Experiments in Living

Arguably the most beautiful tribute night in the world, Future Cinema’s Casablanca pays homage to the 1940s. With queues of fur coats and dashing bibs shivering outside, there is a gorgeous moment on arrival, when the Troxy simply bursts into life. Where everyone wants to fall in love and get married in the rain.

Downstairs where the émigrés gather, guests are serenaded by a Dixieland Jazz Band playing soft, melting and ravishingly iconic tunes. Strolling down the stairs for the first time is a magical experience, one you could record a million times and never recapture.

Sparkling underneath a pink ornamental panel, Casablanca feels like a tribute to people who don’t go out during the day – those who live off the grid and make a living by their wits. A subversive experience infiltrated by actors. Remember not everyone has paid a booking fee to enter.

Future Cinema brilliantly tap into the golden age theory in what is a profound cultural shift dictated by nostalgia. Furthermore there is now a plethora of sing-a-long nights, retrospective screenings and 1950s dance hall nights taking place – we are all collectively obsessed with the past.

Whatever happened to here and now?

Sartorial fashions have not ceased to exist in the twenty-first century. There are motifs of present day society everywhere you look – baby faced beards, iPhones, electro DJ sets and memes to name just a few. There is a distinctive visual culture taking place. Eclecticism, irony and peer-to-peer fragmentation will probably form a neo-future cinema event in 2090.

And your life inside the black mirror will be mythologized as romantic as the cinematic émigrés of 1940s Morocco. What you are going through now is a truly fascinating experience. One that is completely unprecedented in human history – we are the glamour virgins of a new found century.

 “I always hear people saying ‘Oh, I’d love to live in the 60’s where everyone is dressed so glamorously’, what’s stopping them from putting on something wonderful tonight?”

– Tom Ford

Social media audiences are no longer content to passively watch an old film in silence – they now want to take part in a ‘live experience’. Everything is interactive now, even the past. By seamlessly merging real time actors with technology, unattainable worlds can now be entered like never before. And remember this is just the beginning. A new matrix is being created where the past can be endlessly revisited.

Separated from our own universe, the Troxy captures the romantic essence of Casablanca. Indeed the art deco cinemas of the 1920s and 1930s are some of the most optimistic statements ever made in stone.

By transforming London’s most beautiful inter-war venue into Rick’s Cafe Americain, dressing up for a golden era taps into a strange cinematic homesickness. It’s a gorgeous experience overall, where men are gentlemen and girls are extraordinarily pretty. Just remember what happened off camera probably didn’t seem that glamourous at the time.

Blink

Kindred spirits are often romanticised in modern culture, but Blink is a little more surrealist in tone. A character play set in a world just like our own, Jonah and Sophie talk about a voyeuristic love story and one fitting of a society obsessed with making connections.

Written by English playwright Phil Porter, Blink addresses how virtuality has become the next phase of evolution; a world in which you can fall madly in love with complete strangers before even making a call. An online commune of language, love and dreams created entirely with words and grainy pixels – a fantasy world where you write all the rules.

Running at the Ed Fringe throughout August, Blink relies on two protagonists – an impish northern nerd Jonah (Harry McEntire), who somewhat unconvincingly emerges from a Presbyterian boot camp with a flair for voyeurism. Meanwhile the wonderfully gifted Sophie (Rosie Wyatt) has been looking after her dying father and loses her job in a software company for a perceived ‘lack of visibility’.

It this lack of visibility that crystallises the essence of Phil Porter’s play, where Jonah follows Sophie (with her loving consent) on a webcam and they both take solace from their weird and childlike sense of isolation. It is something they cannot necessarily touch but can only feel. They inhabit a world in where virtual souls find love in the anonymity of strangers.

For you see loneliness doesn’t necessarily stem from being on your own. Solitude can or will inevitably contribute but even those with regular human company can feel lonely. It is the inability to share private thoughts, desires and acute observations with like minded souls that accentuates many people’s sense of isolation.

Like sitting on a bus two rows behind a stranger you’re to painfully shy too approach, the same aches and desires apply and in many ways it can be even more painful. Blink is a story about love. A story about how it’s easier to confess all to a bleeping box on Facebook than it is to call a childhood friend. To lapse into an inexplicable world where you believe the other to be perfect. When you haven’t even heard their voice and as quicksands of love shift, which they always do, you blink and the feeling has gone.

Blink runs at the Traverse Theatre until August 26th and the Soho Theatre from Wed 29 August – Sat 22 September. 

Museum of Broken Relationships

After examining a heroin test, teddy bear and a Jamaican dollar bill at the Museum of Broken Relationships, I reopened my own dusty memorabilia of dead romances. Girlfriends come and go but their pink letters and hair clips remain locked away forever. The modern way of excommunicating a lover scorned is to delete them from Facebook. As feelings run high, many will have experienced the cathartic rush to delete all of their texts, emails and naked photos. Although years later you may regret deleting the latter.

Unable to throw anything away, I continue to hoard fragments of my broken relationships in shoe boxes. These include paper clips, feathers, wooden frogs, heart shaped mirrors and an empty bottle of Prosecco. Every failed relationship has its fair share of emotional debris. Reading some of my love letters is surprisingly painful, and after a few words I begin to feel uneasy, and fold them back up feeling nothing but regret that purple ink is all I have left.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a touring exhibition created by ex-lovers Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in Zagreb. Some of the donations range from surreal plastic toys, postcards, reels of films and surprisingly tender BDSM love poetry. In this macabre confession room of love lost, one of the exhibits includes a bike given to a woman by her cheating husband, who on discovering his infidelity, spent her evenings riding the high winds looking for closure. She continues to ride to this day.

One of the most illuminating exhibits came from a BDSM convert, who experienced her first ever sado-masochistic relationship with an art historian called Simon. Her love is represented in a book of nine poems, and she spoke of a man ‘….emotional, dysfunctional, demonstrative, difficult and controlling. Yet I was drawn to his tortured soul. He is intelligent, deep, dark and poetically literate. I had some truly magical sexual experiences with him and I fell for him or as he would say I was “obsessed” with him”. Alas such a temporary form of insanity now has a graveyard for where love goes to die.

Originally conceived in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships is now touring internationally, amassing stories and donations from cultures from all over the world. However, not everyone has to visit Covent Garden to appreciate the stories on display. They lie tucked away in your own draws, cupboards and inboxes. As we all have a Museum of Broken Relationships in our homes, words that have been laid to rest and star spinning memories lying soaked in dust.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Tristan Bates Theatre
London
WC2H 9NP

Exhibition runs until September 4th 2011.