Thursday, 6 December 2007

The single most simple invention 2: TE-DEE

(originally posted on myspace here)


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"The single most simple invention" actually refers to that lengthy and often mardy tangent I was involved in over at Chris Goode's blog, the one I threatened at some point to try and summarize, the one I printed out yesterday that ran to more than fifty pages of A4, the one where Chris writes about "trying to reinvent" theatre and I get shirty and counter with "but it's the single most simple invention known to man" thinking I'm quoting "Restaurant at the End of the Universe" only it turns out I'm not, because the passage I was actually thinking of goes like this:

""What about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project."
"Ah," said the marketing girl, "Well, we're having a little difficulty there."
"Difficulty?" excalimed Ford? "Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It's the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!"
"Alright, Mr Wiseguy, you're so clever, you tell us what colour it should be."

... and finally after two weeks of fractious debate over the nature and definition of fiction, testimony, irony, God and cats, the tangent ends as I said quite cheerily with me going "this is what comedians do, and it's certainly not candour" and then Chris going "Stand-up comics, yes, YES" and then Chris going "the perfect mix of prepared material, technical facility, responsiveness, interaction, topicality, entertainment, liveness" and finally "All we have to do then is: replace the single figure with a group, preferably; lose the microphone; lose the raised stage; lose the necessity of 'being funny'. But heighten and intensify the sense of entertainment... I can see why you would want a drink in your hand."
So sort of like I said, simple.

And now I'm putting the tangent down and I'm walking away from the tangent. I just thought I'd bung a record of it up here on the blog because it's all stuff I've been thinking about in relation to the now-upcoming Jonah show I'll be doing in January... a show which I've often considered trying to pass off as stand-up, but with longeurs, and hymns. I had a very odd dream about it last night in fact (or rather this morning) where my request to move the audience about and have the run of Shunt's lobby and lift were sniffily rejected on, of all things, ARTISTIC grounds. And then I thought, oh this'll make an interesting post. And then I woke up. They were rejected in my dream by a man called Mischa Twitchin who I've never known be anything other than totally supportive of anything I've ever done... Except maybe the Primo Levi sketch - Maybe that's what the dream was actually about now I come to think of it. That wee fear. Mischa makes a lot of pieces about literature relating to the Holocaust, and I've just written a sketch where Primo Levi goes "Te-dee!" a lot and has his sleeping-pill-powered, imploding gin bagpipes confiscated by the landlady. That's real. I'm back to talking about real life now.

But clearly I've left the writing of these posts long enough for them to start acting like dreams, in other words too long, because: A) They do seem quite confused and boring in hindsight, for which I apologize, but also B) You think you've been concentrating on one thing and then you start writing and it turns out something completely different floats to the surface, like a dead polar bear in a film star's pool where you were expecting William Holden. "Oh Primo!" was finally recorded on Monday night, after I called Nigel to say yes. Apparently the producer recorded himself in the bath for one of the sound effects. Isn't that lovely. It's one of three sketches I have so far got round to writing for Laurence and Gus, and I'm very very pleased with how they've been going. And that's all I'll say for now... I'm not going to complain again about how corridory Broadcasting House is. Although it IS awful. It's awful. Like a check-in desk. You can't take plastic cups in, you've got to pour the BEER BACK INTO THE BOTTLE! And there are only two urinals! That's not liminal! Unless a huge queue of men hanging round the door of the gents - the GENTS! - at half time can be considered liminal because it means "threshold"... So I'll leave it. A friend of mine got married at the weekend. It was lovely. That's what I'll write about next...

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P.S. Anyone whose interest was piqued by yesterday's garbled post about David Rosenberg might find a visit to his website both useful and illuminating (heh-heh-heh).

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The single most simple invention 1: DOOR

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Is the above a less attractive proposition than the below?

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It's Shunt's new door. I like it. The old one was just a flat grey surface and had to be broken down by the Emergency Services when a reveler got locked in for the night… underground, in the dark, with the rats… imagine. We get a lot of revelers now. "What are they queueing for?" asked Nigel. I know. Closed, the door is the perfect entrance. Opened, everything starts to go a little wrong: a bucket is rattled, names put down if you want to see a show, necks stamped - "Just the write the fucking names down, Simon"… Season at the door "can't stand ditherers" (I had no pen) - But what can we do, ye cannae change the laws of physics...

No-one likes lists. But if they hand people a page of Danielle Steele instead and say that everyone with a page of Danielle Steele will get in to see your show then you're simply left three minutes before curtain running in and out of four-hundred pouting midriffs looking for the one friend you have to hand a page of Danielle Steele to because you couldn't just put their name down on a list...

And you really hope it's worth it... Even though so much fun is clearly being had you really hope something somewhere in the future is being – well – funded by all this. Because if that thing in the future doesn't exist then for two seconds, three seconds, all these beautiful people turn in your head into shiny insects swarming round a corpse. And that's loonythink.

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The shed that stands in the corner of Gary's bar was covered in silver foil to mark a week of Andy Warhol, and it lasted a night. Roland's idea. He was curating for that week, the week of "contains violence". And what did Ned Mond say when he turned up? Something cool about this night being an antidote to the National Lottery ("a tax on the barely affluent") where the wealthy pile in to give artists money for booze and have their photos taken in front of a giant can of soup.

And then he started to tell me about the Nitrate Mining Ghost-towns of South America he'd been looking up on the internet. He'd found one with a theatre. And a population of one. He was thinking of taking a show over.

The audience for our little bit of "contains violence" was limited to the number of headphones. So forty-three, I think. It went well. It's going to be very good when it's finally on at (ie opposite) the Lyric in Hammersmith (there'll be two-hundred headphones by then, and two-hundred sets of opera glasses, and hopefully two-hundred punters standing on the balcony… that's going to look great). In it I had to lip-synch to a speech about "arsehole-bleaching" originally recorded by David (Rosenberg, who made it). The only way to pull it off was to just do it as him, big eyes and arm-span, and so I found that interesting. I've tried lip-synching before, in shows I've made myself, but never come close to getting it right... or rather "never got it right", because it's lip-synching. It's either right or it's wrong. That's also what's so interesting…

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I used to wonder if David always put in these "arsehole" references to weed out the no-fun crowd and stop his work being taken Seriously-For-The-Wrong-Reasons. But then Ned said something about how much easier it is to stage Threat than it is to stage Dread ("because Dread's like… almost the absence of Threat") and how well David pulls it off, and he's right, so now I think it might have something to do with creating that absence of threat, all the bumhole stuff. Like the head-banging to the Dead Kennedys in a neck brace I had to do. Or like the e-mail he sent out requesting the presence of a bank of naked spectators for a photo-shoot to publicize the show. There's a sample of it up there. Except the Lyric aren't going to use this image now. And they didn't like his original title of "Underskirt". And the Lounge is closed now, and with it, that door.

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Nigel who you can just make out backstage, he's going to be curating for three weeks when it re-opens in late January. And yesterday I said: sure I'll do something. I'm going to resurrect something of mine called "Jonah Non Grata". The thing Roland didn't want to do.

The original plan was, well, not to. But before I called Nigel up to say "No" I popped into Christ's Church in Spitalfields for the first time yesterday (I'd just finished milking Money's last money at a corporate voice-over in Moorgate and the door was open) and it was really disappointing. It looked like an enormous, well-lit writing desk. And I thought "Shunt's much better than this rubbish. I should do something there." I looked up the word "liminal" today (Chris Goode's blog very helpfully has a link) and Christ's Church certainly wasn't liminal.

So I might do a late show, close an area off, by the locked front door if I'm allowed. Right down the other end from the shinier revelers. If and when they return. The idea of doing a show about Jonah actually came to me first seven years ago when I was at an audition, playing with a door and thinking about flight and doing something funny. And "Liminal" refers to "the second stage of a ritual". It comes from "limen", which means threshold. So it is the state of not yet passing through a door. So yes, I said "Yes", and we'll see.