Thursday, 30 October 2008

Extra-curricular use of teh white base and top hat

(originally posted on myspace here)



... wwwwwas made on Monday evening in the insensitively well-lit Crypt of Saint-Martin's-in-the-Field - Saint-Martin-in-the-Field's - Saint's-Martin's-in-the's-Fields's-whatever it is. Time was, I remember, you could pop down there for a coffee and barely see who you were talking to, but now it's lit like a prison. Or Ikea. Perhaps nobody had told that to the people at Bloomsbury when they chose it as the location for the launch of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book, hiring a couple of actors to drift eerily past disguised as Victorian ghouls. Still it was packed. A bit too packed as my opposite undead number Alice (who actually did look great in her sulky cowl despite the absence of candle light) pointed out. You couldn't really "drift" anywhere, you had to more, kind of, "barge" eerily. So mainly we stood still and I decided to look a bit lost and pensive and hanger-onnish (I'd been generously invited that day to the Evening Standard Theatre Awards by Ella who'd just been nominated best newcomer - YAY - and guessed I'd be adopting much the same attitude) and I attempted to hold my hands in the manner of a Chris Riddell illustration. And below is a lovely little film by one of the greatest illustrators ever to work in comics, Dave McKean, who was also at the launch which made me very excited. And above is a little image from The Tempest film I made eleven willion years ago which I realize now shows his influence puh-retty clearly. In the flesh Dave McKean looks like some extraordinary household spirit, or the patriarch and sole beard-owner of an arboreal race visible only to the drinkers of neat willow hooch. Also a lot like a trimmed Arvo Part. His son and I had a staring contest. And I got him and Neil Gaiman to sign the inside of my battered dungeon topper. I'm getting paid in books. Not a bad gig really.

(I think that last caption reads "God finds an important use for the third, and previously spare dimension".)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Work starts on The Git

(originally posted on myspace here)


The Proscenium Arch: My little cameraphone can do no justice to the cavernous, blackboardish, mouldering oddness of the three large brick arches that make up the space in Shunt called the Arena. Having found myself at the wrong attention-end of the table in the pub after work I popped into the Shunt Vaults and the netaudio festival being hosted there (whence these photos) just in time to catch a gothic dance piece based on the works of Spike Jones and Doodles Weaver.


I couldn't remember when I'd last seen the Arena look like such an attractive proposition for a performance. It may be because I'd never seen it look so bare, or it may have been because I'd learnt on Thursday that our days in this place were finally numbered. Or it may have been that I'd recently been thinking about Jonah Non Grata thus (and thank you again, Andrew Haydon, for that review): If I were to perform it again in the Vaults much of the set I'd used for the promenade version back in January (the lobby, the lift) had now been dismantled, so restaging that wasn't an option, and as much fun as running around with the audience and pulling tricks with doors and light had been, there was always an argument for taking the show back to what it had started out as ie. a man gutting about onstage for an hour in front of an audience allowed to keep their places and, as a consequence, their anonymity... an argument now made all the stronger by the rich, found seediness of this Arena. It really did look like a great, godawful place to see one man stand.


But how likely am I really to perform Jonah here agan? What have I already got on my plate? For a start there's this film I'm going to make with Gemma Brockis, although neither of us really have any idea what it's going to be. We've mentioned "Fat Adolf" of course (I'm finding it very useful to write Winnie Verloc with the casting of Gemma in mind) but should LA not come knocking, or - Heaven Forfuckingfend - I never even get round to writing the bloody thing and live out the rest of my days teetotal, we also considered making a short. The one idea I had was to get Gemma to play me, film it in black and white and call it "The Git." Gemma, a little to my surprise, really seems to like this.


Okay, so what should the Git do? Well as of last night I think he should stand in the Arena and perform to the camera. Start with what you know. Gemma, now I think of it, is also fascinated by the proscenium arch (for her upcoming curatorship of the Vaults I think she's going to turn the long corridor into a series of Pollock Toy Theatre style flats) while I'm having enough problems working out how to make Iago work outside of the traditional thearical seating arrangement and I'm only doing that because it's going on the radio, so I see no need to fight this any more: REGARDLESS of the medium, there is clearly something about a person standing on a stage (preferably a big, bare stage) and facing front that I find potentially hilarious and complicated. Let's start there then, and just hope we get the whole thing wrapped before they move us to the sewage farm.


Saturday, 25 October 2008

What is privacy for?

(originally posted on myspace here)


It's an odd thing but sitting in a spotlight in the dark you're constantly glimpsing bits of your own face in the peripheries. This happened as I watched Mel perform Iris Brunette sitting beside us one by one, assigning characters and engaging us in coversation. I was there as a member of the audience but also (like quite a few others there) as somebody who knew her and somebody used to performing off the cuff, so when it came time for her to address me it was difficult to know quite how to play it: She was being brilliant, should I shut up? Was I having to pretend to be a member of the audience even though I was one? I watched silently for as long as was polite. Then I was asked my name, which I guess was a question anybody could answer, so I answered that. Then I was asked what made my heart race? I said "noise" which was dumb - I was very conscious of my heart racing right then in fact as both she and the spotlight stayed on me. But what I wish I'd said was "hiding."

And I think I got an idea of how to end "Iago's Little Book of Calm" (the radio adaptation of something sweary I wrote for the stage five years ago which ends with the central character noticing the audience, a much harder trick to pull off if they're not there). I think the solution might have something to do with talking to yourself. So thanks for that, Mel. Her shows often give me ideas, not directly as such, they're just good places to think.

The same can be true of Chris Goode's blogging. Laid up with this cold I finally got round to looking at his rehearsal diary for Hey Mathew this afternoon (upon which Jamie opposite is currently employed). It's an eloquent, passionate, generous and witty account of a type of rehearsal process I instinctively distrust (perhaps, as Chris suggests, because it's not a process of rehearsal towards a show as such but a process of investigation that should - and on this evidence, justifiably does - exist for its own sake). It was here I saw posted: "Can anyone help me out with thinking about this thing about stripping away the privacy from intimacy? And -- if you fancy it -- what exactly are you using your privacy to do?"... and I tried to post the following in response. The capchta was sletedso:

"Privacy is simply being granted control over the company you keep, isn't it? 'Let's go somewhere private' means 'Let's get rid of the unknowns.' A couple of years ago I was thinking a lot about hiding... about writing a children's book about a boy who loved playing games involving hiding, and then found out that being onstage felt entirely the same (dozens of copies where then made of him, all of whom ended up after an initial polite camaraderie keeping out of each other's way). So yes I was thinking about the joy of hiding (on one's own, rather than in a den, although THAT IS YES THE SAME) and about the stage as a counter-intuitively perfect hiding place. When I turned eight I would spend every school break walking up and down talking to myself, and this continued until I graduated. It was and is simultaneously a completely private yet public activity, and inasmuch as I am taking on different voices while talking to myself and, in a sense improvising dialogue, it is also a performance, even though it is not done for an audience, which is only something that's just occurred to me. I would say you hide on stage because you disappear, but this takes us down needlessly controversial, well-farrowed tracks about the nature of truth in performance, so won't. Maybe I made some notes I'll have a look no I can't find them. What do we use our privacy for? People affect each other - (actually I'd accidentally written "People effect each other" which is a bit more profound) - It is polite to refrain from effecting somebody without their consent. So privacy I think exists in case we're scary. Intimacy, on the other hand, requires company. A person can't be intimate on their own, can they? As an adjective "intimate" almost means "descriptive of an atmosphere requiring privacy" or something you wouldn't do in front of a third party. Except in the case of performance where it really just means somebody's doing their job. Maybe."

So yes I wrote that and then I went and saw Melanie's show. Mental, eh? And it's true about the school breaks. They used to call me "Walkie Talkie". Cough.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


(originally posted on myspace here)

Post one-hundred-and-one, a time to take stock. Average time spent on one of these things: Four hours... which is daft. One hour of that's just spent looking over punctuation for the love of - Enough. We can no longer afford these fancy production numbers. There's a crunch on, and papa needs to quit this tinkering, pick up a proper job hammer and hit the coal- It's twelve past eight! I've got to have some breakf- I've got a COLD, oh this is EXACTLY what I'm talking ab- Here:

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

HUNDREDTH POST! (one word of advice)

(originally posted on myspace here)


Fully qualified veterinarian Dr. Meikle and I said a second goodbye-of-sorts to each other a number of Mondays back, up in Hampstead, the afternoon before I visited the Death Ray set I think. I uncharacteristically teared up over a hot chocolate and rather more characteristically bought a rubber duck and took photos... But it was relaxing, and she gave me a word of advice I shall pass on to you now, in this my hundredth post, because it's a good word of advice, and to name something is to give yourself a measure of control over it, so here it is:


I had been worrying to her in passing about a scheduled meeting coming up with a former object of desire, and she said "You're empowered. You're completely empowered. Just don't wear your cockgoggles."

It's very important to be reminded that's an option. Yes, cockgoggles. Of course. As a salutary reminder I took myself off a few days later to see Elegy, in which Ben Kingsley plays a public intellectual who meets, falls in love with and then has to say goodbye to Penelope Cruz's breasts (the title can only refer to her masectomy), and with the saddening clarity now afforded by the good doctor's advice I could see that every decision here weighed and every savvy pronouncement delivered in this movie was just patently dotty: the sayings of a sap who'd thought he'd made sense of this world at sixty, but had accidentally kept his cockgoggles on. All this time. Like a sixty-year-old cucumber seed in your beard nobody has thought to mention. Take 'em off, Philip Roth.

And I got a call from Dr. Meikle this evening, well yesterday evening now, sounding kind and happy. She's working 13-hour-days now at a veterinary practice up in the Pyrenees. Yeah I wonder what she does... Here's today's death ray:

Remember: Take 'Em Off.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

DEATH RAY WEEK day doodah: Laser Tag

(originally posted on myspace here)


Is this - ? Why - What was the point of this blog again? Anyway Hamlet (abridged) happened on Sunday again in front of four charming witnesses. "Let's film a trailer next," thought our producer aloud, "With better costumes and lighting - Just set two days aside and -" Back to the lab... That night I was up with a cold watching "Have I Got News For You?" on iplayer, answering everything and realizing that I get most of my news now from youtube. I'm THAT bored. Clips isn't really news though, is it. Clips is just clips, they'll never tell you what's really going on. Unlike THIS!


Here's an exciting interview with author, Doctor Judy Wood: Could the collapse of the Twin Towers be the work of a Giant Death Ray? What exactly IS the "dustification" point of steel?... I'm sorry but Sarah Palin's clearly given me a real taste for watching dumb lies squirm under scrutiny, how about you? Dr. Judy's haggard appearance admittedly skews one's schadefreude a tad, but still:

Oh listen no actually that's not important. What I really want to draw to your attention is this. This is what actually happens when you point a Laser at a building in Manhattan. This is what a Graffiti Research Lab actually gets up to. I'm going to build one for Morgan:

James helps to design robots on Mars. James wears a hood. James rules.

Monday, 20 October 2008

DEATH RAY WEEK day 3: Actually this one turns you into shopping

The following short is a favourite at my Dad's film evenings in Puisallicon and features one of the dirtiest women ever to appear in cartoons (and the thirties were full of them). "Whopper" here I think means fib: 



In other news, the wedding of Hannah Lou to Trevor Moss in Wandsworth Town Hall yesterday was a paragon, a paean, a peach. We all sat in the Council Chamber playing with our flip out desks, enjoying the soft, Godless strains of Salt and Blue, and when Hannah walked she looking so young. They both looked so young. They are young. They fell in love young. Trevor's moustache (a lot of us had moustaches) only made him look younger, and his father was the best man and even he looked young. The best man speech at the Ivy House would later make me break my pledge.

And soon they'll be off to honeymoon in Finland (where the finals of the Mad Scientist's Laugh Competition are held). Bishop had begun to plan for his own wedding. Hiring a fake groom seemed like a good idea, then Bish could make a dramatic entrance through a window when the time came to ask if anyone knew of any lawful impediment. Heidi C. Mace said she actually knew someone who hires herself out daily as a shotgun-wielding, pregnant wedding-crasher. There is a market.

I found a payslip in my trouser pocket walking home that night through Peckham Rye. I'm finding payslips all over the place these days. That's the really insidious thing about a regular job, I realized: waiting for the payslip. You shouldn't be waiting for the end of the week. Time should not pass quickly. Good for Hannah and Trev.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

DEATH RAY WEEK day 2: You will have been watching...

(originally posted on myspace here)



Every show I work on with Shunt they always say they're going to make it rain, but this week someone finally has. I put 10p in the tin after work and helped myself to tea, a biscuit and a bunk. It looked great... But listen I should really go to bed as there's a wedding on tomorrow and I have to get up and wash and shave and generally get my head round that (I have slept already, but I should give it another go now I've taken my coat off) so here meanwhile is today's DEATH RAY which may well contain the finest opening credits to anything ever... I mean: Who ARE all these people? Do THEY even know? (Why can't I use italics on this blog? Block caps are so needy. You're supposed to use asterisks or something, aren't you, I know, but then it just looks - And this bit ideally should be written up the side, next to the address, under the stamp.)

Friday, 17 October 2008

DEATH RAY WEEK day 1: interesting properties of punched light

(originally posted on myspace here)


Here's a little shot from the far-more-impressive-than-any-evidence-I-could-bring-back set of the "Giant Death Ray" sketch I visited last Wednesday, a military hanger filled with all manner of eccentric machinery from the 1930's... back when machines were REAL machines, and had levers and hand-painted gauges and head-rests. Under that sheet is... well, a spoiler, but certainly something I had never really expected to see undertaken when I first wrote the sketch. In fact the producer asked me to write it out of the last draft entirely (I suppose just in case) and it was only when I bumped into David M beaming at a barbecue that I got the good news: "No - No. NO! The sketch has GOT to have a gxxnt rxbxt scxxxxxn, and it HAS GOT to be HUGE". I can probably show you this though, a detail from the proposed design the director made on the back of a story-board. Yes, story-board. Mwa-ha-ha:


And did I say how impressed I was by the Doom Melon? I've just tried to relight a cigarette butt and set fire to the hairs on the end of my nose. Right, Mad Scientists... "You'd think you'd know his name," begins one documentary about the early twentieth century inventor Nikola Tesla. Even now, very little is allowed to be known about his work, and a little knowledge being if not a dangerous thing then at least a very creepy thing the usual speculation has accrued... (I'm back from looking up "accrued". Yes, it has accrued). Writes one nut: "The godfather of all modern electrical conviniences. crushed by the zionist devil elite. we could of been like the jettsons or a nice version of 5th element. instead we have been held back probably 500 years by the evil new world order. damn them in hell."


No actually sorry, to call the speculation surrounding Tesla's work "usual" does it an immense disservice. "Researching" him on youtube for what became the Giant Death Ray sketch I found myself flung slack-jawed into a giddy, batty forum of holistic conspiracy theories concerning perpetual motion, time travel, the Philadelphia Experiment and something called a Montauk Chair, which if sat upon will instantly transport you to the surface of Mars. I suppose it's in the provision of access to exactly this kind of "wrong book" lore that the internet comes into its own. And why it takes me so long to write sketches.


But for this week let's not judge a man by his nuts, and focus instead on this genius' influence upon TRASHY OLD SCIENCE FICTION... beginning with the classiest of said trash: the Fleischer Brothers' Superman. He may have a coil named after him, but the teaming of mad scientist and giant laser is, after all, the larger of Tesla's legacies to the public imagination. Unfortunately. For him. And probably us.

Punching! That's Superman's answer to everything, isn't it. Beautiful cartoon though. Okay, I'm going to get into that bath I ran an hour ago and see if any of those centimetre-long baby slugs have reappeared around the taps. TOMORROW: SAM BAKER AS HUGO

Monday, 13 October 2008

"ILL" Palin Verbatim

(originally posted on myspace here)


Here very quickly is a brilliant slice of Tina Fey that my sister showed me this evening while I was over helping to clear her roof: "And Sarah Palin actually said those words!" Huh?... No! "She did!" And she basically did, yes. Walking home I glimpsed two men shaving each other's heads in a kitchen in Frederick Crescent, and who can blame them. This is good:

[And it's since been removed by the user. Sorry.]

... And its opposite, the Melon of Cheer:

(originally posted on myspace here)


Viva La Vida indeedah! Mark Cousins is currently curating a season at the BFI of... well basically just films he really, really likes that nobody's seen, he's calling it "Levelling the Field" and last night it was the turn of Paul Leduc's 1986 Frida in its ONLY SURVIVING PRINT, mind. If you get the chance to see it again this Tuesday do, really do. This is particularly sage advice for anyone among you who saw and appreciated the following aspects of last year's Ian Curtis biopic Control: That nothing in it feels like a dramatic reconstruction, there's none of this "dialogue moving the action along" balls, not so you'd notice anyway, the talking's always part of the portrait... That the casting is spot on (in the case of Frida, Ofelia Medina) so you never feel you're being shown something, rather the camera's left rolling to pick up a living subject going about its human affairs... That it's surprisingly funny. And that the songs are good.

It was towards the end of this bit that I fully regained consciousness - That's one thing, if you do go Tuesday, wrap up warm. I keep forgetting about the BFI's cryogenic air conditioning. I ushered there back in - hell - the twentieth century and have never to this day managed to stay awake for a single screening, which is why I look so well-preserved. It was still a very good film though, and timely. Timely because in my frustrated non-knuckling down to the Secret Agent screenplay, hereafter known as "Fat Adolf", I had completely forgotten what it was I had been hoping to achieve when I started, and "Frida" brought a lot of that back. As the five-year-old note plastered two posts back testifies I had never initially intended to write a pithy thriller, I wanted something where a scene might simply consist of a lost fat man failing to rescue a fly from his tea, something that would take care of the pence and let the pounds take care of themselves, like pretty much everything I've ever really enjoyed writing.

What's the real stumbling block? Dialogue. I love dialogue, but the more a film can say without it the better. Staring at this unwritten screenplay I had forgotten that. I'd groggily assumed this professional sketch-writing gig would inevitably hone my skills as a screenwriter, but that's all nonsense, isn't it, bum maths and a false lead. Instead I'm going to write this screenplay with as little dialogue as I can get away with... There's a lot of important talking in "The Secret Agent" but I have the answer: Birdsong. Like in Big Brother. Not necessarily birdsong, but that same unsynchronized ambience reminiscent of surveillance, and the silent movies. In English-speaking countries wordless performance seems far more embraced by theatre as an option these days than by cinema, which is odd, and bad, because it's so much easier to not be heard on film.

(Mark Cousins introduced Frida with an overwhelmingly infectious generosity. In his notes to this season he writes about "the cultural forgetting whereby not many people have heard of Paradjanov and Diop Mambety" CLEARLY going for the two maddest names he can think of, but still meaning EVERY word of it. His enthusiasm is fearless. Pick up a BFI guide and have a read, it's stirring stuff. I love him.)

(Also found in notebook.)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Please bear witness to and/or check out this event: Hamlet (abridged)

(originally posted on myspace here)

Right let's see if this works.

Hosted By: Simon Kane
When: 19 Oct 2008, 20:30
Where Etcetera Theatre
265 Camden High Street
London, NW17BU
United Kingdom
Simon Kane

Click Here To View Event

No? Right, here. Last night the London Dungeons hosted a celebrity event to usher in Hallowe'en. I was papped dancing with Gillian Taylforth. Let's see if you can guess which three other celebrities from the following list also attended: Roman Polanski, Joss Ackland, Abi Titmuss, Kevin Spacey, Tiger Lily Geldoff, Omar Sharif, Gary Lucy ("Best Newcomer" award at the 2000 British Soap Awards), Gary Busey, Sting, Richard Ingley... You know, Richard Ingley. You don't - Oh! A whole world of fun awaits you if you google image the words "Jesus Use Me". But no, he didn't turn up.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Hang on, you're not Jesus (+ "The Diary of Tortov Roddle")

(originally posted on myspace here)


I joined the British Library. And it turned out there's a very pleasing selection of eccentric inventions from the collection of Maurice Collins on display in the Intellectual Property Centre on the first floor. The Main Exhibition Space on the ground floor, however, had just been laid waste by some incautiously summoned, panhedral Hindu deity. And looked crap.



It was probably these ladies... Poor thousand-headed fella. I wonder what he'll do now. I wish I had a better camera.

Anyway since I'm here and while I think of it, may I recommend the following. Kunio Kato, he's new... and I've no right to paste his stuff up but I discovered it last night and I do like it a lot. Drift. View. Drift on. Tortov Roddle's clearly living the dream. Here:

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

How I write

(originally posted on myspace here)

Yesterday day of writing: Wake eight, eat, hoover, review blog, replace jumpy shoe with dancing soldier, change mind, change back, wash smoke from hair, wash dishes, change, wash sheets, shop, bury remains of canvas chair from bonfire, find three blackberries, eat, watch tim bell on telly, hate tim bell, fall asleep in front morse pederast murder case, go for walk like writer, decide join british library to have somewhere write, don't, home, find this...


drown it, hoover bed, change sheets, saw bits off bed make mattress lie flatter, hoover, knock candle off bed-post, replace candle, light candle so dripping wax reinforce join bed-post, watch candle so don't burn bed, eat, get call from mitchell webb look go onset scientist sketch next week, love being writer, eat, fall asleep in front telly juliet stevenson pederast murder case, wake, bathe, dave, dave, dave, sleep.

Today: Happy dungeon morning huge laugh at top office boss bring home proud giant plastic hand trophy with raised middle digit red nail varnish for sticking it to business across road. Me laugh boss go "wot?"

Now: Bathe, read old notebook, see notes exciting scene secret agent film written work at actual bookshop 5 year ago:


Tomorrow: join british library, something, something.