Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nifty North Wall

I finally got to visit the North Wall Arts Centre last week, to see Precarious Dance Theatre ( perform 'The Factory'.

Here are a few snippets of my thoughts on the experience...

- First off, why is it so very, very hard to park even in such an out-of-centre part of Oxford? Few people will go to the theatre by bus, and it's all very well paying and displaying, but it's a bit offputting for a woman to have to walk back to the carpark down dark roads. Because it was an evening performance, we managed to find one remaining spot on the heavily restricted road, but had to drive the whole circuit 3 times because of the one-way system!

- The gallery inside is a great idea. When I went there was a display of Bob Nicolson paintings. I can't believe the price of some of them - several grand for a painting of a red pepper, or even for a nice picture, but surely it's not worth that much?!

- The staff were really friendly. I had a lovely chat with the man behind the 'bar', who was quite knowledgeable about the gallery displays. It was really nice to have approachable, human staff who volunteer information and don't see the staff/customer divide that exists in places like The New Theatre and even The Playhouse. Heck, even the cinema seems to have that divide.

- The whole theatre managed to avoid being snobbish. Some of the audience wandered around with noses in the air and received pronunciation, but the theatre itself was equalising and down to Earth. It felt very different from the ICA (Institue of Contemporary Arts) in London, where I was once startled by bizarre pieces of art and even odder people, when going to a gig.

- The toilets are truly shocking. Don't get me wrong - they're clean and well-kept. It's just that they're, Think gold lame spandex, Red Light district eyeshadow, Boy George's body shimmer. It really doesn't fit in with the rest of the place. I can't speak for the men's toilets, but don't think I want to find out.

- The theatre itself is great, except for a slight spacing issue that means everyone kicks everyone else's seat. Maybe I'm just overly twitchy, but I find this Really, Intensely Irritating. Add to this the earthquake feeling as the floor shakes whenever anyone walks down the aisle, and you feel very involved in the performance. Still, the views are good wherever you are, and the sound fills the room. The seats down the side create a cosy, Globe-style atmosphere, and it's easy to slip into whichever world you're being coaxed into.

All in all, well worth checking out, but it's a shame it's blighted with problematic parking. It's nice having a theatre this end of town, and it's all very homely and local. The performance I saw was fantastic, and has encouraged me to sample more of the contemporary end of the spectrum.

No comments: