Well, that’s all been absurdly busy. TaniwhaThames is half way through its OvalHouse run, I’ve co-hosted a D&D satellite on writing and devising (can writers and devisers talk to each other – yes we can!), last week we had a lengthy post-show Open Space on making the show in Open Space (!), this week there was a brilliant pre-show event with precious objects from Aotearoa and London from the Cuming Museum/Lovett collections with Rosanna Raymond and Chris Roberts, and I am now (admittedly slowly, gear change & all that) getting back into the final final edit of The Purple Shroud (the Theodora sequel). Tomorrow afternoon I’m also co-hosting this brilliant PechaKucha on theatre trades, again at OvalHouse, brainchild of Rachel Briscoe of fanSHEN and OvalHouse. No money? OK, we’ll make work anyway, on trades and hope …

The show is going well. Audiences have been generous and pretty full for this time of year, cold and dank as it can be at night – I’m always grateful to audiences who decide to come out on a cold night, when pjs and telly and a bottle of wine at home can be very enticing indeed!

As an unfunded company, Shaky Isles is (rightly IMO) very proud of its reputation of having broken even with every show, made profit AND shared that profit with the makers – a bit like farming really, rather than the funded model, we make work, take it to the marketplace, and hope you’ll buy. Of course we, like everyone else, would be very grateful for funding (and have been very grateful for sponsorship), but so far it’s seemed we fall between several stools – not only new writing, also devised/made work; not only devised work, also new writing; not only NZ makers, also British and US and many others; not only British work, also from other countries (primarily NZ). And of course, all this at a time when funding is being cut left, right and centre (primarily right of course!) So it was with huge joy I saw this weekend that we’d broken even on our most ambitious show yet. That means all the ticket sales from two out of three weeks of performance go back to Shaky Isles (company and makers) and to OvalHouse. I think that’s an astonishing feat at any time, but especially now, and am hugely proud of everyone who’s worked so hard to make that happen.

So, what are the reviews like? Honestly? Mixed. Good mixed, positive mixed, three star mixed, but mixed. Some who love that the show isn’t a single line narrative and that they, as audience, have to perhaps work a little harder to let go and go with the flow, to feel/find/experience/enjoy the show rather than be told it – some perplexed and almost annoyed by that. I understand it can be frustrating not to be given the ‘answers’; I also wonder why it is that theatre is expected to be an answer-giving medium, whereas fine art and music aren’t. Many say they love the physicality, the poetic nature of the piece, the music, the soundscape, others want a bit more of the ‘here it is, take it or leave it’ style. Fair enough. This kind of image-based/ideas-based work isn’t for everyone. But I’m very happy to say, so far, it seems to be working for most. And, more than any other company-created work I’ve ever been involved in, I can truly say it has been built by us all, made by us all, created by us all. And that makes me really happy.

Here’s some yummy quotes :
Guardian, Lyn Gardner, 3 stars : “There is a haunted and haunting quality to the performance, as if something might chase you out of the theatre and on to the streets of London itself … It isn’t hurried, and is all the better for it, as it offers snippets of personal and city history that rise to the surface like flotsam and jetsam. You sense that the show has a rich inner life … it still seeps into your bones.”

Time Out, 3 stars : “(the) cast collapse pages of history into imaginative and often strikingly beautiful scenes … evoke(s) an international London, overflowing with people restlessly searching for somewhere to belong.”

Attitude, 3 stars : “An enjoyable chance to share in some evocative story telling … a number of fascinating narratives unfold from across history and in our lonely city we need more opportunities like this to create and share London folk tales.”

This one is my favourite, not a review but a blog response, from an audience member, not a regular theatre-goer but a book-reader who came to a book event and decided to come to the show too. She totally gets the piece, understands what we’re trying to do, and allows herself to do the same, writing beautifully about what it means to know this river. Scrawl

I’m at the theatre every night, if you come along, introduce yourself. That way I’ll know I’m not writing in the dark.

Or even writhing in the dark …