A note on: an invitation to Mayakovsky's funeral

Very pleased to be deep in rehearsals for my new play Mayakovsky, with Tickets: June 9th / 10th / 11th available now, to be on at the Rich Mix Theatre : 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA. 

There's more information on the production here www.stevenjfowler.com/mayakovsky 

And a wee blurb - a new play exploring the life and death of one of Russia's greatest poets. Mayakovsky was commissioned by Rich Mix Arts Centre as part of their centenary commemoration of the Russian Revolution, #Revolution17, in cahoots with the brilliant Dash Arts. Mayakovsky is part of a night of new theatre entitled Land of Scoundrels which features a unique sculptural set design by Thomas Duggan and new music by The Dirty Three.

A note on : Tickets on Sale for Mayakovsky

Mayakovsky : a play - Tickets on Sale : Rich Mix Theatre - 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA

Tickets for Friday June 9th 7.30pm

Tickets for Saturday June 10th 7.30pm

Tickets for Sunday June 11th 7.30pm

Tickets now on sale for Mayakovsky, a play commissioned as part of the Revolution 17 season, marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Mayakovsky is part of a night entitled Land of Scoundrels, which features new works of innovative and post-dramatic theatre, intertwined and overlapping across one evening, from the likes of Viennese theatremaker / director /dramaturg Petra Freimund and Belarus Free Theatre member and dramaturg Larry Lynch, amidst a stunning original set designed by material engineer and artist Thomas Duggan.

A note on: beginning production on Land of Scoundrels, new theatre at Rich Mix

I'm to write a new short play, called Mayakovsky, as part of a night of theatre at Rich Mix, commissioned for their Revolution 17 season, on the centenary of the Russian Revolution. It will be staged with an amazing set design by Thomas Duggan, who has designed for Vesterport's theatre's Faust recently amongst other things, and placed alongside new works by Austrian playwright Petra Freimund and Larry Lynch, who often works for the Belarus Free Theatre. We began our production proper this week and already the project is inspiring, I'm learning immensely from the experience of these three deeply intelligent people. Actors will be cast soon, a score written, and then we'll build to June 9th 10th 11th, which will be intense. www.stevenjfowler.com/mayakovsky

A note on: opening The Night-Time Economy exhibition in Newport, Wales

A wonderful night to open my new exhibition in collaboration with photographer Kate Mercer, we had a lovely crowd come out to the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre in Newport to see readings and discussions. More on the exhibition www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

Kate has done an incredible job in producing such a beautiful exhibition, the production was really extraordinary, with my poems beautifully framed alongside her wonderful photographs. Good to meet so many friendly local artists and well wishers who came out to support our project, and we managed to fit in three readings as well as a Q&A. A great beginning, the exhibition runs until the end of April and then comes to London, at Rich Mix, in July.

A note: The Night-Time Economy, an exhibition in Newport with Kate Mercer - April 6th to 30th

Newport: The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre April 6th to 30th 2016. (Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
Address: Ground Floor Gallery, The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre, Kingsway, Newport. NP20 1HG
Special View - April 6th 2016. 7pm. Readings & performances from SJ Fowler, Nia Davies & Eurig Salisbury, followed by Q&A

London: Rich Mix Gallery - July 18th to 29th 2016 (Monday - Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
Address: Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre, 35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA
Special View - July 19th 2016. Readings & performances from SJ Fowler, Nia Davies & more, followed by Q&A

A collaborative exhibition of photography and poetry exploring the often fractious energy and environment of Newport, Wales' nightclubs and pubs. Conceived and created in close collaboration between photographer Kate Mercer and poet & artist SJ Fowler, this exhibition will play off the complimentary possibilities for expressive abstraction in both visual and linguistic mediums, all centred around the complexity, energy and intensity of Newport on Friday and Saturday nights. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

A detailed description of how the project came to be, by Kate Mercer, can be found here http://katemercer.co.uk/funding-support-by-arts-council-of-wales-the-night-time-economy-with-s-j-fowler/

Both Special View events on April 6th and July 19th will feature events celebrating the exhibition with new performances and the presence of Poetry Wales. The poetry in the exhibition will be presented in English and Welsh, the latter translated by Eurig Salisbury.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS and THEIR COLLABORATION:

From two completely different sides of the UK, S.J. Fowler and Kate Mercer identified with each other through a shared experience of working in the night-time economy. With Steven previously employed in nightclub security, and Kate as a bar manager in Newport, both felt an intense connection to the alternative reality of this world, and through this exhibition, reflect on how this environment changed them and their work.

The project's primary focus has been Newport, but not as an exception. The Night-Time Economy reflects Newport without judgement or irony, it is documentation in image and abstract language. With Newport undergoing a period of regeneration and redevelopment, the exhibition aims to recognise the role that the arts can play in celebrating the city, by its very presence. This project focuses on the multifaceted components of Newport's Night-time economy, pursuing a neutrality of topic whilst preserving a loyalty to the place.

This project has been made possible through a ‘Research & Development’ grant by the Arts Council of Wales with support from The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre (Newport) and Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre (London) for which the artists express their thanks.

Published: a blog for the Rich Mix on my play Dagestan

http://richmixlondon.tumblr.com/post/131017660468 Poet and martial artist Steven J Fowler writes about his first piece written for theatre:Dagestan. See it performed here on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th of October. 

“Dagestan is a real place, or so I might read, or be told. At the moment, in Britain, it might as well not be, for our relationship to that place is non-existent. So it has been for many nations, until we have a reason to know they exist. What if we found something in Dagestan we needed, or wanted? What if something happened there that led us to announce our presence, and so define our relationship to this new and exotic place, this idea of the place? How do we do our announcing in a world after Iraq and Afghanistan, after the 21st century has begun, and where private military companies, with their own internal cultures, their own ‘special’ checks and balances, might be the first boots to hit the ground?

This is the context of my first play, a hypothetical question. But just as all professions seem to have their own internal language and logic, so Dagestan is also really about a closed, internal world of physical training, through the martial arts, and playful, innovative language. It is a play in the tradition of Beckett, or Pinter, and as Beckett said, “a play is not a simulation of life outside, any more than football is, or the circus, or a game of chess, but an activity in itself.” So it is with Dagestan, not merely as a snapshot of the world, but a way to represent aggression and vulnerability, strength and weakness, expression and physicality through the material of the theatre, that is, with the audience acknowledged, and with the actors switching from exhausting performance to energetic dialogue.

“A play is not a simulation of life outside, any more than football is, or the circus, or a game of chess, but an activity in itself.” - Samuel Beckett

With my own background in martial arts, it’s been an amazing experience developing a work-in-progress version of the play, something both physical and literary, working with brilliant actors Robin Berry, Maya Wasowicz, Steve North and Gareth Tempest, director Russell Bender and producer Tom Chivers, to make something we hope is truly unique. A play where knives and chokes sit comfortably with paradox and poetry.

Dagestan has become a non-place in this play, an idea, with its own internal logic, its own presence, that isn’t really real, but perhaps closer to the truth of something for that, for it is not pretend. It is wonderful to have the chance to take risks in theatre, to build upon ideas not immediately obvious or easy to digest, and that are far richer for that fact.”

A note on: Teaching Greco-Roman Wrestling for the Midnight run with the Almeida Theatre

Lovely to be a part of the Midnight run thanks to Kit Caless, teaching a session on Greco-Roman wrestling on the curated 12 hour walk through London, with lots of interesting activities featured in. Inua Ellams founded the project, and the whole thing was really well measured and a grandly positive experience. These beautiful pictures are courtesy of Katie Garrett.

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Very excited for Schlock! by Hannah Silva

I am extremely excited for Hannah Silva's new show, being produced by Penned in the Margins. Not only does it seem groundbreaking, a really necessarily dynamic and ambitious use of cut up / collage methodology, but its subject matter also seems to me as an distinctly necessary and timely theme to be exploring, precisely because of the popularity of the literary material it is partially made of. I can't wait to see it. http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2014/08/schlock-3/

"Schlock! is a subversive fifty-minute performance about sex and power that premieres at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival on 8th November. Audiences will hear voices spliced from EL James's infamous erotic novel, together with texts by the feminist writer Kathy Acker restored for the stage by Silva's inventive cut-and-paste techniques. The result is a paradox: a wildly original new work, entirely composed of other people's words.

Hannah Silva is a poet and performer known for her unique vocal delivery and praised as 'radical, political, courageous' by Whatsonstage. Her previous works have explored themes as diverse as politics, pseudoscience and women in business; but in this new show Silva returns to the topics that first caught her imagination.

"Schlock! is my most personal work. It's rooted in the physical, in the female body. The strange sadness I felt reading Fifty Shades of Greyseemed at odds with the book's popularity and was something I wanted to explore. At the same time I was re-reading Kathy Acker's books, and finding them shocking and also beautiful and inspiring. Like her, I want to disturb the boundaries between pleasure and pain, high art and schlock."

As well as being a rich sonic experience, Schlock! is a new departure for Silva in its use of physical storytelling. She has been collaborating with Deaf performer and interpreter Daryl Jackson (Dazzy Jacko) to make Schlock! accessible for d/Deaf audiences. Her performance shifts between spoken word and an embodied poetry consisting of British Sign Language and physical theatre. Sign language enables me to embody poetry in new ways. Our physicality and facial expressions communicate an incredible amount. It's humbling to realise how redundant much of spoken language really is. My hope is that this performance will connect with both hearing and d/Deaf audiences on an emotional, gut level.

Hannah Silva is one of a new wave of spoken word artists expanding what poetry can be. A highlight of the UK's preeminent poetry festival at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and with a national tour planned for 2015, Schlock! looks set to stir up important debates and provoke strong reactions. "

MOPHA : Sept 28th : Rich Mix theatre

I could not be more excited for the first MOPHA performance this September 28th at the Rich Mix Arts Centre Theatre http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/mopha/ Tickets available now.

"How would you describe the space around a horse? Or lift a watermelon with your voice? This experimental variety show is the result of 6 artists and poets approaching the edges of language through miniature plays, live sound effects, language games and improvisation. Expect bad jokes, fractured speech, aberrant theatre and words under pressure.
Mopha is an art-performance-poetry collective formed by Holly Pester, Patrick Coyle, Emma Bennett, SJ Fowler, James Wilkes and Tamarin Norwood. Mopha pools and mutates the live practices of six adept performers with backgrounds in poetry, sound art, live art and sculpture to create collaborative, site-responsive performances."
I have no predisposition to the romantic notion of working in a collective. But this has happened because of a really specific set of reasons. The timing, the cross pollination of practise, and my own desire to spend more time collaborating with these five genuinely iconoclastic artists, has made the whole MOPHA such a source of joy. Having the chance to work as a collective has been a privilege of mine for over the last year or so, and so much of that time has really just been about the exchange of ideas, and taking in what others have so beautifully perfected. This show will be a chance to test out something unique, a true multiplicity of collaboration, that overlaps in its form and performance as with its creation. And it'll be funny, and strange. & unresolved. & unique. & worth watching.

The Prague Microfest - a diary

A fascinating three days in Prague for the Microfestival. So many weird and wonderful elements to my experience – I was sent there by the remarkable generosity of the Czech Centre in London, whom I’m building an increasingly strong relationship with, and went not only to meet Czech poets and curators, and people at the festival, but to partake in the debut performance of the TRYIE collective, which I’m a third of, next to Zuzana Husarova and Olga Pekova, two powerful powerful avant garde writers out of Bratislava and Prague.
I met Zuz and Olga last year at the Ars Poetica festival and it was immediately obvious upon meeting them they were unusual. I talk so often about process over product, community over hierarchy, kindness over posture – and in that traditional festival environment, their humour, their energy, their work just really resonated with me. It has since proven a good hunch as we formed the collective and spent the last months exchanging texts and ideas before this big off. The work in the end was a really adventurous, dynamic, complex performance. It involved Zuz and Olga behind two specially made screens, reading a text of multiple languages, and using their bodies to create a ghostly imprint on the canvas of the screens while I intermittently read on stage while walking or carrying a dog. The piece was really about the balance of genders through the text, using iconography and light, and a brilliant sound accompaniment by the 4th honorary member of the collective, Lubo Panak. It was highly performative, with Zuz and Olga feeting and fingering the screen while I carried and petted and kissed the beautiful French bulldog motoracek, even using her as a reading stand, while reading new texts I’d written while in Prague, that were about the experience of the festival and preparing for the performance, and drew from Kafka as well as ideas about the relationship of our collective, indulgence, boredom, and my own personal history in Prague itself.


The festival itself is a strange thing. Shining so brightly in places, with really innovative work, and some really gracious, warm hearted people, it also suffered from a occasional lack of quality control and at times I felt outside of things. In turn, because I wasn't perhaps as quiet and mannerly as I normally am about the work that was so different than that which I gravitate too, I felt conflicted that I perhaps was being too didactic or judgmental. Genuinely, the fact that poets were reading for over 30 minutes at a time effected me profoundly. It was just an excess, drowning out any chance of finding that which I might have discovered in their work, and often massively exemplifying the faults I perceived. I am aware that most often that which I talk about, and blog about, is effusively praised. I do this deliberately, to speak only about that which I like. But there does come a time when I suppose I had no choice but to listen, when a line has to be drawn. Some of the work was very poor, and left a trace for me. Moreover literary cynicism, a culture of it, can easily slip into the discourse and curation of such an intense undertaking like a poetry festival and at times in felt like the scene surrounding the happenings was in a village. I spent some of the time wondering if it wasn’t me, that I wasn’t burnt out a little after Paris/Edinburgh/Copenhagen/Iraq/Venice in a two month space, or if I wasn’t falling into habits of being anti-social, or overly critical, or egotistical, wanting more attention. I tried to remain consistently open to communicating with people, really focusing on their work, and in places it was easy – with the students of Charles University who seemed to be the lifeblood of the festival, with friends Im getting to know better with each collision like Jorg Piringer and Heike Feidler, and with the amazing Maggie O’Sullivan, with whom I shared my last day, having coffee in a beautiful art deco café, and whose intelligence, humility and wisdom, left me feeling elevated and tiny at the same time. Yet perhaps Ive been spoiled by things like Reel Iraq and Crossing Voices, and now I expect everyone to be like Olga and Zuzana, funny, deferent, collaborative and frankly excellent as writers and artists. Much to learn, and to insist upon, for the things I organise, in experiencing things here I didn't enjoy. Feeling a wee bit alienated can only keep me on the right path for my own events.

What matters really is that I did mediate my experience of this beautiful city through people, and had the chance to meet wonderful poets and curators, explore the town a bit, even getting to the zoo, which fully lived up to its reputation, and to leave behind me a really satisfying piece of collaborative work. The performance of TRYIE was an auspicious beginning of our collective, one that I hope flares into being a few times a year for the near future at least, and Zuzana and Olga were elated, which was what I really wanted. Their performances certainly went great, they worked the concepts to great effect. I felt my own stuff wasn’t so strong, that the audience was a little frozen or discomforted by my presence, as I fondled the doggy, read at them and wandered about the basement venue, weaving it between them with the lovely French bulldog bitch staring and sniffing them out. Im too sensitive of audiences, I want to attack them on instinct when they recoil. I wasn’t free to really loose on them, because of the spirit of the beautiful little animal. Maybe that is good for me, to gain that experience as a performer, and to learn the skill of letting others express that force for me, with my cooperation. Others seemed to enjoy the whole thing, and seemed to think it was truly a collaborative act, a conversation in complex poetry and theatre performance, and successful in relating the message of our concerns about gender. You always run the risk of pretension with something like this, and we escaped that. A feminist hell, one person described it as. Happy to have found myself there http://tryie.tumblr.com/

licking up the ash of Mary Shelley: EVP Bournemouth

A reunion on the south coast for the Electronic voice phenomena tour. In a derelict theatre built by mary shelley's son for her to watch her favourite plays from her specially built god's eye portico dumb waiter while ill and invalided. As part of the Bournemouth arts festival on the very southest of coasts, in Boscombe. An amazing space to perform in, crumbling and mysterious. I was utterly profane, rewriting my whole piece to be about Shelley and Frankenstein. I heard her voice while retching, I told the audience about the new technology and possibilities of galvanism and urged them not to fear death as their favourite body part might be resurrected, I sat in a couch before them while we screened the prologue to the Bride of Frankenstein. I even finished by doing my nut as normal but with the added twist of this time licking her ash, poured from an urn I 'found upstairs', from the stage floor. So good to see the brilliant Hannah Silva, Ross Sutherland and Tom Chivers again and to explore Boscombe beach in meditation before the performance. A privilege to be able to rework my acting chops, spread the avant intensity and travel with performance.