The Diary: Damien Hirst; David Mamet; Double Feature; Ghosts of Gone Birds; The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik
Friday 02 September 2011
Damien's bad omens
The 20th anniversary of frieze is cause for celebration – and a trawl through the art magazine's archives. Damien Hirst was the first cover star, back in 1991 when the pickled shark was but a twinkle in the artist's eye. In his first interview, asked "why a shark?" about his putative project, Hirst said: "A shark is frightening, bigger than you are, in an environment unknown to you. It looks alive when it's dead and dead when it's alive. And it can kill you and eat you, so there's a morbid curiosity in looking at them... You have to preserve a shark in liquid, which looks very similar to its natural habitat... I hope at first glance it will look alive." The artist also reveals the roots of his morbid outlook. "One day I had a horrifying thought. It changed everything. I was looking at my collages: all these rotten little bits of wood, these decaying, discarded bits of rubbish on the floor, very close to death (I felt) in the formal arrangements I'd made, with bits of plastic and dirty tissues almost breaking apart. 'This is happening to me', I thought. So, you see, they are about life and death together." If you say so, Damien.
Anarchist in the UK
Where's The Anarchist? In April it was announced that David Mamet's latest – a female two-hander about a criminal serving a life sentence and a prison governor – would have its world premiere in the West End this autumn, with Rupert Goold directing. It was to be the third play by the American playwright to premiere in London, following Glengarry Glen Ross in 1983 and The Cryptogram in 1994. As yet, though, there's no sign of curtain up. "It's tricky lining up the cast and the theatre and it hasn't happened yet," I'm told. Mamet will likely be keen to press on. His last production, A Life in the Theatre, closed early on Broadway in November, as did recent revivals of American Buffalo and Oleanna.
Site for sore eyes won't be used again
Double Feature has breathed new life on to the South Bank, staging four new plays by four young playwrights in the warehouse area usually used for painting the National Theatre's sets. I went this week and was blown away the ambition in the writing and staging on show, as well as by the space itself. Shame, then, that the Paintframe venture is a confirmed one-off. Next weekend, the space will return to its original function. "It is a working space and this was only ever supposed to be a one-off," I'm told. "We've had to do all of our scenic backdrop painting off-site, which is far from ideal. So it won't be used again." Expect other theatres to follow suit soon, not least the RSC, who are rumoured to be planning Pericles in the Roundhouse's car park.
Avian plight plans
Jamie Hewlett has chosen the Hawaiian Crow, Ralph Steadman the Dodo. They are just two of 80 artists who are making new work for a show dedicated to the plight of endangered birds. Ghosts of Gone Birds is the creation of Ceri Levy, the film-maker behind Bananaz, a documentary about Gorillaz. "My life needed a change from the years of filming in darkened studios, on the road and nightly activities," writes Levy on his blog. "Now I have found myself walking into a different place to inhabit with my camera, a land of brightness, colour and nature." Levy underwent a birdwatching epiphany while holidaying on the Isles of Scilly in 2005, which in turn inspired his new film, The Bird Effect, "a study of how birds inform and affect people", from twitchers and conservationists to artists and musicians. The film features a soundtrack by – who else? – Jimi Goodwin from Doves, who will perform it live when the show opens at East London's Rochelle School in November.
Pixar on stage
Featuring a disco-dancing finger puppet, ukulele ballads and a bubble machine, it was the word-of-mouth, sell-out hit of this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Now there are a couple more chances to catch The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik as the Perth-based performer Tim Watts takes his one-man "micro-epic" to the Bristol Festival of Puppetry this weekend and Oxford Playhouse next week. A hit in America, where it was pegged as "Pixar does theatre" and as a "theatrical Wall-E" by The New York Times, it's the story of an unlikely deep sea diver who embarks on a mission to save earth while grieving for his wife. Utterly mesmerising and surprisingly moving, it was in my top five Fringe shows this year – see it if you can.
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