One of the exciting things about working at the Albany is that there’s so much to get involved with. This September, we hosted the second Lit Up Showcase & Conference and I stepped in to help manage the preparations and the day itself, which took place on Thursday 24 September. Lit Up is a series of events run by the Live Literature Consortium to raise the profile of spoken word in theatres and venues across the UK and showcase new work. Programmers, producers, artists and promoters gathered to discuss the strange and wonderful genre of ‘live literature’ and watch previews of new shows by Polarbear, Aoife Mannix and Janie Armour, Stacy Makishi, Justin Coe, Luke Wright and others.
It was exciting to watch completely new pieces and especially to see artists whose work I know well, experimenting in new areas. Polarbear shared an extract from his upcoming show Return, a spoken film script. With no props and very little acting, he stood on stage and ‘performed a film’, describing what we, the audience ‘see’, and speaking the characters’ dialogue. The ‘film’ is about the return home of an elder brother and his relationships with the people he left behind. I really did start to ‘see’ the film going on in my head, just through his words. I’m not aware that anyone has done this before but it makes perfect sense – storytelling can be so powerful we don’t need images to watch a film, the human voice is enough. Another highlight was when Stacy Makishi made everyone in the audience blow up a balloon and pop them simultaneously to release all the ‘fear, anxiety and stress’ in the room: a great communal bang!
The most moving part of the day came right at the end, when Playback NYC took over the Albany cafe with their blend of hip hop, improvisational theatre and storytelling. Taking reactions and stories from the audience, they ‘played back’ the day in hilarious and touching sequences and sketches. I’m desperate to see them again – it’s probably even worth a trip to New York.
I left very late, feeling inspired. Rather than talking about the difficulties of the industry or what holds us back, the focus was on experimentation and breaking boundaries. Doing so many other things, I sometimes lose faith in my own writing, but Lit Up was a great reminder to keep going and trust my creativity.