synonymsforchurlish / posted on 29 July 2014

Edinburgh - what to see when you’re not sympathy-fucking a lighting technician behind a stack of flight cases 

I don’t go to Edinburgh. It doesn’t suit me. It’s exploitative for a start. Of artists and audiences. It breeds gimmick. It makes being a fan seem like hard work, when it should be the exact opposite.  Plus I can’t bear people who self-identify as comedians.

I do get asked for recommendations though, so here is a hastily organised, perfunctory list for those who are prepared to journey to the mouth of hell without flinching. I can only hope you find what you’re looking for. Godspeed brave soldiers.  Carry courage in your hearts.

Shows I’ve seen that will be guaranteed brilliant

Show 5 (review)The Ted Bundy ProjectBigMouth (review)This Is How We Die (review)

Shows I’ve seen in preview/rehearsal that will be guaranteed brilliant

ConfirmationMen In The Cities

The show that I refer to as the most intense aesthetic experience of my entire life

Hurtling (review - please don’t actually click this because there are spoilers that really matter)

A NOTE ABOUT HURTLING: Hurtling is a headphone experience for one person at a time, and I know that the effect it had on me was partly to do with its location when I did it (Hackney Wick) and the time when I did it (sunset). I also know that I experienced it at the absolute 100% optimum time in my own personal life and circumstances.  I’m saying this because every time I recommend Hurtling, and eulogise about it and about its creator, Greg Wohead, I get more and more panicked that actually nobody else in the world will understand, and I’ll just sound like an emotional disaster zone. As if what Greg had made was an experience for me and me alone and anybody else who participates is just going to feel like they’re wearing someone else’s clothes. I want you to love this piece of work so much, so badly, but what if you don’t? I tell myself that it’s fine, that you’re allowed to think whatever you want to think.  But please, I just ask that if you don’t like it, you don’t talk to me about it afterwards because my heart is already breaking a little bit at the very possibility that you won’t want to faint with joy in the same way that I did. Thanks. Okay. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.

Shows that I haven’t seen but really want to see

LippyShow 6Number 1, The PlazaWuthering HeightsHugNothingThe Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western LaplandGanesh vs the Third Reich

Shows that I’d never heard of before but the brochure blurb sounds interesting

Invisible WallsLooking for PaulTheatre on a Long Thin Wire

That’s it. Don’t forget guys, berocca twice a day and save this number to your phone: 0131 536 1070 (Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic, EH3 9ES).

Edinburgh - what to see when you’re not sympathy-fucking a lighting technician behind a stack of flight cases

I don’t go to Edinburgh. It doesn’t suit me. It’s exploitative for a start. Of artists and audiences. It breeds gimmick. It makes being a fan seem like hard work, when it should be the exact opposite. Plus I can’t bear people who self-identify as comedians.

I do get asked for recommendations though, so here is a hastily organised, perfunctory list for those who are prepared to journey to the mouth of hell without flinching. I can only hope you find what you’re looking for. Godspeed brave soldiers. Carry courage in your hearts.

Shows I’ve seen that will be guaranteed brilliant

Show 5 (review)
The Ted Bundy Project
BigMouth (review)
This Is How We Die (review)

Shows I’ve seen in preview/rehearsal that will be guaranteed brilliant

Confirmation
Men In The Cities

The show that I refer to as the most intense aesthetic experience of my entire life

Hurtling (review - please don’t actually click this because there are spoilers that really matter)

A NOTE ABOUT HURTLING: Hurtling is a headphone experience for one person at a time, and I know that the effect it had on me was partly to do with its location when I did it (Hackney Wick) and the time when I did it (sunset). I also know that I experienced it at the absolute 100% optimum time in my own personal life and circumstances. I’m saying this because every time I recommend Hurtling, and eulogise about it and about its creator, Greg Wohead, I get more and more panicked that actually nobody else in the world will understand, and I’ll just sound like an emotional disaster zone. As if what Greg had made was an experience for me and me alone and anybody else who participates is just going to feel like they’re wearing someone else’s clothes. I want you to love this piece of work so much, so badly, but what if you don’t? I tell myself that it’s fine, that you’re allowed to think whatever you want to think. But please, I just ask that if you don’t like it, you don’t talk to me about it afterwards because my heart is already breaking a little bit at the very possibility that you won’t want to faint with joy in the same way that I did. Thanks. Okay. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.

Shows that I haven’t seen but really want to see

Lippy
Show 6
Number 1, The Plaza
Wuthering Heights
Hug
Nothing
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland
Ganesh vs the Third Reich

Shows that I’d never heard of before but the brochure blurb sounds interesting

Invisible Walls
Looking for Paul
Theatre on a Long Thin Wire

That’s it. Don’t forget guys, berocca twice a day and save this number to your phone: 0131 536 1070 (Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic, EH3 9ES).


TAGS: edinburgh theatre recommendations

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 23 July 2014 Let’s talk

I feel like we need to hire a community centre somewhere, get some crisps into bowls, a tea urn, put some extra chairs out for latecomers and then all sit down to have a frank and honest conversation about paedophilia. 

Yewtree has affected the public consciousness of this country profoundly. It has called into question our collective childhood.  It has spurted steaming hot piss over teenage memories. 

(I do not write this to diminish or trivialise horrific crimes against innocent, vulnerable people, nor to humanise or sympathise with the perpetrators. I am writing about a shared, cultural thing, from a bystander’s POV.)

For the headline-skimmer or twitter follower, these are trust issues. Those Gary Glitter Fanclub newsletters that you still have in the loft. The time Jim “fixed it” for your cub troop to go on a tour of Heathrow Airport. The time you cried when Rolf comforted a lady who had just watched her dog die. The Lostprophets song your skater boyfriend put on that mixtape when you were 15.  The bastards have taken that stuff from us. Reached into our childhoods, taken it and twisted it. If we have children of our own, or if we grow up to have children of our own, we will remember this betrayal unexpectedly, perhaps during a bedtime viewing of In The Night Garden, or a Bring & Buy Sale. 

Walt Disney, he was a fucking nonce an’ all, wasn’t he. CUNT.

So we need to get together, go round the circle, and talk not only about paedophilia, but about about the effect of paedophilia upon our modern, media-soaked culture, and we need to get rid of all the artifice and all the self-conscious apologies that the subject provokes in us. Because, and I promise I’m getting to the point now, The Nether by Jennifer Haley just doesn’t fucking cut it.

It’s an issue-play that’s too scared to talk about the issue, so it hides it in the middle of a Philip K Dick story.  Do paedos dream of Oculus Rift?  Will it be the red pill or the blue pill Neo?  The Nether is advertised with 18+ age guidance. Are we not grown-ups? 

————-

The problem is the exposition required for all this virtual reality crap.  It’s like on CSI, where two forensics experts - white coats, in a lab, in front of the centrifuge that they use in every single fucking episode - turn to each other and explain the process of extracting DNA. Like, “just checking we’re still on the same page bro!” On Sundays you can watch back-to-back CSI for 10 hours straight if you have the right channels. Sometimes I think I know more about forensics than they do by bedtime. It’s the same in The Nether, except here it’s endless references to “realms” and “shades” and the fact that - don’t forget! - this is a future without trees. (Trees, of course, being the realest thing any playwright can think of.) 

OF COURSE let’s be ambitious, imagine vast alternative worlds, play with animation and projection, find yet more excuses to fill our stages with fucking trees.  But what we need, right now, in Britain, in 2014 - a Britain for whom memories of Top Of The Pops are forever tainted - is a play that looks us straight in the face and doesn’t blink.  A play about paedophilia, power and lies.  A play about hate and disgust.  

C’mon theatre. We’re not kids anymore.

————-

EDIT (morning after): It’s been pointed out to me that The Nether is neither a piece of new writing, nor is it British (American, from 2 years ago apparently) so maybe my issue isn’t so much what Jennifer Haley has written, but what the Royal Court and Headlong have decided to make/programme. I remember when Jeremy Herrin first got the Headlong job a few people were like “THAT GUY?! He’s so… lightweight…” so I wonder if he decided to flex a bit by choosing this for his first big show. Like “fuck you naysayers, ‘ave some kiddy-fiddling.” Shame it’s such a bad piece of writing. Shame it’s such a feeble attempt at a discussion. Shame that these two renowned and important theatre companies couldn’t commission something relevant and unflinching instead.

Let’s talk

I feel like we need to hire a community centre somewhere, get some crisps into bowls, a tea urn, put some extra chairs out for latecomers and then all sit down to have a frank and honest conversation about paedophilia.

Yewtree has affected the public consciousness of this country profoundly. It has called into question our collective childhood. It has spurted steaming hot piss over teenage memories.

(I do not write this to diminish or trivialise horrific crimes against innocent, vulnerable people, nor to humanise or sympathise with the perpetrators. I am writing about a shared, cultural thing, from a bystander’s POV.)

For the headline-skimmer or twitter follower, these are trust issues. Those Gary Glitter Fanclub newsletters that you still have in the loft. The time Jim “fixed it” for your cub troop to go on a tour of Heathrow Airport. The time you cried when Rolf comforted a lady who had just watched her dog die. The Lostprophets song your skater boyfriend put on that mixtape when you were 15. The bastards have taken that stuff from us. Reached into our childhoods, taken it and twisted it. If we have children of our own, or if we grow up to have children of our own, we will remember this betrayal unexpectedly, perhaps during a bedtime viewing of In The Night Garden, or a Bring & Buy Sale.

Walt Disney, he was a fucking nonce an’ all, wasn’t he. CUNT.

So we need to get together, go round the circle, and talk not only about paedophilia, but about about the effect of paedophilia upon our modern, media-soaked culture, and we need to get rid of all the artifice and all the self-conscious apologies that the subject provokes in us. Because, and I promise I’m getting to the point now, The Nether by Jennifer Haley just doesn’t fucking cut it.

It’s an issue-play that’s too scared to talk about the issue, so it hides it in the middle of a Philip K Dick story. Do paedos dream of Oculus Rift? Will it be the red pill or the blue pill Neo? The Nether is advertised with 18+ age guidance. Are we not grown-ups?

————-

The problem is the exposition required for all this virtual reality crap. It’s like on CSI, where two forensics experts - white coats, in a lab, in front of the centrifuge that they use in every single fucking episode - turn to each other and explain the process of extracting DNA. Like, “just checking we’re still on the same page bro!” On Sundays you can watch back-to-back CSI for 10 hours straight if you have the right channels. Sometimes I think I know more about forensics than they do by bedtime. It’s the same in The Nether, except here it’s endless references to “realms” and “shades” and the fact that - don’t forget! - this is a future without trees. (Trees, of course, being the realest thing any playwright can think of.)

OF COURSE let’s be ambitious, imagine vast alternative worlds, play with animation and projection, find yet more excuses to fill our stages with fucking trees. But what we need, right now, in Britain, in 2014 - a Britain for whom memories of Top Of The Pops are forever tainted - is a play that looks us straight in the face and doesn’t blink. A play about paedophilia, power and lies. A play about hate and disgust.

C’mon theatre. We’re not kids anymore.

————-

EDIT (morning after): It’s been pointed out to me that The Nether is neither a piece of new writing, nor is it British (American, from 2 years ago apparently) so maybe my issue isn’t so much what Jennifer Haley has written, but what the Royal Court and Headlong have decided to make/programme. I remember when Jeremy Herrin first got the Headlong job a few people were like “THAT GUY?! He’s so… lightweight…” so I wonder if he decided to flex a bit by choosing this for his first big show. Like “fuck you naysayers, ‘ave some kiddy-fiddling.” Shame it’s such a bad piece of writing. Shame it’s such a feeble attempt at a discussion. Shame that these two renowned and important theatre companies couldn’t commission something relevant and unflinching instead.


TAGS: the nether royal court headlong theatre paedophilia

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 15 July 2014

A woman in love

Life is a struggle at the moment. Several times a day I have to fight an internal battle, hold my nerve. 

It’s all I can do not to spend 15 hours a day furiously typing whole pages of Karl Ove Knausgaard into Facebook, or phrase-by-phrase passages onto Twitter until all my followers have fucked off in a big mard.  It takes a feat of psychological strength not to stand and recite him on the tube in the morning, like “Guys, guys, wait. Listen to this a minute. Just this one bit – I promise it’s worth it.”  I could drop photocopies out of my window right now.  It would be so easy.  

I’m onto book two of his Min Kamp series now, and I’m trying really hard to be laid-back and everything but I just want to pass laws that force you all to read it. Seriously, you should be fucking Guantanamoed if you don’t.  I would say he’s astonishing but actually the astonishing thing is that it doesn’t feel new or fancy or even that overly literary.  It feels like reality, in all its joy and shit and warmth and agony.  

So I’m thinking that if I just post these two representative bits now, the photo above and the passage below, I might get something out of my system and fend-off what currently feels like a dangerous drift towards obsession.  I mean, this bit about going to see Bergman’s Ghosts is basically the whole gist of my Masters dissertation, except he’s opened up my own view of it to embrace drama and narrative and pace too, all with barely a spoiler.  He’s made me feel normal – tediously, relentlessly, gloriously normal.

Fuuuuuuuck i love him so much

"Some days later we went to the theatre. Linda, Gier and I. The first act was terrible, truly wretched, and in the interval, sitting at a terrace table with a view of the harbour, Gier and Linda chatted away about quite how terrible it had been, and why. I was more sympathetic, for despite the small, cramped feel of the act, which coloured the play and the visions it was supposed to be depicting, there was an anticipation of something else, as if it was lying in wait. Perhaps not in the play, perhaps more in the combination of Bergman and Ibsen, which ultimately had to produce something? Or else it was the splendour of the auditorium that fooled me into believing there had to be something else. And there was. Everything was raised, higher and higher, the intensity increased, and within the tightly set framework, which in the end comprised only mother and son, a kind of boundlessness arose, something wild and reckless. Into it disappeared plot and space, what was left was emotion, and it was stark, you were looking straight into the essence of human existence, the very nucleus of life, and thus you found yourself in a place where it no longer mattered what was actually happening. Everything known as aesthetics and taste was eliminated. Wasn’t there an enormous red sun shining at the back of the stage? Wasn’t that Osvald rolling naked across the stage? I’m not sure anymore what I saw, the details disappeared into the state they evoked, which was once of total presence, burning hot and ice-cold at once. However, if you hadn’t allowed yourself to be transported, everything that happened would have appeared exaggerated, perhaps even banal or kitsch. The master stroke was the first act, everything was done there, and only someone who had spent a whole lifetime creating, with an enormous list - more than fifty years’ worth - of productions behind them, could have had the skill, the coolness, the courage, the intuition and the insight to fashion something like this. Bright ideas alone could not have brought this off, it was impossible. Hardly anything I had seen or read had ever been close to approaching the essence in this way. As we followed the audience streaming out into the foyer and onto the street, not one of us said a word, but from their distant expressions I could see they had also been carried away into the terrible but real and therefore beautiful place Bergman had seen in Ibsen and then succeeded in shaping.”

A woman in love

Life is a struggle at the moment. Several times a day I have to fight an internal battle, hold my nerve.

It’s all I can do not to spend 15 hours a day furiously typing whole pages of Karl Ove Knausgaard into Facebook, or phrase-by-phrase passages onto Twitter until all my followers have fucked off in a big mard. It takes a feat of psychological strength not to stand and recite him on the tube in the morning, like “Guys, guys, wait. Listen to this a minute. Just this one bit – I promise it’s worth it.” I could drop photocopies out of my window right now. It would be so easy.

I’m onto book two of his Min Kamp series now, and I’m trying really hard to be laid-back and everything but I just want to pass laws that force you all to read it. Seriously, you should be fucking Guantanamoed if you don’t. I would say he’s astonishing but actually the astonishing thing is that it doesn’t feel new or fancy or even that overly literary. It feels like reality, in all its joy and shit and warmth and agony.

So I’m thinking that if I just post these two representative bits now, the photo above and the passage below, I might get something out of my system and fend-off what currently feels like a dangerous drift towards obsession. I mean, this bit about going to see Bergman’s Ghosts is basically the whole gist of my Masters dissertation, except he’s opened up my own view of it to embrace drama and narrative and pace too, all with barely a spoiler. He’s made me feel normal – tediously, relentlessly, gloriously normal.

Fuuuuuuuck i love him so much

"Some days later we went to the theatre. Linda, Gier and I. The first act was terrible, truly wretched, and in the interval, sitting at a terrace table with a view of the harbour, Gier and Linda chatted away about quite how terrible it had been, and why. I was more sympathetic, for despite the small, cramped feel of the act, which coloured the play and the visions it was supposed to be depicting, there was an anticipation of something else, as if it was lying in wait. Perhaps not in the play, perhaps more in the combination of Bergman and Ibsen, which ultimately had to produce something? Or else it was the splendour of the auditorium that fooled me into believing there had to be something else. And there was. Everything was raised, higher and higher, the intensity increased, and within the tightly set framework, which in the end comprised only mother and son, a kind of boundlessness arose, something wild and reckless. Into it disappeared plot and space, what was left was emotion, and it was stark, you were looking straight into the essence of human existence, the very nucleus of life, and thus you found yourself in a place where it no longer mattered what was actually happening. Everything known as aesthetics and taste was eliminated. Wasn’t there an enormous red sun shining at the back of the stage? Wasn’t that Osvald rolling naked across the stage? I’m not sure anymore what I saw, the details disappeared into the state they evoked, which was once of total presence, burning hot and ice-cold at once. However, if you hadn’t allowed yourself to be transported, everything that happened would have appeared exaggerated, perhaps even banal or kitsch. The master stroke was the first act, everything was done there, and only someone who had spent a whole lifetime creating, with an enormous list - more than fifty years’ worth - of productions behind them, could have had the skill, the coolness, the courage, the intuition and the insight to fashion something like this. Bright ideas alone could not have brought this off, it was impossible. Hardly anything I had seen or read had ever been close to approaching the essence in this way. As we followed the audience streaming out into the foyer and onto the street, not one of us said a word, but from their distant expressions I could see they had also been carried away into the terrible but real and therefore beautiful place Bergman had seen in Ibsen and then succeeded in shaping.”


TAGS: books reading karl ove knausgaard a man in love theatre ibsen ingmar bergman

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 10 July 2014

Is this it? Is this what we meant two years ago? 

(I have absolutely nothing to say about Mr Burns that hasn’t been said already.  Ditto Adler and Gibb.  And Idomeneus.  Soz.  Leave now if you want.)

As predicted in my blog from a fortnight ago about the fucking stellar quality of the shows on our favourite London stages last month, all three of the above are shoe-ins for a place in the June 2014 canon, and I’m going to set myself annual iphone reminders to take a few moments once a year to light a candle, maybe even a joss stick, whack Livin La Vida Loca up to 11 and remember all the joy they have given me.

What I want to say now is half-formed, fleeting, fingertips stuff.  

When I got home from Mr Burns last night I paced around my kitchen feeling like I’d returned from reading Kant in the uni library all day with an assignment to think impossible thoughts.  I felt brilliant.  It wasn’t a show without fault (what Dan Rebellato calls its “off-Broadway quirkiness” was defo a bit grating), but it was big and ambitious and different.  Admirable sounds like a patronising word to use, but I admire Mr Burns, and all who worked on it.  

I also felt like the show had vindicated something about my lifestyle and interests.  I care about culture, theatre, art, stories, whatever, so much more than I care about politics or #solidarity or having children or curing disease.  I’m so so so grateful that there are people out there doing that shit (however badly, or unethically, or who are fucking martyrs about it) because I simply do not want to bother my arse.  My own vanity tells me I’d refuse to salute at Nuremburg but, let’s be honest, I’m doing fuck all about the NHS.  When I think about stuff like that - carers, samaritans, protestors, even my Dad doing nightshifts at 60 - it’s easy to be apologetic about working in the arts, about feeling moved by a lighting design, or falling in love with the concept of Regietheater, or the way some white boy with a DIY haircut says the word “asphalt” into a microphone.

————

I’ve been dating a bit recently, and I’ve met people who do brain research, who educate excluded teenagers, advise governments, maintain international communications systems.  Jobs that have an immediate, obvious, quantifiable usefulness. (Yes, there was that guy who wrote marketing copy about ready meals, and the one who went on Dragon’s Den to ask for £20k to build a nightclub out of sand, but they’ve mostly done proper jobs.)

“So, what are you into? You work in theatre, yes? Are you an actor?”

“I just look after the office, and write a bit about shows sometimes.”

“Do you like writing then? I swore after I submitted my PhD thesis on the treatment of deaf children in post-genocide Rwanda that I wouldn’t write another word for 5 years.”

Which, admittedly, is better than:

“Yeah? D’you get loads of free tickets?  What shows are good at the moment? Have you heard of Punchdrunk?”

————

Mr Burns is CLEVER. Adler and Gibb is CLEVER. I might be selling the text short, but I think Idomeneus was made significantly CLEVERER by Ellen McDougall’s presentation of it.  Self-referential, turning inwards, works about being-aboutness.  The internet’s appropriation of the term ‘meta’.  That picture of Hulk Hogan where someone’s photoshopped his whole face into his beard in this endless chin of recurring Hulk Hogans.  Like Catherine says in her (v clever) post, these are “stories about stories”, art about art.  

Although maybe they’re not clever at all. Maybe they’re really really really fucking SIMPLE.  Maybe there has never actually been a play as simple as Mr Burns before.  Maybe Tim Crouch just phoned in a sketchy outline of Adler & Gibb when he heard Vicky F had got the Court job and the rest they sorted out over a few rounds of Zip Zap Boing.  

Or maybe it’s because they’re simple – stories about stories – that they have room to play.  Maybe I should just fucking get over myself and this obsession with pampered idiots playing fucking games.  And maybe it’s the fact that I’m now so used to pampered idiots (my god – have I become a pampered idiot????)  that I’m pacing around my kitchen at half-past midnight thinking about Immanuel Kant and lighting design.

————

When I wrote that post from a couple of weeks ago, about London theatre in June and my big, jizzing boner, it seemed to find consensus amongst those people who generally ‘consense’ with me (yeah, I know – shut up).

Somebody said that it felt like something real was happening.

“Something real” – lol.

Pampered idiots playing fucking games.

Then I thought to myself: Shit. Is this it? Is this what we meant two years ago? Two years ago, when we were drunk on Three Kingdoms, doodling Sebastian Nübling’s name (IDST) all over our jotters.  Is this the beginning of the future that we imagined Three Kingdoms had started for us?

“Us” – lol. 

“I just look after the office, and write a bit about shows sometimes.”

———-

Next date I go on, I’m going to say that I do important work in “cultural memory”.  And that research in my field is moving so fast, new discoveries being made so often, that we’re not really in a strong enough position to report on the findings yet. 

Do you like to travel?

———-

Tim Walker on Mr Burns: “I have no idea at all what Anne Washburn’s play is supposed to be about, and I doubt very much that she has either.”

Mark Shenton on Adler & Gibb: “…Couldn’t make sense of any of it. At least not in any way that I could become invested in it to the point of caring about anyone in it.” (Dude.  What even is that sentence?)

You can imagine them, can’t you - on some critics’ away day, methodically recording Scrabble scores in a long-abandoned tournament while everyone else uses the letters to spell out TITWANK and CUMSHOT for their Facebook header images.

Have you heard of Punchdrunk?

Is this it? Is this what we meant two years ago?

(I have absolutely nothing to say about Mr Burns that hasn’t been said already. Ditto Adler and Gibb. And Idomeneus. Soz. Leave now if you want.)

As predicted in my blog from a fortnight ago about the fucking stellar quality of the shows on our favourite London stages last month, all three of the above are shoe-ins for a place in the June 2014 canon, and I’m going to set myself annual iphone reminders to take a few moments once a year to light a candle, maybe even a joss stick, whack Livin La Vida Loca up to 11 and remember all the joy they have given me.

What I want to say now is half-formed, fleeting, fingertips stuff.

When I got home from Mr Burns last night I paced around my kitchen feeling like I’d returned from reading Kant in the uni library all day with an assignment to think impossible thoughts. I felt brilliant. It wasn’t a show without fault (what Dan Rebellato calls its “off-Broadway quirkiness” was defo a bit grating), but it was big and ambitious and different. Admirable sounds like a patronising word to use, but I admire Mr Burns, and all who worked on it.

I also felt like the show had vindicated something about my lifestyle and interests. I care about culture, theatre, art, stories, whatever, so much more than I care about politics or #solidarity or having children or curing disease. I’m so so so grateful that there are people out there doing that shit (however badly, or unethically, or who are fucking martyrs about it) because I simply do not want to bother my arse. My own vanity tells me I’d refuse to salute at Nuremburg but, let’s be honest, I’m doing fuck all about the NHS. When I think about stuff like that - carers, samaritans, protestors, even my Dad doing nightshifts at 60 - it’s easy to be apologetic about working in the arts, about feeling moved by a lighting design, or falling in love with the concept of Regietheater, or the way some white boy with a DIY haircut says the word “asphalt” into a microphone.

————

I’ve been dating a bit recently, and I’ve met people who do brain research, who educate excluded teenagers, advise governments, maintain international communications systems. Jobs that have an immediate, obvious, quantifiable usefulness. (Yes, there was that guy who wrote marketing copy about ready meals, and the one who went on Dragon’s Den to ask for £20k to build a nightclub out of sand, but they’ve mostly done proper jobs.)

“So, what are you into? You work in theatre, yes? Are you an actor?”

“I just look after the office, and write a bit about shows sometimes.”

“Do you like writing then? I swore after I submitted my PhD thesis on the treatment of deaf children in post-genocide Rwanda that I wouldn’t write another word for 5 years.”

Which, admittedly, is better than:

“Yeah? D’you get loads of free tickets? What shows are good at the moment? Have you heard of Punchdrunk?”

————

Mr Burns is CLEVER. Adler and Gibb is CLEVER. I might be selling the text short, but I think Idomeneus was made significantly CLEVERER by Ellen McDougall’s presentation of it. Self-referential, turning inwards, works about being-aboutness. The internet’s appropriation of the term ‘meta’. That picture of Hulk Hogan where someone’s photoshopped his whole face into his beard in this endless chin of recurring Hulk Hogans. Like Catherine says in her (v clever) post, these are “stories about stories”, art about art.

Although maybe they’re not clever at all. Maybe they’re really really really fucking SIMPLE. Maybe there has never actually been a play as simple as Mr Burns before. Maybe Tim Crouch just phoned in a sketchy outline of Adler & Gibb when he heard Vicky F had got the Court job and the rest they sorted out over a few rounds of Zip Zap Boing.

Or maybe it’s because they’re simple – stories about stories – that they have room to play. Maybe I should just fucking get over myself and this obsession with pampered idiots playing fucking games. And maybe it’s the fact that I’m now so used to pampered idiots (my god – have I become a pampered idiot????) that I’m pacing around my kitchen at half-past midnight thinking about Immanuel Kant and lighting design.

————

When I wrote that post from a couple of weeks ago, about London theatre in June and my big, jizzing boner, it seemed to find consensus amongst those people who generally ‘consense’ with me (yeah, I know – shut up).

Somebody said that it felt like something real was happening.

“Something real” – lol.

Pampered idiots playing fucking games.

Then I thought to myself: Shit. Is this it? Is this what we meant two years ago? Two years ago, when we were drunk on Three Kingdoms, doodling Sebastian Nübling’s name (IDST) all over our jotters. Is this the beginning of the future that we imagined Three Kingdoms had started for us?

“Us” – lol.

“I just look after the office, and write a bit about shows sometimes.”

———-

Next date I go on, I’m going to say that I do important work in “cultural memory”. And that research in my field is moving so fast, new discoveries being made so often, that we’re not really in a strong enough position to report on the findings yet.

Do you like to travel?

———-

Tim Walker on Mr Burns: “I have no idea at all what Anne Washburn’s play is supposed to be about, and I doubt very much that she has either.”

Mark Shenton on Adler & Gibb: “…Couldn’t make sense of any of it. At least not in any way that I could become invested in it to the point of caring about anyone in it.” (Dude. What even is that sentence?)

You can imagine them, can’t you - on some critics’ away day, methodically recording Scrabble scores in a long-abandoned tournament while everyone else uses the letters to spell out TITWANK and CUMSHOT for their Facebook header images.

Have you heard of Punchdrunk?


TAGS: theatre mr burns adler and gibb royal court almeida theatre gate theatre idomeneus criticism meta dating

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 6 July 2014

"Purple and red and yellow and on fire"

This is part of ‘Atmosphere’ (shit name) by Edmund de Waal that’s currently installed at Turner Contemporary in Margate. There are quite a few of these long boxes, each carrying tiny little pots, hanging at different levels. It’s the first bit of (non-gift shop) art you see when you arrive, and on the ground floor you can lie on yoga mats and look at it from below. It’s nowt special from there. The fittings and fixtures on the ceiling are a distraction. But then on the mezz level the point of it suddenly becomes clear, as the highest boxes follow the path of the shipping lane on the horizon outside. Gorgeous. 

When I last wrote about the Turner Contemporary on this blog I was getting quite excited about the backlighting on the concrete handrails (still amazing btw) but after my second visit it’s worth giving an official shout out to the fucking brilliant programming and curation too. Six months ago I would’ve rolled my eyes at wankers talking about the “incredible quality of the skies here” (skies, PLURAL) but, fair dos, Margate is 90% sky. It’s overwhelmingly sky. It’s a wonder gravity still works. And in the Turner at the moment every single exhibition references the space it’s in: the building, the beach, the water, the fucking huge, fucking ridiculous sky. The Edmund de Waal was my favourite, but even the Mondrian stuff focuses so closely on the way his boxy stuff all started when he changed the way he painted light - from a full-on Impressionistic sunbeam to a gentle glow from the horizon. It made sense that that story was being told in Margate. 

Then there was the Spencer Finch collection, which could have been a bit obvious with its v superficial weather-focus (hello, MASSIVE PLASTIC CLOUD), but there was also this long series of really dark inkjet photos using fog to force you to (and I can’t decide which) either look really hard or not look hard at all. You start at one end and it’s just grey square, grey square, grey square for aaaages, until you’re really just walking to the end out of obligation because it’d be rude not to look at them all, right? THEN SUDDENLY THEY’RE TREES. And it’s like they’ve been trees all along. I had to walk back down the line again to try to find the photo where the fog cleared and the trees appeared but I swear it didn’t exist. It was like, *tokes hard* the trees had always been trees man, and the fog had just been lifted from inside my mind. For real. 

There is definitely better art than this in the world, but I’m not entirely sure there is better curation.

"Purple and red and yellow and on fire"

This is part of ‘Atmosphere’ (shit name) by Edmund de Waal that’s currently installed at Turner Contemporary in Margate. There are quite a few of these long boxes, each carrying tiny little pots, hanging at different levels. It’s the first bit of (non-gift shop) art you see when you arrive, and on the ground floor you can lie on yoga mats and look at it from below. It’s nowt special from there. The fittings and fixtures on the ceiling are a distraction. But then on the mezz level the point of it suddenly becomes clear, as the highest boxes follow the path of the shipping lane on the horizon outside. Gorgeous.

When I last wrote about the Turner Contemporary on this blog I was getting quite excited about the backlighting on the concrete handrails (still amazing btw) but after my second visit it’s worth giving an official shout out to the fucking brilliant programming and curation too. Six months ago I would’ve rolled my eyes at wankers talking about the “incredible quality of the skies here” (skies, PLURAL) but, fair dos, Margate is 90% sky. It’s overwhelmingly sky. It’s a wonder gravity still works. And in the Turner at the moment every single exhibition references the space it’s in: the building, the beach, the water, the fucking huge, fucking ridiculous sky. The Edmund de Waal was my favourite, but even the Mondrian stuff focuses so closely on the way his boxy stuff all started when he changed the way he painted light - from a full-on Impressionistic sunbeam to a gentle glow from the horizon. It made sense that that story was being told in Margate.

Then there was the Spencer Finch collection, which could have been a bit obvious with its v superficial weather-focus (hello, MASSIVE PLASTIC CLOUD), but there was also this long series of really dark inkjet photos using fog to force you to (and I can’t decide which) either look really hard or not look hard at all. You start at one end and it’s just grey square, grey square, grey square for aaaages, until you’re really just walking to the end out of obligation because it’d be rude not to look at them all, right? THEN SUDDENLY THEY’RE TREES. And it’s like they’ve been trees all along. I had to walk back down the line again to try to find the photo where the fog cleared and the trees appeared but I swear it didn’t exist. It was like, *tokes hard* the trees had always been trees man, and the fog had just been lifted from inside my mind. For real.

There is definitely better art than this in the world, but I’m not entirely sure there is better curation.


TAGS: art turner contemporary margate edmund de waal piet mondrian spencer finch

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 29 June 2014

“You can’t polish a turd.” – old English proverb

Over the past 6 hours at the Coliseum however, it has become clear to me that it is definitely possible to wrap one in gold leaf, drop it back in the bog, and then have the whole toilet anthropomorphise into a grizzly old dude with a colostomy bag who fucks you in the arse with his GOLD LEAF DICK. 

Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament is A TRIP. So let’s just get some of the playground stuff out of the way first, then we can be grown-up about it. 

Yes, it’s a 6 hour film about defecation. Yes, it can loosely be described as “an opera” (*shudder*). Yes, there is anal sex.  Yes, there are close-up sphincter contractions. Yes, there is diahorrea.  Yes, there is a man getting wanked into a lettuce which is then fed to his rival.  Yes, there is a makeshift dildo constructed from a cigar wrapped in shit.  Yes, a woman holds a glass eye in her arsehole.  Yes, the young Norman Mailer delivers a stillborn calf by rudimentary C-section in a septic tank.  This much is true.

Dare I say it though, River of Fundament is LUSH (stop giggling at the back).  A high-definition, big budget, surround sound cinematic vision.  There are gorgeous, sustained images that appeal to a quite intuitive sense of beauty: droplets of mercury gathering on a tabletop, puddles of oil creeping towards each other, the dull glow of lights reflected on gold.  There are moments of genuine intensity, of danger and of endeavour: a stomp-perfect troupe of teenage step-dancers, a circular saw spinning fragments of twisted metal right towards the camera, some Jason Bourne-style cage fighting.  The sound is phenomenal, head-turning stuff.

Then it goes really spectacular.  The scene in this photo happens about 4 hours in.  A car-wreck is fed into a furnace at sundown, and the molten metal pours out while men dressed in gold watch from the top of nearby grain silos.  Towering fucking grain silos.  The scale is enormous, and the logistics mean we must be watching a single take.  An outdoor event on a (post-)industrial scale, with men in protective clothing, squealing brass and rumbling cymbals, flying sparks, hot metal.  And then these gorgeous cascades of glittering grain start to pour from the top of the silos, waaaaaay up in front of the black sky.  It feels live and real and fucking brilliant.

I’m aware that this might all read like a meaningless stream of internet memes (2 girls 1 cup, goatse, neknominate, ruin porn - even #shelfie gets a brief look in at Norman Mailer’s house) but it also becomes a pretty fucking visceral metaphor for decay, rebirth, the nature of living. The French say that an orgasm is a “little death”, don’t they, and this is just transferring that idea of THE END onto taking a dump. One must die to give life and all that.  In a particularly clunky metaphor, guys wade around in a basement which is part septic tank and part greenhouse, but it’s better expressed in countless other ways: the murder victim giving birth to a bird, the maggots on the pig carcass, Detroit’s manufacturing history melted and reformed. Meanwhile, Norman Mailer is preserved in crusty crap forever (marooned on a boat with the golden-cock guy who used to be a toilet) because history refuses to forget him. 

I guess the point is that life is just shitting and fucking, and that’s okay.

“You can’t polish a turd.” – old English proverb

Over the past 6 hours at the Coliseum however, it has become clear to me that it is definitely possible to wrap one in gold leaf, drop it back in the bog, and then have the whole toilet anthropomorphise into a grizzly old dude with a colostomy bag who fucks you in the arse with his GOLD LEAF DICK.

Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament is A TRIP. So let’s just get some of the playground stuff out of the way first, then we can be grown-up about it.

Yes, it’s a 6 hour film about defecation. Yes, it can loosely be described as “an opera” (*shudder*). Yes, there is anal sex. Yes, there are close-up sphincter contractions. Yes, there is diahorrea. Yes, there is a man getting wanked into a lettuce which is then fed to his rival. Yes, there is a makeshift dildo constructed from a cigar wrapped in shit. Yes, a woman holds a glass eye in her arsehole. Yes, the young Norman Mailer delivers a stillborn calf by rudimentary C-section in a septic tank. This much is true.

Dare I say it though, River of Fundament is LUSH (stop giggling at the back). A high-definition, big budget, surround sound cinematic vision. There are gorgeous, sustained images that appeal to a quite intuitive sense of beauty: droplets of mercury gathering on a tabletop, puddles of oil creeping towards each other, the dull glow of lights reflected on gold. There are moments of genuine intensity, of danger and of endeavour: a stomp-perfect troupe of teenage step-dancers, a circular saw spinning fragments of twisted metal right towards the camera, some Jason Bourne-style cage fighting. The sound is phenomenal, head-turning stuff.

Then it goes really spectacular. The scene in this photo happens about 4 hours in. A car-wreck is fed into a furnace at sundown, and the molten metal pours out while men dressed in gold watch from the top of nearby grain silos. Towering fucking grain silos. The scale is enormous, and the logistics mean we must be watching a single take. An outdoor event on a (post-)industrial scale, with men in protective clothing, squealing brass and rumbling cymbals, flying sparks, hot metal. And then these gorgeous cascades of glittering grain start to pour from the top of the silos, waaaaaay up in front of the black sky. It feels live and real and fucking brilliant.

I’m aware that this might all read like a meaningless stream of internet memes (2 girls 1 cup, goatse, neknominate, ruin porn - even #shelfie gets a brief look in at Norman Mailer’s house) but it also becomes a pretty fucking visceral metaphor for decay, rebirth, the nature of living. The French say that an orgasm is a “little death”, don’t they, and this is just transferring that idea of THE END onto taking a dump. One must die to give life and all that. In a particularly clunky metaphor, guys wade around in a basement which is part septic tank and part greenhouse, but it’s better expressed in countless other ways: the murder victim giving birth to a bird, the maggots on the pig carcass, Detroit’s manufacturing history melted and reformed. Meanwhile, Norman Mailer is preserved in crusty crap forever (marooned on a boat with the golden-cock guy who used to be a toilet) because history refuses to forget him.

I guess the point is that life is just shitting and fucking, and that’s okay.


TAGS: matthew barney johnathan bepler river of fundament eno film coliseum opera shit

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 25 June 2014

Our 1971

The music journo and general dad-broadcaster David Hepworth says that 1971 was “the annus mirabilis of the rock album”. Apparently annus mirabilis means “year of wonders” or “year of miracles” (Latin yo).  Led Zep IV, Tapestry, LA Woman, Mud Slide Slim. I have to roll my eyes because Bless The Weather isn’t even John Martyn’s THIRD-BEST album, but I can see his point from an old geezer POV.  

I’ve been thinking about Hepworth’s 1971 thing a fair bit during the last couple of days, because it’s dawned on me that when I’m 60 (in, ahem, 40-45 years or thereabouts…) I’m going to be sitting on my front step in a panama hat, shouting at passers-by that June 2014 was the best, the most consistent, the most visually and intellectually interesting 30 days of theatre London has ever seen. 
Of course, just like David Hepworth, what I actually mean is the best, the most consistent, the most visually and intellectually interesting 30 days of theatre that I have ever seen, but this is my future decrepitude we’re talking about so fuck you.

-Testament by She She Pop (didn’t even mind that it was partly about King Lear because there was DAD-DANCING)
- Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich by Toshiki Ocada (I swear it was the first stage of some weird zen mind-shutdown experiment)
- The Ted Bundy Project by Greg Wohead (this man’s eyes and voice are like a drug) 
- This Is How We Die by Christopher Brett Bailey (AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING)
- Cape Wrath by Third Angel (real, proper pangs of love and sadness)
- Adler & Gibb by Tim Crouch (a play about all the art and performance that has ever existed in the whole world, all at once)

Plus the shows I actually saw in May (or earlier) but which continued their runs in June:

- Quietly from the Dublin Abbey (didn’t. dare. breathe.)
- A View From The Bridge at Young Vic (“His eyes were like tunnels”)
- Show 5 from Secret Theatre (ohmygod I cannot even)

Each one a glorious injection of joy and stimulation.  Future smiles, memories, a ‘happy place’ for crappier times.  And that’s not even including the two drama school shows I saw through work and which were WOW-provoking bits of visual experimentation with confetti and balloons and electrical tape and water tanks and everything. It’s not including Marina Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery which, let’s be honest, could be called theatre pretty fucking easily.  It’s not including Matthew Barney’s 6-hour cinematic opera about ACTUAL SHIT that I’m seeing this Sunday. It’s not including the panel discussion at the ICA in which Matt Trueman flew the flag for a generation of theatre critics that make my heart expand and pupils dilate and tears of love and excitement well up in my eyes.

All this, and I haven’t seen Mr Burns at the Almeida yet, nor Ellen McDougall’s Idomeneus at The Gate.  Seriously, our cups runneth so far fucking over right now…

On Tuesday next week it is the 1st of July.  And on Tuesday next week the Arts Council will announce which organisations will be part of its National Portfolio from 2015-18. That’s their regularly-funded ones: the ones that can plan ahead, strategise, develop concepts over time, and offer consistency of support and opportunities to their pools of amazing freelancers.  There will be good news for many and devastating, career-halting, income-threatening, idea-aborting news for others. 

Whatever happens, we’ll always have June 2014.

Our 1971

The music journo and general dad-broadcaster David Hepworth says that 1971 was “the annus mirabilis of the rock album”. Apparently annus mirabilis means “year of wonders” or “year of miracles” (Latin yo). Led Zep IV, Tapestry, LA Woman, Mud Slide Slim. I have to roll my eyes because Bless The Weather isn’t even John Martyn’s THIRD-BEST album, but I can see his point from an old geezer POV.

I’ve been thinking about Hepworth’s 1971 thing a fair bit during the last couple of days, because it’s dawned on me that when I’m 60 (in, ahem, 40-45 years or thereabouts…) I’m going to be sitting on my front step in a panama hat, shouting at passers-by that June 2014 was the best, the most consistent, the most visually and intellectually interesting 30 days of theatre London has ever seen.

Of course, just like David Hepworth, what I actually mean is the best, the most consistent, the most visually and intellectually interesting 30 days of theatre that I have ever seen, but this is my future decrepitude we’re talking about so fuck you.

-Testament by She She Pop (didn’t even mind that it was partly about King Lear because there was DAD-DANCING)
- Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich by Toshiki Ocada (I swear it was the first stage of some weird zen mind-shutdown experiment)
- The Ted Bundy Project by Greg Wohead (this man’s eyes and voice are like a drug)
- This Is How We Die by Christopher Brett Bailey (AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING)
- Cape Wrath by Third Angel (real, proper pangs of love and sadness)
- Adler & Gibb by Tim Crouch (a play about all the art and performance that has ever existed in the whole world, all at once)

Plus the shows I actually saw in May (or earlier) but which continued their runs in June:

- Quietly from the Dublin Abbey (didn’t. dare. breathe.)
- A View From The Bridge at Young Vic (“His eyes were like tunnels”)
- Show 5 from Secret Theatre (ohmygod I cannot even)

Each one a glorious injection of joy and stimulation. Future smiles, memories, a ‘happy place’ for crappier times. And that’s not even including the two drama school shows I saw through work and which were WOW-provoking bits of visual experimentation with confetti and balloons and electrical tape and water tanks and everything. It’s not including Marina Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery which, let’s be honest, could be called theatre pretty fucking easily. It’s not including Matthew Barney’s 6-hour cinematic opera about ACTUAL SHIT that I’m seeing this Sunday. It’s not including the panel discussion at the ICA in which Matt Trueman flew the flag for a generation of theatre critics that make my heart expand and pupils dilate and tears of love and excitement well up in my eyes.

All this, and I haven’t seen Mr Burns at the Almeida yet, nor Ellen McDougall’s Idomeneus at The Gate. Seriously, our cups runneth so far fucking over right now…

On Tuesday next week it is the 1st of July. And on Tuesday next week the Arts Council will announce which organisations will be part of its National Portfolio from 2015-18. That’s their regularly-funded ones: the ones that can plan ahead, strategise, develop concepts over time, and offer consistency of support and opportunities to their pools of amazing freelancers. There will be good news for many and devastating, career-halting, income-threatening, idea-aborting news for others.

Whatever happens, we’ll always have June 2014.


TAGS: theatre 1971 arts council npo

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 18 June 2014 Let’s make love and listen to Death From Above

I’ve been whinging about not being challenged enough recently. Not being scared or winded or stamped on by performance, not like I want to be. I’ve been complaining about twee: shows with live illustration and home-made instruments and beards and knitwear and ukuleles. String and brown paper. Overhead projectors, bunting. Fucking PUPPETS.

You guys, I have a new hero.

Christopher Brett Bailey. 

When he came out and took his seat on the stage I was like “IT’S THAT GUY!” He’s one of those people you see everywhere and know straight away that he’s an artist just from his hair but who’d have known WHAT AN ARTIST - WHAT. A. FUCKING. ARTIST - he actually is. 

My god. MY GOD.

Christopher Brett Bailey is Allan Ginsberg and Hunter S Thompson and Saul Williams and that big red-lipped mouth from Beckett’s Not I. He’s Josef K and Gregor Samsa. He’s Christian Slater in Heathers, he’s Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction, he’s Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers. He’s cinematic drugs like mescaline and peyote. He’s cigarettes. He’s the taste of cigarettes on a kiss. He’s the revolution that will not be televised. He’s your most fucked-up dream where it turns out the guy you’re fucking is made out of cold tapas meats. He’s Godspeed You Black Emperor. He’s Nine Inch Nails. He’s Aphex Twin in a bikini. He’s everything ever released on Sonic Cathedral. He’s a circular saw, blood spatter, crumbling teeth. He’s diabetes and a thyroid problem. He’s the sound of breaking bones. 

He’s written a show about dying, in which he sits at a desk and talks for an hour, and which is absolutely positively what dying actually must really be like. 

And let me tell you it is fucking incredible.

Let’s make love and listen to Death From Above

I’ve been whinging about not being challenged enough recently. Not being scared or winded or stamped on by performance, not like I want to be. I’ve been complaining about twee: shows with live illustration and home-made instruments and beards and knitwear and ukuleles. String and brown paper. Overhead projectors, bunting. Fucking PUPPETS.

You guys, I have a new hero.

Christopher Brett Bailey.

When he came out and took his seat on the stage I was like “IT’S THAT GUY!” He’s one of those people you see everywhere and know straight away that he’s an artist just from his hair but who’d have known WHAT AN ARTIST - WHAT. A. FUCKING. ARTIST - he actually is.

My god. MY GOD.

Christopher Brett Bailey is Allan Ginsberg and Hunter S Thompson and Saul Williams and that big red-lipped mouth from Beckett’s Not I. He’s Josef K and Gregor Samsa. He’s Christian Slater in Heathers, he’s Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction, he’s Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers. He’s cinematic drugs like mescaline and peyote. He’s cigarettes. He’s the taste of cigarettes on a kiss. He’s the revolution that will not be televised. He’s your most fucked-up dream where it turns out the guy you’re fucking is made out of cold tapas meats. He’s Godspeed You Black Emperor. He’s Nine Inch Nails. He’s Aphex Twin in a bikini. He’s everything ever released on Sonic Cathedral. He’s a circular saw, blood spatter, crumbling teeth. He’s diabetes and a thyroid problem. He’s the sound of breaking bones.

He’s written a show about dying, in which he sits at a desk and talks for an hour, and which is absolutely positively what dying actually must really be like.

And let me tell you it is fucking incredible.


TAGS: christopher Brett Bailey this is how we die theatre ovalhouse

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 10 June 2014

Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich is not entry-level theatre. Or maybe it is, I dunno. On the one hand it’s a ridiculously slow Marxist metaphor for consumerism set in the Japanese equivalent of a Sainsbo’s Local. With “movement”. The stuff of a thousand GCSE coursework projects. (#RIP) 

On the other though, it’s a beautifully crafted piece of endurance art about the particular kind of boredom and resentment that grows within a person forced to work in the customer service industry. It’s boring. It’s largely directionless. Your manager’s a tryhard cunt. 

Your colleagues mumble and won’t look you in the eye. There’s a company policy on the way you must hand over change. The scanner won’t work and there’s a queue forming. Lines are slowed and repeated to fit with dreamy, synthesised phrases of hold music. Bodies flail, half-miming and half… half just swinging their arms around like toddlers who have been told to wait quietly for the bus or they can just plain forget about stopping at the park on the way back. The music is relentless, like being on hold in the nineties, on hold for the whole of the nineties.  There’s this incredible lithium endlessness to it. The supermarket as the waiting room outside life, or something. Everybody hating each other because no-one’s name is being called and the only method of rebellion is the manipulation of bar code data. 

In the end, it’s the customers who crack first, but it’s hardly momentous. The pace had been so perfectly catatonic for the first ninety minutes though that the request to speak to a manager feels like it could tip into Sarah Kane territory. And when that awful awful braindead nokia music finally - finally - disappears under something louder, it’s like an awakening. The difference between sitting in a tepid bath for an hour and sitting in a tepid bath for an hour while the showerhead drips cold water on your face.

I’m suddenly very aware that I’m not exactly selling this as a positive, and it’s definitely not a positive in the way Show 5 was, or Quietly was, or that thing in Berlin with Uncle Vanya and the neon spaceship was, but Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich is a really fucking clever piece of theatremaking, if you like that sort of thing. And don’t mind a bit of prolonged existential numbness. 

Check out the amazing shirts that the shop workers in Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich wear btw. I want one so bad. You can’t really tell from this picture but they have this amazing trapezey shape at the back that I swear proper fashion writers would call “directional”. Forgiving too. You could eat nothing but ice cream for a whole year if you had a shirt like that.

Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich is not entry-level theatre. Or maybe it is, I dunno. On the one hand it’s a ridiculously slow Marxist metaphor for consumerism set in the Japanese equivalent of a Sainsbo’s Local. With “movement”. The stuff of a thousand GCSE coursework projects. (#RIP)

On the other though, it’s a beautifully crafted piece of endurance art about the particular kind of boredom and resentment that grows within a person forced to work in the customer service industry. It’s boring. It’s largely directionless. Your manager’s a tryhard cunt.

Your colleagues mumble and won’t look you in the eye. There’s a company policy on the way you must hand over change. The scanner won’t work and there’s a queue forming. Lines are slowed and repeated to fit with dreamy, synthesised phrases of hold music. Bodies flail, half-miming and half… half just swinging their arms around like toddlers who have been told to wait quietly for the bus or they can just plain forget about stopping at the park on the way back. The music is relentless, like being on hold in the nineties, on hold for the whole of the nineties. There’s this incredible lithium endlessness to it. The supermarket as the waiting room outside life, or something. Everybody hating each other because no-one’s name is being called and the only method of rebellion is the manipulation of bar code data.

In the end, it’s the customers who crack first, but it’s hardly momentous. The pace had been so perfectly catatonic for the first ninety minutes though that the request to speak to a manager feels like it could tip into Sarah Kane territory. And when that awful awful braindead nokia music finally - finally - disappears under something louder, it’s like an awakening. The difference between sitting in a tepid bath for an hour and sitting in a tepid bath for an hour while the showerhead drips cold water on your face.

I’m suddenly very aware that I’m not exactly selling this as a positive, and it’s definitely not a positive in the way Show 5 was, or Quietly was, or that thing in Berlin with Uncle Vanya and the neon spaceship was, but Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich is a really fucking clever piece of theatremaking, if you like that sort of thing. And don’t mind a bit of prolonged existential numbness.


Check out the amazing shirts that the shop workers in Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich wear btw. I want one so bad. You can’t really tell from this picture but they have this amazing trapezey shape at the back that I swear proper fashion writers would call “directional”. Forgiving too. You could eat nothing but ice cream for a whole year if you had a shirt like that.


TAGS: theatre lift super premium soft double vanilla rich

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 7 June 2014

No-hope-us No 7*

I just spent £30 on two wows. That’s £15 per wow. Actually it’s more like £21 per wow because signal failure at Baker Street meant I had to get a cab from Kings Cross. That’s, like, 4 or 5 times more expensive than taking drugs. 

(Don’t read on if you have a ticket for Opus No 7. Despite my bad attitude, it would still be a massive tragedy to have those 2 wows spoilt for you in advance. I can’t actually bear the thought of your ticket plummeting in value any further.)

Opus No 7 starts with that same kind of bleak, Eastern European aesthetic that 1927’s Animals and Children had. (It’s Russian, and it’s about the composer Shostakovich - his life reflected in the Russia of his lifetime: war-torn Jewish ghettos, remembering the dead, state control of art and self-expression.) 

It quickly dispenses its two wows in the first twenty minutes: 

1- The creation of dishevelled, persecuted, characterful Jewish men with a swift blast of black paint on a white wall. Clever. Lovely. 

2- A backlit, whirling storm of shredded newspaper that is blown from fans. It fills the auditorium and covers the audience and gets in our mouths and hair and sticks to our sweaty foreheads before settling in drifts everywhere you look. It’s like being on the Crystal Maze. 

Then there’s a game of football and some projected photographs of those lost to, I presume, labour camps and gas chambers. Piles of children’s shoes to remind us that this is ALL VERY SERIOUS. Some clipped opera singing that is really more like a soundscape. It’s alright, generally. The exhilaration of wow number 2 lingers, so we’re all cool. 

Then there’s the interval, and when we return it’s all different. I get a comfier seat (hooray!) but that’s a short-lived buzz. The giant, Royal de Luxe-style ‘Mother Russia’ puppet looks a bit dodge, like she’s been in some horrific car accident and is still having physio to help with the walking. The nice soundscapes become either total awkward silence, or painfully loud bursts of awful, flag-waving classical crap (I guess by Shostakovich). There’s some circusy, aerial stuff with a light fitting but it’s 90% buggering about with a harness in the tedious shuffling silence. At one point everyone dances with pieces of foam board. There’s HILARIOUS clowning as one performer tries first to hide in a plywood piano and then to escape Mother Russia, who is now dressed like a baddie from Indiana Jones. More wobbly puppetry. More awful METAPHOR-LADEN physical theatre.

Then, in possibly the greatest tragedy of all, the scene that could have been the darkest, the most fearsome, the most cacophonous, the most awesome-in-the-traditional-sense-of-the-word, just plain fails.  Just. plain. FAILS.  I’m talking about those “duelling pianos” that we’ve all been reading about in the preview features.  Which, btw, aren’t part of some cutesy, Chopsticks-style anthropomorphic love scene (as I had imagined, wierdly). These are full-size steel pianos pushed into one another like dodgems. It should have been a bleak, crashing dance of sheet metal music; rusted, spinning, proper Robot Wars stuff, scraping and bouncing and making us flinch; a fucking incredible piece of industrial choreography; loud and scary and brilliant. 

But, crucially, THERE WASN’T ENOUGH ROOM. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to make a massive racket with a shitload of rusty metal on wheels, I’d want to take a fucking run-up. I’d want space to push it away from me and watch it trundle off with my fingers in my ears and my eyes squinting in anticipation of the total jack-knifed carnage at the end. I’d want it to be like when you were a kid and you took it in turns to throw a shopping trolley down a cobbled hill.  I’d want to do it in the Turbine fucking Hall. 

Instead, we saw a bunch of guys struggle to put any weight behind their aggression, penned in and awkward, clanking around like marbles in impotent, H&S-approved clusters. 

Opus No 7: premature ejaculation in the first twenty minutes, then some insistent, needy fumbling, until, finally, the attempt is abandoned in limp frustration. 

I’ll call you a cab.

*high-fives self for first-class wordplay

No-hope-us No 7*

I just spent £30 on two wows. That’s £15 per wow. Actually it’s more like £21 per wow because signal failure at Baker Street meant I had to get a cab from Kings Cross. That’s, like, 4 or 5 times more expensive than taking drugs.

(Don’t read on if you have a ticket for Opus No 7. Despite my bad attitude, it would still be a massive tragedy to have those 2 wows spoilt for you in advance. I can’t actually bear the thought of your ticket plummeting in value any further.)

Opus No 7 starts with that same kind of bleak, Eastern European aesthetic that 1927’s Animals and Children had. (It’s Russian, and it’s about the composer Shostakovich - his life reflected in the Russia of his lifetime: war-torn Jewish ghettos, remembering the dead, state control of art and self-expression.)

It quickly dispenses its two wows in the first twenty minutes:

1- The creation of dishevelled, persecuted, characterful Jewish men with a swift blast of black paint on a white wall. Clever. Lovely.

2- A backlit, whirling storm of shredded newspaper that is blown from fans. It fills the auditorium and covers the audience and gets in our mouths and hair and sticks to our sweaty foreheads before settling in drifts everywhere you look. It’s like being on the Crystal Maze.

Then there’s a game of football and some projected photographs of those lost to, I presume, labour camps and gas chambers. Piles of children’s shoes to remind us that this is ALL VERY SERIOUS. Some clipped opera singing that is really more like a soundscape. It’s alright, generally. The exhilaration of wow number 2 lingers, so we’re all cool.

Then there’s the interval, and when we return it’s all different. I get a comfier seat (hooray!) but that’s a short-lived buzz. The giant, Royal de Luxe-style ‘Mother Russia’ puppet looks a bit dodge, like she’s been in some horrific car accident and is still having physio to help with the walking. The nice soundscapes become either total awkward silence, or painfully loud bursts of awful, flag-waving classical crap (I guess by Shostakovich). There’s some circusy, aerial stuff with a light fitting but it’s 90% buggering about with a harness in the tedious shuffling silence. At one point everyone dances with pieces of foam board. There’s HILARIOUS clowning as one performer tries first to hide in a plywood piano and then to escape Mother Russia, who is now dressed like a baddie from Indiana Jones. More wobbly puppetry. More awful METAPHOR-LADEN physical theatre.

Then, in possibly the greatest tragedy of all, the scene that could have been the darkest, the most fearsome, the most cacophonous, the most awesome-in-the-traditional-sense-of-the-word, just plain fails. Just. plain. FAILS. I’m talking about those “duelling pianos” that we’ve all been reading about in the preview features. Which, btw, aren’t part of some cutesy, Chopsticks-style anthropomorphic love scene (as I had imagined, wierdly). These are full-size steel pianos pushed into one another like dodgems. It should have been a bleak, crashing dance of sheet metal music; rusted, spinning, proper Robot Wars stuff, scraping and bouncing and making us flinch; a fucking incredible piece of industrial choreography; loud and scary and brilliant.

But, crucially, THERE WASN’T ENOUGH ROOM. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to make a massive racket with a shitload of rusty metal on wheels, I’d want to take a fucking run-up. I’d want space to push it away from me and watch it trundle off with my fingers in my ears and my eyes squinting in anticipation of the total jack-knifed carnage at the end. I’d want it to be like when you were a kid and you took it in turns to throw a shopping trolley down a cobbled hill. I’d want to do it in the Turbine fucking Hall.

Instead, we saw a bunch of guys struggle to put any weight behind their aggression, penned in and awkward, clanking around like marbles in impotent, H&S-approved clusters.

Opus No 7: premature ejaculation in the first twenty minutes, then some insistent, needy fumbling, until, finally, the attempt is abandoned in limp frustration.

I’ll call you a cab.


*high-fives self for first-class wordplay


TAGS: theatre opus no 7 barbican lift shostakovich dmitry krymov

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 27 May 2014 My mother was down the street in one stride. Her screaming could’ve woken the dead.

Didn’t though.
A new drama started on the telly last week. It was trailed as being all about the IRA bomb detonated in Manchester city centre, 1996. (In reality, it seems to be more about Philip Glenister and his brother having simultaneous midlife crises, but there are a few scenes filmed in the Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball factory so it’s not all bad.) 

I was 12 when the Manchester bomb went off, and it felt like a big deal. I recognised that shopping street, knew the bridge bit of the Arndale that was on all the news reports and front pages. A few days later Mum and I went to see Van Morrison and Ray Charles co-headline the Nynex (the “Nynex” - sounds so VINTAGE - it’s gonna be the “Phones4U Arena” or summut soon) and I have this vivid, vivid memory of the cab journey back to Piccadilly station. It feels almost cinematic in my head. Mum (just turned 40 I think), me (12), both faced towards each other in the back of the cab, turning to look out of the back window. Market Street was still a mess. Cordoned off by police and covered in glass. I remember being astonished by the amount of broken glass. You could’ve kicked through it like a deep snowfall. In my head I was like “surely all that glass can’t have come out of just those buildings…” but it was so sobering, such a monumentally arresting image for 12 year old me, I don’t think I said that out loud or anything. I just kept looking at it all.
Tonight I went to see Quietly at the Soho, the Dublin Abbey’s production that went to Edinburgh last summer. I don’t book for shows like it anymore. When I took my seat I laughed to myself that the set, a pub, looks like an actual pub. No weird concept shit here.  Fruit machine, Sky box, a fire exit mundane enough to prompt a pre-show announcement that in the event of fire we definitely should not treat it as a means of escape. 
And then some guys appear, one-by-one, watch the footy and have a chat, and on the cramped, sold out benches of the Soho, there was absolute fucking silence from every single person in the room. What we were watching was the “truth and reconciliation” between two men who had known the Troubles in Belfast in 1974, up close. Not out of a Manc cabbie’s back window in 1996. It’s sadness and violence and regret. And about halfway through the show there is this pause, mid-confession, from a 52 year old man with a beard and a pint, that I swear - I swear - is the most intense pause I have ever witnessed.  On any stage.  It was a pause that expanded like a bubble from his head like some CGI-ed sci-fi ray and enveloped the fuck out of my entire consciousness and I promise I’ve not even had a drink because I’m on antibiotics for a kidney infection until next weekend.
Quietly is not perfect (there is a slightly weaker performance from a supporting actor and I’m not 100% convinced by the number of beer mats either), but it is an absolute fucking lesson in pace and tension and weighty, weighty silence.

The IRA bomb of 1996 was the best thing to happen to Manchester.  People really mean that when they say it.  It meant that the Manchester I became an adult in was a global cultural city, rebuilt and re-purposed.  Bars and hotels and new stadia.  Urbis and the goths of Cathedral Gardens.  Gig venues with licensed door staff, in-house medics, running water.  

And, later, a BBC drama with Philip Glenister confronting his childhood demons in a sweet factory.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, a 52 year old man with a beard and a pint pauses.

You should go and see Quietly.  It’s at the Soho until the 22nd of June.

My mother was down the street in one stride. Her screaming could’ve woken the dead.

Didn’t though.

A new drama started on the telly last week. It was trailed as being all about the IRA bomb detonated in Manchester city centre, 1996. (In reality, it seems to be more about Philip Glenister and his brother having simultaneous midlife crises, but there are a few scenes filmed in the Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball factory so it’s not all bad.)

I was 12 when the Manchester bomb went off, and it felt like a big deal. I recognised that shopping street, knew the bridge bit of the Arndale that was on all the news reports and front pages. A few days later Mum and I went to see Van Morrison and Ray Charles co-headline the Nynex (the “Nynex” - sounds so VINTAGE - it’s gonna be the “Phones4U Arena” or summut soon) and I have this vivid, vivid memory of the cab journey back to Piccadilly station. It feels almost cinematic in my head. Mum (just turned 40 I think), me (12), both faced towards each other in the back of the cab, turning to look out of the back window. Market Street was still a mess. Cordoned off by police and covered in glass. I remember being astonished by the amount of broken glass. You could’ve kicked through it like a deep snowfall. In my head I was like “surely all that glass can’t have come out of just those buildings…” but it was so sobering, such a monumentally arresting image for 12 year old me, I don’t think I said that out loud or anything. I just kept looking at it all.

Tonight I went to see Quietly at the Soho, the Dublin Abbey’s production that went to Edinburgh last summer. I don’t book for shows like it anymore. When I took my seat I laughed to myself that the set, a pub, looks like an actual pub. No weird concept shit here. Fruit machine, Sky box, a fire exit mundane enough to prompt a pre-show announcement that in the event of fire we definitely should not treat it as a means of escape.

And then some guys appear, one-by-one, watch the footy and have a chat, and on the cramped, sold out benches of the Soho, there was absolute fucking silence from every single person in the room. What we were watching was the “truth and reconciliation” between two men who had known the Troubles in Belfast in 1974, up close. Not out of a Manc cabbie’s back window in 1996. It’s sadness and violence and regret. And about halfway through the show there is this pause, mid-confession, from a 52 year old man with a beard and a pint, that I swear - I swear - is the most intense pause I have ever witnessed. On any stage. It was a pause that expanded like a bubble from his head like some CGI-ed sci-fi ray and enveloped the fuck out of my entire consciousness and I promise I’ve not even had a drink because I’m on antibiotics for a kidney infection until next weekend.

Quietly is not perfect (there is a slightly weaker performance from a supporting actor and I’m not 100% convinced by the number of beer mats either), but it is an absolute fucking lesson in pace and tension and weighty, weighty silence.

The IRA bomb of 1996 was the best thing to happen to Manchester. People really mean that when they say it. It meant that the Manchester I became an adult in was a global cultural city, rebuilt and re-purposed. Bars and hotels and new stadia. Urbis and the goths of Cathedral Gardens. Gig venues with licensed door staff, in-house medics, running water.

And, later, a BBC drama with Philip Glenister confronting his childhood demons in a sweet factory.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, a 52 year old man with a beard and a pint pauses.

You should go and see Quietly. It’s at the Soho until the 22nd of June.


TAGS: manchester theatre abbey theatre soho theatre quietly ira troubles reconciliation ireland

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 25 May 2014

Descartes = bullshit

Went to see Incognito at The Bush tonight, and spent the whole journey home going “why would you build a set that was basically just a climbing frame and then NOT have the actors climb on it?”  But then I was trying to find a picture of Brighton’s West Pier to title this post, because there was this recurring image of the starlings that a couple of the characters kept coming back to, and I was like OH OF COURSE. The set was meant to be like the ruined West Pier!  Except it was too straight and too silver and didn’t have any tiers and looked so new and basically didn’t work at all.  It just looked like a climbing frame that they didn’t fucking climb on.

And another fucking thing.  There was an old guy in the play - 80 by the end - whose memory was all fucked up.  He only had the shortest of short-term memories ever, apart from anything to do with his wife, whereby he remembered ancient history but nothing else.  Pretty sure he was a famous neurological test case.  I’ve heard of him before.  But when he was 80 he was still talking about going to Brighton to see the West Pier starlings on their honeymoon, like, 50+ years before, except the pier didn’t close until 1975 and starlings wouldn’t have roosted in amongst the candyfloss sellers and stuff, would they?  So she can’t have wanted to go to see the starlings back when they first got married, could she?  

So, a couple of quibbles.  But it was pretty good really.  Decent accents.  Nice, fast moving scenes.  Cast taking multiple roles in muted, complementary shades of jumper.  It took a long to time to show us its cards - tell us what it was actually about - but when it did the payoff was interesting, if not moving. Some nice parallel stories that explore the science behind the self. (Spoiler: you don’t have an identity, ‘you’ isn’t a tangible thing, personalities aren’t real, you may as well just kill yourself because you basically already don’t exist.)

Incognito is an intellectual play rather than an emotional play, which I guess is fair enough when you’re writing about the brain.  But I like to feel, not think.  And they could’ve fucking climbed on that set just a tiny bit.

Descartes = bullshit

Went to see Incognito at The Bush tonight, and spent the whole journey home going “why would you build a set that was basically just a climbing frame and then NOT have the actors climb on it?” But then I was trying to find a picture of Brighton’s West Pier to title this post, because there was this recurring image of the starlings that a couple of the characters kept coming back to, and I was like OH OF COURSE. The set was meant to be like the ruined West Pier! Except it was too straight and too silver and didn’t have any tiers and looked so new and basically didn’t work at all. It just looked like a climbing frame that they didn’t fucking climb on.

And another fucking thing. There was an old guy in the play - 80 by the end - whose memory was all fucked up. He only had the shortest of short-term memories ever, apart from anything to do with his wife, whereby he remembered ancient history but nothing else. Pretty sure he was a famous neurological test case. I’ve heard of him before. But when he was 80 he was still talking about going to Brighton to see the West Pier starlings on their honeymoon, like, 50+ years before, except the pier didn’t close until 1975 and starlings wouldn’t have roosted in amongst the candyfloss sellers and stuff, would they? So she can’t have wanted to go to see the starlings back when they first got married, could she?

So, a couple of quibbles. But it was pretty good really. Decent accents. Nice, fast moving scenes. Cast taking multiple roles in muted, complementary shades of jumper. It took a long to time to show us its cards - tell us what it was actually about - but when it did the payoff was interesting, if not moving. Some nice parallel stories that explore the science behind the self. (Spoiler: you don’t have an identity, ‘you’ isn’t a tangible thing, personalities aren’t real, you may as well just kill yourself because you basically already don’t exist.)

Incognito is an intellectual play rather than an emotional play, which I guess is fair enough when you’re writing about the brain. But I like to feel, not think. And they could’ve fucking climbed on that set just a tiny bit.


TAGS: theatre the bush incognito

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 16 May 2014

New favourite artist: Matthew Sawyer

He has an exhibition opening in Exeter, but that may as well be the moon.

:(


TAGS: art matthew sawyer

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 15 May 2014

Hey yo that girl looks goooood

I wrote a whole post about Spring Awakening on the train from Liverpool to Crewe, saying how brilliant it was and how spoilt I feel after seeing what could be three of my shows-of-the-year in one 10-day period. Then on the bus from Crewe to Sandbach my jubilation started to fade and questions have crept in, mainly about a scene in which Yahoo Answers helps guide these confused teenagers through their own personal ethics. 3 hours ago: loved it. It felt like a witty reference and the moral felt like an anti-moral. You know how I love a bit of ambiguity, a bit of ‘who knows…’, a bit of a narrative shrug. And yet the final Yahoo Answer (was it supposed to be coming from beyond the grave? I’m not sure…) was so very definite in its uncertainty. We weren’t being asked to listen to some views on life and then go away to consider where to mark our ballots, but, more importantly, neither were the characters onstage, for whom the moral compass was most needed. (Obvs now I’m 30 I’ve got it all figured out and don’t make mistakes anymore innit.) No, we got a series of responses: some potentially useful, some daft, some curtailed as if scrolled past in haste, and then we got THE IMPORTANT ONE. THE RIGHT ONE.

THE ONE THAT GOT THE SPECIAL INTONATION.

THE ONE THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY THE DEAD GIRL AND - YOU GUYS!- RIGHT AND WRONG DON’T EVEN EXIST APART FROM IN OUR MINDS MAN.

It feels a bit like they found an answer - an anti-answer - where there isn’t one. It feels like they treated a very realistic confusion as if it was a mutually-agreed conclusion.

It’s a minor, tiny, ridiculous niggle in a show that was pretty fucking flawless in every other respect. But I don’t think it’s an insignificant one.  

Anyway, here is the rest of the thoughts I drafted before I started to have second thoughts about that one scene, because if there’s one thing that this show did perfectly, awkwardly, intensely right, it was to show us just how quickly teenage experience changes. #AOLchatrooms4eva

*****

If I’d have seen Spring Awakening a year ago I would’ve been all about the design. Joe Hill-Gibbins’ Edward II was my show of 2013 for that reason, but I feel like I’ve now seen enough work with that self-consciously theatre-y aesthetic that I can see past the live projection and costume rails and, y’know, actually pay attention to the words they’re speaking. 

I got my first mobile phone when I was 16. It was pay as you go, on Orange, and the handset was made by Bosch. One of my boyfriends from that time used to take the piss out of it because didn’t Bosch make drills? (He had a Nokia. He was way cooler than me. Used to go jet-skiing in North Wales at the weekend. Seriously. All boyfriends a disappointment since.)

So. I was at sixth form before I got a phone. A phone that would only store 10 text messages, never mind open YouTube. Which, btw, hadn’t even been invented. Some people had dial-up internet, piped into the communal home office via an extended phone cable, coiled in masking tape on the landing, but most didn’t. Boys still found porn in bushes behind the tennis courts when I was growing up. I was (on paper at least) a real life adult before those 2 girls even got hold of that 1 cup.  

What I can’t decide, what I can’t work out, is if that makes my teenage experience unrecognisable to today’s 14 year olds, or, actually, just the same old shit*, except happening more publicly, more readily, with faster download speeds. 

My mate Ben Tarbard had a video on his computer of a woman taking a shit on a man’s chest. It had probably taken him all day to download. I walked into his bedroom at a party to find a group of teenage boys (aged 14? 15?) howling with disgust, laughter, but with eyes totally fucking LOCKED onto the screen. Nice boys. Doctors now, teachers, software developers, something with pensions. Some of them married. Kids too. Boys your mum would approve of. (I generally went for the boys your mum wouldn’t approve of so god only knows what filth they were watching.)

This is kinda the point of this Spring Awakening - Anja Reiss’s Spring Awakening. That “sexual imagery” is everywhere. That there’s a bombardment of “advice” and “information” and just basic how to live stuff. In a way, it’s great. We can pick the voices we want to listen to from a whole enormous supermarket of opinions. But that supermarket of opinions, built on the same fundamentally Tory model of choice that meant I was waiting for A BUS outside what was once one of the most significant rail travel hubs in the UK (soz - terrible metaphor), is also a terrifying, dizzying cacophony.  How do you tell the difference between right and wrong? How do you know which websites have the best opinions? How do you know which are the healthy porn sites and which are the really sick ones? How do you tell the difference between good people and bad people? How am I supposed to know who to believe?

(Spoiler!) 

You don’t. 

When I was 16 Slipknot taught us that People = SHIT. Now I am 30 I know that People = shit and brilliant and cruel and funny and selfish and sexy and generous and also totally embarrassing wankers who you wouldn’t be seen dead with.

I think that’s progress. But, like I said, you still got your porn from the bushes behind the tennis courts when I was a teenager. I’d already made a few important choices about who I was going to become before they turned the volume up. 

Getting back to the show for a min, I liked that it was framed a bit like a school play. Not overtly, not like that vomitfest Nativity with Martin Freeman or anything, but with a young cast taking on the roles of teachers and parents as well as ‘themselves’. In fact, forget the school play thing. It’s more like the bit at the end of a GCSE Drama class on a rainy Tuesday, where you share what you’ve just been doing for 45 mins (39 mins of re-enacting that Daft Punk video and 6 minutes of making a thing). And that, of course, is where it all fucks up. Two people coming on as one character at the same time, confusion as a performer didn’t realise they were actually talking about rape, and “shut up, my mum would never say it like that!” They’re all trying to play the part of GOOD PEOPLE but they don’t know what a good person is.

So this blog post is basically me just regurgitating the whole point of Spring Awakening. Oh well. The tour’s nearly over now anyway. And I’ve not thought about the ACTUAL WORDS of a show this much in fucking years. Probs since GCSE Drama.

I dunno what that tells you. *shrugs*


 (*including, apparently, listening to No Diggity, which is, like, 17 years old or something but I’ll forgive them that because let’s not pretend it’s not a stone cold fucking classic.)

Hey yo that girl looks goooood

I wrote a whole post about Spring Awakening on the train from Liverpool to Crewe, saying how brilliant it was and how spoilt I feel after seeing what could be three of my shows-of-the-year in one 10-day period. Then on the bus from Crewe to Sandbach my jubilation started to fade and questions have crept in, mainly about a scene in which Yahoo Answers helps guide these confused teenagers through their own personal ethics. 3 hours ago: loved it. It felt like a witty reference and the moral felt like an anti-moral. You know how I love a bit of ambiguity, a bit of ‘who knows…’, a bit of a narrative shrug. And yet the final Yahoo Answer (was it supposed to be coming from beyond the grave? I’m not sure…) was so very definite in its uncertainty. We weren’t being asked to listen to some views on life and then go away to consider where to mark our ballots, but, more importantly, neither were the characters onstage, for whom the moral compass was most needed. (Obvs now I’m 30 I’ve got it all figured out and don’t make mistakes anymore innit.) No, we got a series of responses: some potentially useful, some daft, some curtailed as if scrolled past in haste, and then we got THE IMPORTANT ONE. THE RIGHT ONE.

THE ONE THAT GOT THE SPECIAL INTONATION.

THE ONE THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY THE DEAD GIRL AND - YOU GUYS!- RIGHT AND WRONG DON’T EVEN EXIST APART FROM IN OUR MINDS MAN.

It feels a bit like they found an answer - an anti-answer - where there isn’t one. It feels like they treated a very realistic confusion as if it was a mutually-agreed conclusion.

It’s a minor, tiny, ridiculous niggle in a show that was pretty fucking flawless in every other respect. But I don’t think it’s an insignificant one.

Anyway, here is the rest of the thoughts I drafted before I started to have second thoughts about that one scene, because if there’s one thing that this show did perfectly, awkwardly, intensely right, it was to show us just how quickly teenage experience changes. #AOLchatrooms4eva

*****

If I’d have seen Spring Awakening a year ago I would’ve been all about the design. Joe Hill-Gibbins’ Edward II was my show of 2013 for that reason, but I feel like I’ve now seen enough work with that self-consciously theatre-y aesthetic that I can see past the live projection and costume rails and, y’know, actually pay attention to the words they’re speaking.

I got my first mobile phone when I was 16. It was pay as you go, on Orange, and the handset was made by Bosch. One of my boyfriends from that time used to take the piss out of it because didn’t Bosch make drills? (He had a Nokia. He was way cooler than me. Used to go jet-skiing in North Wales at the weekend. Seriously. All boyfriends a disappointment since.)

So. I was at sixth form before I got a phone. A phone that would only store 10 text messages, never mind open YouTube. Which, btw, hadn’t even been invented. Some people had dial-up internet, piped into the communal home office via an extended phone cable, coiled in masking tape on the landing, but most didn’t. Boys still found porn in bushes behind the tennis courts when I was growing up. I was (on paper at least) a real life adult before those 2 girls even got hold of that 1 cup.

What I can’t decide, what I can’t work out, is if that makes my teenage experience unrecognisable to today’s 14 year olds, or, actually, just the same old shit*, except happening more publicly, more readily, with faster download speeds.

My mate Ben Tarbard had a video on his computer of a woman taking a shit on a man’s chest. It had probably taken him all day to download. I walked into his bedroom at a party to find a group of teenage boys (aged 14? 15?) howling with disgust, laughter, but with eyes totally fucking LOCKED onto the screen. Nice boys. Doctors now, teachers, software developers, something with pensions. Some of them married. Kids too. Boys your mum would approve of. (I generally went for the boys your mum wouldn’t approve of so god only knows what filth they were watching.)

This is kinda the point of this Spring Awakening - Anja Reiss’s Spring Awakening. That “sexual imagery” is everywhere. That there’s a bombardment of “advice” and “information” and just basic how to live stuff. In a way, it’s great. We can pick the voices we want to listen to from a whole enormous supermarket of opinions. But that supermarket of opinions, built on the same fundamentally Tory model of choice that meant I was waiting for A BUS outside what was once one of the most significant rail travel hubs in the UK (soz - terrible metaphor), is also a terrifying, dizzying cacophony. How do you tell the difference between right and wrong? How do you know which websites have the best opinions? How do you know which are the healthy porn sites and which are the really sick ones? How do you tell the difference between good people and bad people? How am I supposed to know who to believe?

(Spoiler!)

You don’t.

When I was 16 Slipknot taught us that People = SHIT. Now I am 30 I know that People = shit and brilliant and cruel and funny and selfish and sexy and generous and also totally embarrassing wankers who you wouldn’t be seen dead with.

I think that’s progress. But, like I said, you still got your porn from the bushes behind the tennis courts when I was a teenager. I’d already made a few important choices about who I was going to become before they turned the volume up.

Getting back to the show for a min, I liked that it was framed a bit like a school play. Not overtly, not like that vomitfest Nativity with Martin Freeman or anything, but with a young cast taking on the roles of teachers and parents as well as ‘themselves’. In fact, forget the school play thing. It’s more like the bit at the end of a GCSE Drama class on a rainy Tuesday, where you share what you’ve just been doing for 45 mins (39 mins of re-enacting that Daft Punk video and 6 minutes of making a thing). And that, of course, is where it all fucks up. Two people coming on as one character at the same time, confusion as a performer didn’t realise they were actually talking about rape, and “shut up, my mum would never say it like that!” They’re all trying to play the part of GOOD PEOPLE but they don’t know what a good person is.

So this blog post is basically me just regurgitating the whole point of Spring Awakening. Oh well. The tour’s nearly over now anyway. And I’ve not thought about the ACTUAL WORDS of a show this much in fucking years. Probs since GCSE Drama.

I dunno what that tells you. *shrugs*


(*including, apparently, listening to No Diggity, which is, like, 17 years old or something but I’ll forgive them that because let’s not pretend it’s not a stone cold fucking classic.)


TAGS: theatre headlong spring awakening