Tuesday, 7 April 2009


[Rough (and probably only) draft]

As you might have noticed from yesterday’s glut of postings, Postcards... is back from its annual editorship of the National Student Drama Festival’s daily reviews and comment magazine Noises Off. As you also might have gathered from my editorials, this year’s festival was pretty special. OK, you might not have gathered that – after all, it is pretty much set in stone that the final edition editorial needs to be a big, warm hug to the whole festival and is my best opportunity to attempt to thank the dozens of people who help to make Noises Off through the week. However, it was nice this year not having to write it through gritted teeth.

I suspect for first-timers NSDF can’t help but be magical. The packed, week-long programme of plays, workshops, coupled with meeting hundreds of like-minded theatre-obsessed souls is bound to feel revolutionary. But it’s quite something when a Festival makes jaded old hacks like me feel it all over again. And, much though I do think the weather had a lot to do with making it a more pleasant experience – wandering around a lovely sunny seaside town, rather than getting repeatedly soaked to the skin in freezing rain between plays and discussions, does tend to lift one’s mood – there was a lot more to the last week than mere weather.

As I mention in my Monday editorial, there was a concerted effort on the part of the selection team to really give the students a sense of ownership over the festival. This completely succeeded, without once feeling patronising or contrived. In previous years, discussions may have erred toward longer-standing members of staff getting to make their points about shows in preference to students. This year precisely the opposite was true. The odd staff point was taken, but the majority of questions came from festgoers proper. It was reassuring to note that, in most cases, the questions I had about a piece would get asked by someone else before I even got a chance to speak. There was less of a sense from the staff of: “We know best, so shut up and listen.” More a case of: “This is your Festival. Let’s hear what you’ve got to say”. As such the discussions – which, it was rightly noted, form the core of the festival experience – weren’t the bear-pit which had been the case in ’97 when I first went to NSDF. But at the same time, they avoided being the “PC”, no criticism, witch-hunt against critics who dared to receive work with anything less than adulation, which had replaced the bear-pit. Instead, everyone discussed the work sensitively and intelligently. Shows kind of found their own level at which to be discussed. People asked questions about aspects of the work that had either intrigued or confused them, and no one said “it means whatever you want it to mean” all week.

Beyond this, a lot more companies than usual came up to the Noises Off office (henceforth Noffice), with many company members actually writing reviews of other shows and becoming valued contributors to the magazine, with some extreme examples (hello Jon, Jen – not to be confused with John et Jehn – and Jasmine) helping with the production process.

Similarly, the selection team, workshop leaders and visiting artists seemed to have a lot more time for Noises Off this year. I won’t name names or single individuals out for special thanks – the ones who spent most time there or being generally nice to us know who they are. Perhaps my favourite moment of the week was when Simon Stephen and David Eldridge spontaneously offered to interview one another in print for the magazine, and then turned up in the office late at night, with Simon having just spent the evening celebrating with the student cast of Manchester University’s quite brilliant production of his play Herons.

It kind of encapsulated everything that is great about NSDF: the students had no idea that Simon would be at the festival when they decided to enter the play for the festival, and similarly Simon had no idea how good the production would be when he went to see it. As it turned out, it was just about as good as acting gets – no need to use the qualifier “student”, this was just quality, pure and simple – but as a result both parties had an unexpectedly brilliant night.

On a personal level, I was having quite a brilliant time too. Just before the festival commenced I was asked by the Arts Council to join its pilot peer assessment scheme, the first meeting for which took place earlier in the day when I travelled up to Scarborough.

During the Festival, it was extremely flattering seeing my name crop up a number of times as a suggestion as a possible replacement for Nick de Jongh at the Evening Standard in the comment threads of Mark Brown and Matt Trueman’s blogs on the subject – largely from people I don’t actually know.

Meanwhile, while at the festival, I was put in charge of the International Student Playscript Competition and on the same day I also happened to be on the winning team of the NSDF’s enormous pub (well, Grand Hall) quiz, and happened to be the person who won the tie-break question. Which was nice. It’s been a while since I had a day like that, and last week seemed to be made of them.

Back in the real(-ish) world, the Official Secrets Act’s debut album Understanding Electricity is out now, and is pretty much everything you could hope for. Elsewhere, Postcards’... joint favourite poet (the other being Chris Goode) has a new volume entitled The Migraine Hotel coming out at the end of the month, and in the interim is taking up the NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem a day for a month. I’m already very fond of days four and three.

Anyway, I should stop writing this if I’m to get everything else written up before whizzing off to see the Tim Etchells/Victoria tonight.

Today’s song: Hope by Bauhaus. Pretty, I think. And optimistic.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Noises Off: Editorial – Friday

The Desert of the Real

What a spectacularly great week. NSDF09 has, by any standards, been a classic year for the Festival. For a start there was the weather. I can’t remember a warmer, sunnier Festival. And it feels like that warmth and sunniness has bled into the Festival itself. Then there were the shows: these again were almost without exception *of a standard* at the very least and in several cases were exceptional. There were the staff, visiting artists and judges, all of whom somehow magically turned out to be a universally friendly, approachable good-humoured, passionate bunch.

The LOs went about their often interminable, thankless work with friendly energy and enthusiasm enough to suggest that manning often-deserted rooms and corridors was reward in itself for them. Once again the technical crew worked their usual magic so effortlessly it seemed perfectly normal that a selection of unprepossessing dance rooms, badminton courts and ludicrously large spaces should be transformed into high-functioning, state-of-the-art theatre spaces, and then transformed again into entirely different configurations in apparently no time at all. And then there’s you, the Festival-goers. What a lovely lot you are - smiling, passionate and bright.

The collision of these elements has made for an incredible Festival. I think we’ve seen the early stages of some remarkable careers this week, not to mention some hugely exciting company work. At the same time, we’ve enjoyed a set of discussions notable for the willingness on the part of companies and critics alike to have civilised discussions with one another, perhaps even learning something into the bargain. There has been a carefulness and sensitivity in the way that everyone has approached each other’s work, and indeed each other’s critiques, that’s been a joy to behold. On a more personal note, I’d like to thank Festival director Holly Kendrick for her continued support of Noises Off. She knows we can sometimes be a thorn in her side, and yet she continues to find money in the budget for our ongoing existence. The constant help from her two sidekicks, Chris Wootton and Faye Watton has been greatly appreciated. It has been a pleasure to catch up with older members of the selection team and to meet the new ones.

Many of this year’s selected companies have been particularly good friends to us up here in the Vitadome. Noises Off would particularly like to thank Normal for the loan of their magnificent swan; Tub / The Wake, not only for lending us their bath, but also for donating writer/performer Jonathan Brittain for the week. Various vowels from Vowel Play have been regular presences throughout the week. No Wonder, similarly, lent us the services of their Jennie Agg for all-purpose writing, proofing, organising and generally showing me up. Thanks also to Elephant’s Graveyard for treating us to rousing renditions of the music from their show during copy deadline.

Noises Off had something of a bumper year, with new faces repeatedly returning to the office to help out. We’re all hoping to see more of Caitlin Albery-Bevan, Zoe Hughes and Ruth Ingamells at coming Festivals, along with even more hard-core presences Isolde Godfrey, Mary Osborn and Will Sawney. More committed yet still were Carly Mills and Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart who both wrote assiduously and stuck around to join in the miasma of sleep-deprived mania that is the production process. Alex Watts brought a lovely gentle air to proofing and general office busying. Hampton School continued to send brilliant people – Matt Thomlinson and Gareth Thomas wrote brilliantly and entertained the office – and Old Hamptonians Euan Forsyth and Henry Ellis turned wrangling with our evil layout software Scribus a constantly amusing treat. Honestly.

Richards Dennis and T. Watson brought alarming prose-based prolificity and near-tireless dedication, with Richard Dennis in particular showing exceptional skill in being able to sleep in the most inconvenient of office locations, while Watson still incredibly managed to lay out yet more pages.

Sarah Dean brought her Brownie Magazine-honed talent (really) to the proofing desk, while dispensing much-needed comfort and tea. Ben Lander reprised his role as the popular, spectacled, and increasingly invaluable presence in the layout department. Meanwhile John Winterburn proved himself to be the lynchpin around whom the office rotates: an able manager and an organised, resourceful and most importantly very funny addition to the office.

The core team of Phil Mann, Claire Trevien and deputy editors Tom Wateracre and Chris Wilkinson were once again a continual pleasure to work with. Witty and imaginative, not to mention generous.

I hope everyone will be returning to civilian life with a rich stock of memories to sustain them through the coming year. For me, NSDF09 will be indelibly linked to the moment when I looked up to discover two of Britain’s greatest playwrights sat next to me writing an interview with one another for Noises Off. This is rivalled only by the moment when No Wonder came into the NOFFice to fill Tub’s bath with teddy bears and pornography. Returning to the comparative desert of the real world, I worry normal life will look a bit flat for a few weeks now.

All the best,

Andrew Haydon,


Noises Off: Editorial – Tuesday

The Ticklish Subject

There’s a great article in today’s issue by Sam Stutter, the lighting designer and operator of No Wonder. In it, Sam identifies two different strains of theatregoer. While I’d dispute the precise lines by which he divides the two camps, Stutter hits on something absolutely central to one of the biggest debates in British theatre. In the process he also highlights an interesting tendency in yesterday’s discussion session.

The idea that “British theatre” is even something that can even be discussed as a single entity is flawed. Say “theatre” to some and it immediately conjures the musicals of London’s West End, to others it is the prestige classics of the RSC, Donmar in the West End and the National (I apologise for this London-centricity – I’m based in London, and am not lucky enough to have anyone who wants to pay my rail fares to review around the UK or pay me enough to pay them myself), for others, British theatre immediately connotes the new writing boom of the past ten or more years.

For others, the very idea of ‘new writing’ is deemed reactionary in the extreme and the new movement in British theatre is the various schools of physical theatre, devising, post-dramatic texts and Live Art. Elsewhere mainland European-style director’s theatre and experimental combinations of all of the above are making a bid for recognition.

However, in yesterday’s discussion, as Stutter notes, several of those making comments made some pretty bald assertions about what is and is not acceptable theatre. The staging of Vowel Play, for example, was criticised for being too static. The use of microphones was questioned, while the style of acting was both praised and criticised. It was interesting to see one type of theatre being roundly condemned for not conforming to the rules of an entirely different sort of thing. Of course various festgoers have their own tastes from which their analysis stems. But their criticisms are easily dismissed by the companies concerned when they foreground such preferences. In one way, this might be a pity – after all, the problems described may well contain a kernel of truth. However, while they remain couched in terms that could be read by those being criticised as coming from an entirely different place than where they intend, the charges levelled get dismissed without consideration.

Some of the best writing in the magazine today comes from contributors trying to articulate their responses to completely unfamiliar forms. A number of reviewers begin their write-ups of Never Enough either mentioning or apologising for their unfamiliarity with dance theatre/physical theatre/contemporary dance. However, where they differ from those who reckon they’ve already pinned down what theatre is “meant to be/do” is in their willingness to open themselves to the new experience, involve themselves actively with what it’s doing, and respond to it by relating their emotional and intellectual reactions. Allowing yourself to be moved by something you’re not sure you even understand is a pretty brave move. Articulating this response in writing and allowing it to be printed out and shared amongst your peers is courageous in the extreme. It is both moving and very hopeful that there are so many at this festival prepared to do so.

Noises Off: Editorial – Monday

Enjoy your symptom!

The first full day of the festival is over, and what a glorious day it was. Clear blue skies, bright sunshine, it even felt almost warm at times. Where was the week of freezing rain we’d been promised? The sunlight seemed to permeate every aspect of the Festival. Everyone beamed at each other like they couldn’t believe their luck. The first shows had been pretty well received and, if not universally lauded, then certainly they had been respected, discussed and thought about. In short, the atmosphere couldn’t have been better.

So it was with some trepidation that many approached the first discussion of the festival. Out of the beautiful sunshine into the darkened cavern of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s In-the-Round space for a discussion “about nothing”. As it turned out, this discussion, much more so than the opening ceremony, served perfectly as a get-to-know you session for both staff and festgoers alike.

What marked this first discussion out was the quality of complete openness and transparency in the exchanges. James Phillips led the session with an attitude of complete sincerity. There was no ego on show, just a desire to underline the approachability and manifest interest that the selectors have in helping the festival population with advice and a willingness to engage.

There are comment pieces in today’s edition that praise this finely judged Q&A session and there are those that bridle at a perceived atmosphere of docile, uncritical, “PC”, worried by the potential chilling effect that an atmosphere of “constructive criticism” and “celebration” might have on honest, robust critical exchange.

Obviously, as a magazine much of whose content is theatre criticism, a declaration of interest can be taken as read. As our editorial policy states, we will not publish simple invective. That is to say, if someone hands in a piece of paper with a show title and a couple of lines saying “_____ is the biggest pile of shit I have ever seen in my life”, we won’t be publishing, no matter how true a reflection of its author’s feelings it may be. On the other hand, we do not demand that all criticism we print be “constructive”. Or rather, not in the sense that those who demand it mean. Rather, Noises Off takes the rather longer view that sometimes the most constructive choice for a play would be for it to stop.

Criticism (derived directly from “to critique”, not “to criticise” it is worth reiterating) isn’t meant to offer solutions to a director with a terrible show, it is meant to honestly report to its readers the subjective responses to a work experienced by the critic. Of course Art has the right to take risks and to fail as a result, but Culture (once usefully defined as “the stuff that surrounds art”) has a responsibility to divine and report that failure. After all, no one learns anything if they aren’t told when they are going wrong. Noises Off doesn’t believe that the critic is infallible, though. If you look carefully through our pages, you will notice that there is a wide range of opinion here. All given equal weight. Similarly, if artists want to engage with their critics at all, and I can understand those who don’t – even if their decision saddens me a little – then they must have the courage of their convictions as much as a willingness to learn. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it’s at festivals like this that such exchange starts to look less like an impossible dream and more like an urgent, emerging possibility.

Noises Off: Editorial – Sunday

Context: It’s pretty easy to pick up, I imagine. In short, Eastenders and Coronation Street actor Ian Reddington made a bunch of woefully unfunny and mostly tasteless jokes throughout the Festival’s opening ceremony, which he was co-hosting. Elsewhere in Noises Off we had two pages of students reviewing the ceremony with varying degrees of hostility. The last paragraph is a very poor attempt at a Žižek pastiche – proof, were proof needed, that such parodies shouldn’t be undertaken at four in the morning with no preparation.

The Metastases of Enjoyment

Second edition editorials can be a real bugger to write. The first discussion hasn’t happened; everyone’s seen different shows; the Festival hasn’t begun to coalesce into a community. Happily, thanks to yesterday’s opening ceremony, the Festival already seems to have bonded. As such, thanks are due to Ian Reddington, who gamely took it on himself to provoke the student body into a single, tutting mass.

Offence seems to be very much in vogue at the moment. London theatre has of late enjoyed a sustained period of various people taking various offence at various new plays. First up was Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice, Ian Shuttleworth’s recent response to which we printed in yesterday’s edition of Noises Off. Hard on its heels came Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, which, in amongst some very bad tempered debate, actually prompted some of the most passionately felt and closely argued writing on politics and theatre.

What is interesting, though, is that it was precisely the offence taken, the nature of the offence and the arguments that the offence generated that made these the most talked about plays in London. Alia Bano’s Shades (starring the effervescently lovely NSDF selector Stephanie Street) and Marius von Mayenburg’s The Stone – playing at the Royal Court at the same time as Seven Jewish Children – were both better pieces of theatre. As such, in a way there was less to talk about. One could happily enthuse with fellow theatregoers about how much you’d loved both, about their clevernesses and their many merits, but it’s a limited conversation compared to the miles and miles of print generated by Seven Jewish Children’s ten minutes of stage-time.

Offence, then, seems to be the most useful tool for prompting dialogue – an oft-professed aim of British theatre. Re-enter Reddington. Yeah, sure, on the face of it this was a spectacularly mis-judged bit of capering – lechery, disdain, contempt – all making for rather uncomfortable viewing. But what of these ad-libs? What of their nature?

Reddington’s gags did not come from a void. Quite the reverse. What Mr Reddington offered was a series of well-worn tropes of offence. Where is the offence located, however? I claim it is within our own narcissistic self-disgust at having recognised Reddington’s tropes. I am prepared to go to the end. Reddington represents the Festival’s Id. Our collective Super-Ego recoils at being made to recognise these thoughts, the ideas that we seek to repress. Ideas, the existence of which, we are in collective denial. The recognition process, the act of remembrance, conjures a collective trauma which manifests itself as denial, and consequently outrage.

Alternatively, not.

With apologies to Slavoj Žižek

Noises Off: Editorial – Saturday

Welcome to the first edition of Noises Off, or Noff as it is affectionately known. Noises Off is the magazine (or newspaper, depending on how you look at it) of the Festival. It is published daily throughout the festival. The exciting thing about Noises Off is that it is written by YOU. Today’s issue has been heroically thrown together in a remarkably short space of time by a dedicated team of volunteers. Tonight, it’s your turn. Noises Off needs your reviews and satire, comment and cartoons, your photos and feature articles. Got an idea for an interview? Great. Do it. Go up to someone and ask them what you want to know, write it up and give it to Noises Off. Have something urgent to say about the state of theatre, student theatre, political theatre? Perfect. You’re this generation’s greatest undiscovered satirist? Noises Off wants to publish you.

Think of Noff as NSDF’s Facebook page. Hell, Noises Off has been facilitating user-generated-content since the mid-sixties. It would be vain to suggest that it invented web 2.0, but nevertheless that’s pretty much how it works. While theatre blogging is gradually transforming the way that theatre criticism is perceived, and indeed how it functions, Noises Off is interested in the practice of theatre criticism itself. Just as we aim to nurture the critics and arts correspondents of the future, we’re also keen to publish pieces by theatremakers. And we want to explore the grey areas between “critic” and “practitioner”. This festival is uniquely placed to facilitate the useful, fruitful collision of these two apparently separate worlds.

Elsewhere in these pages are explanations of how to get involved and possible award-led motivations for wanting to do so, but these don’t really approach the real essence of the magic that is Noises Off. Every year since it began in (I think) 1965, somehow, overnight, every day of the festival, a largely unpaid team of volunteers come together to make this remarkable little magazine. Over the years, of course, the technology has changed – my two predecessors, playwright Stephen Jefferies and theatre critic Ian Shuttleworth, tell frankly hair-raising stories about drawing grids on sheets of paper and typing up copy on manual typewriters. But the ethos has remained the same for all the time I’ve been here. Whether we have an army of volunteers each night, or a tiny band of bleary-eyed survivors struggling with technical hitches as the dawn sunlight streams through the windows of the Vitadome (or Noffice as it is lovingly known), there’s a camaraderie, and a sense of romance about making this magazine. Because, at its best, Noises Off feels like it matters, like it provides the festival with something unique at its heart.

Whether you submit one article or stay up all night every night, this is your magazine. You, the festgoer, are what makes this magazine great. So come up tonight and get stuck in.

Noises Off: April Fools article - Wednesday

Written by my other deputy editor, and fellow Guardian blogger Chris Wilkinson, this brilliant spoof interview with Simon Stephens was printed in the 1st April edition of Noises Off.
Scholars Googling Simon Stephens should note IT IS NOT TRUE. IT IS A JOKE.

Simon Stephens lives in a world of pain. Violence flows like crude oil through many of his plays - Herons, Pornography, Harper Regan. His writing inhabits a hinterland between social realism and grotesque abstraction.

It comes as a surprise then, to learn that there is another, softer side to the work that he does. Many of today's playwrights supplement their relatively meagre theatre earnings with work in TV. Jack Thorne, Al Smith, Dennis Kelly and many others can be found scribbling away on behalf of programmes as diverse as Casualty, Eastenders, Skins and Pulling. But Stephens's work for the screen is not to be found in those primetime evening slots. His is a very different kind of audience.

"I've aways been passionate about education and about young people" he explains over coffee in the Spa Bar, "and so when I was asked to write for In The Night Garden, I jumped at the chance." 'Garden' as he refers to it throughout the rest of our conversation is the groundbreaking Cbeebies programme aimed at the under fours. Based on extensive research in to how children learn, it uses (according to the show's website) "repetition and anticipation to build confidence, satisfaction and enjoyment. This is all carried out at a pace which under 4s can follow and understand."

Adapting to this new form was not easy. "I spent a great deal of time talking with the show's producers, learning how best to appeal to the programme's audience. Obviously, not many toddlers go to places like the National or Royal Court - where my work usually appears - so it was a steep learning curve!" But it seems that the challenge of writing for this radically different demographic was something he relished. He talks animatedly about how he went about creating two of the show's best loved characters – Igglepiggle and Makka Pakka.

"I think a running theme in my work generally is the conflict between order and disorder," he says, "And so it felt quite natural to create characters who embodied those two extremes." In the show, Makka Pakka often has to tidy up after her clumsy, accident prone friend Igglepiggle. "Obviously we have to keep things quite simple for the viewers, but I do find something genuinely compelling about how these two very different characters manage to maintain their relationship despite their clear differences."

Yet the real excitement here for Stephens is how much creative freedom the form gives him. "Adult audiences want you to follow certain rules in your writing. They expect a story to be internally consistent and to create a recognisable world. With children everything is different. You can make imaginative leaps and disregard even basic things like the conventions concerning time and space in order to tell your story." Stephens's passion for this aspect of his work is impressive. But I wonder what his fellow playwrights make of his unconventional career move. "Well some of them were surprised at first," he says, laughing, "I remember David [Eldridge] asked me if I was going to end up corrupting the minds of a generation of children! But actually I think they understand where I am coming from. Like actors, it is easy for a writer to become typecast. There is an assumption that we can only write in a particular way. This is my way of hitting back at that."

Of course, Stephens's is not the first playwright to branch out like this. A couple of years ago Mark Ravenhill – best known for violent, expletive ridden plays like Shopping and Fucking and Some Explicit Polaroids – wrote a family pantomime for the Barbican. He too had to deal with a critical response that was often unable to cope with the fact that he was attempting something different.

However, as Stephens argues, the opinions of his peers or the critics are not the point. "It's got to be all about the kids. I grew up on shows like Button Moon, Bagpuss and the Clangers. It was these programmes that first got me excited about the whole notion of story-telling. So it's a real honour to have the opportunity to pass this on to our own children." There is a personal element to all of this too. Stephens has a three-year-old daughter who is, he says proudly, "a big fan of the show. Whenever it comes on the TV she points at the screen and says 'da da'." He smiles and then adds, "I hope it is because she knows that I made it, but I do worry that she actually just thinks that one of the Haahoos is her dad!"

Stephens's passion for this work is such that it is tempting to assume that he might one day give up writing for the stage entirely in order to devote all of his time to television. "Oh, I don't think that will happen," he says. "Theatre is, and has always been my first passion. TV is great but it can't match the experience of a live event."

And of course, children's television has other limitations. "I love writing dialogue and playing with language. With Garden it is tricky because most of the characters speech is limited to a series of squeaks, hums and twitters. And so inevitably there is only so much you can do with that."
These reservations aside though, he says has no intention of giving this work up any time soon: "I just enjoy it too much. I find the challenge of this kind of writing enormously nourishing." It is reassuring to know that the country's young are in the hands of such a consummate, passionate and sensitive artist.

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk – Friday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

Hi to you all from Andrzwej Haidonsk who is me at Ljubljana for the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival. I have heard that I was the subject of a question of knowledge at your quiz show in the Festival, and I am flattened that you are talking about me. I am consterned to hear that Andrew Haydon, my counterpoint, was in a team who did not know that the NSPDF stood for National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival, and thought it stood for National Student Post-Drama Festival. Of course it is not! Students making theatre? It will never happen! They are more likely to do the sex or write the essay. Today I looked at three post-plays, all of which were post-interesting, and which I am going to post-discuss with you post-haste. Post-ibly. Possibly. This is a joke in English!

It has been a long festival and so I am quite tired. Sometimes I look at a little play and grow all sleepy, and The Wake is what I then have to do. Nudge me! I am out for a count! But that did not happen in this, which was a look at fluid dynamics in a bottle of Ljubljana’s most promising beer Jacqt. There was a bottle of beer on a column like the Greeks have. And we all stood around and looked into it. Perhaps the postdrama was inside. In liquid form.

Perhaps inside a bubble of beer gas was talking to another bubble of beer gas for a long time and not doing anything of note. Maybe that is where the post-drama was sitting. Next to the bottle of Jacqt there was a tub of margarine. How could we look at fluid dynamics in this? It is a semisolid! And also it is stored in a non-see-through plastic tub. I think to myself, "This must be a double-bill with the play The Wake! This is Tub. I did not even know that that was happening. What a surprise!" Was it a good surprise? No. I was worried that I would not get to my third play that day. It was a scheduling nightmare!

What the frick would we do? But for good luck, the third play "Sad Since Tuesday" was also on the Greek column. It was a Tuesday cut out of a magazine and it was all soggy from the tears of someone. Unless it was beer. Or margarine. What the shit is this? Three plays together? The Festival Director is even not trying any more! Three plays together! This is shit. They shall hear of this in Lodz, in Minsk, even in Berlin!

It was a shitty end to an extreme festival and I hope to blog at length about it when I get back home, but now, I am tired and I must leave you. Here's my viewover the whole bloody business. It was good.

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk – Thursday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

Smell me! It is the musk of importance, for I am Andrzwej Haidonsk reporting from the National
Slovenian Post-Drama Festival here in Ljubljana, where the women are women, the men are moose, and the moose are post-dramatic. Hey, boys! They are! They stand doing nothing
but lowing. What is lowing? I don't know! I heard it in a Christmas carol!

All the talk at this year's NSPDF is about characters. There are, we can all agree, far too many of them. We must have many fewer characters and replace them with concrete slabs or breezy blocks. In one of the plays the other day, I almost cared about a character in it, and I want this not to happen again. My friend Pyotr once accidentally fell in love with a character in a play and tried to marry it, but then the actor who played her was all like "Um, no!" and Pyotr was all like "weepy weep". He then killed a dog with diabetes by feeding it too much chocolate*. It's true! This is why post-drama is best. No characters.

The first play we saw today was Me & My Friend. This was in a coffee shop in town, not a theatre, which is the sort of fricked-up shit that we do in the post theatre world. When I arrived, I saw my friend Pyotr there. He had a brown sack by his feet. I called out to him "Pyotr! What are you doing in this play?" and he said, "This is not a play, I have just planned to meet you. It is a meeting for friendly social reasons."
I was excited by this. But I wondered what was in the sack. This made the meeting not post-dramatic.

"What is in the sack, my friend Pyotr? And how did you get our coffee meeting in the NSPDF programme?"
"Well," said Pyotr, "have a look in the sack."
"I do not want to, Pyotr. To look inside the sack would create a dramatic situation which I, as a fan or big fan of post-drama, would find not good."
"Look inside the sack," said Pyotr. "I do not want to, Pyotr. You have put this event in the brochure of the NSPDF. I cannot be involved in any drama. Leave me alone, Pyotr. Leave me alone," I said, in my calmest voice, so to avoid any drama at all, and ran from the coffee shop.

I did not want to look in the sack. It would have been another dog. Although if I think of a dog in that bag, it creates drama in my head, and that is the last place I want it! I ran from the coffee shop to burst into the installation piece The Last Yak. A cow was tethered to a steel post. It has two party hats on its head in the place of horns. A painted sign reads "Yak". I am guessing this is the last yak in the world, or the title would be meaningless.

A man then came in and said, "This is the last yak in the world. Because of a simple virus, the yaks are dying. And now, they have called me, a veterinarian doctor, who will cure the yak with simple antibiotics. However, the antibiotics are on a train and shall soon arrive. I hope they do before the yak dies." A nurse then came in and said, "The antibiotics are on their way, but there is a delay on the train and the antibiotics may arrive later than expected." The man then said, "Well they had better hurry up. Unless this yak gets antibiotics in the next 90 minutes, it will surely die!"

They then waited for the antibiotics, but I left soon after. I was shaken up like a can of Tab Clear because of my interactions with Pyotr, but also... The Last Yak had characters in it who I had empathy with, a plot that would be resolved in the course of the play, and drama! Stinking drama!
What has happened to this postdrama festival?!

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk - Wednesday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

Hello from somewhere where you are not! Unless you are reading this in Ljubljana, which is where I am. I am Andrzwej Haidonsk, theatrical blogmeister and pimp. I’m not even joking about the pimp! I run a successful business. I am here at the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival. Some people have been saying on my fricking Facebook wall that me being at the NSPDF and you being at the NSDF that I might be made up. Well, I can tell you that those people are formally not extreme and are also dickheads. I am as real as the sun across the mighty peaks of Torstz in the Lopl region.
Some have also said that evidence for me being made up is that my name – Andrzwej Haidonsk – is slightly similar to the editor of the NSDF magazine. I have met him at a post-dramatic conference in some stink-hole place in Poland, and I can tell you that we had a good laugh about our names being alike. "We are like cousins!" I told him, but then he looked uncomfortable so I stopped talking to him. He seemed happy kicking a pot-plant with a soft shoe.

Today at the NSPDF, we saw Return to the Silence. In Slovenia many years ago there was a man who could not speak because he was born with his tongue all fricked. Well, one day he was out in a field, picking a flower or potato or something, and he got struck by a piece of lightning. POW! When they took him out of the plaster, he could do talking like any natural born Slovenian. It was amazing! All the stories he could tell! What it was like being a mute, how he liked picking a flower or potato, how picking a flower or potato was more difficult when you are being a mute. He became very famous and went from village to village telling his amazing stories.

Unfortunately one day he was in a field and got hit by a piece of lightning again and then could not speak any more. He had returned to the silence. The play at NSPDF wasn’t about that story at all. A man just hung upside down and pissed on an alarm clock. The no-talking man became a famous writer, and wrote long stories about how it was much harder to pick a flower or potato when you had talked about it and then could talk about it no more.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a bird? I have! That is why I loved Herons. In it three women pretended to be herons, like the title of the play Herons would suggest. Herons! They stood and pecked at things at their feet and stretched their wings and occasionally made a little heron noise. In the fourth hour, one of them left the stage, but returned about five minutes later.
When this had been going on for seven and a half hours, I went into a dream-like trance, in which I was a genie, awarding wishes to beautiful girls. One of them wanted to be a pony. POW! I made her a pony! One wanted to be successful in business, so I hooked her up with Alan Sugary. I was a good genie, and I was happy to give gifts. Then I came back to reality, and those women were still herons! Fricking herons! It was now the next day. HERONS! It was BRILLIANT.

Come back in me for more great postplays and I will spoon them into your guts, boys! This is what I do best.

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk – Tuesday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

In case you have not seen any of my columns so far, I believe I am reporting from the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival here in Ljubljana. I believe this because it is fricking true, boys! I am Andrzwej Haidonsk, and I love post-drama so much I named my dog after it. Here, boy! Fetch this stick,
Post-Drama! Not really. I named him Gjeckel, which is Slovenian for 'Meat Cart'.

Today we have had two shows which have taken my theatre pig and shaken it until it has sicked up emotion on my shoes! It has been fucking extreme over here! First up was the show called Elephant's Graveyard. Imagine that! Going to the place where all the dead elephants are! It is a situation full of stuff that you could make an exciting, dramatic and tense play about! And therefore bravos must go to Mr Igor Kopf, the directitateur of this piece. He ignored all of that! Two men sit in a room. One reads a newspaper. This takes a fucking long time. He then finishes the newspaper. The other man picks up the newspaper. He reads it also. This also takes a fucking long time. The second man finishes the newspaper and then puts it on the floor. The two men sit in silence, for a fucking long time. Then the first man leans into the front row of audience. Very quietly, he says the word "Tzap" fourteen times in the ear of audience member.
"Tzap tzap tzap tzap tzap tzap." Like that, but doubled in number. And then with two more on top. What does "tzap" mean? I do not know. Is it English? It isn't Slovenian. I'm not even sure Mr Igor Kopf knows what this means! And that is the essence of postdrama.

Then we had a play called Never Enough. In this a grotesquely fat man, who I recognised as working behind the honey counter in Zozik's Shop, was given some raisins. "Mmm, I love raisins!" he says, "I can never have enough!" and the audience are invited onto the stage to post raisins into his mouth, which is getting fuller and fuller of raisins, but still he chews his massive jaws, chomp chomp chomp, and eventually his body goes into sugar shock and he is now unconscious, but still they pour raisins into his mouth, until he is buried underneath a large mound of raisins. Where did they even get that amount of raisins? Don't they know about global recession? People are going hungry! Not the man from the honey counter. He has had enough. Let me return tomorrow to make you better with more post-drama thrill pills from Doctor Haidonsk! I like you! I do!

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk - Monday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

I have been checking my Twitter feed (@blogmeisterrulesyoufuckers) and some people have been very kind about my reports from Ljubliana, for that is where me, that is Andrzwej Haidonsk, am reporting from, from the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival, where post-drama is not when you have an airmail late and it has keys in it that you need to get into a summer home on the Black Sea. It is where it is to do with performance and shit, but not real shit! (Although sometimes the plays have shit in them. Real shit. It is not good. It smells bad.)

Today at NSPDF, we saw a play called “Normal”. Let me assure you, it was normal in no way normal! A man stands – who is he? Is he normal? I don’t think so! His feet are in a bucket! What is that on his head? A dead bird! It is a canary! It has been gassed. Poor canary! (That was the fate of many canaries in the old times, boys, so this must be symbolic of the past.)

The man looks up at his canary, weeps salty tears for the bird. He howls at the sun (a bright Fresnel) for his dead pet. The howling is energetic. It knocks the bird off his head. He tries to step forward to scoop up the poor feathery shit, but his feet are in a fricking bucket, and he falls flat on his face. His large, flat face smashes into the canary, who is now in bits. He howls once more.

Then, his wife comes in. She is a shrill woman, who mocks him with cruelty for his dead bird, his broken nose, and his bucketed feet. She is right. He is terrible.

The mocking continues for an hour and three-quarters, while the man drags himself to his feet. At the end of her massive speech, she falls over and dies. The man tries to save her, but his feet are IN A BUCKET. He falls over again. The canary is now a yellow feathery paste. The wife is dead. His feet are in a bucket. He dies.

A messenger comes in. He symbolises Greek Theatre. He says “The Gods do not approve of our wicked behaviour, and we shall be punished for it.” He then dies.

The man in the audience next to me then stood up and said the play was terrible. He then died.

The overall effect was chilling, but also shitty. I hope that man sitting next to me was an actor.

We then had a play cleverly called “Vowel Play”. What could this be about? Well… in it there were 4 women. These women had 4 lives. This meant there were going to be 4 stories. But who gave them 1 vowel each? A fucking madman?

The crazy play employs the restriction of each character speaking with only one vowel. The technical aspects of this for the writer – and the actor – are fricking considerable. However, taking this route uncovers qualities inherent in the nature of language building, alongside the particular resonances that individual vowels exude. The restriction can offer more than it inhibits. However, this should not suggest that the intention has been to be experimental for its own sake! Anyone who says it is, is a king dong!

Will be back tomorrow with more Big Fun from the party capital of Slovenia, which is also the real capital, Ljubliana! Chill, mofos!

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk - Sunday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

Ljubliana is an enchanting place. At Preseren Square, the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) provides a perfect, lovely gateway to the historic district. But at night it fucking cracks open like a shit egg and spews theatrical spunk onto the pavements, for I am Andrzwej Haidonsk and this is the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival, bitches!

The Festival started properly today when Major Kweg of the Slovenian Army spanked the Festival Baby. The baby is donated each year by a new mother, and the festival will not start until the baby cries. This baby was crying before Major Kweg spanked it, so was the Festival already started? I think so! He spanked it anyway, so the baby is hurting. It is time for theatre!

The first play at the NSPDF is called “No Wonder”. I know what they mean! My life is full of a complete lack of wonder. To illustrate this, the play starts with an old old man is dressed as Stevie Wonder. He sings “Superstition”, but has a mirror broken over his head, so he stops. This happens thirteen times.

“Very superstitious! Writing’s on the wall!” he sings.


“Very superstitious! Ladder’s about to…”


“Thirteen month old…”


By this point he is bleeding quite badly. A doctor comes in, but he removes his lab coat to show he is dressed as Paul McCartney and he sings his bits of “Ebony & Ivory” but the Stevie Wonder can only gurgle blood.

We then had a special show by the Zweglenzer Piedockerie theatre company (which translates as Euro-Cent Awfuls). They do light comedy about the 1800s in Slovenia. It was a time rich in heritage and enlightenment, which the three men symbolise by sitting in a pond, crying, and masturbating. Sometimes one of them asks the others if they should stop, but the others then punch him in the kidney until he cries again. Eventually a fourth man comes in with some wooden posts and a reel of barbed wire, all in a rusty wheelbarrow. The fourth man constructs a tight fence around the pond, and then brings out a loaf of bread and tears it into small sections and then feeds it to the three crying men. IT IS VERY FUNNY!

I am already looking forward to tomorrow’s plays for they will be entertaining in me! Bring them on to roost!

Noises Off: Andrzwej Haidonsk – Saturday

Alongside the more serious reviews and comment pieces in this year’s Noises Offs, my colleague and deputy editor Tom Wateracre took it upon himself to take the piss out of me as much as humanly possible with a series of items purporting to be from the Slovenian blogger and post-drama enthusiast Andrzwej Haidonsk.

Super-Hi and welcome in me, Andrzwej Haidonsk, Ljubliana’s first and only theatrical blogmeister! As a sort of natty cultural exchange, I am going to blog your ears out with tales and reports from the NSDF’s sister festival, the National Slovenian Post-Drama Festival!

You know, we make all sorts of weird shitty theatre over here in Europe! I once watched a cow for nine hours (it just ate and shat) and my friend Jens once made a version of Waiting for Godot where Godot turned up and had nothing interesting to say. It was intense. But here at the NSPDF, we have very similar plays to you! It’s true, fuckers! Some of them have middles, a few of them have beginnings, but they all have ends, otherwise we would all die in a theatre, and statistics have shown that that isn’t true, boys! Let me tell you a bit about where theatre happens here at the NSPDF.

Like you, our technical teams work real fricking hard turning things that are not theatres into theatres. I have seen plays in a butcher’s shop, an abattoir, some gallows – anywhere there is lifeblood! Sometimes by accident the technical teams turn a theatre into something that is not a theatre, like a shoe shop, but those times are rarer than a dog in trousers because if a technical team did that, they would be forced into Slovenian army for rest of their shortened lives.

One day I dream of seeing a nice piece of Post-Drama in Britain in your West End or York Westshire Playhouse. That would be fucking extreme! Sometimes I go out into the night and howl for hours the words “LONDON!” and “BIG BEN!” into the sky so the stars will make my dream come true, but I should be so fricking lucky, eh? That is all Child’s Play! Like with the Chucky!

Oh hey, boys! I almost forgot! Let me tell you about what I am in! I am (as I already said, jackasses!) a theatrical blogmeister, but I am also a writer, like Jessica Fricking Fletcher, and I make cologne from rice and nettles! It is just a hobby, yes? I am not going to make money!

I will re-rewind tomorrow (like with the Craig David) and tell you all about the first plays that I have digested with my gobshite. Until then, rack me up a cold brew, Scarborough!