8 November 2016

Michael reflects on the late Howard Davies and building walls...

In response to the very sad news that brilliant theatre director Howard Davies had passed, playwright Simon Stephens wrote on twitter;

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Howard Davies?!? Oh fuck off today. And this year and all of it.

(It’s a given his tweet had a brilliant rhythm…)

The first play I saw directed by Howard Davies was C P Taylor’s Good. It had transferred to the Aldwych Theatre from the Warehouse (now the Donmar) that Howard Davies ran for 5 years. It is one of my favourite plays - about how an essentially good person, whose life is in a state of flux, gets caught up with rise of the Nazi’s because he wrote a book about euthanasia. Susceptible to flattery, he agrees to advise on how to achieve the FInal Solution. Atrocities behind closed walls. 

The utterly unedifying USA Presidential campaign is almost over. Donald J Trump, ever the builder, the hard hat of hair, the pouter of petulance wants to be POTUS. And his first idea was to build a wall.

Perhaps coincidently reflecting this unpleasant year…that Simon so eloquently told to fuck off…we had a number of plays at this year’s festival about the worst of human behaviour. Dahmer - a murderer and a cannibal. Daniel – a teenage collector of indecent images of children. Police brutality in The Beanfield and political expediency separating siblings for 25 years in Over There. Separated by a wall. The Berlin one.

Modupe Salu’s appeal and protest against racism in I Can’t Breathe had perhaps the most affect on the audience. I am so grateful to MD. She brought her one person play to a festival she had never been to before – and took on the big ask of performing the fifteen minute play four times in a day…indulging me, as I thought this shuddering exclamation mark of a performance should be seen by the whole festival audience as quickly as possible. A judder at the end of the week. 

You can see I Can’t Breathe at Camden People’s Theatre this week - info here : 

At the festival we talk about all the shows. These daily discussions are so important. Audiences have the opportunity to ask companies about their work and why they make their choices…and companies have the opportunity to air their thoughts and consider feedback - which they can take or leave as they see fit. And the conversations continue in corridors, in corners and in the bar. We also have social and political discussions and we will up the ante next year. We all need to discuss much more. Not just within the safe walls of home. Opportunity for all needs to be at the top of the list.