Archive for the ‘London Bubble’ Category

Hubble Bubble

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Yep, folks, the guys at Bubble Theatre are at it again, creating something as-yet-a-mystery but without doubt truly exciting for us to enjoy while wandering round sundry parks across South London this summer.

They’re based over at Rotherhithe and despite having their grants cut to virtually nothing (they committed the cardinal sin of producing theatre people might actually enjoy…) they’re still creating really incredible, innovative stuff.

If you’ve never seen a Bubble show, then it’s hard to fully describe the magic created by a promenade performance that uses the very landscape it’s set in as both constraint and opportunity.

Beginning in the last of the day’s sun, the performance glides through the dusk and plunges into darkness, using a combination of whatever landscape the venue provides, some really quirky props, the actors skills, the audience’s imagination and quite a lot of torches to make something unique to each space. Last year’s Odyssey was absolutely wonderful – I still can’t walk through a certain part of Oxleas Wood without thinking of the trees and their haunting mementos of sailors lost at sea.

Losing their cash made Bubble return to the drawing board and think of new ways that they could involve their audience, and they came up with Fan made Theatre . People buy ‘stakes’ in the production (which in reality amounts to buying a ticket in advance and giving Bubble a fiver) which means that they actually have a hands-on say in what show goes on.

Stakeholders are invited to submit ideas for shows they’d like to see. It can be a story, a title or even just an idea – the only things they ask you to bear in mind are that the show needs to be quite robust for English weather in July/August (I’ve trudged round sundry parks in pouring rain, which sometimes actually made the shows even more magical) and be something that would enchant people of all ages.

When all the ideas are in (the deadline’s 19th April, so get your skates on) they’ll be discussed by a panel of ‘glittering intellectuals’ (Yours Truly was invited to join it, but sadly the paper bag really gets in the way of play reading…) and whittled down to a pithy five.

Everyone gets to vote on the shortlist. This year a team of actors will work on each of the 5 shortlisted proposals during the week of 3rd-7th May. Stakeholders are invited to drop into the workshop and/or come along on Saturday 8th May.

Rehearsals commence on 28th June, and Stakeholders can drop in at any time to see how their idea is coming on.

There’s a Stakeholders Special Preview on 22nd or 23rd of July in Sydenham Wells Park. Jonathan Petherbridge, Bubble’s artistic director, tells me “the feedback given after last year’s preview was really helpful – many comments resulted in changes, some bits were even cut – it all helped us develop a better show. “

Whichever show is chosen will be on tour from the 24th July to 14th August – visiting Sydenham, Southwark Park, Oxleas Woods and – drumroll – a mystery venue. Personally I’d like to see Greenwich Park being given the Bubble treatment, but I suspect I’ll be whistling for that one.

There’s one last joy for the stakeholders – a last night party, hosted by cabaret sensation Underbling and Vow, on Saturday 14th August.

Not bad for a fiver, eh…

If you’re gagging to sign up and see your idea made into wonderful, exciting challenging theatre (Have you worked out that I like this company yet?) join up here or, if you really can’t wait, call them on 020 7237 4434. I promise you it is fantastic. It’s one of the highlights of my summer.

The Odyssey

Monday, July 20th, 2009

London Bubble, Oxleas Wood.

There is nothing can beat trudging round an ancient forest in on-off rain, sneaking past an angry Cyclops with his eye put-out, holding back the tears at a series of little shrines to lost sailors and trying to ignore the screaming cries of Sirens in one-man tents.

Yup – Bubble are at it again – and if you’re quick you’ll just about catch them. The choice of The Odyssey (by you, if you became a ‘stakeholder’ as I suggested a few months ago…) was inspired – an episodic quest story of a ridiculously long journey is perfect for promenade theatre, not least because Bubble make the audience go on a quest of their own, shuffling through woods, up hills, across meadows and through the odd muddy puddle, puctuated by scenes that tell the trials and tribulations of Odysseus and his crew.

It’s Greek myth – so don’t look for laughs. The gods play with men as literal Playmobil figures and they’re neither kind nor logical. Bubble have squeezed in one or two giggles – mainly fun anachronistic comments – but this is not as funny as usual – and it shouldn’t be. It’s grim, epic stuff.

I liked the way they brought out the characters of the crew, so you actually give a damn about guys who are usually just bit-parts and – Spoiler Alert, if you’ve never read the book – reminded me it’s never a good idea to be one of a hero’s six best men. Or, indeed, any of them.

Multiple Character Syndrome meant that a couple of times I was slightly confused as to who people were to start with, though it generally sorted itself out as a scene went on. I particularly liked the double casting of Penelope and Circe.

As usual, the best bits for me were the bits between the scenes though; the little set-pieces along the (ridiculously long in places – and all the better for it…) route that add depth both to the background of the piece – and to the playing space itself – making me feel as though I was completely within a different world.

Only one thing got me. And that was listening to a couple of (perfectly healthy) young women in front of me complaining about the route. They said that they should have had extra lights and warnings about obstacles; that they hoped Bubble were insured in case someone tripped over a root.

My blood boiled.

Whatever happened to Personal Responsibility?

You go to a promenade show in the woods, you KNOW what’s coming. Er, that will be – woods. There will be trees. They have roots. And branches. It’s called Nature. There are plenty of warnings on the website and the leaflets and suggestions that anyone with mobility problems might prefer a different venue. It is up to YOU to watch where YOU are going. It’s not anyone else’s fault if YOU go arse over tit because YOU didn’t take care of YOURself

Bubble – don’t be drawn by these pathetic individuals. The very fact that it’s dark and ever so very slightly ‘dangerous’ (for heavens sake what do they want – arc lights?) is the point of a piece like this. I want to have to take care. I want to stumble just a little bit. I want to experience something of the quest that Odysseus made.

You can still catch it at Oxleas Woods if you’re quick – it’s on tonight and tomorrow night. Then you can see it at the much ‘safer’ Southwark Park from Thursday to Sunday (recommended if you are the type that’s likely to sue if you catch your woolly on a twig.) Find tickets here.

Fan Made Theatre

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Despite the best efforts of various funding bodies who would rather we all saw up-yer-arse Art rather than exciting, innovative – but ultimately popular (eeek! the Arts Council shudders) theatre, lovely London Bubble Theatre company is still managing to hold out against the odds.

Given a spot of grudging ‘transitional’ funding last year, they’re now looking to find quirky alternatives to traditional ways of putting on a show right here. Given Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland are otherwise engaged, they’ve come up with ‘Fan-Made Theatre’ and I, for one am going to be right in there.

You buy a stake in the show – which is, basically, a ticket-up-front. It costs twenty quid (just a tenner if you count for concessions.) But here’s where the good bit comes in – you also give ‘em your ideas about what you’d like them to do in the way of a show this year.

There’s then a big online bunfight (okay, okay, ‘discussion’) and, once all the ideas have been mulled over by the theatre’s new stakeholders (i.e. us,) there’s a vote. The winning idea gets the classic Jonathan Petherbridge treatment, and goes on tour as a promenade performance this summer, taking in sundry London parks, gardens and woods (including, I’m sure, our very own Oxleas…)

And on top of all that – there’s a special Fan-Made shindig at the end of it for the stakeholders.

I adore London Bubble. My mates and I have made a habit of going en-masse to pretty much every London production they’ve done over the years. I love the world they create – an all-encompassing universe that feeds not just your eye – but your periphery of vision too – you’re always aware that slightly-out-of-this world creepy stuff is going on just out of sight or round the corner, and that if you’re very lucky you might just catch a glimpse of it.

I’m definitely going to purchase a stake in the show (so much more fun than just buying a ticket…) and I urge you to do the same. Get a ticket, get involved and tell ‘em what you want to see. They are too precious to lose.

Find out about it here – see you in the summer at whatever magical event they create (I’ll be one of those just-out-of-sight creepy things…)

London Bubble – Down But Not Out

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Folks – things Chez Phantom are getting complicated, and I’m not going to make this one – but I really feel you should know about it.

Remember back to February when the Arts Council decided to pull funding from the London Bubble Theatre Company because – well, as far as I can see it wasn’t enough up its own arse? We all feared the distinctive theatre was going to become extinct.

But no. They’ve rallied round. They received interim support from the Arts Council – and some more cash from Southwark (nothing from Greenwich, I note) and, although they’ve had to slice away at jobs and the park programme seems to be dead, they’re coming up with other shows, one of which is happening over the next week or so.

I have absolutely no idea what Urban Dreams will entail, but with Jonathan Petherbridge at the helm, you can guarantee that it won’t be what anyone expects anyway. Masks puppetry, projection and music – plus 150 Londoners. It might be rubbish. But it could just be really good.

It’s certainly free. And you don’t have to book. So if you’re looking out of your window this evening and thinking you’d like to go out, hotfoot it down to the Laban Centre for 7.30pm. And if that’s too far for you to go, it will reach Cutty Sark Gardens next Sunday 28th. Find more details here.

Oh – and if you make it do let me know what you think…

Theatre Cash

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

I actually managed to get hold of a copy of the Mercury this week (exciting, eh..?), and two separate items that seem vaguely connected caught my eye. The first, on page 15 announces that Lewisham Council have just given £31,000 to the London Bubble, who had their arts council grant stopped a couple of months ago, though they then got a transitional grant to continue some of their work.

The main project is to be Urban Dreams – a community-based show coming to open spaces at some point this summer. It’s all rather vague; what they have is here.

The other article, on page 4, tells us that Greenwich Theatre has just managed to claw back £200,000 in VAT refund that they’ve spent on shows since 1990. It would seem they’ve been fighting long and hard for it – they started proceedings back in 1995.

James Haddrell, the artistic director plans to use it to “take artistic risks.”


What would YOU like to see brought in then? They must be finalising the next programme at the moment. I confess the last season wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Any suggestions?