I caught Ditch this weekend in the tunnels under Waterloo station. It was okay. The space was dressed fabulously, and wandering around the ‘tableaux’ scattered about in the dark beforehand was a pretty fascinating snapshot into one set-designer’s apocalypse daydreams.
The thing is though, whatever ‘the national mood’, the only thing I walked out thinking was “Why didn’t I watch something cheerful down there?” Because when I left I stepped out onto Leake Street – a.k.a. The Tunnel, the graffiti-friendly project in Lambeth – a space filled with bright colour and art in what should have been a forboding, dingy little walkway.
There’s a staggering lack of imagination in taking a grimy, dark space and filling it with gloomy stories. Why can’t I head down to the Old Vic Tunnels and see something cheerful, even optimistic? I really want to see these spaces claimed for hopeful things, things that make me think, even for a minute, about the things we could be. It makes me think of a line from the latest series of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor directly appeals to his companions “Come on, be extraordinary.” It’s the only bit of pop-culture I’ve encountered recently making that kind of claim of its audience, the only thing asking us to inspire.
Do this for me; go into the gloomy spaces, the crappest little hidey-holes you can find, and fill them with colour.