When I was about 7, I dreamt of a giant train set, which covered the entire surface of Northfield Manor Infants School Playground.

In my mind it was only ever seen from one angle; and so subsequent flashbacks to that particular memory appear as if photographic. I know that the trains should be running (across elaborate viaducts, multi-levelled, etc.) but infact everything is still. It was a fantasy that held endless possibilities. Since then I’ve loved the idea of miniature worlds. Better still those that contain dark secrets in the detailing. A trip to the miniature village at Torbay in Devon may have started it off. Seeing Jake & Dinos Chapman’s dioramas merely confirms and legitimises the mind’s fancy.  For something truly jaw-dropping a half-day in  Miniatur Wunderland (Link…) was well worth sacrificing breakfast for to beat the queues.

Anyway, all of this is leads to Stan’s Cafe’s latest venture in the A.E.Harris space, 24-hour Scalextric. I spent a couple of hours last week helping to position a fraction of the 400m or so of track that James has procured from various ebay sources. The event will be staged this coming weekend (13-14th June)and for 24 hours solid, Messrs Yarker & Stephens will be donning their sheepskins to provide a running commentary to the racing fixtures, as they are played out by teams of hungry public. 24-Hour Scalextric has been staged to coincide with, of course, the Le Mans 24 hour race.

Highway Under Construction

Meanwhile across the West Mids, the Stan’s Cafe installation Spy Steps can be viewed and played out in the public spaces of Warwick Arts Centre. I took Things 1&2 last week and they were totally absorbed in the imaginary gameplay as suggested by the vinyl footsteps, handprints, bullet-holes and crib notes. The grand finale, in which the Bond character is lowered into a tank of piranhas, had the boys  in paroxysms of delight. I had to lure Jacob out of the lift as I was concerned that the hydraulics might get worn out or that the hyperactivity would at least arouse the suspicions of the Security Staff. But no, Spy Steps provided a licence to thrill…and to run amok in the Culture House, firing randomly with pointy gun hands.

I may not be the model exponent for linearity in narrative… (Fragmented realities are the default heart of my theatre sensibility and when it comes to reading matter I would sooner study a map than a novel – I attribute this partly to my left-handed, right-brained-ness/mess) but I found it fascinating that, with the option of directing his own narrative in this medium, 5 year old Jacob Rose chose to play and replay Spy Steps with random sequencing and without any concern or need to tie up the loose ends. A narrative could be played through like in any other interractive game, with favourite bits revisited or looped as often as humanly possible.

Just as The Black Maze discriminates on the basis of what kind of brain you have – and not on the basis of age or gender or culture – I suspect that Spy Steps will appeal to those open-minded and oriented toward the visual/kinaesthetic. It is installed at Warwick Arts Centre until 26th June. A new version of the show is being developed for Edinburgh through the latter half of August. More on Edinburgh very soon….


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