Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bye Bye Bike Shed. Thank you so much...

I'm remembering the Bikeshed. The Bikeshed is two cellars somewhere in Exeter.

The first cellar is a cafe bar - scruffy and friendly and warm-hearted somehow and I felt very much at home there.

Then you can pass into the next cellar, where the theatre is. I remember it being cold and dank and smelling of damp.

The seating was made up of old cinema seats in rows and I was supposed to be performing Queen Jesus there that night and I had no idea how to do it.

I hadn't performed the show that often after its traumatic opening, and a colleague I was extremely fond of had just left another project we were both working on and I was really insecure as a performer even at the best of times and this piece was so different from anywhere I'd performed before and I didn't know what to do so I burst into tears.

I was there with Chris Goode and Jonny Liron and we were there to a workshop for a project that would eventually turn into Chris's beautiful "Albemarle Sketchbook". The idea was, I think, that we would work together during the day and then share something with an audience in the evenings and quite what this had to do with Jesus Queen of Heaven I can't remember.

But anyway there it was. And there was me crying. Jonny is a tall man, and when he hugged me he felt like an eight foot tower of strength. And Chris, who I hardly knew and who i was a little bit scared of, was skilful and supportive and amazing and between them they got me onto the stage that night.

And once I was there and doing the show the space became a beautiful friend, somehow, and I remember getting incredibly excited by what could be done inside its suddenly warm and fabulous brick walls.

Afterwards we went to the bar, and they'd made a cocktail especially for us and it was delicious.

The theatre writer Maddy Costa was there too, I remember, and it was a happy creative few days. And the Albemarle Sketchbook which eventually emerged is something I am so proud to have been part of.

I'm remembering all this because I've just heard the Bike Shed is closing. As so often happens, its presence has transformed the neighbourhood, other trendier bars have opened, and theirs can no longer generate the profits to keep the theatre running.

Sometimes I think theatre's financial problems are a question of accounting. If its actors could be counted as assets (as of course they really are) and if they could just get a tiny proportion of the wealth they generate for the cities in which they are, then theatres would never have to struggle financially ever again.

But as it is, there's another wee centre of creativity closing.

There's a lovely tribute to it here http://exeuntmagazine.com/features/farewell-bike-shed-theatre/

And as that writer and the theatre itself both point out we shouldn't be that sad.

Something else will emerge.

When I was still forced to live as a boy, I was immensely inspired by a wise saying of an artist whose name I have forgotten but whose words I remember when he said:

"We love life, and we don't want it to end. Not so much because we want to go on living, but because we want to go on loving".

And the love that inspires the Bike Shed's work, and my work, and Chris and Maddy's work, is not going away.

It will find new forms of expression....
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