Sunday, June 04, 2006

Secret Spaces

On Thursday night I met with Jeins for Japanese food followed by a stand-up show from a deceased comedian. The Venue, the ramshackle subterranean theatre next to the Prince Charles cinema, is currently showing a pre-Edinburgh run of Bill Hicks: Slight Return, where the late comic returns to offer his views on the 21st century in the body of a “little known British actor.” I was quite a fan of Hicks and found the whole idea slightly unsettling, especially given the accuracy of Chas Early’s impression, yet because the writers showed an awareness of the weirdness of the enterprise, raising questions about the whole dead comedian theatrical sub-genre that’s currently prevalent (while admittedly being part of it) I thought they pulled it off. I spent a good chunk of Friday listening to my cassettes (yes, cassettes) of Hicks’ live shows, so something clearly clicked.

I was back in town on Friday night to see the new production by Angels in the Architecture, a company that specialise in putting on plays in unusual spaces. They were staging Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen Of Carthage in the House Of St Barnabas in Soho. The building is a former refuge for homeless women, and its chapel is tucked away on Manette Street opposite Foyles. I’ve been intrigued by this place for years and was very pleased to finally get a chance to look inside. I have an inherent dislike of audience participation so was rather unsure about what to expect as we were plied with wine and handed playing cards by the cast on arrival, but once the play was underway I found the production incredibly inventive, especially in its little details: the ‘Gods’ who hovered on fire escapes and rooftops. An unusual but very enjoyable experience, and there was something rather thrilling about watching a play in a secluded courtyard in the hidden heart of Soho.

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