E. Amato’s Baz Blog

Practivist of the Week – YOU! Helping BAZ Productions!

Wow – I was invited to a sneak peak of what BAZ Productions is doing.  I was compelled to attend by the fact that they were doing it in a crypt!  Yup.  Underground crypt at St. Andrew’s Church.  Macbeth.  What could be spookier?  Yum.

The night was inspiring. The performers were thoroughly engaging and the use of the space was miraculous. BAZ has stripped away identity from character, put spontaneity into a 400 year old text, and removed apathetic passivity from theatre-going. If the theatre is to live beyond live streaming video, then this is clearly the right direction to pursue, and it is being pursued passionately, courageously, and elegantly by BAZ.

In the tradition of Shared Experience and Theatre du Complicite, BAZ is working toward a unified whole in its productions by creating a company of performers who work and grow together.  Catherine Bailey,  Sarah Bedi, and Emma Luffingham are leading BAZ in a direction of fully collaborative training – creating a team of performers as refined and excellent as a professional athletics team.  To do this, they must create time and space for training, rehearsal, discovery and mastery.

Surprise #1:  This takes money.
Surprise #2:  Theatre companies are not funded by beer sponsors and television ad revenue like professional athletic teams.
Say the BAZ team (yes they even quote together!):

After the roaring success of our work in progress showings, our next goal is bigger and brighter than ever – a three week run of Macbeth at the incredible crypt at St Andrew, Holborn (scheduled for October).

The space, with its strange corridor of underground rooms, is the perfect venue for our team of actors to pick up the story of Macbeth and wrestle with the telling of it.

We are already in training for the big event (as all our work is inspired by sporting matches, let’s say this is our championship final!) and will be lying in wait for that audience who seeks something alive and limitless. Expect murder, music, mystery – and things bursting out of the walls.

BAZ has already reached almost half their fundraising goal, but they still need to raise 19,000 GBP by September in order to
facilitate their 3-week run of Macbeth in the crypt.

YOU CAN HELP!
If you don’t like PayPal you can make cheques payable to: Baz Productions LLP and put them in the post:
Baz Productions LLP,
17 Ferris Road, London, SE22 9ND
LLP no: OC348492

1955

‘I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.’ Elizabeth Taylor

 

1955.

Elizabeth Taylor.

Sloane Square, 1955,

a summer sky,

she walks toward me,

steps off the pavement onto the road.

A yellow dress,

off the shoulders,

a tiny waist.

She looks up and her violet eyes forever imprint on my memory.

.

1955 Eddie Fisher.

I loved Eddie Fisher,

his sweet smile,

his curling hair,

his soaring voice.

I loved Eddie Fisher.

Leaning over the balcony at the London Palladium.

The best, cheapest tickets in town:

middle seat, front row of the Gods.

I reach out my eyes, beseeching him to see my adoration.

I loved Eddie Fisher.

.

1955 Richard Burton.

The Old Vic filled with teenagers.

A school matinee,

Richard Burton is Coriolanus.

I love Richard Burton.

I sit breathless as he struts the stage,

his Roman skirt swirling.

The Myrmidons approach and

with one breath,

one gesture,

they plunge their swords into his body.

His back to us: he freezes.

A voice from the audience rings out’ “Aw you’ve deaded me!”

The spell is broken,

the audience gasps, and Richard falls to the ground ,

swearing never, ever to play a school matinee again.

.

1955

I am Cressida on stage,

looking into Troilus’s green eyes.

We look, we kiss.

The headmaster directing us says,

”You must make the audience think you are in love”.

We kiss once more our cold, dry kiss,

recalling our passionate embraces

on school fields and in dark alleyways.

And try not to show we are in love.

.

By Carole Mason

The body in St Andrew

I’ve seen three corpses in my 34 years. One of them was a road accident victim whose life had left him a matter of minutes before I saw him. One of them was a close relative who had been dead for a number of hours.  And one had been dead for at least 600 years when I came face to face with him in the crypt of St. Andrew’s Church in Holborn.

In the summer of 2003 (I think)  I was running a theatre company called Natural Perspectives. We had put on a couple of shows which had been modestly successful and popular, and were looking for a new space to house a show we were developing about the Chevalier D’Eon – Europe’s only cross-dressing, possibly hermaphrodite, Knight (it’s a long story and one we never told fully, or well enough, as it turned out – the story is there if you want it…).  A friend of one of my co-artistic directors knew the then Rector of St. Andrew’s and had suggested that it might be an interesting place for theatre to happen. The problem? The crypt had only been just re-opened and certainly wasn’t ready for the public. Possibly due to the plague victims recently exhumed from the crypt…..

Nevertheless, we made a trip to St. Andrews and were led down the steps into the crypt, through a small door and into the space you are now standing in. The Rector pointed out the strata of London’s history, clearly visible in the walls – shards of pottery, metal and glass, mapping out of London’s past vertically and physically – history made visible, tangible. We were shown the well in one of the corners of the crypt – which had become a Temple to Minerva when the town was called Londinium by the Romans.

“Do you want to see our Resident?”

From what I recall, He had been found when workmen had knocked through a wall in one of the corners of the original site (you know the Church was pretty much demolished by the Germans during the Blitz, right?). He’d been there since the 14th Century – any records of His past, history, position in society, long since lost in the Chruch’s turbulent history.  All that could be said was that He must have been important to have been buried St Andrew Holburnestrate (that’s not a typo – it was called that in the Early Middle Ages.

“Fuck off.” “No Way.” “Er, YES”.

At least one of these responses was uttered, I’m sure.

We crept through the hole in the wall made by the workmen – and there He was.  The head of the (now almost totally disintegrated) wooden  coffin faced towards the hole we entered through, which meant the first view we got of Him was his feet, still wrapped in his funeral shroud and partially encased in what was left of the coffin.  Now, what I remember most was the smell – not decay, but a kind of dry smell – wood, and earth, and dirt. I want to say stale air but that can’t have been the case as the air had been moving around Him since he had been discovered – amazing how the memory tries to re-configure itself to make a story more dramatic.

Moving through the hole and past Him, however, I DO remember  holding my breath as I saw Him in full. Arms crossed, wrapped in his shroud, delicate finer bones poking through. His femur visible where the shroud had decomposed.  And His face. Well, not his face, as the flesh was long gone. But His features. The cloth over His skull remained – and imprinted with his features. Dark sockets where the eyes had been. The ghost of his lips. And the shadow of a nose – aquiline, distinguished, and above all, human.  He was going to be moved soon, we were told.    No, we probably shouldn’t touch Him.

So touch Him we did not. But I did bring my face close to His – about three or four inches away. I remember angling my face until it was level with his, my eyes looking into the dark patches where his eyes had been, my nose the perpendicular with the line of His. And that is the moment I can recall most fully – the one I can still inhabit, remember, feel. And that sensation wasn’t of fear, or awe, or sorrow, or even excitement. It was, quite simply and silently, recognition. And, in a strange kind of way, through that recognition, friendship.

We left through the hole in the wall. We finished the tour of the crypt. We went to the pub (as actors always do).  Conversation never moved far away from Him. Who was He? Why was he buried there? Why did no one know who he was? What did he do?

Later (and drunker):  isn’t it sad we don’t know the answer to these questions? Is this all there is?

The show never happened in The Crypt – too expensive (or, according to the Arts Council, Not Financially Sound).  He was moved – to the British Museum where he could be preserved for further centuries. The Well was walled up. And the Crypt became a (wonderful) performance space.

But every time I watch a show here I think of Him. And the walls of the room you are standing in, full of history, showing us what has been and what will be and what will become of all of us. And when I think of this, for a moment at least, I am not afraid.

Simon Muller

Preparing for Macbeth…

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, we are opening our doors to invite people to see what we’ve been hiding away and cooking up in our workshops.

When people arrive at the crypt, they’ll come with little or no knowledge of what to expect, other than perhaps a story they recognise. We hope to knock their socks off with some

Invite to A Night at The Crypt with Baz

Invite to A Night at The Crypt with Baz

thing fresh, beautiful and thought provoking.

From my experience, talking about Baz is hardwork, and more often than not my ramblings are met with confused faces of people wishing they never asked. ‘Welllllllll…… it’s kind of Sporting analogies-and-process-and-play-and-experiment-and-classic text-and-focused eyes-and-chanting-and-games-and-women-and-Macbeth-and-and-and….’ Nothing quite seems to add up. We’ve done enough talking, and now it’s time to turn those confused looks into wide-eyed understanding, as nothing says more about what Baz does, than Baz in action.

But these 2 evenings didn’t just magically appear… by Thursday evening we will have done only 2 nights, shared a glass of wine with over 120 people and finally unveiled the work in progress in an attempt to raise some money and some new fans. And yet it’ll be a culmination of 4 months’ work.

Picking the players – our showing six; cutting the text to find the scenes we want to share with the audience; negotiating with the venue over dates and times, glass hire and much needed heaters; designing and building the beautiful lights in a space with no rig and no way to attach things to the wall – no mean feat; designing an invite; sending it to our friends and further afar; drawing up budgets and lists of items we need; sourcing carpets from friends and junk from recycle bins; allocating props; printing up pictures; counting up cans of beer; writing speeches; sourcing props; having meetings; drawing up timetables; replying to rsvps; measuring up the crypt; dreaming up ideas and eating more baked beans and tinned tomatoes than ever before… believe me, it’ll become clear.

On Tuesday we will meet at the crypt armed with everything we need to occupy for 3 days, from cushions to bags of Apples and wooden clothes pegs, and intensive rehearsals begin alongside setting lights and hanging projectors. 4 months, 2 days of intensive rehearsals, and its over in 2 nights. It hardly seems worth it…. But it is, and we love every minute of it, because it’s the beginning of us. It’s what we’ve desperately been trying to explain for over a year, and suddenly it’ll make sense.

Intrigued? We hope so. Do let us know if you’d like to join us, we’d love to show you….

Tip on the tightrope

Last week I walked a tightrope. Not a metaphorical one, a real life tightrope. After several weeks of obsessing about tightropes, one appeared quite by accident in my life. I conjured it, I’m sure.

That first step out on it is, as the cliché predicts, the hardest. The one that takes the most will. Because you body asks a reasonable question of you: ‘It’s nice and safe right here, give me one good reason why on earth would you want me to do that?’ Once you’re on the wire though every step is essential, survival. No choice about it, simply the need to keep moving in order to stay on.

Unbalanced. Immediately. Jump. Laugh. Blush.

‘Fight for the wire.’

Back on (elbow a small child out the way) and try again. I’m living the metaphor. Walking it. I’m walking on a metaphor. Actually walking on it. Well actually I’m falling off a metaphor. I just fell off a metaphor. Damn it.

‘Fight for the wire.’

I will, I will fight to stay on. To be unbalanced and to keep walking with only my outstretched arms and the abyss below (or a crash mat, either way). To walk the tightrope. Tip on the tightrope. Tip off the tightrope. Land on the mat.

‘Fight for the wire.’

Outstretched arms for balance. Balance. Antithesis. Outstretched arms for antithesis. We did that once.

‘Fight for the wire’

Fight for it. Words I’ve ruminated on, built theories on, made my mantra. Don’t jump, don’t give up because it’s hard. Fight. Not to be confused with struggle. Not ‘struggle for the wire’. Struggle is weak, sad and wants to be watched as it fails. Fight. Fight. Don’t give up (or, better without the negative, that’s Do stay on). But thoughts are thoughts and my body is elsewhere right now. ie struggling and struggling wildly.

‘Fight for the wire.’

And now the wire found me and I’m on it and I’m walking and flailing and I reach the point where I’ve fallen off at least ten times in the last five mins and I do I do fight for the wire and I decide not this time I’m not going to jump off no matter what I’m fighting I am fighting and suddenly I’m not fighting but I’m not falling either I’m just walking and for a moment it’s stupidly easy. And I step off the end. And I’ve done it. I fought and I won. Cue music.

A sheepish grin and I turn to make fleeting eye contact with the room, to see who was watching, who witnessed my almighty triumph. No one. Not one person saw.

Bastards.

Nearest Tube Chancery Lane

Bolt out of Chancery Lane (the wrong side, came out next to Next).

The luxuriant wide street of High Holborn.

The Prudential Building is here, somewhere, pink and gothic beneath its shroud

It’s a shock not to see it.

.

Down towards Holborn circus

But a pit stop in Smiths

Reveals they sell cigarettes now

Which just seems wrong.

.

Further on past Hatton Garden

With its old-fashioned street sign

How did it survive the upgrade?

I see if I can see a man in black with a big black hat

Too much black for such an oddly warm day.

.

But not today. No diamonds today.

.

Further navigation of the circus

It never seems like a good time to cross

So many angles from where death might strike

.

Watch the road.

.

Ely place is left behind as we approach Pret,

Gleaming and corporate

A direct challenge to the comforting giant of Sainsbury’s HQ on the opposite corner

They trade disingenuous smiles as they prepare for the next round.

.

Being thus benetted round with megaliths

We cross to St Andrew. St Andrew. No possessive ‘S’ at the end of Andrew. Andrew SINGULAR.

I looked it up.

.

We head to the Holborn Viaduct entrance

Not the St Andrew Hill one. That would be like entering Ithaca through the wrong door.

We go the route that mortals are meant to take.

.

Down the steps, up the steps

Into the church and

A dense incense wall greets us.

.

Inside is a man sitting

Doing what people do in churches

Contemplating, in his brown robe.

I didn’t know you got monks in London

So near Sainsbury’s HQ.

.

We walk along the back of the church

Renovated after the Luftwaffe made mincemeat of Wren’s interior

Still protesting 1647 despite its 1960s makeover

“Beneath the wig and false eyelashes I’m just me”

.

Luckier than Christchurch Greyfriars down the road however,

Who succumbed to pavement widening in 1962.

Amen.

.

Along the back wall, we creep

Quietly, trying not to disturb the contemplating man

A Tuesday lunchtime game of Grandmother’s footsteps.

.

And outside again into what seems to be nothing like London.

A quiet courtyard, the sort you’d find in a Deanery in Devon.

No noise, gravel underfoot, where the **** am I?

(No swearing in church)

.

Meeted and greeted we go down to the crypt.

Health and safety is not an option.

I wobble down uneven, Caroline steps

To blackness, dust and close air.

.

The working lights blink and show

Tiny bricks

An unexplained hole in the wall

An explained hole in the ceiling

Nails sticking out of things

Good acoustics

Weird blue chairs

Some leftover church furniture

.

And absolutely no noise from what’s above

Like it had all gone away

And we were down there on our own

In our 17th Century bunker.

Farringdon Without.

The Baz Office

Like a fabulously fashionable pop-up restaurant in the heart of Soho that appears and disappears in a flash, visited only by achingly hip exclusive diners in the know that makes you feel utterly out of touch when it completely passed you by – The Baz office is equally as underground and even more fun…

Whether held in a rush post day-job on the 5th floor café in the Royal Festival Hall with laptops and bottles of water, at Emma’s flat with exploding veggie curries and piles of envelopes to stuff, or chez Catherine, which more often than not involves a copious amount of wine, Baz meetings have become an important part of what we do. Whether we keep on track with over ambitious agendas, minutes and deadlines, or whizz off on the most elaborate of tangents and fantasy plans, Baz meetings are where we’ve dreamt up our best, and our most stupid, ideas. On reflection, our most stupid ones seem to have been in direct correlation to the amount of wine consumed. Either way, they’ve left us galvanised, full of possibility and with a solution to every obstacle in our way.

From little germs of ideas to big bold statements, the meetings have nurtured and developed our plans and become almost as creative as the workshops. Constantly alive, Baz meetings are where we work hard to achieve our goals, support each other, back each other up and encourage each other (and therefore Baz) to be better and to dream bigger. The party in January was the biggest of these dreams to date, and we achieved far more than we ever had hoped for, raising over £2700 in cash on the night, a testament to our planning. And not afraid to go one step further, within a week of it being over, we were back in our powwow dreaming up the next thing – our showing in April.

Of course, this has all been achieved with the help of others, the actors who constantly inspire us and the lovely people who come along to our meetings to help, and thank god for them all. From observers blown away at our dedication and organisation, to those who’ve silenced the stupid giddy ideas with single raised eyebrows that see us dissolve into giggles, and others we’ve pounced on to pick their brains and suck dry all their knowledge, they’ve kept us on track and make us even more determined.

One day Baz dreams of having its own office; a dedicated space that doesn’t double as a kitchen or a living room. It will have 4 walls to scribble over and tons of space and filing cupboards, we’ll be there 8 hours a day and maybe there’ll be a good looking sandwich guy to deliver lunch (if we’re lucky), there’ll be desks for all, a stationary cupboard with an endless supply of envelopes, paperclips and working pens, and a magical agenda we actually get through, but frankly, I reckon it can wait…. Whether it pops up early Saturday mornings with a croissant, or involves weekday 2am finishes coupled with paper-cuts and wine, Baz has everything it needs for now. Ideas. Ambition. Drive. Promise. No need for a permanent sign above the door, we’re the ultimate pop-up.

And yet it’s even better than that… It’s the best office I’ve ever worked in and beats any try-hard-clipboard-carrying-clone-copying-Soho-hangout. Each meeting of the Baz office is unique, and each one takes us one step closer to our goals.

Take thou that …

Banquo and Fleance – they exchange a few words. Just a few.  So what, let’s get to the meat of the scene – when Macbeth comes in. It’s a bit twee, anyway, all that father-son stuff. Just do it -that way we can contrast it to Macbeth, the monster, soon to appear, in just a few lines, a very few lines. Get on with it, come on.

Or.

Children and parents. Those relationships. Digging a bit deeper.

The parent teaching a child how to tell the time. The parent who’s woken the child up at midnight to play football in the back garden, because they can’t sleep themselves. The parent who’s found the child hiding under the kitchen table because of a nightmare. The child who’s woken up and come down to catch their parent smoking. The teenager creeping home after curfew.

Why do we say what we do to children? What do we want back from them? The truth. Safety. Love. Howling at the moon. Confessing to a priest-like child. Or are we teaching, explaining, casting light on the world. Are we making them safe, or exposing them.  And would it be easier if they had no face?

‘Take thou that’. That. What? A sword? A torch? A kiss? A slap? A duty to be fulfilled or a present to be enjoyed?

Lights on. Lights off. On. Off. On. Off.

What’s the difference? Words spoken into light. Words spoken into darkness. Sound is different in the dark. Sound is safety. Or danger. Do we confess in the dark?

Oh, and are we missing a night in the play? Where can we find it?