph West Halls of Residence.

I had been assigned a room on the fifth floor, luckily looking east across Albert Bridge Road and Battersea Park rather than the grim concrete blocks on the western side. Not to say that I kept to myself, but it wasn’t until the end of the first term that I discovered one of my fellow students was in the room right across the corridor.

Every morning, after an early breakfast in the dining hall, I’d head over the Albert Bridge, walking to South Kensington tube before I discovered getting a bus from the King’s Road, up Sloane Street to Knightsbridge and then up Piccadilly to the art school afforded a far better view of the city. By year’s end I was eager to leave but it provided a safe haven as I was gradually introduced to the city.

My one abiding memory of the place is coming back late from a party, certainly worse the wear for alcohol, with, for some reason, a young journalism student from what was then the London College of Printing, hoisted up on my shoulders. She was far drunker that I was, and it was her swaying that made me stumble as we took an ill-advised short cut over the lawn between the building and the Albert Bridge Road.

Flat on our backs on the grass, with her legs off in all directions as she shrieked and giggled, I remember looking up at the building and seeing the ghostly faces of many irate students staring down from the windows, their sleep obviously interrupted by our shenanigans. Apparently Wandsworth Council has recently received an application to redevelop the site and turn it into retirement flats with care facilities. That should put an end to any further reckless behaviour.

After the play excerpts I was invited to stay for a drink. Given what happened the last time I was south of the river, and the long, long journey home, I said my goodbyes and, like the last time I was in Battersea, got out while the going was good.


At 1:56 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

aw. you are a kindy.

see you next week. xx

At 2:50 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Simply basing it on what I saw and heard my little dolly.

It was especially gratifying after your concerns on the quality of the material.

As I said, people who fret over the writing, constantly questioning their ability, usually produce something magical. Those who kick back, pleased at what they're written, usually deliver a wretched stinking pile of poop.

For all the bother it gives you, you're definitely in the first camp.

At 4:27 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

Liking your pic, GD. Very moody with a distinct lack of croissant

; )

At 12:17 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

I'm still mortified by the quality of the material! But I will treat you to a cake for being so nice. Don't let me eat one though, I'm trying to cut down!


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