Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Like most things you see on the internet - but greater

The Hallway from The Hallway on Vimeo.

Dear Internet,

I'll be trying to see less of you soon. It's not that I don't like you. It's that I am suddenly aware that as a little human being with little human dreams, I don't stand much of a chance against all of the knowledge you can fit on more servers than stars in the sky. I'd rather just look at stars in the sky for a while, if that's alright. But I'll be back to check on you once in a while. Don't worry. It's not forever.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Know when to hold 'em

Working on a play about men and gambling for York University - but when I see something like this, I just think, why write plays at all. Every good story out there has been gotten at by the Muppets first - and better.


PS: Still digesting Burlington, Turnstile at the BAC. I was going for something very different from what I usually do in performance - dealing with heavy issues like the BNP and Nuclear war - and making a point through making people uncomfortable. It was a really interesting experience. I'll keep the blog updated if it ends up anywhere.

Friday, 25 September 2009

A performance creeps up on you...

I've got just under 3 hours before I'm ready for my closeup/ the show goes on. I'm in a weird state of complete calm, which will probably cease in about 2 hours. for the moment, the main feelings going through the ole brain and self are hunger, anticipation, a little bit of boredom/restlessness (what do I do with myself now? I've got 3 hours. I know, I'll blog) and of course there is that man chatting away in the back room of the brain office, talking about how nervous he is, wondering why everyone else is working away on their computer happily or checking their facebook for the umpteenth time when he's ABOUT TO PUT ON A SHOW PEOPLE! HOP TO IT! But of course, that guy will only get noticed in the last quarter of this anticipation time. That's when he'll unpick the lock in the room he's in at the moment, and in spite of all his freaking out, he'll be forced to help everybody else get on with it and put on the darned show. We'll see how it goes.

My nuclear war piece is on tonight and tomorrow night at 9pm at the Battersea Arts Centre. If you are not a stalker, I'd like to see you there. If you are a stalker... there are way cooler people out there. Seriously.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes

Oh my dear dear blog, it is at moments like the one I had earlier today that I wish I had a little camera or thought to take pictures during some of the hilarious and strange events that seem to envelop me. So for Rules and Regs I will be attempting to pull all the post apocalyptic stops, and my lovely tech at BAC had an idea of a way to really wow the audience - a smoke machine. He turned it on to let it heat up, and then we went downstairs to play with the lighting in the slightly fascist bunker in the basement. When what should happen, but Greg, the tech, is radio-ed that some of the smoke from the smoke machine is getting into one of the rehearsal rooms. It doesn't sound like the end of the world (end of the world, nuclear destruction, get it? Well you shouldn't because there ain't nothin to get there. It's late and my jokes are even worse than the usual!) so he kept on trying to light the space. When we do both head upstairs, a floor down from where we'd left the smoke machine, behind the glass double doors, we just see the thickest haze I've ever seen. We could barely get up the stairs - I couldn't see more than a few centimetres in front of me, and the smoke was all orange tint because of a gel on a light we'd been playing around with.

Is that all there is to a fire, I found myself asking? The answer, of course, being, no. Fires are like really scary, whereas a haywire smoke machine is at its worst irritating and at its best cool, actually a bit of both, but the building's fire alarm did get set off. (It took a disturbingly long time for that to happen, though, considering all the smoke we waded through...) And now of course, legal issues about the fire alarm and the smoke or not the smoke. But my gosh, it would be amazing to do a show where you just made an audience think they were walking through a burning building because there was so much smoke. Or hey, one of our rules for R and R is Think of England? How about some real deal dangerous London Fog. The biggest screw up of the day was far better than any special effect I'd ever be able to legally try out. Thanks to the sweet unexpected gifts that hazard can bring, and no thanks to Health and Safety, who will never let us do that with smoke again.

PS: Dress rehearsal tomorrow. Nervous/excited/I hope it works out! Also, excuse typos. It's late and I'm tigred.

PPS: My private unofficial name for my work from now on is "Max Fischer Productions." Parts of the set and looking quite seriously like the Heaven and Hell set at the end of Rushmore. But hey, in the words of Mr. Littlejeans: "Best play ever, man."

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Protect and Survive - The power of one just ain't enough...

Hi there bloggy friends!

So I haven't posted for the last two days, but today this ridiculous vision I had of tiling the floor of the bunker white and blue was actually (somehow, just when it had started to seem as foolhardy as it may actually be) realized by a team of totally awesome theatre friends and erstwhile volunteers from Forest Fringe. The entire experience was very reminiscent of the wonderful things that group of people helped us do in August, and it made me pretty darned nostalgic for that whole manic month. There is something unbeatably lovely about sitting in a room of people, everyone focussing on a task at hand, everyone pitching in to try and make some theatre happen. It may be in my top twenty things to do in life, and possibly even higher. Very high would be that heart warming feeling when the people in the room are all helping make a piece of theatre that I will be ultimately responsible for. Now that this honest effort, this kind of convivial spirit and collective ownership of a now beautiful space has been brought into the equation, the pressure to make this British Nuclear bunker something memorable and interesting is on. I guess I'll just have to bring it. (Am I referencing Bring it On, you ask? I don't know, you tell me. You're the one who spotted it. And what's worse, eh? eh?)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Protect and Survive - Part 1

Okay, so precisely because I never usually talk about my creative work here, and precisely because I worry that I am flagging somewhat in terms of creativity and motivation and drive, and precisely because I have also felt a lack in terms of interesting things to tell the ole blog-o about, I am going to do a series this week, fingers crossed, where I tell you about the piece that I’m making for Rules and Regs, as and when I’m making it.

You might have noticed a wee (adorable? Really? You think so? Thanks!) picture of me at the top of this post holding a backwards “Protect and Survive” booklet ponderously. Don’t worry. The booklet isn’t actually backwards. That’s just the fun and friendly mirror effect of photobooth on Morgan’s apple. I am holding this booklet because, believe it or not, this booklet would have been the actual Civil defense program for your average Joe in the likely case of nuclear disaster in the UK in the 80s. They also made some Protect and Survive videos, and I’ll post one here. I would find the animation in these videos highly adorable/hilarious, if it weren’t so awfully terrifying.

Our Rules for Rules and Regs are
1. Think of England
2. Don’t be yourself
3. Be Straight with us
4. Panic

So for some reason the combination of these rules and the kind of incredibly awkward spaces I was given at BAC (a tiny room at the top of the building, and a very scary room in the basement where I constantly hear footsteps when Nobody’s There!) just called to mind a Nuclear bunker, and the BNP’s odd idea of “ethnically British”, whatever that means. More on this as more comes up. But for now, here’s a promise that you’ll learn more as the week goes on, I will actually post something every day til performance, and I’ll play you out with a bit of Protect and Survive, everyone’s favourite guide to surviving Nuclear disaster…

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Who do I remind you of?

Lately I'm intrigued by that thing that seems to happen as you start growing up, when your heart and your head really do stop sharing a bedroom, when they start going to see movies on their own, developing separate lives, rarely acknowledging each other except to say "pass the salt" at the dining table. While your heart remains blisfully naive and adolescent, listening to the same old angsty Smiths records it always listened to, poring over old love letters, drawing moustaches on copies of YM, your head becomes a beacon of rationality, perhaps overly rational, and lists all of the foolhardy endeavours the heart once took it on, and the results of each. These records can not be broken or destroyed. Once the head has taken note, it's taken note forever.

Which is why it's so odd when the heart makes another one of its flash decisions, and the head politely knocks on that old bedroom door, just as the heart is putting on its hat and the last of its makeup, to diagnose the situation like some kind of killjoy doctor. "We've seen this before." It says. "Or do you not remember the summer of 2003?" But to the heart everything is new. Everything is a first. And there is always hope and the possibility for the impossible.

This brings me to today's obsession - people or situations that remind you of another person or another situation so overwhelmingly, you find yourself behaving as though in the past. I've had people do it to me before - there was a certain lady at university who I was mistaken for on numerous occasions. We even dated the same man, one after the other. Years later, a good friend of hers became a good friend of mine, and I found out that he thought we were so alike he just pretended I was her in conversation. I took that pretending very well, and after finding out that it wasn't me he was inwardly addressing, I wasn't remotely offended. In fact, I found the whole thing kind of comforting. I'm not sure why. I liked the idea that someone else had been there before.

Today I'm interested in connecting doppelgangers. Possibly separately interviewing people who friends say remind them of each other, or placing them in the same room to see what would happen. What makes them similar? Do they share something in their manner, in their faces, in their eyes, in their histories? And am I the only one who finds this a useful shorthand for social situations, rather than depressing or disturbing?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Back to the Internet with you!

Hey friends,

So back from the 'burgh, and as always, it is both lovely and oddly sad to be back. The whole thing was an indisputable success - manic and inspiring in equal parts, and the being back feels a little bit like the week after Christmas. I've got all of these presents I didn't have before, both actual presents (a few amazing hand made cards and a beautiful poster of our programme given to both Andy and I by Ellie and Freya, not to mention the Fringe First!) and more ethereal presents - the shows I got to see over a period of 2 weeks. Just how many creative diamonds we nestled in the sand of Edinburgh is really something to be proud of.

I had a really interesting conversation at Devoted and Disgruntled over the festival with a lovely lady named Gill who is a barrister. She brought up the topic of Liveness, what defines it, what is it, what makes it important? I think one of the main reasons I love performance, and food, is that feeling of having a lived moment somewhere in your memory that you can return to again and again, and that always gives you a certain feeling. In both theatre and food it is often carefully prepared, recreated for person after person, so that an experience or memory that may seem to you unique is actually one that has been shared by an untold number of other people. You all fell in love with the performer when the music started to slow, you all felt like you were eating a cloud when you tasted Torro at Nobu. And then of course, a few of you didn't. A few of you felt the show was too sentimental. A few of you hated the texture of the food. There is something here that I'm having a hard time putting my finger on, especially since this matter of taste is equally true of prerecorded music or films.

But here's what I love about liveness - that wrapped up in that memory of a feeling, is the memory of frailty, the memory that at any moment something could have gone wrong - and yet, something beautiful, even with the possibility of accident or disruption, still happened. This is what makes live performance, especially when it's good, for me the most electric and exciting artform. Danger and frailty. There was a lot of that this festival, in the performances and in the venue - the danger of audiences not showing up, the danger of candles knocking over, the danger of a random angry man walking in and disrupting everything (which happened!) and the strength/frailty of a team of volunteers holding everything together with a smile and some effort.

It was a great festival. Too great to be articulate about. It was what it was in the moment. Struggling, and dangerous and ultimately successful. A constant worry and a constant celebration. Thanks to everyone who helped make that happen.

Next blog post will be funnier - I promise. It's just that I'm listening to the Goldberg Variations, and Mr. Gould has got me all reflective-like. Blame it on the piano player.