Sprint Festival, Launch Night

Review in Issue 15-2 | Summer 2003

This was the sixth year for Sprint – and the second for artistic director Chris Goode. Since taking over at the helm, Chris has opened up the festival beyond its previous physical/visual theatre tag, to take into the fold forms such as experimental poetry, installation and performance art.

The launch night reflected the festival’s diversity of programming, with showcase performances from The Strange Names Collective, Theatre Intent, a smith and Theatre Trash.

The Strange Names Collective is actually one person – the charismatic performer Philip Stainer who gave us an extract from his 24-hour long improvised monologue Long Term Happiness. Like many solo performers, he uses his own life, outer and inner, as the main source for his art… which, it could be argued, all artists do to a greater or lesser extent.

The multi-nationality company Theatre Intent’s The Anxiety Dream is interesting and visually arresting – in an odd way, a rather old-fashioned piece of European-style art theatre with more than a nod toward surrealism – plenty of boxes, screens and morphing shapes emerging from stretched Lycra and a poetic text co-written by ‘different writers’ working under the name of Gido Lang (a touch of Dada here…). My favourite element was the ultra-lurid orange wigs that took on a life of their own…

Next on the bill was a smith who collaborated with the audience to create a film. Dispensing with cameras and celluloid he instead invited everyone to write one scene each – one image or shot described on a scrap of paper, the papers gathered up and read out in no particular order. Cut-ups and random scripts are nothing new – we’ve had William Burroughs and Brion Gyson and the whole thing plagiarised/popularised by David Bowie and explored/explained by Robert Anton Wilson. Yet this remains a most powerful creative tool. I will never cease to be delighted and amazed at how any improvised material randomly placed together will always weave itself into an intertextual melange of themes and narratives. A superb performance – thank you, a smith.

Following the traditional CPT Sprint launch curry, we returned for Theatre Trash’s Open Mind. What interests co-directors Ria Parry and Liam Jarvis is the relationship between ‘reality’ and ‘memory’ and the mind as a two-way channel of impulses, open to interference. This brings us to the fashionable notion that ‘reality’ is as much a construct of the mind as ‘memory’: the Matrix question (that in fact goes back at least to Plato) of whether there is indeed any real world outside the ‘cave’ of our mind… The piece has a very contemporary feel: a good use of projection with fast-paced action, and a Sliding Doors style replaying of scenes with different outcomes, prompting the question of whether our minds can be manipulated to recreate the past. I found the performers a little too ‘actorly’ for my taste, but considered this to be a well-designed and competently executed piece of contemporary theatre.

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-2
p. 29