Friday, 24 April 2009

Only Connect Theatre

The CreateKX team were more than happy to return to the hospitable Only Connect Theatre yesterday evening, but this time it was to see a performance of realistic drama Future Me.

The Only Connect Theatre on Cubitt Street is run by a creative arts company working with prisoners and ex-offenders. The old baptist church has been turned into an audience engaging stage set and this unique space makes for a very intimate theatre experience.

Future Me begins by setting a familar scene; an attractive, young and successful couple (Peter and Jenny) are ready to settle down and begin their future together. This habitual scenario is quickly dashed when an accidental email is sent from Peter's account to his entire address book. The email had an attachment of child pornography. From that moment on, Peter's life and all those closest to him was never going to be the same again.

The physical closeness of actors and audience ensured Future Me was a powerful perfomance, and at times uncomfortable by challenging our understanding of human impulse and desire. From the cell unit of a rehabilitation centre the audience is introduced to Paedophilia from the perspective of the offender and the impact on those who love and trusted them.

The difficulties in supressing human impulse and desire is cleverly explored in relation to the vitual world of the internet and the distortion that this brings to our real lives. When anything you want is avaliable just like that, human impulse and its potential to destroy is ever present. 'Future me' refers to a treatment programme designed for offenders to deal with the consequences of their past and look towards a non-abusing future. Through Peter's very vulnerable cell mate Harry and Jenny's loyalty to Peter, the audience is encouraged to consider the true meaning of forgiveness, and whether the hope for a new future 'me' is possible.

As well as theatre venues, Future Me will be performed in secure hospitals and the themes in the play will be explored through workshops with patient groups.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Little Italy

Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to experience a piece of 'Little Italy' right on my doorstep. The Islington Museum, and all those involved in the showcasing of their new exhibition, Little Italy got together to celebrate its sucess! With wine, focaccia, and a lovely range of cheeses and salami, the ambience was fitting for this commemoration of the Italian community who settled in Clerkenwell and Holborn from the early nineteenth century onwards. The Italian church of St Peter and Gazzano's cafe on Farringdon Road are just a few of the Italian landmarks surviving today, which play a part in the historic story of Clerkenwell's Italian past.

The exhibition offers a wonderful collection of photographs from the period, and the rather more unique pictures of a young boy with a monkey and craftmen at work really takes you back into a time when ice creams were 'penny-a-lick'. Contemporary quotes and extracts from local press illustrate the impact of the Italian community on Clerkenwell and nicely capture the introduction of ice cream to our culture - with an authentic ice cream machine on show! The exhibition unveils the Italian story and the oral history accounts brings the exhibition to a close with the voices and music of the Italian quarter coming back to life.

Following a speech of gratuity to Camden archives and the support from Friends of the Museum we were all honoured with the playing of the Chiappa family's louder than life, hand made organ - which brought smiles of delight all round!

Little Italy @ The Islington Museum, 245 St John St (below Finsbury Library), London, EC1V 4NB, on show until 31st May.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Madness and Modernity: Mental illness and the visual arts in Vienna 1900

Vienna 1900 was a time of great artistic efflorescence... When artists, writers and the likes would meet at coffeehouses to discuss all that was modern, from art and politics to medicine and social change.

It is in this period that Freud published his first writings on psychoanalysis in Vienna. The Wellcome Collection has brought Vienna 1900 to life with a display of architecture and visual art produced in this exceptional age. The exhibition begins with a film of 'The Tower of Fools' (a purpose built institution for 'dangerous lunatics') which brings to life the reality of medecine and madness in 18th - 19th Century Vienna. Its exploration of the geometric precise building, past skeleton cases and locked doors, is soundtracked by echoing footsteps that chase you through the empty corridors. By highlighting the thought behind developments to mental hospitals of physical beauty and Freud's infamous consulting room this history of medecine really explores the changing perception of the insane and their cure.

The fine line between mental illness and artist is ever present, from Franz-Xaver Messerschmidt's series of grimacing heads - it is believed by some to be self portraiture of his different personalities - to the pathological art exemplified in Egon Schiele's persistent scrutiny of face and body. Much visual art depicted the idyosyncracies and characteristics of indiviudals suffering from mental illness with twitching faces and withered bodies. Such portraits of the mentally ill registered it as a modern condition and highlights the mutual relationship between mental illness and the arts.

This exhibition is showing @ The Wellcome Collection until 28th June but there is also Bobby Baker's Diary Drawings: Mental Illness on show until August and a campaigning workshop is being held on Saturday 18th April.
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