Howard and Stu in action (the latter in multiple and hilarious drag!)
Four years ago, I did a stint as a Community Reviewer for the Theatre Orchard Project (now the Theatre Orchard: http://www.thetheatreorchard.org.uk/). It was tremendous fun – and I saw some brilliant productions.
My first ever foray into the world of reviewing could not have been better: I trogged up to Bristol and saw Living Spit’s ‘The Six Wives of Henry V111’ – a show I enjoyed so much (and laughed so heartily at) that I became an avid follower of everything Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin produced (http://www.livingspit.co.uk/) and also saw ‘Henry’ (as I came to call it) FIVE times!
This gave me a taste for reviewing. I have always been an attentive listener – and, to my surprise, found that those skills crossed over into the realm of watching too. Several happy watching-and-reviewing experiences followed.
When I went to see Sheelanagig (http://www.sheelanagig.co.uk/) in concert back in December, I was so impressed by the whole experience that I wrote a review of the evening and sent them a copy.
I think, and have always thought, that local productions, featuring local talent, are a mark of true creativity and bravery. Our response to them shows us a great deal about us as people. Some people refuse to watch anything which is not already well-known, famous, lauded, multiply-reviewed by the Names in the reviewing world.
I have never been like that! I am inquisitive (nosy!) – and, as a pretty-much unknown published author myself, like to feel that I can do something to support other people as they show their particular form of creative hunger to the community they live and work in.
I have been delighted (though not surprised) to see the rise in Living Spit’s stature – and continue to follow them with affectionate interest.
I am no longer an official reviewer – but I do continue to write unofficial reviews: For Wrington Drama Club plays; for gigs by locally-based bands; for musicals performed in my corner of South West England.
You see, my philosophy is very simple: The creative torch burns brightly for many of us – and we have a joyful urge to write, or paint, or act, or sing, or dance. These torches, shining beacon-bright over the world, add so much to the human spirit. Our world would be a darker and sadder place without them.
But all creative enterprises need support. They need people prepared to see the shows, attend the exhibitions or book signings. They need reviews and enthusiastic word-of-mouth recommendations. They need financial backing. They need an audience of open-minded people who are willing to give any act a chance to shine.
It is very easy to say, ‘Never heard of them!’ or, ‘Not my sort of thing!’ and turn one’s back. But such an attitude can cause someone to miss out on moments of genius. How can we possibly know that something is not our thing until we have opened our minds and viewed it? And, if everyone turned their back upon the obscure, think of the wonderful artists who would have withered for lack of attention’s life-giving water!
I cannot give financial support to fellow artists – but I can, and will, continue to support them by watching their shows and writing my reviews.
It is very easy to get competitive in the world of the arts: To feel that one is fighting a battle for attention with millions of other writers, artists, musicians. I cannot deny that it is a difficult world to break into. Success is not guaranteed – and success is not something I have achieved as yet.
But, we are actually all in this together. The urge to create is identical no matter what form its material expression takes. And I think if we just concentrate on the narrow world of our own endeavours, and refuse to look at the wider picture, we are dimming the light which should, by rights, be illuminating all creative people.