Monday, 31 December 2012

Okay, third and final thing of 2012: Photo of Lion looking at a Rainbow

taken here

Whoo! Song of the Year!

Coffee or Tea?

Lisa Gail is of course most famous for the far horribler hit 3 Second Rule, but I think actually I like this one. Anyway I couldn't shift it from my head at work today. Having said that, work today did chiefly consist of shouting at a foggy queue in cockney about smog and textiles before trying to herd 25 of them into the spewing lines of two black-parachute-silk-filled crates, killing the lights, turning on the sounds of coughing, hooves and "Timmy?!" and leaving the punters to God, all on a three minute cycle, so maybe my head hates me... The London Dungeon is moving. Bit by bit. Something had to be done with the room that was once Sweeney Todd's so management decided to make it a room of fog. The big fans and the black silk are our designer Verity's nod to the opening scene of "Money". True. Up the workers!

P.S. I've just remembered another callback to shunt, which is the appearance of smoke in London Bridge Station occasioning the arrival of the Fire Brigade and subsequent instructions to the downstairs feature, reliant almost entirely on filling a room with smoke, to not have smoke.

Barf to the World!

Well that was nice. Popping into Lanna's flat before heading out once again to a pub I bumped into Ned Mond. He lives very nearby now and we hugged and wished each other Happy New Year and shared our plans for the next six hours.
"I like to get to sleep before the new year," said Ned, "I really do, then get up very early, go into town - it's harder now I live further out - and look at all the vomit."
"Oh wow."
"It's like..."
"A baptism?"
"I am Legend. But you know what got 'em."
Anyway I thought I should post something for New Year's so thanks for that, Ned. Happy 2013, everyone! Spacehats!

Some vomit I found last week in Gatwick airport, relieving slightly the compensatory anxiety brought about by a life too taken care of - the sudden realisation standing over a urinal as my effluent is pumped to the sea that the last minute has been lived on autopilot - the double-take necessitated to confirm I do indeed have my knob out in the Gents' and not, say, the Ladies', or over a laptop in Costa. Phew.

Monday, 10 December 2012

La Bionda and Billy Ocean receive more sexy space messages.

La Bionda - "I wanna be you lover"
Actually from the Eighties. Stunning.

Billy Ocean - "Loverboy"
Unlike Saturday morning, European coproduction-type anime, the use of
gratuitous prosthetic monsters in pop videos has yet to make a comeback.
Oh well.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

"We are interested in everyone." "That's most encouraging."

He mapped the moon, so he was more than an enthusiastic amateur. Was he a great communicator? Well watch him in conversation here, with this nit who claims to be receiving messages from extraterrestrials: he's hilarious but also scrupulously polite, and there's nothing dishonest in the refusal to pull the guy up, because that's not his role. 

 Yet another voice of space

It actually takes two to communicate. By never forgetting that, Patrick Moore pioneered "interactivity" before the word was even needed. (It wasn't needed because, once, that was simply how people behaved.) It's more than politeness being displayed in this clip though, it's grace. Communicating this grace is what made Patrick Moore so great, because he was also communicating through it what television could be and be regularly. There's a lot to be said for keeping things human-scale and human-shaped, even if those things do then go and die. Night night, magic.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Or Else

Yes, to hell with this campaign even if she does have nice eyes. And to hell with the dead children that Tfl ("TFL"? "tFL"? "TfL"?) keep plastering across the daily commute. To hell with all the punishing, public-funded, landscape-poisoning Mene Mene's. Here's an alternative approach from the traditionally more relaxed New Zealanders which proves it's perfectly possible for an effective public information campaign to be warm, kind, even funny, and its slogan had me punching the air. Excellent work, Don Draper.

As for what the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was thinking here...

Still thanks for the laughs. (Picture taken while rehearsing Alice in Wonderland on bikes. A council's shed is full of polling station signs, road signs, unused street lamps. it's like being backstage at reality.) 

 In other news the outstanding National Office of Importance joins the blogroll over on the right, as does the the great, glogg-serving, theatre-doing, actual science-writing Michal Regnier's fab blog.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kari Vaananen doubles Klonkku and Konkari!

Kudos! And "Kudos" to everyone at Finland's Yle TV1 for having the gumption back in 1993 to attempt a small screen adaptation of Lord of the Rings without recourse to CGI, motion capture, or any technology not readily available to the makers of Michael Bentine's Potty Time. "Take what you've got and fly with it" as Jim Henson said. So, okay, stuff like the Balrog may have to go, and the whole "Mines of Moria" sequence may have to be cut down to a minute and a half...

... but  cast it correctly, adapt judiciously, and who's to say you won't have another Brook's Mahabharata? Not me! Now December is here, the 'taches of Movember have fallen, and the grey dawn greets unopened windows like something distant, brilliant, viewed from the bottom of a well while dusk begins to take the piss, I for one am happy to join those huddled round the glogg in fingerless gloves and, transported by the sound of goat bell and sax, hear tales told in comic sans and glimpse adventurously cast faces in the fire. (Is that Paul Putner?)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Why? Axis

 Rene Magritte - La reproduction interdite
Hey it rhymes!

Here's the talk I gave at Science Showoff in September, in lieu of an interview, about a show that doesn't exist, recycling old blog posts. Pathetic. Since it looks like there may be as many as twenty acts performing on Thursday I'll probably go for something shorter than this now. I apologise that it starts with "so".

So as advertised I'm going to give a talk about how I managed to stave off a growing interest in science long enough to write a science fiction pilot.
The reason I wanted to write a sitcom about Space/Time Travel was...
Well, 1) I'd never tried to write a whole series before. I had written sketches, many of which took place in the past, and if I set a series in all of Time and Space then I might be able to recycle some.
But 2) I liked the idea that the best sitcoms take place in a form of prison, a trap from which the "hero" wishes to escape (trenches in Blackadder Goes Forth... in Father Ted it's Craggy Island... in Porridge it's a prison, it's a prison!) I'm not sure I actually agree with it but I thought, wouldn't it be great, just metaphysically, if the setting from which you longed to escape was All of Time and Space?
So I thought great, but now I'd chosen "The Universe" as my setting I had to work out what that actually looked like, the "sit" of my "com". So I started researching -

Actually, before I started researching I think I had already decided on two rules that this universe had to obey. First, in keeping with the idea of being trapped, it had to be finite. This is best explained by the image of someone looking through a powerful enough telescope long enough to see the back of their own head. Well that was how it was explained to me.

The second rule: There had to be just one universe, so no timelines - I was pretty strict about this, in spite of quantum theory. If you went back in time, you didn't get to change the past like in Back To The Future, you simply risked becoming more responsible for it. This cured any compulsion to go back and rescue Jesus or kill Hitler, or buy his paintings or - You could keep things light.

So, not this. Sorry, dude. 
(Update: this video has been removed. I can't now for the life of me remember what it was.)

In fact, according to this rule, if you did try to kill Hitler, then History and Dumb Luck dictated you would fail, so all you'd do is end up making him angry. Maybe it was all your fault. Aha.

Anyway, these rules decided (unscientifically), I began to research the Universe.
I watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos, which I'd bought on amazon, and I thought about nostalgia, because he's dead and I only found that out after, and because I'd originally seen the show when I was eight, with my Dad, and watching it again Space itself now seemed like quite an old idea, something I had grown up with but something, say, our hero's twenty-year-old sidekick might not have. And watching Cosmos I also started, really for the first time, learning Science... and the history of science, which is Science... and History. But when I was growing up I hadn't learnt either. "History" was battles and numbers, and "Science" was... also numbers I suppose - no one spoke about ideas the way I watched Carl Sagan doing now, not quite looking at the camera, poetically, and... simply the voice, which was wonderful and I found myself trying to do it. I'd find myself narrating my life, running a bath, say: "Thuh simpul ackt uv... turningonna tah pp... thuh wwwwater falling, theb ath fffffilling." It was lovely. I was hooked.

The real deal. Also available on vinyl

Speaking of Hooke, I spent three years of school studying Science in something called The Robert Hooke Building, yet in all those three years nobody told me who Robert Hooke actually was. That's what I mean.

So I was hooked on Science now, and History, and Reality. Which was a bit annoying, because I was getting further away from... well, Doctor Who and B-movies and umbrella-headed aliens and robots, and what I thought I'd wanted to write about: the flip-side to this research. The daffy conspiracy theories on youtube on which I'd hoped to base the mythology for this universe: Illuminati, aliens, the Philadelphia Project, Tesla conspiracies, Osiris, esoteric anti-science, Alchemy, John Dee, that kind of thing...

"Jim Carrey is an Osiris Resonator."
 Prometheus was basically made for this man.

Doctor Dee: very interesting historically, and pertinent. Queen Elizabeth the First's Court Mathematician. Prospero was based on him. An alchemist, he was called the Queen's Conjuror. What he actually was though was very good at reading maps. Map-reading was a technology in its infancy. When Dee brought one of the first globes back to England, it was like Project X, an invaluable technological advantage that ensured his country's position as a Global Super Power. Shakespeare named a theatre after it, of course. And yet. in spite of his learning, what Dee really wanted was to be able to scry, which means communicate with angels through use of a mirrored surface. Yes, they have a word for that, and it's "scry". And he couldn't scry - I think for pretty obvious reasons.

Dee, picture, image, illustration
This never happened.

Angels don't exist. But... for the purposes of this sitcom I thought it might be useful to have an angel exist, if only to give my hero the ability to travel through Time and Space in the first place. After all Magic is simply Science that... can't be bothered. And Science is the study of reality. And Art is the study of everything else.

Except the "reality" component of this research was actually killing my interest in Time Travel now because I no longer believed in it... I was watching a home video of life in the year 2000, and there we were in our twenties pissing around in a garden that was still viewable from my window, but I live next door now, and a family have moved in with a staffy that barks, and a massive trampoline. The garden in the video is gone, and watching what was going on behind me ten years ago, it was suddenly clear to me that the past was gone. Just gone. It's there in our heads and in what we own, but there's no reaching it. And I know we talk about wormholes, and four dimensions, but Time's a dimension we can only move forward in and it takes no energy to do so and it requires no force, so it's really not the same. Which is fine. Everything's closed and cosy in this finite universe, fine... Except I didn't believe in the central concept of what I had to write any more. Not being able to visit the past seemed far more interesting than visiting it, because it was true. I didn't know what there was to explore in an idea I'd dismissed unless, unless I could find a way to stop dismissing  that idea by somehow working out a practicable method for our hero to travel anywhere in Time without cheating. I... Basically I had to work out how to travel through time. Backwards. Because we're obviously traveling through it forwards already. Or perhaps more accurately, downwards. It's called Waiting. And then... hanging out the washing in the stairwell I remembered  the telescope, and the back of the head, and it suddenly occurred to me how you might be able to visit the past without having to travel backwards. All it would require is for Time to be cyclical as Space is, patience, and a Big-Bounce-proof container. In other words, the longest journey anything could make was a second into the past, because you had to go the long way round.

So it's looped. Here's Space/Time:


Here's Now - Zero - here's the line of numbers meeting round the back, positive and negative, future and past. That's what the universe - reality - looks like, let's say. Every answer to "How?" lies on that axis. Now where do we put the angels?

Well I was reading too. It wasn't all box sets. And in Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh, I learnt that while Dr. Dee was furiously trying to scry, another mathematician over in Italy - Rafael Bombelli - was inventing the number "i"... in italics... which is the square root of minus one... which is imaginary... which doesn't exist, but crucially is "necessary for completeness". Bombelli literally brought a whole new dimension to Maths. One that went up and down.


It met reality at Zero, which by definition doesn't exist. And everything from that point crept into some definition of being.

So here then was the Universe.
Along the x-axis: Time and Space and everything else that exists, carbon, eggs, the shops - I could go on.
And along the "imaginary" axis, and Maths calls it that so... everything else: Angels, God, and numbers of course, and Love. Which is necessary for completeness. And which of course is why scientists sound religious when they talk about Science.

Not because Science is an Act of Faith, but because Love is. And scientists love science.
And so do I. Thank you.

Carl Sagan's Cosmos is the best, by the way, and here.

Doctor Badass: Voice of Space

This is Neil deGrasse Tyson. I first came across him four years ago on The Daily Show being interviewed about his decision, as Director of the Hayden Planetarium, to demote Pluto (not pictured) from the status of "planet" to whatever it is now. It was a blistering performance, and I immediately searched for more ofhim on youtube. Fortunately there's loads, and it's all brilliant. In a more recent online Q and A his contemplation of the achievements of Newton inadvertently threw up the following meme:


But it doesn't really do him justice.
The following clip - in which he takes on both Intelligent Design and Richard Dawkins' blind spot - does I hope give some idea of just what an outstanding communicator he can be. Sorry it's a bit raspy. Seriously, look him up on youtube. I think I love him even more than Heather Couper. He's working on a new series of Cosmos. I can't wait.
In a couple of nights I'll be trying to give my own talk about Science or more accurately about the necessity of staving off my growing interest in Science long enough to write a Science Fiction pilot. It will be on Thursday as part of an evening packed with London Dungeon folk at The Miller near London Bridge. In fact this will be the second time I've given this talk. The first was at an open mic night called Science Showoff  which I enjoyed hugely - nothing could last longer than nine minutes, like a pub-bound demi-TED spot. I'll post the thing in full when I'm done, but in the meantime here's the Maestro...

Monday, 26 November 2012

A go on Eliza

"ELIZA - a friend you could never have before" (which already sounds iffily ambiguous and unlike anything an actual person might say) is an interactive computer programme developed back in the 1960's at MIT, a "chatterbot", according to wikipedia. An online version of her - it, sorry - exists here, and to celebrate the opening of Tom Lyall's "Defrag" this week at the Camden People's Theatre (speaking of excellent friends) I thought I'd have a go:

I'm "You". She starts...

  Eliza: Hello. I am ELIZA. How can I help you? 

You: Who are you?

  Eliza: Would you prefer if I were not []?

You: What is []?

  Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: The answer interests me. 

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

You: No. Sorry.

  Eliza: You are being a bit negative.

I then typed in "You're old."
But weirdly it came up as:

You: yes

  Eliza: You are sure?

You: Hang on, that's not what I said!

  Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: What?!

  Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: What? This one? Or the last one. But the last one wasn't a question -

  Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: This is it now, is it?

 Eliza: Please go on.  

You: "Does that question interest you?"

  Eliza: Oh, i [].

I then typed "WHAT IS []?"
But  it came up as:

You: yes

  Eliza: Does that question interest you?


  Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: Yes. Yes it does.

  Eliza: You are sure?  

You: Yes. Sorry I mean "yes"

  Eliza: You are sure?

You: Positive.

  Eliza: Please go on.

You: I've completely lost the thread of this conversation - Do you know Tom?

  Eliza: Oh, i know tom.

You: Okay, "tom". Do you know he's got a show on?

  Eliza: Oh, i know hes got a show on.
You: Okay... What's it called?  

 Eliza: Please go on.

You: Please go on your mum?

  Eliza: What about your own mum?

You: Please go on.

  Eliza: Please go on.

You: No, you wanted to say something about my mum.

  Eliza: Why do you say your mum?

You: YOU said my mum. I said YOUR mum.

  Eliza: Why do you say your mum you said my mum?

You: I didn't.

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that? 

You: yes

  Eliza: You are sure?
You: Do you know Alan Turing?

  Eliza: Oh, i know alan turing.  

You: You two get on, do you?

  Eliza: Oh, i [].

You: I'd prefer it if you didn't

  Eliza: Do you wish that i didnt?  

You: Yes.

  Eliza: You are sure?  

You: I'm afraid so.

  Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am afraid so?  

You: This friendship has basically run its course I think.

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

You: Absolutely. You're not real, and you're annoying and you don't understand what I'm saying anyway and I'm only doing this because I thought it would make a fun blog post, and I've been meaning to write about Tom's show about Artificial Intelligence but also I suppose I don't want to write that much about it because A) I don't want to give anything away, and B) outside of the content of the show itself my only other take on it was how much it reminded me of all the stuff he helped rescue after the fire, and of the months those boxes spent in his flat while my juvenilia dried out, and I wasn't sure about whether I should write about that because it seemed a bit solipsistic for a plug, and because all the photos I took of those boxes were on a memory stick which I've lost, although maybe that could be somehow elegantly turned in on itself as part of the post. Something about "We lose everything in the end."

  Eliza: Why do you say your only other take on it you was what much it reminded you of all the stuff he helped rescue after the fire and of the months those boxes spent in his flat while your juvenilia dried out and you wasnt sure about whether you should write about that because it seemed a bit solipsistic for a plug and because all the photos you took of those boxes was on a memory stick which ive lost although perhaps that could be somehow elegantly turned in on itself as part of th post something about we lose everything in the end?  

You: Because I want the post to have some visual element. And having just archived the whole blog onto blogspot it struck me how much of it detailed the unpacking of those boxes the first time round, ie when my parents moved to France and I suddenly had a room full of everything I owned. And how if I hadn't blogged stuff as I unpacked it there would be some things I had no record of at all after the fire.

  Eliza: Do you wish that you hadnt blogged stuff as you unpacked it there would be some things you had no record of at all after the fire?

You: No. That's my point. And that's the thing about theatre, isn't it. You make something and then it's gone. I keep telling people I want to work in more accessible media like television, but actually that's not it all. I don't think I do care about the numbers, I just want something to last.

  Eliza: Why do you say your point and thats the thing about theatre isnt it i make something and then its gone you keep telling people i want to work in more accessible media like television but actually thats not it all you dont think you do care about the numbers you just want something to last?

You: Because I haven't been making theatre. And it's tempting. But I have to remember making it on my own has never been my dream, just something I was allowed to do.

  Eliza: Do you dream often?

You: Loads. I've taken a month off to try and write, and I'm sleeping til 1 in the afternoon sometimes. I have written things though.

  Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am sleeping til 1 in the afternoon sometimes you have written things though?

You: Mm. You're tired. Anyway, thanks for this.

  Eliza: How long have you been tired anyway thanks for this?

You: Stop.

  Eliza: Please go on.

Tom Lyall's superb show Defrag is on here as part of a whole Science Fiction Theatre season. See it! See it blind! Meanwhile the interview he gave about it, the one that tipped me off about the existence of Eliza, is up here but I'd save that until you've seen the show as there's spoilers.
Shunt, the people I normally made theatre with when I wasn't making it on my own, also have a show opening this week, "The Architects" which looks stupendous and probably deserves a post of its own but I've had it with Eliza, so head's up!
And this post's visual element is a picture of Tom working some hat boxes while getting costumed for "Money", checking nothing falls off.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Lie Down And Be Counted.

I’m going to write a book I think.  The title and cover are all sorted already.

Follow her. She is the Queen of Twitter, a loved one and a candid inspiration. She ran the bar when we were doing "Money" and physically I haven't seen much of her since, although she came on the Ghost Bus once, beaming (and hey once we shot the shit on twitter with Jennifer Ehle, that was a good night). I hope she doesn't mind if I recommend her filthy tumblr account "win and tonic" here, or her blogs 1 and 2, and in spite of the homelessness and the bureaucratic and chemical nightmares recounted therein she remains the funniest thing in my internet. Kerry, if you're reading this, I'd like to dedicate the following song to you. I only really got into the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band four years ago in hospital while heavily medicated - "Humanoid Boogie", "Eleven Moustachioed Daughters" or "Look Out There's a Monster Coming" were the only thing I could listen to in that bed, nothing else sounded in tune. The following song isn't strictly speaking the Bonzos I know, or Atenolol, but sometimes Innes hits the spot - Actually I'd like to dedicate this song to all of us. All of us need a little what you need right now, La Win. But also all of us should be so lucky as to have what you have. Wit, guts, imagination, rack.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

What are we watching now? (Magritte's other Renoir period)

Crikey, but I do like Rene Magritte 1898-1967 - like him to an extent I took for granted until only recently, I suspect either because he was so prevalent or more likely because the small book of his collected works that we had in the downstairs toilet when I was a child meant he just seemed part of the furniture (an idea he might have liked). Haunting, slightly naively, never going over the lines, and to a nine-year-old very much of the Cosmic Encounters/second-hand, high-concept sci-fi paperback School of Painting - classier obviously -  more elegant - and funnier too - drier, but nothing you could definitively point to and say: That's a joke. Or an alien. Not even this:

Rene Magritte - La Voix des airs (Voice of Space) 1931
... although does "des airs" really translate as "Space"?
I thought it would be the opposite.

Those apparently are jingle bells. I'd always thought of them as concrete but no, Magritte is quoted identifying them as "the iron bells hanging from the necks of our admirable horses" proving again what a dog French is to translate.

Writing "Time Spanner" - my tv show or screenplay or something I hope gets made anyway - I thought a lot about what I'd make the future look like. And then gave up. As James Burke* said in that Royal Institute Lecture I managed to crash with Jason Hazely and Joel Morris (all of us agreeing that it was one the best live gigs we'd ever seen): "I don't predict the future because I like to be right." Also, presenting the future as simply another country - the backdrop to a travelers' tale - fun and ace though that is, seemed in the context of what I hoped to write now to dodge the real significance of the future, which was - well I don't know, but not that. I think it's that we're older in it, and that it's coming, and unfamiliar. So although I had set out to write a genre spoof, I realised now that I didn't want the future to look like "The Future", because the architects' model is too familiar, and literally too present. Still, these scenes would have to look and sound like something and puzzling over what that might be I remembered Magritte. I wasn't sure how it would work but I thought, wouldn't it be great if this future somehow felt like a Magritte.

"Le Grand siecle" (which nobody has translated as "the big century") 1954

I've ditched that idea now. I think. Nevertheless I got very excited when a commenter on David Cairn's ever-smashing Shadowplay blog inadvertently introduced me to the hint of a realisation of this idea in the following silent-era pop video: "Sur un Air de Charleston" - a post-apocalyptic, surrealist, sci-fi after-thought shot in 1927 by Jean Renoir - universally acknowledged as one of the greatest poets of the cinema - and featuring Renoir's wife Catherine Hessling as a dirty lady who dances for twenty minutes, and blackface vaudevillian Johnny Hudkins whom both imdb and assure me is actually black. Les yikes! The overlap between surrealism and science fiction is inevitable when you're dealing with the end of the world of course. When supplies run low the identity of whatever's left will be forced to become more fluid (see also the early work of shunt, or indeed any theatre company before the funding arrives). Here:

  It's riddled with surprises, but I particularly recommend the opening two minutes for their Magritty shots of Hudgkins with his back to the audience in his proto-Sputnik bubble.
I don't know how I felt when I learnt this was four years before Magritte painted Voix des Airs. He must have seen it though.

* If you don't know who James Burke is you are in for a slab of brain treats. I can't help feeling Science and History - being taught separately - were taught wrong. Burke went some way to putting that right. Here.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Reality: A User's Guide

Jonah Non Grata's bag of things that are things, Alarum festival, Berlin, 2011. 
Photos by Lanna Meggy...

... whom I appear to have tagged here as "Keeps"... Why am I even tagging personal acquaintances here? That's weird. Maybe that's why I stopped blogging. Anyway, Keeps is currently studying macabre animation (Jan Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay, quills passing through wood like it was butter, ugly toys worn but not loved, meat and threads, that kind of thing) and, as she was looking for a way to write about it all - an "in" - I recalled something Chris Goode had posted on his now-closed blog "Thompson's Book of Communicable Desire", back in 2009, taking as his starting point the following animation by Adam Pesapane.

Beneath his post, which is here, I found two days' train of thought, posted by myself in response, about honesty in theatre, the uses of play, and the nature of reality and thinginess - a lot of which I found I still believe and am still investigating, other stuff I'd forgotten that surprised me, and, I'll be honest, impressed me. February 04 2009 was just days before the fire, which must be why I never got round to referencing it at the time, but, as I say, I certainly haven't forgotten the gist - in fact it's played happily on my mind in everything I've made since. I don't know when I'll next be making theatre, but some of my best thinking has been thinking about theatre, and most of the best of that was done over at Thompson's. So, here: Chris closed thus...

"Until we can see who, and what, we are, in relation to each other and the objects and materials we use and the resources we share (or don't), the question of what else there could be and what the various things we call "this" or "here" might be like under other circumstances is nearly incomprehensible, except in a subjunctive, speculative fantasy... propelled by privilege -- whether that's the privilege of leisure time, or the privilege of being a child."

And in I chipped, eventually, and kept chipping for the next two days...
I was with you all the way until those last words... Because of course being a child is not a privilege, is it? It's the opposite. It is the one thing everyone's had a go at. And because "I am me" is so much less comprehensive a declaration than "That's a rope". "What am I?" is surely a very different question from "What is that rope?" (Is Hamlet actually mad? Well that depends on your definition of "is") and objects - not us - and people - potential usses - are two completely different propositions. Taking someone's clothes off will tell us more about them but it also much more won't...

And I often think about the professed moral of Vonnegut's "Mother Night" in relationship to performing: "We are who we pretend to be." Yes, yes we are. Pretending a book is a bird doesn't stop it being a book. However pretend to be angry, your body won't be able to tell the difference, you're angry. Pretend to be possessed of an untameable libido, you will become that thing, as I found out when I'd finished just some five night run of a Jacobean Tragedy in the Playroom, it was scary, giddying. This kind of play will not change your opinions or your education but it might change you. Going back to your speech about Shakespeare and the wood, for me Feste is not walking talking theatre as much as is Edgar in King Lear (although I like that Feste's always asking people for money). Edgar is the thing, yep...

What I would have to think on exactly is that being a child - while associated with its often (yeah, we'd hope) attendant privileges... is not some posh school where we are allowed to play, it is in a but not that sense THE state of play. We're not taught to play if we're lucky. We play. But what IS that... that's what I've go to mull over. Because we learn by playing, that's a truism but also the point, which goes back to the idea of playing to find out what something is - yes? - which in the case of my last comment was ourselves. "What can I do with this?" So when I said it wasn't a privilege I meant it is crucial to who we are...

And I'm not at all sure we should grow out of playing if playing is indeed born out of curiosity. (By the way I am far more private now than I was when a child). I also think playing is a huge part of love. Today, we were all let off work and had a snowball fight. At first OF COURSE I did not participate, and then I did and there were instances of fun (ie out-of-myself-type ecstasy) and, but, all the time there was OF COURSE the deadening bilious knowledge that I was not experiencing the same childish abandon that that thing: "everyonelse" was. But. I Can't. "Know". That.
And had I been throwing snowballs with someone I really loved, rather than knocking about with some people I might or might not fancy who might or might not fancy each other, I would have played from the off...

The attraction of Play for children is NOT in the pretending. It is in what the pretending allows the child to do. Think about it, you don't actually need to climb inside a cardboard box to pretend you're in a tank. You pretend to be in a tank simply because it GIVES YOU THE EXCUSE TO CLIMB INSIDE THE CARDBOARD BOX. That's what's fun, being in a box. Should a child pick up a book and pretend it's a bird that is something different, that is a child playing with perception, but this type of play is actually much rarer. All my memories of play are very specifically of basking in the reality of my environment - that hill, those roots, that adventure playground - NOT of some Muppet Babies bluescreen fantasy sequence...

 No, I think pretending gives us more than the "excuse". It gives us the "means" to be inside the box - "be" in its fullest sense, or at least evinced by the vividness of my memories of those spaces in which I pretended (as I wrote before). All that you write about here, all of it, is (of course?) what I first got an inkling of when watching Jeremy [Hardingham]'s production of Lear fifteen years ago - the show that made me want to return to theatre, the show in which I saw that a "wooden performance" did not preclude great "acting" - to take your meaning - the show in which I actually saw Gloucester blinded. [He had cotton pads taped over his eyes.] Yes, that changed everything...
But it was still a production of King Lear. In this case, like the act of pretending, putting on "King Lear" and having people say those lines and play those parts was not here simply an excuse to do what that production did - it was, very definitely, the means...

The aftermath of one of Jeremy Hardingham's later Lears, Berlin, 2011

 Parenthetically, it's now obvious to me why we feel so differently about the Shunt Lounge. My day-job's right next door, so of course that whole place is very much more part of my real world. (Still though, I'd argue there's nothing that goes on inside that can't be taken out. London's just full of spatial non-sequiturs. It's oddness to me is very much part of its thereness.)
Ha ha! I just wrote "it's".
Its 5 in the morning, Chris, deal with it...

I totally agree though, Tassos, that there's a useful absence of trust - that's a terrible way of putting it - a presence of the possibility of the confounding of perceived reality - clearer but shitter - that means an audience will not be watching what goes on in front of them the same way they'll watch events taking place over the road (the one crucial difference in perception? They are safe). I also however really do see the value in having props that are only what they are and scenery that is only what it is and no blackouts and no exit no mime and no hidden source of sound... and NO BLOODY BLOODY BLOODY STAGE-FIGHTS, say... and in creating a manifesto for a theatre in which this is a given. Even in such a theatre though, the question of what the performer is remains, unresolved into statement. In fact one of the values of this theatre may be that it asks the question far more clearly...
My placeholder then...
Pretend-play IS generative engagement.
Evidence: memories.

(Bonus Brothers Quay BBC2 ident)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Manage to watch this to the end and I'll buy you a pint...

 Ahahaha indeed. Here, try playing this simultaneously underneath. It might help:

And welcome to the new look Unattended. Yes, the old myspace blog has finally become unnavigable - de-evolving from codex to ROM-sapping scroll - so I heaved the whole lot over here to blogspot like a grownup and have been up late sewing tags, all to ensure the Blog Mark Two is hopefully user-friendly now to the point of harassment. What do you think? Too noisy? Try the "Obama", it's delicious...What a haul it's been. "Fat Adolf" remember that? That Secret Agent screenplay I kept going on about which I still haven't written or started to write? - Ah, it's 7:16 in the morning - that would call for a "Sleeping/Not sleeping". It's good to have a system. Happy rummaging!