Martin designed and printed the posters for a number of Half Moon productions in the 1970s.
I designed and printed the first posters for the Half Moon theatre in Alie Street. I was not then, nor ever have been a ‘theatre person’. I was a political activist and squatter who in the early seventies a few years after being thrown out of Hornsey College of Art, settled in North East London with the fringe anarchist/Marxist community.
I worked and squatted with Phil Cohen or ‘Doctor John’ as he was called when he and a trailing street group squatted 144 Piccadilly. Phil was also, for a time, the partner of Pam Brighton, who had recently graduated from the London School of Economics.
In the mid seventies, I ended up in Islington in a house owned by ‘Mrs B’ Pam’s mother. The house contained resisting intellectuals – the late Jock Young – a scattering of radical activists and the dogmatically creative Pam. It was the early seventies in London.
It was Pam who suggested that I do the posters for the Half Moon where she had become a director with Guy Sprung whom she later accompanied to Canada. From the beginning it was easy to recognise in Pam, her creative volatility and her ‘take no prisoners’ determination on all matters intellectually artistic. At home, however, she could be fragile and self doubting, often in need of emotional repair.
Until I did the posters, Pam’s theatre life was a foreign world to me. Oddly, even when I began visiting the Half Moon, a disused Synagogue in the edge of the East End, the idea of creating drama still remained a mystery to me.
Knowing Pam, as I did, made my visits to theatre rehearsals, to sketch ideas for the posters, very involving. The atmosphere was completely informal and I was immediately accepted as part of the chaos. While Pam could be ferocious, although sensitive to the feelings and suggestions of her actors and technicians, on the matter of posters she was utterly silent. Everything we produced for the theatre was accepted by her and others as ‘manna from heaven’. Never a critical word was spoken.
The theatre was a vital part of the community, and the dialectical discourse begun with the plays, often ran through the community. This was particularly evident with two productions, The Hammers and George Davis is Innocent OK. Many of the posters for The Hammers were torn off walls by West Ham United supporters because they depicted a West Ham player falling from the sky in flames.
In the case of George Davis is Innocent OK, it was I who introduced the case, campaign and Peter Chappell to Pam. They were like ‘peas in a pod’, both infused with the same sense of manic obsession. Shane Connaughton the Irish writer co-author of My Left Foot wrote the Half Moon production based on the campaign.
It might have come as a shock, as it did to me to see the Half Moon Theatre packed with villains, some of whom came more than once to the production. As with The Hammers the criminal community became overtly involved in the production, taking a heaven sent opportunity to ‘ready eye’ the theatre’s surrounding premises and burglarise one entering over the roof from the Half Moon.
I loved mixing with all those at the Half Moon and even though I only designed the posters I was treated with respect by everyone. My knowing Pam gave me an introduction to some individuals that I would not normally have had the opportunity to talk to, including Peter Terson, who called in at the house one day when Pam wasn’t there and stayed talking to me about posters, and his most recent production, for a couple of hours and Willy Russell in whose house I stayed when the Half Moon took George Davis is Innocent OK to the Liverpool Everyman.
My memories of the Half Moon in Alie Street are memories of the immediate post 1968 era, which has slowly slipped away, to be replaced on the whole by corporate funding.