Crow 2023

A selection of pictures from Crow performances this year. Its fair to say it’s quite a technical show but, in what has been officially the wettest summer on record, we have only missed one performance of the evening show. It’s been a joy to work with this team who have shown such resiliance and determination.

Finishing with the shows at SIRF, one of my favourite festivals, in such a brilliant location as the Trinity church was a fitting end to a great year.

Crow Commissioned By Without Walls

The piece we began developing right at the start of lockdown has been commissioned for touring for this summer. We have been in residence at 101 for a couple of weeks and things are looking and sounding promising. The show has been designed to play at twilight taking advantage of how the atmosphere alters as the sun goes down. With poetry by Lou Glandfield and music by Seaming To the piece treads its own path, both lyrical and comic.

Artist or Artisan

I remember back in the eighties a debate around what was art and what was craft. Potters, Textilers, Glassblowers all wanting to be defined as artist rather than craftsperson. I guess they were feeling a bit insecure that their work was devalued by a craft definition. However shouldn’t all artists have a relationship to the practicalities and processes of the materials they are working with? Display some element of craft? And craftspeople display artistry in their work? David Hockney is interesting on this subject and came in for some stick over a crack relating to the YBA’s (Now not so young eh?) Hockney’s art school background is from a time where techniques and processes were taught before concepts. I once heard him in an interview speak about being taught bookbinding. Instinctively I feel that all practitioners in any given art form should, at some point, put their greasy thumbprint on the material itself, know something about its history its techniques and the artists who have travelled the road before. There is often a great deal of craft involved in making successful outdoor work, the really great shows often utilise this craft to exploit the possibilities that are unique to the great outdoors. The French have a neat way of describing the difference they define work as théâtre dans la rue (On the street) or  théâtre de la rue (Of the street). I’m off to SIRF this weekend to try to see some of the latter.

Photo Les Hommes en Noir 

Castlefield Follies

Avanti have performed in the Castlefield basin (Manchester) many, many times over the years. This picture shows us outside the White Lion pub on the corner of Duke street and Liverpool road. We will be in Castlefield again over the weekend of 30/31st July at Castlefield Follies. The show is titled Full Circle which feels, I must say, entirely appropriate. There will be lots of other great stuff to see including many old friends. The event starts at 2.00p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Hat Trick

Back in 1993/4 when Mike and I were first making The Spurting Man we were working on a sequence where Spurty is crowned. The sequence is (and here I quote from a rare item an – Avanti script)

BP hat off, wipe face with hat

throw onto hat stand (could be a wait if it misses, ignore any kid I bring out)

Rubber hat comedy business

Emil suggested the hat gag (I guess he had seen the Buster Keaton clip). Our logic was ‘there is a hat stand- you have a hat in your hand – you don’t care about the hat – its the masters hat  – the master isn’t looking – so just chuck it without looking at the stand and amazingly it goes on and stays on’. This tiny moment became an obsession, I practised a couple of hours a day for months / years, I changed the material of the hat, I wet the hat to make it heavier, I practised some more, wind makes a difference of course, the distance is not always predictable, its a live show after all, but eventually I got to the 80% success area. I also developed a bit with a child who I would call on to retrieve it if I missed the throw, I would have another go sometimes get the kid back again after each fail it raises the stakes, the audience thinks its all part of the routine – but its not! In this video at 4.16 you can see the ‘bit’ in question. Its filmed outside the National Theatre and you can see in the background some very bemused theatregoers exiting from some Pinter play. The Spurting Man . When it works its like poetry, a perfect moment, when it fails, well, best not to dwell on that. Here are a few other Keaton hat moments from an essay by Jonathan Lyons

Keatons Hat Comedy