Articles Comments

David Porter » Archive

Protest Theatre Is Everywhere: Past, Present and Future

Protest by performance is as old as mankind. It seems that In an age of future conformity, there’ll always be protesters somewhere breaking boundaries. What artists in all genres choose to protest about/against, how they seek to effect change, is open to different interpretations, from geographical to racial, from historical to social and from environmental to economic. After the 1960s, Bob Dylan denied his songs were part of the protest movement (war, nuclear bomb, drugs, youth), yet clearly, songs like Maggie’s Farm, Blowin’ in the Wind, Hurricane, Oxford Town, With God On Our Side, for instance, convey messages strong enough to stir emotion against injustice and prejudice. That is just what protest theatre does, whether it be on stage, in song/dance, through paintings, movies or speeches declaimed like Martin Luther King’s 1963, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Unbelievable-But-True Stories Amuse Media, Public and Comedians

Cynics would say that tales of the bizarre cannot possibly be factual. But actually, the weird, unusual and strange show that ‘you couldn’t make it up’. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not has been thrilling people with odd and amazing, unbelievable exploits, mishaps, deformities and human failings from the ‘World of the Weird’ in museums and attractions since 1919. In effect, it’s a franchise, enabling entrepreneurs to open museums of artifacts so strange and unusual that people might doubt their claims. The idea has also been developed into radio and TV programmes, events, books, posters and a pinball game. Over 12 million visitors a year marvel in the museum chain, confirming the fact that people like to be amazed; that the unbelievable-but-true has a place in a world where technology has made the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Life’s Aphorisms are as Good for Comedy as for Living By

Laws, theories, principles, rules, fallacies and conundrums explain life. The most memorable maxims are the funniest and truest. Across much of the world ‘Murphy’s Law’ or a variant is used to explain the notion that ‘if something can go wrong, it will’. It’s based on the idea that there is a perversity operating in life, and the human lot is to expect the downside. If toast falls, it will fall buttered-side down. In Britain, such tiresome inconvenience is often styled ‘Sod’s Law’, while in the US the handy epithet SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up) serves the same purpose. It’s claimed this term began in the US military around 1941, when radio message encoding required scrambling into five letter code groups. When these groups were used to make sentences for fun, SNAFU … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Unusual Medical Conditions, Their Names and Effects

However weird phobias, conditions or illnesses may be, somebody somewhere will come up with names to describe them, give them status and find sufferers. The world seems full of people who suffer unusual health problems. Hypochondria has been around a long time. According to Medical News Today, people are hypochondriacs if they have ‘a preoccupying fear of having a serious illness despite medical assurances that they are well. Munchausen Syndrome (named after an 18th century German officer who exaggerated his life’s experiences) is a ‘factitious disorder’, or form of mental illness, in which people repeatedly act as if they suffer physical or mental disorders when, in fact, they have caused the symptoms to themselves. They undergo painful tests to get the attention/sympathy associated with serious illness. Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS) is a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

When Members of Parliament Fall Foul of the Laws They Make

The January 2011 jailing for 18 months of former MP David Chaytor for fiddling expenses, raised interest in how many others have served time over the years. MPs have high levels of theoretical probity. In the Chamber, all are called ‘Honourable’ or ‘Right Honourable’. However, temptation to steal/lie/cheat/betray are as high in politics as the rest of humanity. It appears, at least in the past 30 years, the numbers of jailed MPs is less than the average in the population as a whole. The House of Commons’ Library published a paper in 2008 in response to a Freedom of Information request, explaining the rules: ‘In cases in which Members of either House are arrested on criminal charges, the House must be informed of the cause for which they are detained from their … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Verbatim Theatre Speaks for Itself Loud and Clear

‘Verbatim’ is a kind of documentary theatre in which drama is made from the precise words spoken by people in evidence, witnessing or remembering. Verbatim originated in the USA in the 1930s’ Depression where a federally funded program, Living Newspaper Project, set actors sifting daily newspapers to create theatre to inform and motivate audiences. Owing something to Brecht, it later influenced Augusto Boal in Brazil and Joan Littlewood in Britain. In 1965, Peter Weiss in Germany wrote The Investigation which publishers Marion Boyars described as: ‘a dramatic reconstruction of the Frankfurt War Crimes trials, based on actual evidence’. Weiss edited extracts from testimonies ‘concerning Auschwitz and the atrocities enacted there’ into a dramatic document ‘that relies solely and completely on facts for its effectiveness’. There is no dramatic writing, no manipulation of facts/figures. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Hippodrome Circus, Yarmouth: Historic, Cultural, Showbiz Palace

A unique, custom-built circus at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK appeals equally to nostalgists, historians, and lovers of all-round family entertainment. ‘Hippodrome’ is from the Greek, meaning a stadium for horse/chariot racing, equivalent to the Roman circus. It was neither amphitheatre (sports, games), nor theatre as such. Over the years many British theatres and places of general entertainment were named Hippodrome. The one at Great Yarmouth is a circus. Standing just off the seafront, surrounded by the somewhat run-down faded glory of seaside entertainments and catering, the magnificent edifice of the Hippodrome rises up, proud and welcoming. The Theatres Trust calls it a “building of outstanding importance”, pointing out there are only two purpose-built permanent circuses in Britain (the other is Blackpool Tower Circus) still in full working order, and probably only four or … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Fireworks: Cultural, Civic, National Celebrations and Politics

Why do people love fireworks? Why did London burn almost £2m on them in 2011 to outdo Sydney’s pyrotechnic display? They’re a sign of potency!   According to PyroUniverse, fireworks go back to around 200BC in the Chinese Han Dynasty, when early firecrackers were chunks of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. The rods exploded because bamboo grows so fast ‘that pockets of air get trapped inside’ which expand when heated. It frightened people, animals and, they assumed, evil spirits. It became customary to burn green bamboo during the lunar new year to ward off evil. They then added it at weddings, coronations and births. A thousand years later and by accident alchemists experimented with sulphur, saltpeter, honey and arsenic disulphide exploding in fire. They found more saltpeter made it burn faster. ‘Gunpowder put … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101

Margaret Catchpole: A Case of 19th Century Rewriting of History

‘Spin’ didn’t arrive in the 20th century, as the case of the woman from Suffolk transported to Australia in 1801 shows, with history and myth intertwined. History is written and judged in hindsight. Politicians and historians always revision the past, often to suit present day agendas. Shakespeare did it with his history plays. In February 2004, The BBC published an account of the Margaret Catchpole story, which illustrates the point. She was born at Nacton, Suffolk in 1762, daughter of a farm labourer, and quickly became an accomplished horsewoman. A newspaper of 1800 described her as ‘tall and dark’ and ‘of intelligent countenance’; yet a wanted handbill said she was ‘5 feet 2 inches’. She worked in service for many families, including the respectable brewing Cobbold family in Ipswich, where she saved the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Articles at Suite 101