Wednesday, 24 July 2013

From 'The Ridiculusmus Book of Making Comic Theatre'

When they first saw each other in ‘the carpet room’ of the Poor School in 1990 Dave and Jon didn’t talk. They just eyed each other warily, as if they knew it was only a matter of time before something would happen. David did an impression of a stork for ‘animal study’ that Jon was rather impressed by and a couple of terms later Jon recited ‘Ode to the Asshole’ by Rimbaud, which David found downright peculiar. Cast as Polonius (David) and Hamlet (Jon), they ignored any direction they were given, devised bits of comic business and cut most of Shakespeare’s lines because they got no laughs. When David invited Jon back to his studio flat for midnight beans and toast Jon wasn’t that surprised to find David only lived two minutes away from his own abode in Nunhead, one of the cheapest and most inaccessible areas of what could still be called London. As they talked, ate the beans and toast and drank copious amounts of tea, more coincidences emerged. Before enrolling at the Poor School David had attended the same university as Jon and had done the same drama course that Jon had done there seven years earlier. They’d read many of the same books (or at least David thought they had) and shared a theatre-making language. It was derived on the one hand from Peter Brook, Grotowski, Stanislavski, Berkoff, Beckett, Pinter, Brecht, Keith Johnstone’s Impro, Albert Hunt’s Hopes for Great Happenings, Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and John McGrath’s A Good Night Out, and on the other from hours of improvising in devising rooms. David confided to Jon that at school and university he’d been called ‘Mad Dave,’ and Jon confided to David that at school and university he’d been notorious for being depressed.

Two years later, still meeting up for the occasional midnight beans and - if they could afford it - toast, David and Jon began to lament the fact that in their final shows at the school the imaginative leaps they’d struggled to make during the course were being thrown away for the sake of commercial casting. They were given roles as similar in age, sex and outlook to the most smiling and willing versions of themselves they were prepared to be. On one level this was understandable. The profession was notoriously competitive and to get a foot in its door perhaps one should play to one’s strengths. But David found it reductive and humiliating. He really should have left. Everyone was skint. They were expected to go in during the daytimes, so unless you had a very willing employer unemployment was the only option. David managed to hang on to his job by disappearing or pretending to be sick. Jon was sacked from his position as an insurance clerk. To save money he took to walking from Nunhead to the school in King’s Cross, and then to Kentish Town for their final year shows. A fellow student once took pity on him and hid a loaf of bread in his jacket.

By 1999 they’d been running a successful theatre company for seven years and their lives had markedly improved. Jon was living in an industrial unit in Belfast, sleeping on a piece of foam on a tabletop while mice scuttled around him in the dark. On the other side of a divide his colleague David snored on a futon bed. He’d told the caretaker of the building it was part of a stage set. They had to switch all the lights off at 9pm so as not to alert suspicion. They weren’t meant to be living there. It was rented out to them as office space. For seven years they’d shared the administration, driven up and down the UK putting on plays and, in spite of most people never having heard of them, received critical acclaim. Yet they couldn’t afford a home.

The making process was intense. They had intercourse, became inseminated with an idea (often simultaneously), gestated it, gave birth to it, christened it, nurtured it, created a profile for it, sent it to college, bought it a cappuccino machine (or at least a hand pump milk frother), shared awkward family gatherings with it, took it to board meetings, indulged in sordid affairs (side projects) and opened a building society account for it (got a grant and took it on tour). But ultimately they had to let go, move on and have another child together, occasionally holding embarrassing orgies with collaborators drawn from an expanding pool. Basically it was a marriage.

But what kind of a marriage was it when your idea of a meal together was a selection of pre-packaged salads and cartons of M&S custard and fruit compote carefully laid out on a futon in an industrial unit? Did you really want to renew your vows and reaffirm commitment to a partner of seven years who was engaged in similar catering activities two feet away on the other side of a glass divide? Was this a life at all? Was it really worth the sacrifices? What on earth did they think they were doing? Had they ever really stopped to think? Perhaps, Jon thought as he saw a family of mice making its curious way to David’s side of the office, a couple of them ferrying a fragment of a multigrain bap, perhaps one day they should sit down and write a book about it all. But that time wasn’t now. There was a farting sound. David had woken up. He thought he’d heard the caretaker pushing some post under the door, so he got up and shuffled over there to get it. ‘It’s come,’ said David timorously, waving a white manila envelope containing the result of their application for revenue funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He opened it. Jon was sitting up expectantly on his piece of foam. Their grant had been slashed in half. During a performance of ‘Dada’ Jon had been so deeply in role that he had told a member of the council’s board to piss off. ‘Oh God,’ groaned David. The caretaker heard him and barked out some expletive. ‘I’ve been having some complaints,’ he said (a reference to one from David about kids flicking shit on the toilet walls). But David didn’t really care. He read the rest of the letter, which concluded by telling them that the days of experimental theatre were most definitely over. ‘Oh God,’ David said again, ‘what are we doing?’ 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Voice recorder found

Surgeons at a London hospital have found a digital voice recorder in a man’s anus. The patient, who had undergone laparoscopic resection of the sigmoid colon for recurrent sigmoid diverticulitis, presented to the hospital because of symptoms of subileus due to a recurrent high-grade anastomotic stenosis. A computed tomography scan revealed an electrical object that was hastily removed and, after consultation, shown to the patient, who claimed no memory of having inserted the device himself. At his request doctors at King’s College Hospital gave the recorder a thorough wash, purchased suitable batteries and played it. They discovered the machine contained more than two hundred hours’ worth of improvisations for a devised theatre show called The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Instead of writing fiction

I've started documenting my life. Or snippets of it. What happens though is that I send it up. I haven't really been awake since 5am, high and manic on a cocktail of melatonin, antihistamines, travel sickness pills and valium. Though I've thought about getting in that state. What is true is that I walked to poncey Broadway Market, intent on sitting in La Bouche. I planned to have a cappuccino (one pound ninety-five) and an almond croissant (two pounds twenty) and pretend to read my book on trauma while watching all the passersby. La Bouche was full of like-minded and similarly pretentious people so I continued on my nonchalant way to a less trendy and almost empty Middle Eastern cafe whose almond croissants were forty-five pence cheaper. I took a seat and got out my trauma book. Actually made some notes about a psychiatrist called Lenore Terr who proposed that trauma in children took two forms. Type 1 trauma results from a single - often life-threatening - event, and it can be easily remembered in all its detail. Type 2 consists of repeated and predictable trauma, particularly sexual or physical abuse, which a child begins to anticipate and then learns to cope with through psychic numbing or dissociation. Terr's thinking - backed up by some questionable research - is that because of the repetitive nature of this latter kind of abuse it would become a general blur, less easily recalled. Richard J. McNally, however...actually, you probably don't want to know what Richard J. McNally thought. All you want to know is why I'm writing about abuse. 'Was he abused?' you'll be thinking. I don't think I was. Although according to some commentators there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who remember their sexual abuse in childhood and those who do not. I remember, when I was five or six years old, the boy next door lifting up his shirt and showing me his stomach. It was highly erotic and led to other things. But I'm not going to tell you what those other things were because I've been fictionalizing them in Human Waste, the novel that I'm having difficulty finishing. Probably because of this futile and near obsessive documenting of my life. I hold 'Sunshine and daydreams' responsible. He/she left an encouraging comment beneath a former post, telling me this was the most interesting blog he or she had ever read. I don't know who 'Sunshine and daydreams' is. She/he (I suspect a she) left her comment anonymously. She hasn't created a profile, which means I can't reply and thank her. Or complain about the way her positive comment is making me post more rubbish on this blog rather than get on with writing Human Waste.        

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Melatonin in Korea

I had some Korean Won left over and popped into Kiehl's in duty free thinking I could buy a bottle of clinically proven - or was it clinically tested - age corrector. Gave up and wandered into a gift shop where I gazed at vitamins on shelves and found some Melatonin. The last time I tried melatonin was in 2005 on the recommendation of Jude Kelly. It gave me vivid nightmares and I stopped. Perhaps I'd give it another go. I knocked one back, attempting to wash it down with water from one of those little fountains outside the gents. As I bent forward to gulp some water the pill shot out. I picked it up and swallowed it and got on the plane. Had an uneventful flight sitting next to two Irish people. A man in his late fifties and a woman, possibly his daughter, in her thirties. He ordered a white wine. She ordered a white wine and a tomato juice and then gave him her white wine. We only spoke when she asked if they could get past me to go to the toilet. Began to watch Hitchcock again. Switched it off after five minutes and watched Silver Linings Playbook for the third time. Knew all the dialogue. Turned that off too. Watched The Master, a very depressing film with an agonizingly twisted performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Fell asleep. That peculiar half-sleep during which a calm descended upon me (I also took a valium) and I could see the solution to my novel. It would contain an abundance of flashbacks to abuse. Everyone would start to have them. They would become ridiculous. I would become ridiculous. Have become ridiculous. I'm not sure if it's the melatonin but since taking it I've become obsessed by porn. Can one blame melatonin for watching porn?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Jeff not Beau

It's Jeff Bridges and it's 'A Dog Year.'

Beau Bridges and a dog

After the buffet I rented a LAN cable from reception and connected to the internet until my battery ran out. I wrote some rubbish on this blog. Then I went to bed and switched on the television. There was a film with Beau Bridges in. He was playing an irascible writer who separates from his wife and goes to live in an isolated ranch in the American countryside with his dog. I missed the beginning but I gather he'd acquired the dog quite recently. Anyway his acting basically consisted of sitting at a kitchen table looking grumpy. He made a processed cheese and ham sandwich while his lips were turned resolutely down. The dog watched as Beau ate the sandwich. Then Beau, still with downturned mouth, slid his plate, which had half an uneaten sandwich on it, towards the dog. The dog ate it. It's a border collie. Eventually, though I'm not sure how this happens, Beau meets a trainer of border collies. She also looks grumpy and tells Beau that he is one angry man. Beau, meanwhile, is starting to change. A local youth badgers him, asking if he could give him some odd jobs to do. Beau says no, but eventually gives in. He also starts to write a book on his typewriter. It's called 'A Dog Year.' Or was it 'Year of the Dog' ? Anyway, suffice to say that in spite of all the downturned mouth acting it's the perfect film to watch when you're jet-lagged and in transit between Seoul and London.          

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lost in Harbor Park Hotel, Incheon

Of course the reality is very different. We were taken by shuttle bus from the airport to a hotel where 'simplicity and modern design offer you comfortable atmosphere and allover window in room commands superior view and also completely presenting you efficient business environment.' They gave us a dinner voucher. After a hurried shower and failed attempts to connect to the internet I made my way to the Sky Lounge on the fourteenth floor. 'Appreciating the panoramic view of Incheon Harbor, you can enjoy the meeting with your sweet people after stressful and busy day and relish the diverse drinks including various beers and whiskies, wines from all the countries of the world.' A buffet dinner was available, though the waiter didn't tell me this. I sat down and worked it out for myself. I thought I'd better get it confirmed though so I asked him what the procedure was. 'It's a buffet,' he said. I got up and helped myself to some spaghetti from a chaffing dish. Also some mini chicken breasts and a glass of red grape juice. After I'd sat down I was joined by various sweet people: an elderly Asian couple with plates piled high and a swarthy red-faced man with goggling eyes who I guess was from Tasmania. He asked me what I'd got. The food kept getting stuck in my throat. I finished as quickly as I could and went downstairs to...oh you don't need to know, are not even interested to know, are you, what I was doing downstairs. They've probably got a bar somewhere here but I'm too timid to seek it out. Anyway, you can bet your bottom dollar that it won't contain Scarlet Johansson or anyone resembling her. It'll contain other transit passengers, all trying to avoid each other's gaze.      

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Spaced at Brisbane airport

I spent half an hour staring at rows of watches. Didn't like any of them. Then I tried various perfumes. A sales assistant approached me so I left. Found myself in a book shop that also sold rejuvenating creams. Considered purchasing Re-birth placenta face cream but decided not to on remembering I'd already bought an intense moisturizer with Rosa Artica (not sure what it is but it smells of my ex landlady) and Facial Fuel for Men from Kiehl's. I haven't boarded yet and I'm already off my face. I have twenty hours in Incheon airport (hotel provided by the airline) where I'm expecting to feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. The plan is to sit in the hotel bar drinking Bourbon on the rocks and looking inscrutable. Basically I crossed the world to do four nights of The Poof Downstairs. I had a radio interview during which the interviewer called me 'difficult' and 'irritating,' and a review which described my show as 'controversial.' As the critic left the theatre he heard a man behind him saying 'I've never seen such a load of rubbish in my life.' This really makes me very happy.    

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

First post in ages

Twenty-four hours ago I swallowed two travel sickness pills from Boots. I was hoping I'd get high but I got drowsy and constipated instead. I've been taking Boots antihistamine pills for the last few days. They help me sleep. In my late adolescence I'd eat ground nutmeg. It tastes vile. There's a deeply unpleasant sensation as it passes down your throat. I'd advise washing it down with lemon squash. On the plus side it gets you very stoned and lasts longer than a spliff. I've tried smoking hops and dried banana skins and used to take something called Actifed until they stopped selling it in chemists. Have been getting into Tiiffy too, a Thai cold remedy containing chlorpheniramine and phenylephrine that - in my case - induces sleep, but am rapidly developing a tolerance to it. I'm also addicted to M&S cheese puffs. They're a lot cheesier than Wotsits.