Walking Back To Happiness

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Hello there, Craig here or (as Mr Higgins would have it) the charming Mr Chalmers! It’s been nearly two weeks since the culmination of what may have been the very last Memory Points show – and it has been sad to say goodbye, both to the show and the venue. The Southbank Centre proved I believe to be the most interesting and diverse venue of the lot. Over the next few paragraphs I’ll explain in brief about the tour and how it was altered to fit the space, interspersed with plenty of photos and maybe a poem if you’re lucky! (Or unlucky).

I must apologise now as I realise that the way I’m writing assumes a fore knowledge of the piece by the reader, if you need some background I would suggest scrolling back and reading the earlier blogs The Beauty of Remembering (about MP Winchester), Memory Points Rides South (about MP Poole) and Spring Lights, a brief prelude to Memory Points Southbank.

The biggest change to this years tour was the necessary removal of the ticket office at the beginning (where one tour guide would take your name and send you off on your journey to locate the other tour guide before the headphones are given out). It’s a lovely moment and worked perfectly in Eastleigh, Winchester and Poole and while there physically was room enough for us to achieve the same at the Southbank, time alone simply didn’t allow for this. Instead, we had both tour guides greet the public as they relaxed and waited in our ‘living room’ area, this was no bad thing as myself and Jordan Whyte were able to take on more personality in the roles, personality and character which is deliberately suppressed as the tour gets under way and slowly grows again the further it progresses. 

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Two of my favourite parts of this years tour weren’t changed from previous venues as such just altered to fit the new spaces. The lift for example, where in Winchester and Poole it was a small, claustrophobic and temperamental space, this time it was a service elevator, meaning there was much more room to fit everyone in which was all well and good but it’s best feature were the doors! They were both large black heavy old things that made wonderful noises as you pulled them open, sometimes ominous, sometimes exciting and visually they allowed for a real slice of theatre come the end of the tour; throwing the doors across to reveal Ralf Higgins in all his splendour ready to ‘gild the lily’ once more before inviting our guests to walk down the red carpet and take centre stage.

DSCF8830_opt The other part was ‘getting lost’, a  moment that had never quite found it’s place in previous venues until now.Underneath the Southbank centre area are a surprisingly large network of tunnels connecting the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room to the Hayward Gallery and Royal Festival Hall.

In these tunnels ‘getting lost’ was finally at home. They are dark, dry and hot and with the headphones on and the soundtrack playing, hint at other people who have travelled the same way. Terry through the headphones says “Is there another person here?” and it becomes one of the most pertinent lines in the whole piece (it did for me) as we continue to get lost and a friendly face appears far behind the tour (Tour Guide B) who beckons us to return then disappears.  I could say more but I think the photograph to the left will better describe what I want to say and part of me would still like to keep an air of mystery about this section of the tour. To describe the workings of it I think might detract from the impact of the tunnels section.

Finally I should mention one of the biggest changes that had to be made. The dance piece near the end of the show was always performed in the orchestra pit, with the audience peering over the stage edge and into a secret life. But the Purcell Room (where the tour concludes) does not have an orchestra pit, so Sacha Lee & Hayley Barker (our two dancers) and Cath Church (director/big boss) were forced to fit the existing dance to a whole new space. The space this time being the stalls seats and walkways of the Purcell Room. Amazingly, such a radical change to the dance didn’t mean it lost it’s impact, it was different and I think even better. (Giant mirror balls lit spectacularly are always a winner too).

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Above you can see the bizarre effect the lights have on Hayley’s frame when photographed under the mirrorball. The dance’s metaphors for memory loss were stronger than ever at the southbank centre.

What follows now is a collection of photos from the tour and from around London when I went for a wander or was just on the way home.

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Above: Walking back to happiness – the first corridor encountered on the tour.

Below: The mirror-ball in the lift, viewed from the floor, a precursor of what’s to come.

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DSCF8851_optAbove: Jill Dowse’s hideaway – the piano store complete with sofas, mood lighting and of course a copy of Victor Silvester’s Modern Ballroom Dancing

Below: Maria Chirca not seen nor heard as she follows the tour and keeps everything on task. DSCF8881_opt

DSCF8861_optAbove: A view of the stage, musicians at the ready for the arrival of the latest tour.

Below: A view from the stage, Hayley dances in the stalls, the audience on the stage.

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DSCF8610_optAbove: An empty tube carriage – it didn’t last for long.

Below: Umbrellas outside Brew Wharf/Vinopolis in Borough Market.

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Above: Shadow play on the approach to the QEH artist entrance.

Below: St. Stephens Tower, a view from St Stephens Tavern.

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Above: The water fountain in front of the foyer full flow.

Below: Final night fun: When nowhere’s open, enjoy a tipple under the escalators in Waterloo!

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Well then, that’s about all I have for you for now. Memory Points was again, an absolute joy, it has been so beautiful to be part of something that touches people and connects with them in such a special way. Alzheimers and Dementia are illnesses which will most likely effect ourselves or someone we know at some point in our life. Doing something to show sufferers and their families in a positive and happier light is a rare bird indeed.

Thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it, I leave you with a poem inspired by our time at the Southbank centre.

Cheers,

Craig Chalmers

 

A Flicker:

 

Then riding home again,

Pushing past the air

From bubble to tube.

Almost finished privilege.

More tired jeans,

More evening standard,

More screaming tracks

Block all but thought.

Bond street closed.

This train will not stop,

Only shuttle rebuttal…

 

Reflections give corridors and flowers,

Perfect stench of old wood,

Concrete and fruit flies.

A flicker, slicker hair.

Is there another person here?

Torch light talks at walls,

Whispers the way,

Walking back to paradise

Or happiness.

 

A flicker, slicker hair,

Your ghost,

The trace of every signature

Steps in the corners costumes

And flowers

And flowers

And flowers,

Bunches of bobby dazzlers.

Breathing is easy,

Do I know her?

Do I know you?

It’s lovely to meet

Reflections,

Same and older,

Not me,

Not me,

Strangers live in glass,

Dirty it.

Remember

Forget

A flicker, slicker hair,

A ghost.