Episode 1 is below here scroll down to read it or clickety-click!
Episode 2 … the quest continues! 15th May 2013
So, to continue where Episode 1 left off; the backdrop to AWN Pugin’s life, was one of great change; great change and unrest. The Swing Riots, the Luddites, the Bristol Riots, the Rebecca Riots, the Tolpuddle Martyrs. In 1812: the King was mad and locked up, the Prince Regent was spending vast amounts of tax payers money on fripperies, the Country was still at war with Napoleon, we started a new war with America, Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, was assassinated, the Country was broke, bad harvests had meant that many were hungry and a crime wave was spreading across the land; not a good year for the birth of AWN Pugin.
There was great change in the day to day living of most people as well; many had moved into the towns and cities to find work in the huge new manufactories that were springing up all around the country. Many found poorly paid jobs and lived in cramped conditions in slum-like buildings that had been thrown up quickly, and without much in the way of planning regulations. In London, the Thames was still no more than an open sewer and diseases, including cholera, killed thousands; it wouldn’t be until after Pugin’s death that Joseph Bazalgette embanked the Thames and created hundreds of miles of sewers to take the effluence from these hundreds of thousands of new houses away from the city.
In order to make a play, or a theatrical event as I’ve been calling it of late, about a man who lived through these times, then all of these things have to be visible, they have to be tangible for an audience, so that they can make sense of the man, his life, his legacy and, ultimately, the play itself. When I first started this project (over a year ago now) I had no idea of the vastness of the subject. Since then, having spent hours and hours sitting at a computer, researching, travelling the country to see his buildings and designs, talking to historians, architects, experts and reading books till my eyes could no longer focus, I now feel, just about, in a position to create a play. Over this last year I have worked with musicians, actors, directors, dramaturgs, film-makers, digital scenographers, educationalists, artists and all manner of clever creative people. I have done talks with people of all ages and backgrounds, I’ve run workshops, produced short scenes, had sharing of “script so far sessions”, I’ve done a scratch performance of a possible scene in front of over a hundred people, I have written articles for various magazines and have generally been an ambassador for AWN Pugin and The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat. I am now ready to leap into the last phase … which I have called, very cleverly I think you’ll agree … The Last Phase!
The Last Phase
But … ah, there is always a but … but now that I am here, now that I am ready to create a theatrical event, ready to hurl “The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat” onto an unsuspecting world … I’ve run out of money. I received a grant for Research and Development from the Arts Council, a small grant from Kent, a small amount from HLF and a great deal from my own dwindling funds … this has all, more or less, been used up. So, in order to proceed to The Last Phase, I need to insert another phase … which I will call “The Last but Last Phase”. In “The Last but Last Phase” I will mainly be putting on a suit and my Houses of Parliament Pugin Tie and, with my cap in my hand, I will be roaming the streets looking for people wearing fine clothes and attempting to persuade them into giving me some of their hard earned cash to help a coterie of struggling artists to create a “Theatrical Event” … I am not holding my breath.
But looking at the splendid (silk, mind you) Houses of Parliament Pugin Design Tie … how can I fail? Many are the ways, perhaps.
“The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat”. In the beginning was the play and the play was good but terribly expensive … I think my first fanciful budget came in just shy of two hundred thousand pounds … since then, of course, I’ve had to cut my cloth, so to speak, I’ve had to trim away at things that I really don’t want to trim away at but in order to proceed to The Last Phase … I have had to slash away with the calculator … the accountants equivalent of a machete! This is not all bad. As a theatre maker I know that some of the most creative work comes when Necessity, the Mother of Invention, holds the stage and speaks, in a terribly clear voice. Some of the best theatre I have ever seen and been involved in, was created with buttons instead of money and words instead of food. So, enough about fiscal concerns … what is this Theatrical Event all about and how is it going to look?
Most plays that you see can be classified in some way or other … tragedy, comedy, documentary, promenade, farce, history play, masque, melodrama, morality play, mystery play, tragicomedy, opera, pantomime … and on and on … The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat is all of those … and none of them. Enlightened? No … nor me. I think what I’m getting at is, that The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat … is unclassifiable … well, I’m sure it isn’t, it is just that I don’t know how to classify it other than, it is a theatrical event.
It is a play about a man, with film and music. There are sections of the play that are only heard. There are parts of it that are narrated and sections that are only seen. A part of the play is promenade. There are one or two bits that are sung, and at least one section that feels like a documentary. There is a very dense, printed programme that has a part of the story written down. There is a puppet. There are demonstrations, illustrations and diagrams. There are also a number of tents with things in them. There is a mask and a computer. There are things to look at, listen to and touch. There is food, drink and an overhead projector. There is a hat! There are a number of very small screens with things on them. There is a sound system. There is some scaffolding and a pile of rocks. There is, of course, a certain amount of Gothic-ness. There are lots of pieces of paper, some with illustrations on them. There is a boat. There are a number of tiles. There is a tennis umpires chair. The majority of the play takes place between 1812 and 1852 but some of it doesn’t. There is a plot!
This is not strictly speaking a life and times of AWN Pugin play … it is, of course, about his life and the times that he lived in but it is certainly not a biographical piece, nor is it a documentary style piece, nor is it a straight play, nor is it … ok, ok … I now know what it isn’t but what is it? I think you might have to come and see it!
Home … this will take you home.
Red Sky at Night; Shepherd’s Pie … this will take you to the pretty picture of the sky.
The Wide-Awake Hat … this will take you to a place where hats are compulsory.
AWN Pugin Has Eaten My Brain, Episode 1 … it is obvious where this leads.