Saturday 7 January 2012

Under the Cranes, Renoir Cinema, Jan 8

Apologies if you know about this but here goes:

I wrote what I called a 'play for voices' about the past and present of Hackney. It was commissioned by 'Ignite' an arts venture in Hackney and it was first put on by sixth formers at BSix College.

I tried to do a kind of 'Under Milk Wood' creating a montage of solos and choruses, documentary and fiction pulling together people of the past like Shakespeare (who worked in what is now Hackney), Anna Laetitia Barbauld, mingling them with people I knew like a Jamaican building worker, a Bengali restaurant owner, Morris Beckman - who wrote a book about the 43-group, the Jews who fought against Oswald Mosley after the war, a very old lady who had worked on the buses during the first world war, a fire warden from the second world war, and so on. I made their stories interleave with what was happening in Dalston where the council had worked with Transport for London to demolish part of historic Hackney, and put up high rise towers for young professionals.

I was trying to contrast the lives lived by people with the plans made for them by authorities, I was trying to show how migration and settlement enriches all of us but sometimes you have to fight for that.

Anyway,the sixth formers put it on at the Round Chapel in Lower Clapton, then a group of professional actors put it on, directed by the same director, Christopher Preston at the Rosemary Branch, Theatre. Emma-Louise Williams saw both productions and said that she thought it would make a good film. She's a radio producer and had never made a film, but she got a crew together and over the next period went out and shot scenes of Hackney, looked at hours of archive film, filmed some paintings of Hackney by Leon Kossoff, James McKinnon and Jock MacFadyen,  recorded the actors re-doing the play in a studio, researched a wide variety of music and then slowly and painstakingly put the film together.

What's come out is a kind of double montage - a  radio play segeued into a gallery of film, past and present  and paintings. It's not a documentary, it's not a drama. It's a hybrid 'piece', a 'film-poem,  a voiced montage. I love it, but I'm prejudiced.

I think it offers a serious critique of 'regeneration' by talking through imagined voices which I've summoned up from my memory - a kind of fiction, of course, but also a kind of documentary fiction. And the film and music and painting seem to flow with that, sometimes appearing to lead it, complement it, contrast with it. Past and present intermingle as well so that chronological time is less important than people's lived lives.

Anyway, it's on at the Renoir tomorrow morning,  put on by the London Socialist Film Co-op, followed by a discussion with me and Emma-Louise. Please come.

Here are the links for the film's blogspot and the London Socialist Film Co-op. Please click on them for details of where to come and see the really nice reviews the film has had so far.

See you there or at the next showing.