Monday, 24 November 2008

Those books of soap in full

(originally posted on myspace here)

 



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Some water damage. A little plastic cup full of soapy water routinely toppled onto this hundred year-old Welsh hymnal. I think the damage suits it though. Mother if you're reading this sorry.

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I hit my nose on a beam that first evening and I think I also look better now as a result of the damage. The scar draws one's eye away from the chin. "And and Bee" also got wet (shown above) and I love And and Bee. They're out of print now, I'm pretty sure. The page above makes them look creepy. They're not. They simply met this GIRL on a BOAT bound for ASIA, and later they will meet a fairy in a STAR while standing in a QUEUE by the ROAD who helps them catch a TRAM, gives them each a VEST and sneaks them into someone's back YARD just in time for XMAS. Which reminds me, it snowed this morning, what a kick!

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Anyway, here are the rules for the Books of Soap: "Bag checks in operation. Only one visitor allowed in at any time [only the display case is illuminated, the walls covered in mirrors that are cracked but not smashed, and you have a torch]. Certain volumes may be handled [beneath strips of processed chicken - that and the soap were my nods to the Trinum Magicum] Simply ask an attendant. Every visitor must be accompanied by an attendant [so me]. Please do not mark these books. Goggles to be worn at all times ['The place is a bit of a tip.' 'But I can't see anything.' 'That's why we ask you wear them. Because it's a bit of a tip.'] Attendants to be blindfolded [so take my soapy hand and lead me out]." And once out you were asked if you'd like to go back in without the goggles - If you'd kept them on, this treat was your reward and if you hadn't, this not being a treat was your punishment. Only half said yes... And the last book:

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"Simon, did you write this?" shouted David R from behind the soapy goggles while I stumbled into the leg of a chair.
"Describe it."
"It looks like it was made by a child, with access to a typewriter."
"What's it say?"
" 'But then Sam Spaghetti, Picky Pear and Quarrelsome Cucumber slid into the whale's tummy because they were swallowed... and I expect you can guess what happened then!'

That's quite an optimistic expectation."

Friday, 21 November 2008

P.S. Speaking of rare books...

(originally posted on myspace here)


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... I meant to post this link
for anyone with wide papery screens.

Event: The Books of Soap. Chek it.

(originally posted on myspace here)

 

Yeah like this is going to work.

Hosted By: Simon Kane
When: 21 Nov 2008, 19:00
Where Shunt Lounge
Joiner Street, underneath London Bridge Station
London, SE19RL
United Kingdom
Description:
Simon Kane

Click Here To View Event

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Look, here it is: It will be a busy week (including Robert Popper previewing a radio piece in the Arena - zooks!) and it's the last week the Lounge will be open for a while before the big hatted panjandrums of MagniDickensChristmassyCorp move in with their antlers, barrels and gluey snow-cannon. But yes, the books of soap: Having valiantly transformed the penthouse into a reading room, Gemma's now had to skip the country before being able to realize the final dream of turning that beamed murk at the back into a "Rare Books Room". She was inspired by Eleanor's tales of the "Trinum Magicum", a book bound in human skin on display by appointment only at the Brighton and Hove Library, which was worth bearing in mind when I got the call a couple of days ago to come in and see if I could come up with some use for what had been put in place. Great. It was a paid gig, and the room actually looked pretty much finished if you squinted. So I said yes gladly and smeared some vaseline on a pair goggles. I'm actually very pleased with how Books of Soap's turned out for a day's work. It's not just the random creepy gubbins I initially hoped to get away with, it's turned into something that really takes account of the care with which you handle an old volume (along with the bag checks enforced at the British Library) and doesn't I hope just make you feel like a blundering game show contestant, the path of least resistance in these kind of makeshift sensory installation deals. Oh yes and bloody hell Graham Linehan was in last night, a definite "get to meet"! He is a diamond. "Hello - Jon [Ronson!], this is Simon. He's a comedy writer also." Except of course I'm not I'm a fan Graham a tiny fan and we've never even met... Actually though, I did go along to the final recording of laughter for That Mitchell and Webb Look on Monday and feel now finally that he may have a point... It was very good, I'll expand bout dat laters tho. At the top is a picture of Quinto's on Charing Cross where I used to work. They've got rid of all the shelves, look. I wonder what it will smell like.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Shunt Niche (with karaoke and the transvestite stewardess enclosure)

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I'm afraid you've missed this now. Sorry I should have said. For the past two weeks seventy-four empty, wooden frames have hung to form a false perspective in Shunt's long corridor, their distance from each other and diminishing dimensions perfectly calculated by Tom Duggan. They looked great. And to the right as you came in there hung a piece by Kathy Hinde, the working guts of a prepared piano with a video of birds alighting on a wire projected on the underside. A white line passed steadily from left to right across this image and every time it hit a bird a note was struck... It's been a rich programme this past fortnight. Problems with the license meant I ended up performing Nijinsky Karaoke twice to plug some gaps, once on Thursday as planned, and another shotgun showing of it in the Arena on Saturday which turned out to be far more successful. It took a while to get going but from about 11pm onwards I didn't have to perform at all, or any way I decided this time not to intervene, and it was fine. People were perfectly happy to sit and natter and listen and then, most importantly, cross what I had feared was an intimidating distance to a lone chair three arches down, tap a stranger on the shoulder and take the mike from them. I still get a kick from watching these changeovers. Occasionally the volunteers wouldn't read from Nijinsky's diary at all but perform Cyprus Hill or the opening credits to Beverley Hillbillies, and I was fine with that; despite its name, all "Nijinsky Karaoke" really needs to be is an oppressively isolated open mike, comfortable seats and a crowd happy to take turns (and they always returned to the diary in the end). I enjoyed Saturday. It got me thinking. And I think most of these thoughts I then put down on the following strand of Chris Goode's "Thompson's" blog regarding his allusion to some inherent ideological flaw in the Lounge's make-up.

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So in brief... Me: "Am I sort of right in saying that the ideological problem for you is the space's remoteness from the surrounding reality... the very fact that people upon entering might go 'Fantastic'? A theatre company should have a 'quizzical' relationship with a space this patently -- non-domestic, this ostentatiously alien in your view, and 'Shunt are the benevolent dictators' presumably because people are unable to make themselves at home here, is that it?... But here, re: works of art and paying attention, what is it you pay attention to? It is never going to be, and therefore should not be, just the piece. You pay attention to each other as well. And, while not really 'my scene' whatever that is, the Shunt Lounge matches and probably surpasses any venue, show or indoor event I can remember in the opportunities it gives its artists (and frankly in the pressures it puts upon them) to pay attention to their audience and allow their audience to pay attention to each other as part of the work... I mean really joining in. Audience then becomes the wrong word. 'Crowd' is fitter. The Shunt Lunge is very much about the Crowd."

On Wednesday we didn't even have the documentaries, so Amber Sealey was projected in their place before two columns of plane seating and a dirty mesh, while I paced disconsolately around this enclosure in a pink wig and the rags of a stewardess' uniform. Again, it was fine.

Now, Chris: "I think the best way to describe it is in relation to recreational drug use... One of the things I regret about the recreational use of, for example, ecstasy, which generally seems to have a positive effect in making people happier and calmer and more open and more readily available to genuine experiences of love and intimacy in relation to others, is that on the whole users seem to tend to ascribe these positive effects to the drug alone... So, your mind is blown by Shunt? What do you do with that? You look forward to going back to Shunt again another night."

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And this is the image I bore in mind while I knocked about that transvestite stewardess enclosure with the punters peering in: the horse that slowly approaches you from the other side of the fence, and then stays there.

Finally, me again: "To be clear, I am not arguing that the Vaults is the perfect model of a theatrical space. I'm not sure one single place can ever fulfill that Function. What I do believe is that it is a useful and beautiful mutation, rather than a dangerous placebo... the response I hear more often than any other from people entering the Vaults for the first time is - and it's why I love the place - 'How did they get hold of this?'... Why don't you ever hear that asked in, say, a space like the Tate? Is it because the Tate is immediately baffling? Because it is. But this question, to me, sounds like a person having their idea of what is possible suddenly enlarged a little... I don't mean people have asked me this knowing I'm 'in'. I mean that I constantly witness people enter and yes go 'wow', but then also go 'how did they do this?' and the excellent and important thing is that this isn't a magic trick, because it isn't a secret! Which is why this isn't a dictatorship. It might be a compound, yes, or a haven - although not my idea of one - but I'm fine with that because everyone's invited and we're around to show our working if anyone's interested... 'We are monarchs of all we survey' is the inherent message of the place, for me, while the subtext is 'Go and do likewise'. And in six months time it will all be handed over to the sandwich barons anyway and Shunt will have to build somewhere else. None of which is to detract from your assertion that this build is a project which should not have been embarked upon in the first place, and all of which boils down to my love of theatre almost solely as a medium for amateurs. And builders."

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Oh and another thought I've had since: Great Art should not, contrary to popular belief, necessarily get us talking. What Great Art should really do is shut us up. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

HIlarious Bush Clip! Oh wait no not hilarious tragic.

(originally posted on myspace here)


I've just seen Oliver Stone's "W." and it's a bit sketchy, which is the last thing I expect of an Oliver Stone film, I expect bold, impasto swathes of goo, bits you open up and glitter and pasta. (And why does every Bush impersonator always go for the frown and pursed lips when his signature state should surely be Garth Algar's nervous smirk?) I then came home to idly surf and found the following exchange, which I have not seen before. It's deep. Sticking it in "W." would instantly have made that film twice as good. I mean, it's the pith. Now while this beautiful piece in The Onion has seen me finally feeling as cock-a-hoop about Obama's victory as I was hoping to, in our relief let's never let this poor little guy off the hook...


"Help!... I wasn't kidding... This is how I work..." etc.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

This beautiful Arizona evening

(originally posted on myspace here)


The night of my thirtieth birthday was spent sitting in the kitchen with a bottle of cheap white wine watching the first uncontestable election victory of George W. Bush. He didn't steal it this time, they chose him. I couldn't face that again. So last night I stayed up long enough to see Obama gain - what was it, 150 seats? against McCain's 90-odd - then McCain suddenly gained another 20 and I remembered Kerry and knew exactly where this was going.


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This morning was very grey, wasn't it. I turned on the telly and... well McCain's victory was still a kick in the guts even though I'd called it. Obama's wry but wounded speech in Chicago, the tears in the crowd, the quiet, broken rage, everything as I'd imagined, the predictability of the whole scene was almost a comfort. And the tension had been unbearable so at least we'd been put out of our misery, that too was sort of a comfort... And then McCain took the mike in Pheonix to give his victory speech, and I thought it odd that he wasn't smiling.

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I mean it was very odd. Especially given the ecstatic noise the crowd was making. There was no pointing at the crowd either, I can understand that he wanted to come across as, well sobre, but why wasn't he smiling? He just stood there flanked by single-star-spangled banners, his lips pressed, palms out, and it looked like the crowd would never shut up. But when they let him speak I have to admit he was more gracious than I'd ever seen him: "Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening. A little while ago, I had the honor of a call from Senator Barack Obama - " at which point the crowd struck up again, like a wind, almost like they'd lost. There were real jeers. The cameras picked out face after face and none would have looked out of place in a meeting at the warehouse in a straight-to-video Steven Seagal film. McCain put his hands out once again and signaled weakly for silence. Finally he got it, and he held it. For what seemed like a minute. And then, it was extraordinary. It was sort of beautiful... "Guys. You scare me."

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Silence from the crowd. And then: "My fellow prisoners... Goodbye." And he opened a door in the air behind him, turned to raise a small old hand above his head for the first time in twenty years, waved farewell, and walked through it smiling.

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Ah man, the look on their faces! And then when Sarah Palin stood up to the mike and they all started cheering again but just as she's about to speak the ground suddenly LURCHES TILTS ALARMS SOUND ALL THEIR FACES PRESS UP AGAINST THE GLASS AND THEY REALIZE THEY WEREN'T ON THE PLANET EARTH AT ALL BUT ACTUALLY STUCK IN A TWO-DIMENSIONAL PRISON SPINNING THROUGH SPACE!!!

Dude. No I have to say I didn't see that bit coming. That was cool.
 





Wednesday, 5 November 2008

and we sat at the Blackwatch table

(originally posted on myspace here)


Last night I think I finally cut the Gordian knot of "Iago's Little Book Of Calm". I cut the Gordian Knot, stole the Gordian posts and then bombed Gordia, electronically deleting all references to Gordia in the process. The play probably lasts seven minutes now. Good. It should always have been slight as a paper cut, I'd just forgotten.

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And here I appear to stand behind David Tennant, unshorn and taking a private snap of Ella with her Ev*n*ng St*nd*rd statuette for Outstanding Newcomer. Claire Bloom was in that room. She's worked with Chaplin. I have nothing very coherent to say about the afternoon right now... when you hold the award newsprint comes off on your fingers I noticed. And Charles Dance had a hacksaw in his pocket which was odd. And I was very, very proud. And everyone was nice, and happy, and interested. Ella's speech seemed to go down well, which was good as we'd hammered it out in Cafe Nero half an hour before and really made an effort:
"Hello. Thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be here. Thanks to the cast and to Neil Labute for putting me in a play called Fat Pig. I'd also like to thank the producers of Fat Pig. And everyone who came to see Fat Pig. That's Fat. Pig. I hope you all have a lovely afternoon. Thank you, I'm really really chuffed to bits."
Textbook! Go Team! Go Ella!

Monday, 3 November 2008

"peripheral specificity"

(originally posted on myspace here)


The walk home has been getting very weird lately...


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I finally went and saw Ben Moor performing Not Everything Is Significant at the Etcetera tonight, which is extraordinary and on tomorrow night too and then not. Go see. It's been far too long since I've seen a Ben Moor. It was only tuning in to (alright, dowwwnloaaaading) his show Undone last week in bed with a cold that I was reminded just how much his stuff can get under my skin, and has done ever ever since I first saw him wobbling about onstage and enriching his surroundings twelve years back. Good as Undone is it's these one-man shows that really send you off with the five extra senses, the ten senses, and although I'm now thirty- well, we'll get back to that - it happened again tonight. Then having bumped into a mutual friend I got to meet Ben after the show ("got to meet"? Well yes) and he asked me if I was up to anything which was nice, so I started telling him about "Nijinsky Karaoke"... when it dawned on me: There's a distinct possibility that for the past decade I've been subconsciously trying to turn my life into a Ben Moor show.

Well not such a bad idea maybe, they tend not to have happy endings but the protagonists do live full and active lives or at least get out a lot... And it's tomorrow now, the third, my birthday. I've I-hope-not-churlishly cancelled all plans for an Eritrean bunfight in favour of having nothing whatsoever I must do and just seeing where the day takes me. My thirty-fourth birthday. Surprise me.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

America Next Wednesday (check this out etc.)

(originally posted on myspace here)

 

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Just trying out a couple of images to flash up on the big screen in the event of a technical hitch the day following John McCain's inevitable election victory. I'll be sitting above the bar in Shunt covering the panic, skyping the States and fielding any questions you may care to scrunch into a ball and throw up at my feet as part of Gemma's fortnight curating the Lounge. I might also keep a gun on the news-desk to repel stage crashers, it'll be a reckless, red, misty hoot! Then on Thursday, once everyone's woken up to the irremediable fuckedness of the American spirit once again, I'll be hosting another Nijinsky Karaoke. A nice couple of gigs. Pop in.

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Tonight's Halloween celebrations also look very promising. I'm off to Broadcasting House to watch some sketches so won't make it, but when I was over there this morning they were putting the finishing touches to a whicker man in the penthouse and the itinerary I glimpsed in the kitchen mentioned a "pig filled with blood". I also overheard Andrew Rutland refer to a "blonde wig that makes me look like a Mexican prostitute, fortunately they'll only be seeing me from behind" which can only mean he's finally given up trying to hire a lookalike to cover the non-appearance of Jarvis Cocker and opted instead for distracting the crowd with his impression of Britt Eckland, which would have been fun to watch.