4 August 2010

Alan Moore's Unearthing

Witnessing Alan Moore's Unearthing is one of the oddest things that I have ever done, but not the oddest thing that I've done this week! It was an exhilarating mix of charm and strangeness that I hope to understand better through the cathartic act of writing about it. Here goes.


I should come as no surprise that I love bricks, industrial architecture and exploring and the venue scored highly on all three counts.

The Old Vic Tunnels are beneath Waterloo Station and the performance space has been created with minimal change and effort.

There is little outside to indicate that you are anywhere near a theatre, only the presence of a lone security guard gives the game away. And even then questions have to be asked to confirm the assumption.

The route in from the inauspicious entrance is dark, mysterious and confusing. Guides stand at appropriate places to direct the lost (all of us) to the next chamber on the path to the inner sanctum. Voices and footsteps echo with trepidation.


The path ends in a bar made warm and welcoming by dark reds, familiar household furniture and a few wall ornaments.

The beer helped too, even if all the beer they had was small bottles of Stella.

The good company also helped. I'd been in electronic contact with David for some years but this is the first time that we had actually met. And having got married recently, David also brought his wife April (or she brought him; I didn't ask).

The good company and beer were needed as the pre-event drink got extended by around twenty minutes due to technical difficulties.

Then the doors was opened and we were allowed in to the performance area which revealed itself to be another tunnel with a low stage and old cinema seats sliding up towards the arched ceiling.

On the stage were some electronics for the musicians to play with and a small desk and chair at the front for Alan Moore to deliver his script from.

At that point I had almost no idea what to expect and I'm not sure that I got much wiser over the next three hours.


The simple explanation is to say that it is the story of Steve Moore, a sometimes colleague of Alan's but never a relation.

Unearthing was clearly written to be read out loud and probably by Alan. The structure and rhythm reminded me a little of Under Milk Wood but I offer that as a comparison only because I can think of nothing else that it is remotely like.

Obviously a few others there did not know what to make of it either and there were a few departures in the first interval. But only a few.

The story reasonably traditional being chronological and biographically but this may be a subterfuge to trap the unwary as some mysteries seep in to the tale and it gradually changes and ends in a frenzied paradox where Steve Moore follows what the story says he will do in the future.

The three hours leading to that are mesmerising and compelling. The story, the rhythm of the reading, the richness of the language, the music amplifying the mood and the projected pictures all combined to make an experience that assaults the senses and the imagination on many levels.

The talk finished almost exactly at the bewitching hour. Alan quickly left the stage leaving the musicians to receive the genuine and deserved applause. Then there was just time for a final beer before catching the 00:42 to Kingston.

I would like to hear Unearthing again to try and understand it better and, therefore, to enjoy it more but the boxed set is on Amazon for a very unappealing £100. I can wait.

I am not sure that I am any the wiser about the event having corralled my thoughts on it into this post but I can settle on the certainty that it was a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating evening and one that I would gladly repeat.

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