THE BRITISH LIBRARY

English and Drama blog

05 April 2013

Neil Bartlett's Desert Island Discs

Neil Bartlett appeared at the Library recently performing pieces from his repertoire and discussing his varied career as writer, performer and director with Amy Lamé.  Doing her best Kirsty Young impression, Amy invited Neil to select and perform extracts from some of his favourite shows. Neil chose pieces from A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep (first performed at Battersea Arts Centre, 1987), Night After Night (a show based on the night his parents met, Royal Court, 1993), Seven Sonnets of Michaelangelo (Lyric Hammersmith, 1998) and A Picture of Dorian Gray (Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 2012), as well as a recent solo piece, What Can You Do? (Theatre Royal, Brighton, 2012).

 

A clip from the event recorded at the British Library on 22 February 2013, followed by an archive video of A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep at the Drill Hall, 1989. Performers are: Neil Bartlett, Ivan, Regina Fong and Bette Bourne.

Over the course of the evening Neil reflected on what it was like to be a performance artist before he was even aware of the term, the challenges of taking over the Lyric Hammersmith, and his eclectic love of high and low art (but indifference to ‘everything in between’).

Out of the five pieces he performed, he chose ‘The Song of Solomon’ from A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep (inspired by the life of Simeon Solomon, the pre-Raphaelite painter persecuted for homosexuality) as the piece he would most like to save from the waves. It stands, Neil said, as an overwhelming reminder of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and is also the only piece to be tattooed on his body. For his luxury item he plumped for an endless supply of paper and pencils, to be put to use translating Racine’s final play, Athalie (his chosen book). This was his second choice, his preferred—though disallowed—luxury item being the Wallace Collection.

The event marked Neil Bartlett’s donation to the British Library of his video archive and working papers. The video collection, acquired with the help of the Live Art Development Agency, has now been digitised and catalogued and is available to view by appointment with the British Library Listening & Viewing Service, or at the Live Art Development Agency’s study room in Hackney Wick. Neil Bartlett’s working papers document his 27 books (novels, adaptations, translations and original work for the theatre) and 79 theatre pieces. Researchers wishing to consult these papers should contact mss@bl.uk.

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