The Warp

What can we learn from the past? Based on the video below I’d like to think we can learn how to put on a pretty darn epic site specific 24 hour play that hasn’t even been rehearsed! For all the techies out there, please try and see past the somewhat grainy footage and feast your eyes on the absolutely fantastic “The Warp”, a 24 hour production staged by director Ken Campbell in 1979.

It’s true that 24 hour plays are not unheard of  these days, with the Old Vic staging possibly the most well known one where a collection of writers, directors and actors come together to write, direct and stage a series of short plays over 24 hours. But what is different about The Warp is that it is actually ONE play, not a collection of them. It is the story of one man and his journey into the past, future and quite frankly other worldly spheres of the universe, meeting a whole host of characters along the way (eagle eyed viewers may spot a young Jim Broadbent in the mix!)

I wondered whether anything like that could be put on today? Sadly my guess was no. My opinion (and it is only my opinion!) is that the larger, public funded theatre’s would keep a distance from something like that, it’s far too unpredictable, and dare I say it, amateurish – which is a great shame as it is that very ‘amateur’ energy and enthusiasm that makes it so special. However, I also feel that fringe companies would also be wary of attempting something on this scale for the simple fact of lack of funding and also concern for lack of audience. Ken Campbell even confirms in the video that everyone is working for free!

In the video the BBC reporter talks to Ken Campbell about the production and also his method of directing, Campbell comments that he always tries to put something funny into a scene, or at least something that at least one audience member will find amusing. He also remarks that he finds drama, or more specifically theatrical drama’s, to be a “dangerous” thing. It’s an interesting perspective from an interesting man and I can’t think of many well-known directors these days who seem to share his ‘get up and go’ and joy for making theatre. Of course, that isn’t to generalise a whole profession (including my own!!) but theatre certainly seems to be a more serious business than it did in 1979, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing.

1 thought on “The Warp

  1. Really enjoyed your piece on the Warp. I was lucky enough to see it in a drafty venue in Hebden Bridge wrapped in an old sleeping bag, as much of my life experience to date and that of my friends unfolded before me over 22hrs. Is was a unique show that hung on the commitment of the company most of whom never left the stage area and in exhaustion aged before our very eyes as they wandered through Neil Oram’s mind-blowing 60s world. As you say would it happen today? I’d like to think so, despite the present state of the Arts that swings between the London set and their protégés and the provinces struggling with their “community arts project funding” madness that ticks the boxes whilst stifling the story and the passion. Bring back the amateur and the improvised any day of the week over the managed performances we are offered now! The audience I sat with were young and old, employed and not, with and without kids and dogs. It felt like watching the old medieval passion plays where the audience wandered through creation, having a kip now and again and laughing or gasping along with the story…. Theatre in its true sense of challenge and change. So let’s hope someone gets a crowd-funded new piece together. I’ve still got my sleeping bag and my badge and I’m up for it!


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