Alice Jones' Arts Diary: Crumbs, Shunt return – but they won’t be hob-nobbing with the theatre set...


They’ve moved from an archway to a railway tunnel to a tobacco warehouse. Now Shunt, pioneers of site-specific happenings, are back on the London theatre scene with a new temporary home – in a biscuit factory.

The company is currently developing a new show, The Architects, loosely inspired by the myth of the Minotaur and the current economic crisis in Greece. It will be performed in the main hall of V22 Workspace, at the old Peek Freans site in Bermondsey, south London, in November for audiences of 250 at a time. “It will be a labyrinthine experience which will take audiences on the trip of a lifetime,” associate artist Louise Mari tells me.

Shunt have been somewhat quiet of late while its various members have pursued solo projects; The Architects will be their first new show since Money (above) closed in late 2010. This time, the company hope to go on tour for the first time ever and are aiming to take it to more unconventional spaces nationwide in the new year. Theatres need not apply. “That would be one step too far – for us to work in an actual theatre,” confirms Mari.

A breathless show that’s guaranteed to run and run

Is Roy Williams Theatreland’s most demanding playwright? For his last play, Sucker Punch, Daniel Kaluuya and Anthony Welsh underwent a gruelling six months  of training to play the boxers who sparred throughout the show. Now the lead in his latest, a 2012 update of Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, is being put through his paces. As Colin Smith, Elliott Barnes-Worrell will run the equivalent of a 3000m steeplechase every night on stage. He is currently running 10km three times a week to train. “He will perform on a specially built 6m treadmill and runs for around 20 minutes of the 80-minute play,” a source at York Theatre Royal tells me. By way of a contrast, the leads in Chariots of Fire, Jack Lowden and James McArdle, clock up around 1km per show at the Gielgud Theatre, knocking them into silver medal place in the hitherto uncontested sprinting thespian stakes.

Back to stand up to his critics; but shouldn’t Will have learnt his lesson?

Lest we forget, Will Gompertz , BBC arts editor, former director at the Tate and ubiquitous talking head, has a less glittering stint as a stand-up comedian on his résumé. Three years ago he performed his quirky comedy lecture, Double Art History, on the Edinburgh Fringe, to largely lukewarm reviews. Now, with a new book about modern art to sell, Gompertz is braving the heckles once more with a reprise of his show at Small Wonder, a short-story festival in Charleston, East Sussex on 29 September. In 2009, the Evening Standard declared it to be “as close to stand-up as Rothko is to Ricky Gervais”, but it’s probably come on leaps and bounds since then.

If only he could cross that one off the list...

He’s a bestseller, but Ian Rankin wasn’t always so confident in his craft. At the Edinburgh Book Festival, the author declared his first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, to be his least favourite. He wrote it while studying in Edinburgh in 1987. “And it reads like it was written when I was a postgrad literature student,” he said. “I wasn’t inside Rebus’s head; he was just a cipher to get me through the story.” He did that, and through 16 more and counting, too.

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