synonymsforchurlish / posted on 19 September 2014

How brilliant is The Outdoors? 

Fucking WELL BRILLIANT. 

I’m just back from a scratch of a new show that takes place outside, at dusk, in a motherfucking FOREST. But I’m not going to talk about that right now. I’m going to talk about NATURE and shit.

The countryside’s been on my mind a bit recently. I’ve been in London all summer long, holding the fort at work, trying out all the different air con settings, sweating on the tube. We have a decent patch of garden at ours, but it’s down the bottom of next door’s bit and the lawnmower cable won’t reach the house and about ten years ago some cunt planted the world’s most aggressive bamboo down there so, basically, good fucking luck even getting the gate to open now. (Rosie actually fought her way out there to film an Ice Bucket Challenge a few weeks ago. She looks like she’s doing it in the fucking Congo.)

Summer in London with (effectively) no garden. A snatched twenty minutes at lunchtime down by the river, or on Millennium Green by the Old Vic. People everywhere, phone playlists and boxes of chicken. My parents came to visit for a weekend and I wouldn’t let them go to Portobello Market because I couldn’t bear the thought of it. Instead I dragged them out to the Olympic Park in the hope that we could find a quiet spot in which to just zen the fuck out a bit. They’ve probably not stopped worrying since.

And then the referendum in Scotland. I became aware of how emotionally-driven my political opinions are, started looking back at photos of Loch Eil, Lochailort, the beaches at Arisaig. The stillness! The tranquility! The fucking great big majesty of it all! Look at it all! It’s massive! The land of my birth! Look! A stag! A seal! A golden fucking eagle! It’s no wonder I’m feeling oppressed by North London. Have you fucking SEEN where I come from?

Then tonight. “Meg, do you want to go to this R&D sharing in Epping Forest?” I found it on the map and the little patch of green looked about as big as the bamboo plantation we’ve got out the back here. 

"Call that a forest mate. I grew up with GOLDEN EAGLES my friend."

————-

I’m not going to get all reactionary, all big-R Romantic about this, but when I got to the meeting point after work, not far from Chingford Station, I was being a bit of a pillock about breathing. Y’know, all that wow fill your lungs doesn’t it just smell AMAZING bullshit that city people do as soon as they can feel a breeze. I got a bit quiet as I watched the mist gathering on top of the trees. Then got a bit excited at the thought of actually - !!!! - going into the woods after dark!!! First we walked through the clearing where (no word of a lie) a couple of teenagers were fucking CANTERING AROUND ON HORSES and laughing with ACTUAL GLEE and (get this) NOT EVEN STICKING TO THE PATHS. Just, like, racing their ponies round in circles and shouting to each other and being teenage and happy and unafraid. 

And then we walked into the woods as it got dark and it was fucking nothing like Latitude or End Of The Road or any of those overcrowded fucking labour camps. It wasn’t exactly quiet (it’s under some flight path or another) but the dark was flexing and, outside our small chattering group, we were alone. We saw a frog. Like, just fucking hopping about in the grass in front of us like it didn’t give a fuck. And we watched the performance under a canopy of trees that felt like an actual secret. Nothing’s secret in London. Nowhere is fucking secret. There are websites that list the “secret” places you can visit. Time Out runs fucking features on “secret”. 

Then. THEN! (And this is totally the best part.) Then: when we walked back out of the forest an hour later, that clearing - where the girls had been laughing with the horses - was like another fucking planet. Proper Star Trek shit. All the mist had settled, so thickly that our torch beams were like these huge, tangible triangular wedges in the air. The streetlights half a mile away had become this nuclear glow on the horizon, as if some lighting designer had tripped over the desk and accidentally backlit the whole fucking world. I started to do my bouncy slow-mo zero gravity walk because A) I’m fucking hilarious, and B) IT JUST FELT LIKE THE NATURAL WAY TO MOVE IN THAT ENVIRONMENT.

—————

10 minutes walk from Chingford Station. 2 buses home to North Finchley. 66 minutes from forest to sofa. 

PROPER OUTSIDE.

How brilliant is The Outdoors?

Fucking WELL BRILLIANT.

I’m just back from a scratch of a new show that takes place outside, at dusk, in a motherfucking FOREST. But I’m not going to talk about that right now. I’m going to talk about NATURE and shit.

The countryside’s been on my mind a bit recently. I’ve been in London all summer long, holding the fort at work, trying out all the different air con settings, sweating on the tube. We have a decent patch of garden at ours, but it’s down the bottom of next door’s bit and the lawnmower cable won’t reach the house and about ten years ago some cunt planted the world’s most aggressive bamboo down there so, basically, good fucking luck even getting the gate to open now. (Rosie actually fought her way out there to film an Ice Bucket Challenge a few weeks ago. She looks like she’s doing it in the fucking Congo.)

Summer in London with (effectively) no garden. A snatched twenty minutes at lunchtime down by the river, or on Millennium Green by the Old Vic. People everywhere, phone playlists and boxes of chicken. My parents came to visit for a weekend and I wouldn’t let them go to Portobello Market because I couldn’t bear the thought of it. Instead I dragged them out to the Olympic Park in the hope that we could find a quiet spot in which to just zen the fuck out a bit. They’ve probably not stopped worrying since.

And then the referendum in Scotland. I became aware of how emotionally-driven my political opinions are, started looking back at photos of Loch Eil, Lochailort, the beaches at Arisaig. The stillness! The tranquility! The fucking great big majesty of it all! Look at it all! It’s massive! The land of my birth! Look! A stag! A seal! A golden fucking eagle! It’s no wonder I’m feeling oppressed by North London. Have you fucking SEEN where I come from?

Then tonight. “Meg, do you want to go to this R&D sharing in Epping Forest?” I found it on the map and the little patch of green looked about as big as the bamboo plantation we’ve got out the back here.

"Call that a forest mate. I grew up with GOLDEN EAGLES my friend."

————-

I’m not going to get all reactionary, all big-R Romantic about this, but when I got to the meeting point after work, not far from Chingford Station, I was being a bit of a pillock about breathing. Y’know, all that wow fill your lungs doesn’t it just smell AMAZING bullshit that city people do as soon as they can feel a breeze. I got a bit quiet as I watched the mist gathering on top of the trees. Then got a bit excited at the thought of actually - !!!! - going into the woods after dark!!! First we walked through the clearing where (no word of a lie) a couple of teenagers were fucking CANTERING AROUND ON HORSES and laughing with ACTUAL GLEE and (get this) NOT EVEN STICKING TO THE PATHS. Just, like, racing their ponies round in circles and shouting to each other and being teenage and happy and unafraid.

And then we walked into the woods as it got dark and it was fucking nothing like Latitude or End Of The Road or any of those overcrowded fucking labour camps. It wasn’t exactly quiet (it’s under some flight path or another) but the dark was flexing and, outside our small chattering group, we were alone. We saw a frog. Like, just fucking hopping about in the grass in front of us like it didn’t give a fuck. And we watched the performance under a canopy of trees that felt like an actual secret. Nothing’s secret in London. Nowhere is fucking secret. There are websites that list the “secret” places you can visit. Time Out runs fucking features on “secret”.

Then. THEN! (And this is totally the best part.) Then: when we walked back out of the forest an hour later, that clearing - where the girls had been laughing with the horses - was like another fucking planet. Proper Star Trek shit. All the mist had settled, so thickly that our torch beams were like these huge, tangible triangular wedges in the air. The streetlights half a mile away had become this nuclear glow on the horizon, as if some lighting designer had tripped over the desk and accidentally backlit the whole fucking world. I started to do my bouncy slow-mo zero gravity walk because A) I’m fucking hilarious, and B) IT JUST FELT LIKE THE NATURAL WAY TO MOVE IN THAT ENVIRONMENT.

—————

10 minutes walk from Chingford Station. 2 buses home to North Finchley. 66 minutes from forest to sofa.

PROPER OUTSIDE.


TAGS: nature chingford epping forest theatre london

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 13 September 2014

"Bring the happy? Fuck off."

(That’s me.) 

"If there’s bunting I’m fucking leaving."

I don’t like twee. I don’t like cutesy. I don’t like ukuleles or animation or any of that homemade bollocks. I am not the sort of person to book for a show called Bring The Happy. 

"Bring The Happy?" Fuck off. 

So, I admit, I was there because of friends and because of a venue I hadn’t visited before and because I know someone who once shagged the trumpet player. I guess I was just a bit curious.

And it turns out Bring The Happy is totally, utterly joyful. It’s tough on a critical level because it might be ever so slightly manipulative in the way an X Factor montage is manipulative. It knows what it’s doing. And there’s no fucking bunting at least. Did any of you see Love Letters by Uninvited Guests, or Prudencia Hart by NTS? Because this room is set out like a wedding, with cabaret tables and free wine (I meant to nick a balloon but I was too pissed by the end to remember), and the show is constructed from the unguarded sincerity of its local participants, so I guess if I was thick and shallow I’d say something like “it’s Love Letters crossed with Prudencia Hart with added PARTICIPATION.”

Actually though. It’s more like Show 5.  Secret Theatre’s Show 5. It made me feel more like the way Show 5 made me feel than anything else has done recently. It made me feel more than anything else has made me feel recently. 

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently, about Little Revolution, class and agency, about These Are Your Lives, pretence and reality, about Wuthering Heights, absence and fondness, and, frankly, I’m a bit bored of thinking. I want to feel. I always want to feel. Thinking’s something I do when no-one’s given me the opportunity to feel anything. 

Bring The Happy has been created using material gathered during an intensive data collection period. It’s a bottom-up show. Its material is from its audience. But let’s be honest about the really exciting thing here:

"Data." "Collection." 

*rubs thighs* 
I suppose it is COMMUNITY THEATRE in that it listens, asks questions, gives a voice, agency. Maps the happiness of local people in order to draw on their histories to create to show about feeling. A local show for local people. It’s real stuff, heartstring stuff, stoic stuff, silent-tear-rolling-down-a-cheek stuff. There’s a band, Hope and Social, which I last saw at the Bull and Gate (when I probably wasn’t very happy at all tbh) and which, even without any overt theatrical manipulation, offer an emotionally heightened view of the world. They shout and stamp their feet.  They’re v good. The singer creates what the internet would call 'feels'. One of their members looks like Karl Ove Knausgaard ffs. I’m cool with all that. There’s no bunting at least.

And so the show rolls along, with a segment about the interview process, a segment about awkwardness, a segment about maternity wards and the guy who tried to save a life when he was in the army. A segment about loss, and the people we’ve lost.  “This is for my mum because my older brother died young and they never thought they’d have me.”  A segment about drugs, your drug epiphany and then your drug honeymoon. We crack glowsticks and dance in the aisles. There’s strobe. Proper strobe. End of the world strobe. Heart on a plate strobe. Wrap your arms around and don’t let go strobe. But actually by this point all you can think about is your own happiness. Your own happy place. ‘Happy place’ is a bullshit phrase these days. It’s a punchline, not a reality. But, nevertheless, we have our happy places, and we’re visiting them now. Longitude. Latitude. History.  Which year was that again? Was that before or after your Mum moved house?

—————

Somewhere on Wilmslow Road, Manchester. Probably a bus stop. Everything is going well. Everything is good. I’m surprised, and grateful.

In bed, new friends. I’m doing my Axl Rose impression and they love it. 

Delacourt Road. I’ve just bought a fire pit from Ebay. With eyes like planets I look first at the fire and then at my friends. Clare and Martin, both trying to fit their head through the hole in the poncho. Looking at them and then at the fire, then back at them. I watched my mum knit that poncho.

Newcastle, there for the weekend. The Turner Prize is on. I’ll see it tomorrow. Tonight though, I’ll walk through the town (toon) with wine in my handbag. I’ve never been here before but I don’t need anyone to show me the way. 

Crompton Road, Macclesfield. My first boyfriend, first flatmate. He laughs in the kitchen. He looks so happy.

————

There’s always that argument that says we’re not actually happy, we’re just nostalgic. 

Fuck ‘em.  If happiness is nostalgia then bring me nostalgia.  

Friends and lovers and laughter and ponchos, knitted by your mum.  

Or, right now: Invisible Flock in a theatre in Deptford. One of the performers: northern, solid and hairy. Flat vowels. He dances, looks at me.

It’s Friday night and I’m with friends, wine and glowsticks, and there’s a sexy northern man looking at me. 

A glitter cannon. 

AN ACTUAL GLITTER CANNON.

A sexy northern man is looking at me, talking about happiness, and he’s about to let off a glitter cannon.

"Bring the happy? Fuck off."

(That’s me.)

"If there’s bunting I’m fucking leaving."

I don’t like twee. I don’t like cutesy. I don’t like ukuleles or animation or any of that homemade bollocks. I am not the sort of person to book for a show called Bring The Happy.

"Bring The Happy?" Fuck off.

So, I admit, I was there because of friends and because of a venue I hadn’t visited before and because I know someone who once shagged the trumpet player. I guess I was just a bit curious.

And it turns out Bring The Happy is totally, utterly joyful. It’s tough on a critical level because it might be ever so slightly manipulative in the way an X Factor montage is manipulative. It knows what it’s doing. And there’s no fucking bunting at least. Did any of you see Love Letters by Uninvited Guests, or Prudencia Hart by NTS? Because this room is set out like a wedding, with cabaret tables and free wine (I meant to nick a balloon but I was too pissed by the end to remember), and the show is constructed from the unguarded sincerity of its local participants, so I guess if I was thick and shallow I’d say something like “it’s Love Letters crossed with Prudencia Hart with added PARTICIPATION.”

Actually though. It’s more like Show 5. Secret Theatre’s Show 5. It made me feel more like the way Show 5 made me feel than anything else has done recently. It made me feel more than anything else has made me feel recently.

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently, about Little Revolution, class and agency, about These Are Your Lives, pretence and reality, about Wuthering Heights, absence and fondness, and, frankly, I’m a bit bored of thinking. I want to feel. I always want to feel. Thinking’s something I do when no-one’s given me the opportunity to feel anything.

Bring The Happy has been created using material gathered during an intensive data collection period. It’s a bottom-up show. Its material is from its audience. But let’s be honest about the really exciting thing here:

"Data." "Collection."

*rubs thighs*

I suppose it is COMMUNITY THEATRE in that it listens, asks questions, gives a voice, agency. Maps the happiness of local people in order to draw on their histories to create to show about feeling. A local show for local people. It’s real stuff, heartstring stuff, stoic stuff, silent-tear-rolling-down-a-cheek stuff. There’s a band, Hope and Social, which I last saw at the Bull and Gate (when I probably wasn’t very happy at all tbh) and which, even without any overt theatrical manipulation, offer an emotionally heightened view of the world. They shout and stamp their feet. They’re v good. The singer creates what the internet would call 'feels'. One of their members looks like Karl Ove Knausgaard ffs. I’m cool with all that. There’s no bunting at least.

And so the show rolls along, with a segment about the interview process, a segment about awkwardness, a segment about maternity wards and the guy who tried to save a life when he was in the army. A segment about loss, and the people we’ve lost. “This is for my mum because my older brother died young and they never thought they’d have me.” A segment about drugs, your drug epiphany and then your drug honeymoon. We crack glowsticks and dance in the aisles. There’s strobe. Proper strobe. End of the world strobe. Heart on a plate strobe. Wrap your arms around and don’t let go strobe. But actually by this point all you can think about is your own happiness. Your own happy place. ‘Happy place’ is a bullshit phrase these days. It’s a punchline, not a reality. But, nevertheless, we have our happy places, and we’re visiting them now. Longitude. Latitude. History. Which year was that again? Was that before or after your Mum moved house?

—————

Somewhere on Wilmslow Road, Manchester. Probably a bus stop. Everything is going well. Everything is good. I’m surprised, and grateful.

In bed, new friends. I’m doing my Axl Rose impression and they love it.

Delacourt Road. I’ve just bought a fire pit from Ebay. With eyes like planets I look first at the fire and then at my friends. Clare and Martin, both trying to fit their head through the hole in the poncho. Looking at them and then at the fire, then back at them. I watched my mum knit that poncho.

Newcastle, there for the weekend. The Turner Prize is on. I’ll see it tomorrow. Tonight though, I’ll walk through the town (toon) with wine in my handbag. I’ve never been here before but I don’t need anyone to show me the way.

Crompton Road, Macclesfield. My first boyfriend, first flatmate. He laughs in the kitchen. He looks so happy.

————

There’s always that argument that says we’re not actually happy, we’re just nostalgic.

Fuck ‘em. If happiness is nostalgia then bring me nostalgia.

Friends and lovers and laughter and ponchos, knitted by your mum.

Or, right now: Invisible Flock in a theatre in Deptford. One of the performers: northern, solid and hairy. Flat vowels. He dances, looks at me.

It’s Friday night and I’m with friends, wine and glowsticks, and there’s a sexy northern man looking at me.

A glitter cannon.

AN ACTUAL GLITTER CANNON.

A sexy northern man is looking at me, talking about happiness, and he’s about to let off a glitter cannon.


TAGS: theatre bring the happy invisible flock hope and social albany

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 10 September 2014

Last thing about this for a while, I promise
Because I’m even boring myself now. 
Just to say: These Are Your Lives at The Yard is a really interesting show to see alongside Little Revolution at the Almeida. They are vastly different shows with vastly different intentions but they both have verbatim stuff in there and they’re both, in one way or another, dealing explicitly with the recreation of ‘reality’. While Little Revolution attempts to mirror every verbal filler and pause, These Are Your Lives is a bit Adler & Gibbish in that its actors are pretending to be actors who are pretending. 
I’ve just seen their second preview, and it’s an ambitious, tech-heavy show by The Yard’s standards (projection, looped sound bits, video interaction - that’s plus the 6-strong choir which provide a live soundscape), so it will get a lot slicker over the next few days, but they maintain a decent thread by just focusing really hard on one thing. Tom Cruise’s ridiculous media-friendly artifice is deconstructed, smile by smile, finger gun by finger gun. The way Tom Cruise sits, the way Tom Cruise stretches, the way Tom Cruise moves his arm in that one scene in Cocktail, runs his hands through his hair, poses for a selfie, looks for his wallet. In this scene, the character of Tom Cruise will be played by Tom Cruise, as part of Hollywood’s longest durational art project. Learn the Method, the Tom Cruise way.
(Remember when Joaquin Phoenix ‘became’ a hip-hop artist? He’s got nothin on this guy.) 
In a series of repetitious examinations of certain brief moments in one man’s 24/7 performance career, mostly focusing more on movement and gesture than whatever the fuck verbal bullshit had been rehearsed for the occasion (and despite a few second-night judders) it successfully expressed something. Something about the way celebrity sucks any authentic identity from a person maybe, makes us all equally vacuous in our complicity. Something about the inner turmoil caused by a life performed. Something about the individual, the ‘reality’ of the individual, the reality of the individual, the REALITY of the individual, rather than Little Revolution’s attempt to capture something social that remainedly resolutely beyond its grasp.

—————
There. Done. No more bitching about Little Revolution. It’s officially out of my system. You have my permission to give me a full-on fucking Chinese burn or summut if I even begin to bang on about this stupid show ever again.

Last thing about this for a while, I promise

Because I’m even boring myself now.

Just to say: These Are Your Lives at The Yard is a really interesting show to see alongside Little Revolution at the Almeida. They are vastly different shows with vastly different intentions but they both have verbatim stuff in there and they’re both, in one way or another, dealing explicitly with the recreation of ‘reality’. While Little Revolution attempts to mirror every verbal filler and pause, These Are Your Lives is a bit Adler & Gibbish in that its actors are pretending to be actors who are pretending.

I’ve just seen their second preview, and it’s an ambitious, tech-heavy show by The Yard’s standards (projection, looped sound bits, video interaction - that’s plus the 6-strong choir which provide a live soundscape), so it will get a lot slicker over the next few days, but they maintain a decent thread by just focusing really hard on one thing. Tom Cruise’s ridiculous media-friendly artifice is deconstructed, smile by smile, finger gun by finger gun. The way Tom Cruise sits, the way Tom Cruise stretches, the way Tom Cruise moves his arm in that one scene in Cocktail, runs his hands through his hair, poses for a selfie, looks for his wallet. In this scene, the character of Tom Cruise will be played by Tom Cruise, as part of Hollywood’s longest durational art project. Learn the Method, the Tom Cruise way.

(Remember when Joaquin Phoenix ‘became’ a hip-hop artist? He’s got nothin on this guy.)

In a series of repetitious examinations of certain brief moments in one man’s 24/7 performance career, mostly focusing more on movement and gesture than whatever the fuck verbal bullshit had been rehearsed for the occasion (and despite a few second-night judders) it successfully expressed something. Something about the way celebrity sucks any authentic identity from a person maybe, makes us all equally vacuous in our complicity. Something about the inner turmoil caused by a life performed. Something about the individual, the ‘reality’ of the individual, the reality of the individual, the REALITY of the individual, rather than Little Revolution’s attempt to capture something social that remainedly resolutely beyond its grasp.

—————

There. Done. No more bitching about Little Revolution. It’s officially out of my system. You have my permission to give me a full-on fucking Chinese burn or summut if I even begin to bang on about this stupid show ever again.


TAGS: theatre yard theatre these are your lives geste records little revolution almeida tom cruise

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 8 September 2014

Three reasons why I don’t accept free tickets for reviews

After Andrew posted this today, a few of us had quite a nice chat on twitter about theatre blogging, our motivations and our various access points to the ‘community’. It is very much a community, here in London and online, and one that I love being a part of. 

After taking things on a bit of a tangent on twitter though, I thought I’d clarify my reasons for refusing press night invitations here because, well, I dunno really. I suppose I think Twitter truncates these arguments too much. And I like the sound of my own voice. Isn’t that everyone’s motivation for blogging, deep down?

1: Because Marxism yeah
My personal resources are sufficiently limited as to require me to sell my labour in order to generate enough capital to survive. As a result, for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year, I am the property of my employers, and I must do their bidding (within the terms of my employment contract). Because of this, and at least until the revolution comes, I will fiercely protect my leisure time from any other form of capitalist transaction. 

This is a grey area, of course. A comp ticket is not payment, nor is it the means of survival in the basic, bottom-rung-of-Maslow understanding of the term. But it nevertheless comes with an expectation of labour, and I choose to opt out of that. I work hard enough thank you very much.

Which brings me onto number two…

2: The exquisite joy I find in thought and expression
I love blogging. I love writing. Like, I love it. At its best it is better than the best sex I have ever had. At its best it is better than the best drugs I have ever taken, the best news I have ever been given, the best breakdown in the best song I have ever heard. Endorphins yo. 

Past experience (of both writing-for-money and, yes, I admit, of accepting free tickets in return for reviews) has taught me that this joy comes only when I’m talking about A) a piece of art I have fallen desperately in love with and which has inspired significant aesthetic pleasure, or B) a piece of art which has set off a thought process that I want to explore on a nerdy, intellectual wanker basis. (Two glasses of wine and, trust me, I am Chief Pseud at the Pseud Party.)

While it’s true that taking a free ticket won’t get in the way of this joy if it was always destined to happen, writing about shows that do neither of these things is shit, boring, yawnsville, a chore, a waste of my time, and harks back to point number one, about emptying my life of unnecessary capitalist grindstone bullshit.

3: Can pay - Should pay
I have worked in the arts (mainly admin, some customer-facing stuff) since 2006. I have been a fan of the arts since, well, since I was a baby whose Dad sung The Doors to her at bedtime. I understand that earning sufficient capital with which to survive is very difficult if you choose to sell your labour as an artist (see point number one again) and, frankly, it’s not always a lot easier as a producer or administrator. 

Having been into this stuff for a while though, I generally make pretty good choices about what I want to spend my ticket budget on, and because of that I’m happy to spend it. I earn just shy of £21,500 per annum and I’m using a small ‘disposal’ proportion of that to give back to the artists and organisations that give me pleasure, whether that comes via a surging, aesthetic headrush, being made to feel/think something I wouldn’t have felt/thought otherwise, or writing about it afterwards. 

Of course, sometimes I see shows for free if I have to be there because of my job (may I direct your attention back to point number one), or if I’m accompanying a friend who has been given comps because they have to be there for their job. Sometimes I’ll donate privately as a thank you in these circumstances. Often, if the show was bollocks, I won’t. 

I’m not cutting my nose off to spite my face here. And I promise I’m trying my best not to be a dickish holier-than-thou martyr about it. The important thing, for me, is that whatever transaction is in place has nothing to do with my fiercely-guarded creativity, and isn’t fucking dull. It’s giving my company to a friend, or performing one of the many duties that my employers pay me for.

So yeah, there you have it. This has been a semi-official policy of mine for a couple of years now, and one that I feel strongly about in my own case, because it suits me, and my circumstances. Thank fuck we have the critics and bloggers who are willing to take the freebies though, because otherwise I’d have fuck all to read on my lunch and this ‘ecology’ that Andrew talked about would be shafted.

Three reasons why I don’t accept free tickets for reviews

After Andrew posted this today, a few of us had quite a nice chat on twitter about theatre blogging, our motivations and our various access points to the ‘community’. It is very much a community, here in London and online, and one that I love being a part of.

After taking things on a bit of a tangent on twitter though, I thought I’d clarify my reasons for refusing press night invitations here because, well, I dunno really. I suppose I think Twitter truncates these arguments too much. And I like the sound of my own voice. Isn’t that everyone’s motivation for blogging, deep down?

1: Because Marxism yeah
My personal resources are sufficiently limited as to require me to sell my labour in order to generate enough capital to survive. As a result, for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year, I am the property of my employers, and I must do their bidding (within the terms of my employment contract). Because of this, and at least until the revolution comes, I will fiercely protect my leisure time from any other form of capitalist transaction.

This is a grey area, of course. A comp ticket is not payment, nor is it the means of survival in the basic, bottom-rung-of-Maslow understanding of the term. But it nevertheless comes with an expectation of labour, and I choose to opt out of that. I work hard enough thank you very much.

Which brings me onto number two…

2: The exquisite joy I find in thought and expression
I love blogging. I love writing. Like, I love it. At its best it is better than the best sex I have ever had. At its best it is better than the best drugs I have ever taken, the best news I have ever been given, the best breakdown in the best song I have ever heard. Endorphins yo.

Past experience (of both writing-for-money and, yes, I admit, of accepting free tickets in return for reviews) has taught me that this joy comes only when I’m talking about A) a piece of art I have fallen desperately in love with and which has inspired significant aesthetic pleasure, or B) a piece of art which has set off a thought process that I want to explore on a nerdy, intellectual wanker basis. (Two glasses of wine and, trust me, I am Chief Pseud at the Pseud Party.)

While it’s true that taking a free ticket won’t get in the way of this joy if it was always destined to happen, writing about shows that do neither of these things is shit, boring, yawnsville, a chore, a waste of my time, and harks back to point number one, about emptying my life of unnecessary capitalist grindstone bullshit.

3: Can pay - Should pay
I have worked in the arts (mainly admin, some customer-facing stuff) since 2006. I have been a fan of the arts since, well, since I was a baby whose Dad sung The Doors to her at bedtime. I understand that earning sufficient capital with which to survive is very difficult if you choose to sell your labour as an artist (see point number one again) and, frankly, it’s not always a lot easier as a producer or administrator.

Having been into this stuff for a while though, I generally make pretty good choices about what I want to spend my ticket budget on, and because of that I’m happy to spend it. I earn just shy of £21,500 per annum and I’m using a small ‘disposal’ proportion of that to give back to the artists and organisations that give me pleasure, whether that comes via a surging, aesthetic headrush, being made to feel/think something I wouldn’t have felt/thought otherwise, or writing about it afterwards.

Of course, sometimes I see shows for free if I have to be there because of my job (may I direct your attention back to point number one), or if I’m accompanying a friend who has been given comps because they have to be there for their job. Sometimes I’ll donate privately as a thank you in these circumstances. Often, if the show was bollocks, I won’t.

I’m not cutting my nose off to spite my face here. And I promise I’m trying my best not to be a dickish holier-than-thou martyr about it. The important thing, for me, is that whatever transaction is in place has nothing to do with my fiercely-guarded creativity, and isn’t fucking dull. It’s giving my company to a friend, or performing one of the many duties that my employers pay me for.

So yeah, there you have it. This has been a semi-official policy of mine for a couple of years now, and one that I feel strongly about in my own case, because it suits me, and my circumstances. Thank fuck we have the critics and bloggers who are willing to take the freebies though, because otherwise I’d have fuck all to read on my lunch and this ‘ecology’ that Andrew talked about would be shafted.


TAGS: theatre theatre criticism

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 30 August 2014

The Real World™

I keep hearing this new word: REALNESS.  Interestingly, I’ve picked it up from reality tv.  

The first place I spotted it was on the Instagram account of Mark Francis from Made In Chelsea, a man so effortlessly aristocratic that he doesn’t even mind admitting that he “once knew someone who owned a sleeping bag”.  During his recent trip to New York, Mark Francis posted an instagram of himself in front of a washing machine, eyes closed in serene contemplation, with the caption “laundromat realness”.  Aside from instantly adding Laundromat Realness to the ongoing list of future fanzine titles I keep on my phone, I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Then, a week or two later, I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and there it was again. Realness. Drag Race is basically Bake Off for queens, in which pro drag queens take on weekly challenges (dress-making, impressionism, lip-synching) on which they are judged by RuPaul, who is often the dullest one there.  It is a total JOY, and I’m pretty intent on having at least one 48-hour binge in Vegas with Bianca del Rio before I die.  You hear the Drag Race contestants use “realness” after they’ve been given a particularly stressful task to complete.  Having to film a 90s-style rap video for example, or create a piece of couture inspired by Downton Abbey.  As the time runs down, the judges are waiting, tempers fray and… (sideways glance to camera) “omg realness”.

Mark Francis’s realness is poverty-tourism. Drag Race realness is an indication of panic. “Aaaah shit… reeeealnesssss.”  Both exist within the gloriously, willfully pretend world of reality television.  Both say “okay this is serious now, this is my serious face”.

Except that’s crap.  What they really say is -

"Okay so this, over here, this is me doing real, for real now. What I was just doing might have looked real but actually I have only now switched into 100% full, serious, proper really-real mode.”

(beat)

"Haaaaaa NOT REALLY! The producer totally just told me to say that!" (winks at camera) "I gotcha!" (finger guns)

————————

I’m thinking about this tonight because I don’t think I like verbatim theatre.  Verbatim theatre, if you don’t know, is mathematically like 4 or 5 times more real than normal theatre, because it uses the actual real words from actual real people in actually really real situations.  No “realness” here, just pure real reality, yes siree.  100% all real, accept no substitutes.  

Tonight’s show was Little Revolution by Alecky Blythe, and it was about the riots in London in 2011, specifically in Hackney, where the proprieter of a looted and vandalised newsagents became a focus for ‘community spirit’ (google it) in the immediate aftermath.  If you saw Alecky Blythe’s London Road at the National a couple of years ago, you’ll recognise the same kind of awkward local committee meetings in this, excerpt mercifully without the singing.  Same plastic chairs, same rounds of tea.

————————-

I have a new friend called Jude.  She is a director and she talks brilliantly about realism in the theatre.  That’s realism, not realness.  I won’t try to paraphrase because it won’t do her justice, but when I was listening to her talk about the kind of theatre she wants to make, I was reminded of Edward II last year, which played on the same stage at the National as London Road, and which was directed by the director of Little Revolution, Joe Hill Gibbins.  It was fucking fantastic. Absolutely fucking fantastic.  Katie Mitchell-y video stuff, era-melding design, sexy man-kissing, pyro, just a general Kanye-style couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude to any supposed pressure that may or may not be implicit in a run on the Olivier stage.  But the best bit - oh my god the best bit - was about a third, maybe halfway through, when the mini film studio that they’d built like a playhouse in the middle of the stage was broken into its individual sheets of plywood and thrown to the ground, like BAM. BAM. BAM BAM BAM.  Like: made you jump, you pussies.  Like: yeah we just fucking pushed a fucking castle over, what of it?  

————————-

When Adler and Gibb was about to open at the Royal Court at the start of the summer, Tim Crouch wrote a nice thing for the Guardian in which he talked about the danger of being “too real” on stage.  At the time I raised my eyebrows to it a bit because I misunderstood him.  I skim-read and I thought of Edward II then as well.  I thought that those walls being pushed over disproved his theory that bits of the set falling down broke the spell for an audience.  I realise now that I was confusing two things: the breaking of a spell, and a moment designed to reach out and shake you.  Realism.

Joe Hill Gibbins does his best with Little Revolution.  The Almeida’s big dock doors, normally hidden by the wings, are thrown open to reveal partying, looting, fighting in the foyer, while a large-ish community cast rush about with beers and flat-screen tellies to quicken the pace.  But that realism that my mate Jude talks about never appears.  There’s no threat here. There’s no fear or tension.  We hear from comedy do-gooders and opinionated bystanders, but never the kids.  People throwing tea parties, never throwing bricks.  It’s not real (we’re in a theatre in Islington ffs), it’s not realism, it’s not even naturalism because the source material sounds like soap in the actors’ mouths.  It’s just realness. Tedious, massaged realness. Rehearsed, yet also somehow a bit stunted, awkward.  Mark Francis in front of that washing machine. Laganja Estranga lip-syncing for her life.  Alecky Blythe and her dictaphone, rubbernecking from a safe distance.  Everyone doing their best serious faces until they’re distracted with a slice of cake. Those who have made themselves available rather than those who have anything to say.

————-

Five days later: 

This had made me feel a bit awkward ever since I posted it. It’s poorly reasoned and poorly argued. I’m making a point (buried somewhere) about verbatim theatre that should really be about this show. For all its supposed authenticity, Little Revolution was still just ‘playing pretend’. It wasn’t real enough, wasn’t dark enough, didn’t question enough, didn’t tell me enough. Verbatim theatre, I’m sure, is capable of doing all those things, if indeed that is what its individual works call for. I’ve been reminded of shows that were born of verbatim (Mr Burns) and which played with the expectations of the form (Monkey Bars), neither of which were taken prisoner by their material in the way Little Revolution was. I’ve been sent examples of verbatim texts and links to companies making “documentary theatre”, and I feel like my unfocused late-night post-show mind wasn’t in the right place on Friday to properly finger (hur hur) what was troubling me. 

The text for Little Revolution was just weak, and Alecky Blythe’s choice of subjects (if it’s even fair to call it a choice - I know she tried her best to speak to those who were protesting/rioting/other) was a bit like "yeah you’ll do - tell me again into the dictaphone pls" but I’m a cunt if I think that constitutes all verbatim theatre ever.

————-

Getting angsty about this correction (and having felt the need to add a coda to my post about The Nether a while ago too) has made me question my (serious word incoming) MANIFESTO for theatre blogging a bit. Light-heartedness and intellectual rigour are not mutually exclusive. Don’t be a dick Vaughan.

The Real World™

I keep hearing this new word: REALNESS. Interestingly, I’ve picked it up from reality tv.

The first place I spotted it was on the Instagram account of Mark Francis from Made In Chelsea, a man so effortlessly aristocratic that he doesn’t even mind admitting that he “once knew someone who owned a sleeping bag”. During his recent trip to New York, Mark Francis posted an instagram of himself in front of a washing machine, eyes closed in serene contemplation, with the caption “laundromat realness”. Aside from instantly adding Laundromat Realness to the ongoing list of future fanzine titles I keep on my phone, I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Then, a week or two later, I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and there it was again. Realness. Drag Race is basically Bake Off for queens, in which pro drag queens take on weekly challenges (dress-making, impressionism, lip-synching) on which they are judged by RuPaul, who is often the dullest one there. It is a total JOY, and I’m pretty intent on having at least one 48-hour binge in Vegas with Bianca del Rio before I die. You hear the Drag Race contestants use “realness” after they’ve been given a particularly stressful task to complete. Having to film a 90s-style rap video for example, or create a piece of couture inspired by Downton Abbey. As the time runs down, the judges are waiting, tempers fray and… (sideways glance to camera) “omg realness”.

Mark Francis’s realness is poverty-tourism. Drag Race realness is an indication of panic. “Aaaah shit… reeeealnesssss.” Both exist within the gloriously, willfully pretend world of reality television. Both say “okay this is serious now, this is my serious face”.

Except that’s crap. What they really say is -

"Okay so this, over here, this is me doing real, for real now. What I was just doing might have looked real but actually I have only now switched into 100% full, serious, proper really-real mode.”

(beat)

"Haaaaaa NOT REALLY! The producer totally just told me to say that!" (winks at camera) "I gotcha!" (finger guns)

————————

I’m thinking about this tonight because I don’t think I like verbatim theatre. Verbatim theatre, if you don’t know, is mathematically like 4 or 5 times more real than normal theatre, because it uses the actual real words from actual real people in actually really real situations. No “realness” here, just pure real reality, yes siree. 100% all real, accept no substitutes.

Tonight’s show was Little Revolution by Alecky Blythe, and it was about the riots in London in 2011, specifically in Hackney, where the proprieter of a looted and vandalised newsagents became a focus for ‘community spirit’ (google it) in the immediate aftermath. If you saw Alecky Blythe’s London Road at the National a couple of years ago, you’ll recognise the same kind of awkward local committee meetings in this, excerpt mercifully without the singing. Same plastic chairs, same rounds of tea.

————————-

I have a new friend called Jude. She is a director and she talks brilliantly about realism in the theatre. That’s realism, not realness. I won’t try to paraphrase because it won’t do her justice, but when I was listening to her talk about the kind of theatre she wants to make, I was reminded of Edward II last year, which played on the same stage at the National as London Road, and which was directed by the director of Little Revolution, Joe Hill Gibbins. It was fucking fantastic. Absolutely fucking fantastic. Katie Mitchell-y video stuff, era-melding design, sexy man-kissing, pyro, just a general Kanye-style couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude to any supposed pressure that may or may not be implicit in a run on the Olivier stage. But the best bit - oh my god the best bit - was about a third, maybe halfway through, when the mini film studio that they’d built like a playhouse in the middle of the stage was broken into its individual sheets of plywood and thrown to the ground, like BAM. BAM. BAM BAM BAM. Like: made you jump, you pussies. Like: yeah we just fucking pushed a fucking castle over, what of it?

————————-

When Adler and Gibb was about to open at the Royal Court at the start of the summer, Tim Crouch wrote a nice thing for the Guardian in which he talked about the danger of being “too real” on stage. At the time I raised my eyebrows to it a bit because I misunderstood him. I skim-read and I thought of Edward II then as well. I thought that those walls being pushed over disproved his theory that bits of the set falling down broke the spell for an audience. I realise now that I was confusing two things: the breaking of a spell, and a moment designed to reach out and shake you. Realism.

Joe Hill Gibbins does his best with Little Revolution. The Almeida’s big dock doors, normally hidden by the wings, are thrown open to reveal partying, looting, fighting in the foyer, while a large-ish community cast rush about with beers and flat-screen tellies to quicken the pace. But that realism that my mate Jude talks about never appears. There’s no threat here. There’s no fear or tension. We hear from comedy do-gooders and opinionated bystanders, but never the kids. People throwing tea parties, never throwing bricks. It’s not real (we’re in a theatre in Islington ffs), it’s not realism, it’s not even naturalism because the source material sounds like soap in the actors’ mouths. It’s just realness. Tedious, massaged realness. Rehearsed, yet also somehow a bit stunted, awkward. Mark Francis in front of that washing machine. Laganja Estranga lip-syncing for her life. Alecky Blythe and her dictaphone, rubbernecking from a safe distance. Everyone doing their best serious faces until they’re distracted with a slice of cake. Those who have made themselves available rather than those who have anything to say.

————-

Five days later:

This had made me feel a bit awkward ever since I posted it. It’s poorly reasoned and poorly argued. I’m making a point (buried somewhere) about verbatim theatre that should really be about this show. For all its supposed authenticity, Little Revolution was still just ‘playing pretend’. It wasn’t real enough, wasn’t dark enough, didn’t question enough, didn’t tell me enough. Verbatim theatre, I’m sure, is capable of doing all those things, if indeed that is what its individual works call for. I’ve been reminded of shows that were born of verbatim (Mr Burns) and which played with the expectations of the form (Monkey Bars), neither of which were taken prisoner by their material in the way Little Revolution was. I’ve been sent examples of verbatim texts and links to companies making “documentary theatre”, and I feel like my unfocused late-night post-show mind wasn’t in the right place on Friday to properly finger (hur hur) what was troubling me.

The text for Little Revolution was just weak, and Alecky Blythe’s choice of subjects (if it’s even fair to call it a choice - I know she tried her best to speak to those who were protesting/rioting/other) was a bit like "yeah you’ll do - tell me again into the dictaphone pls" but I’m a cunt if I think that constitutes all verbatim theatre ever.

————-

Getting angsty about this correction (and having felt the need to add a coda to my post about The Nether a while ago too) has made me question my (serious word incoming) MANIFESTO for theatre blogging a bit. Light-heartedness and intellectual rigour are not mutually exclusive. Don’t be a dick Vaughan.


TAGS: theatre almeida little revolution riots

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 25 August 2014

Me and Renaissance painting: a history

1990: I walk quickly from room to room in the National Gallery, getting impatient when my stupid parents stop to look at every single picture in the whole bloody place. They are ALL BORING.

Still 1990, that same trip: I wait for a whole eternity in the National Gallery gift shop, while my parents look at all the same pictures all over again, and finally decide to order a print of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, which I’m apparently supposed to be impressed by because he’s painted reflections in a curved mirror. This is the first time I’ve ever been to London in my entire life and we’re wasting literally hours of Hamleys time on this rubbish.

June 1991: The Van Eyck is framed and hung in our new house in Macclesfield.  It’s still boring.

1993-1995: I sporadically get out my Mum’s old school project on art nouveau fairy tale characters and flick through the meticulously-copied illustrations.  I look at her and wonder how anyone can be into Aubrey Beardsley and still allow that fucking Van Eyck abomination to hang in their home.

1996-1998: I hear about Jenny Saville, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst via Select Magazine. Art is apparently cool now. In light of that fact, I nearly do it as a GCSE, but choose Drama at the last minute because it’s easier.

August 2001: I go on holiday (actually ABROAD!!) with my friends for the first time. I have an emotional and intellectual epiphany at the Dali Museum in Figueres. I have a little cry on my own in a corridor.  My friends eventually come looking for me four hours after I first went in.  I buy a print in the gift shop: Singularities. I choose quickly.

2003: I am now the kind of person who announces their preference for modern art, and is prepared to argue at length about it, despite knowing almost nothing about its form or composition.

Early 2005: Someone I work with in a pub tells me about the way the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted: the time it took, Michaelangelo’s lying-on-his-back-method. I say “yeah, yeah, very impressive, but why does it all have to be so fucking religious? God is for thick people.”

Autumn 2009: I have gone back to university. I am learning how arts patronage by families such as the Medicis formed the kind of socio-economic paradigms that led to the post-war formation of the Arts Council of Great Britain.  I learn that it might not’ve been invariably religious after all, as humanist thinking began to influence the establishment all over Europe.  

March 2010: I visit my parents in their new home in Sandbach. I am dismayed to find the Van Eyck has moved with them.

Summer 2012: I watch a three-part BBC Four series from James Fox, who is exploring the the history and symbolism of colour in art. Specifically: white, gold and blue.  The blue programme begins with the painters of the Italian Renaissance buying imported aquamarine for the first time. It has such an effect upon me that I dream the bluest dream that anyone can ever have possibly dreamt ever.

2013: I officially have warm feelings towards the Renaissance now.  It really was a very important period of history you know.  I write an essay for my Masters about the concept of genius.  Apparently Van Eyck was one.  That Arnolfini Portrait really is very complex you know.

5th August 2014: A meme appears on twitter, showing Fibonacci’s spiral overlaid on a photo of a brawl in the Ukrainian parliament.  It is an arresting photo, immediately beautiful.  The Guardian posts a further gallery of 'Accidental Renaissance' images, including one of Oscar Pistorius in the dock, and Frank Lampard on his knees after scoring.  It’s almost like I can feel my pupils dilate when I look at them.

24th August 2014: I am back in the National Gallery, for an exhibition about architecture in Renaissance painting. I go because it’s free, and because I hope it won’t bang on too much about the Virgin Mary.  She’s present, of course (some might say watching over us constantly - haha lol), but the exhibition is actually about space, in that brilliantly wanky way that academics talk about space.  It’s about imagined settings, and the creation of narrative in a still image: the manipulation of the way our eyes travel around a picture.  It’s like am-dram panto street scene backdrops, except elevated to something psychologically powerful. Where’s Wally books where you can find Wally and all his buddies straight away because all the other guys in the crowd are giving you these imperceptible signs, maaaan.  Remember that BBC dramatisation of Gormenghast? The one with all the walkways and towers, perspective slightly out, like trompe l’oeil that just, kinda, moves a bit…  

Ordinary spaces, made magical.

(That Van Eyck is still boring though.)

Me and Renaissance painting: a history

1990: I walk quickly from room to room in the National Gallery, getting impatient when my stupid parents stop to look at every single picture in the whole bloody place. They are ALL BORING.

Still 1990, that same trip: I wait for a whole eternity in the National Gallery gift shop, while my parents look at all the same pictures all over again, and finally decide to order a print of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, which I’m apparently supposed to be impressed by because he’s painted reflections in a curved mirror. This is the first time I’ve ever been to London in my entire life and we’re wasting literally hours of Hamleys time on this rubbish.

June 1991: The Van Eyck is framed and hung in our new house in Macclesfield. It’s still boring.

1993-1995: I sporadically get out my Mum’s old school project on art nouveau fairy tale characters and flick through the meticulously-copied illustrations. I look at her and wonder how anyone can be into Aubrey Beardsley and still allow that fucking Van Eyck abomination to hang in their home.

1996-1998: I hear about Jenny Saville, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst via Select Magazine. Art is apparently cool now. In light of that fact, I nearly do it as a GCSE, but choose Drama at the last minute because it’s easier.

August 2001: I go on holiday (actually ABROAD!!) with my friends for the first time. I have an emotional and intellectual epiphany at the Dali Museum in Figueres. I have a little cry on my own in a corridor. My friends eventually come looking for me four hours after I first went in. I buy a print in the gift shop: Singularities. I choose quickly.

2003: I am now the kind of person who announces their preference for modern art, and is prepared to argue at length about it, despite knowing almost nothing about its form or composition.

Early 2005: Someone I work with in a pub tells me about the way the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted: the time it took, Michaelangelo’s lying-on-his-back-method. I say “yeah, yeah, very impressive, but why does it all have to be so fucking religious? God is for thick people.”

Autumn 2009: I have gone back to university. I am learning how arts patronage by families such as the Medicis formed the kind of socio-economic paradigms that led to the post-war formation of the Arts Council of Great Britain. I learn that it might not’ve been invariably religious after all, as humanist thinking began to influence the establishment all over Europe.

March 2010: I visit my parents in their new home in Sandbach. I am dismayed to find the Van Eyck has moved with them.

Summer 2012: I watch a three-part BBC Four series from James Fox, who is exploring the the history and symbolism of colour in art. Specifically: white, gold and blue. The blue programme begins with the painters of the Italian Renaissance buying imported aquamarine for the first time. It has such an effect upon me that I dream the bluest dream that anyone can ever have possibly dreamt ever.

2013: I officially have warm feelings towards the Renaissance now. It really was a very important period of history you know. I write an essay for my Masters about the concept of genius. Apparently Van Eyck was one. That Arnolfini Portrait really is very complex you know.

5th August 2014: A meme appears on twitter, showing Fibonacci’s spiral overlaid on a photo of a brawl in the Ukrainian parliament. It is an arresting photo, immediately beautiful. The Guardian posts a further gallery of 'Accidental Renaissance' images, including one of Oscar Pistorius in the dock, and Frank Lampard on his knees after scoring. It’s almost like I can feel my pupils dilate when I look at them.

24th August 2014: I am back in the National Gallery, for an exhibition about architecture in Renaissance painting. I go because it’s free, and because I hope it won’t bang on too much about the Virgin Mary. She’s present, of course (some might say watching over us constantly - haha lol), but the exhibition is actually about space, in that brilliantly wanky way that academics talk about space. It’s about imagined settings, and the creation of narrative in a still image: the manipulation of the way our eyes travel around a picture. It’s like am-dram panto street scene backdrops, except elevated to something psychologically powerful. Where’s Wally books where you can find Wally and all his buddies straight away because all the other guys in the crowd are giving you these imperceptible signs, maaaan. Remember that BBC dramatisation of Gormenghast? The one with all the walkways and towers, perspective slightly out, like trompe l’oeil that just, kinda, moves a bit…

Ordinary spaces, made magical.

(That Van Eyck is still boring though.)


TAGS: art renaissance van eyck

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 11 August 2014

Live fast, die young / Bad girls do it well

I quite liked Medea!
(I’m as surprised as you are.)
Not long ago, I gave up Shakespeare. I’d been meaning to quit for a long time but I guess I just needed to hit bottom before I really had the impetus to change. Turns out that Simon Russell Beale’s Lear was my bottom - a desperate, shameful time - but since I got clean I’ve never felt better. Life is somehow fresher now, sharper. It made me realise just how much Shakespeare was dulling my senses. 
For a while I thought I was gonna go on a full health kick: give up the Greeks too. It wasn’t that I worried it would just be too much like Shakespeare (all those monologues, all those off-stage battles, all those fucking tragedies tempting me off the wagon), it was more like I wanted to push myself further. Like, I’d come this far, why stop at 10k when you can train for a marathon? Next I’d wean myself off Chekhov and Ibsen, then musicals, then the in-yer-facers, the new establishment. Sarah Kane, gone. Simon Stephens, gone. Dennis Kelly, Mark Ravenhill, Caryl Churchill, all gone. Soon I would literally just be seeing student dance showcases and durational live art! The Ironman and Tough Mudder levels of audience training! I would be un-fucking-stoppable.
But then August came and the auditoria went dark, everything interesting went up to Edinburgh, and the fucking Nether was still on at the Court. I booked for Medea because, well, what the fuck else was I supposed to do? Watch Dana Scully going round in circles for three hours?*
But I quite liked it. 

I quite liked it!
It’s like they knew I was going through this transitional phase at the moment, and they de-Greeked it on my behalf. The chorus didn’t feel awkward or unnatural (Lorna Brown is in it and I LOVE HER), no-one moaned for more than 3 or 4 mins at a time tops, and I only counted one single instance of “Dude, you totally should’ve seen this cool as fuck thing that just happened offstage”. Nice, also, to see Tom Scutt bringing some GIRTH to the current vogue for theatre trees. Oh, and McCrory’s fringe was amazing but she was still good enough that it didn’t upstage her, and then there were these two sleeping bags that were just… 

Actually I can’t bring myself to joke about the sleeping bags.  The sleeping bags were a phenomenally effective piece of design that emptied the breath from my body.  Changed the mood in the entire, packed-out Olivier.  Deflated an audience.  Slowed everything, our hearts, lungs, everything.
The feminism thing now. Last year I found Cracknell’s Blurred Lines to be a bit preachy, and this is certainly a feminist treatment of Medea, so it could easily’ve gone the same way. But while hers is an extreme, violent reaction to events, it brings with it indecision and despair, and a rationally-argued feat of great emotional strength and bravery. This Medea is not mental. She’s proper fucked off, and powerful with it. Unlike Blurred Lines, it never felt like the driving force behind this show was political, or instrumentalist in any way. It was a story about a fucking badass bitch doing retribution her own way, rather than some kind of Brechtian call to action or, worse, a bleeding heart exposé of the patriarchy.
I wasn’t 100% sold on Ben Power’s text because actually it is possible to be lyrical without sounding archaic (paging Kate Tempest, or, for that matter, Michaela Coel, who is standing. right. there.) and those kids were unrealistically well behaved, but yeah, Medea. Quite good. 
(Trust me, this is not a drill.)

*Actually, since writing this I have been to see Streetcar, and must admit that watching Dana Scully going round in circles for three hours was pretty fucking phenomenal. So I guess I take that back.

Live fast, die young / Bad girls do it well

I quite liked Medea!

(I’m as surprised as you are.)

Not long ago, I gave up Shakespeare. I’d been meaning to quit for a long time but I guess I just needed to hit bottom before I really had the impetus to change. Turns out that Simon Russell Beale’s Lear was my bottom - a desperate, shameful time - but since I got clean I’ve never felt better. Life is somehow fresher now, sharper. It made me realise just how much Shakespeare was dulling my senses.

For a while I thought I was gonna go on a full health kick: give up the Greeks too. It wasn’t that I worried it would just be too much like Shakespeare (all those monologues, all those off-stage battles, all those fucking tragedies tempting me off the wagon), it was more like I wanted to push myself further. Like, I’d come this far, why stop at 10k when you can train for a marathon? Next I’d wean myself off Chekhov and Ibsen, then musicals, then the in-yer-facers, the new establishment. Sarah Kane, gone. Simon Stephens, gone. Dennis Kelly, Mark Ravenhill, Caryl Churchill, all gone. Soon I would literally just be seeing student dance showcases and durational live art! The Ironman and Tough Mudder levels of audience training! I would be un-fucking-stoppable.

But then August came and the auditoria went dark, everything interesting went up to Edinburgh, and the fucking Nether was still on at the Court. I booked for Medea because, well, what the fuck else was I supposed to do? Watch Dana Scully going round in circles for three hours?*

But I quite liked it.

I quite liked it!

It’s like they knew I was going through this transitional phase at the moment, and they de-Greeked it on my behalf. The chorus didn’t feel awkward or unnatural (Lorna Brown is in it and I LOVE HER), no-one moaned for more than 3 or 4 mins at a time tops, and I only counted one single instance of “Dude, you totally should’ve seen this cool as fuck thing that just happened offstage”. Nice, also, to see Tom Scutt bringing some GIRTH to the current vogue for theatre trees. Oh, and McCrory’s fringe was amazing but she was still good enough that it didn’t upstage her, and then there were these two sleeping bags that were just…

Actually I can’t bring myself to joke about the sleeping bags. The sleeping bags were a phenomenally effective piece of design that emptied the breath from my body. Changed the mood in the entire, packed-out Olivier. Deflated an audience. Slowed everything, our hearts, lungs, everything.

The feminism thing now. Last year I found Cracknell’s Blurred Lines to be a bit preachy, and this is certainly a feminist treatment of Medea, so it could easily’ve gone the same way. But while hers is an extreme, violent reaction to events, it brings with it indecision and despair, and a rationally-argued feat of great emotional strength and bravery. This Medea is not mental. She’s proper fucked off, and powerful with it. Unlike Blurred Lines, it never felt like the driving force behind this show was political, or instrumentalist in any way. It was a story about a fucking badass bitch doing retribution her own way, rather than some kind of Brechtian call to action or, worse, a bleeding heart exposé of the patriarchy.

I wasn’t 100% sold on Ben Power’s text because actually it is possible to be lyrical without sounding archaic (paging Kate Tempest, or, for that matter, Michaela Coel, who is standing. right. there.) and those kids were unrealistically well behaved, but yeah, Medea. Quite good.

(Trust me, this is not a drill.)

*Actually, since writing this I have been to see Streetcar, and must admit that watching Dana Scully going round in circles for three hours was pretty fucking phenomenal. So I guess I take that back.

TAGS: theatre national theatre medea

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 5 August 2014

#Lightsout and the Culture Industry

Look at this picture. It looks fucking cool doesn’t it? Like, Hollywood levels of cool. Maybe it’s touched up a bit, I dunno. Maybe it’s just an incredible photographer with incredible camera equipment.

The work is called Spectra and it’s a project by Ryoji Akeda and Artangel for the 14-18 Now programme, commemorating the start of the First World War with a collective act of remembrance. It absolutely works. It absolutely achieves that objective. We’re all talking about it, all “remembering”. Someone working on 14-18 Now will be counting all the twitter mentions right now, all the retweets, all the photos of candles on Instagram as we join the #lightsout hashtag, all the views of Jeremy Deller’s specially created short films, all the downloads of the app that you need to watch them. All those #lightsout hits are gonna make a fucking blinding infographic for the evaluation report. There’ll be more funding for next year in the bag with this baby, no doubt at all.

——-

I was re-reading an old essay this evening, because I’m cool like that. It was about Adorno & Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. Specifically, the chapter they wrote about the “culture industry”. I put that in inverted commas because they didn’t exactly mean what you or I would describe as the culture industry now, which we might consider to be the organisations and infrastructure behind the arts we see in our Sunday supplements or whatever. Adorno and Horkheimer weren’t a million miles away from Marx, and they’d also fled their home country, Germany, to seek refuge in America, which they were proper fucking bitter old bastards about. This was the golden age of Hollywood and light jazz. A capitalist’s paradise. The “industry” of their “culture industry” was a slur. They didn’t just see the dangers of the mass reproduction of art (in movie theatres, where a couple in Arkansas would watch the same film on the same Saturday night as a couple in Oregon) or the mass broadcast of music on the radio (don’t forget: these guys had just left a Germany in which Hitler provided free radios for every household, and it wasn’t for the widespread enjoyment of Duke Ellington either), they had started to notice the edges being shaved off the art itself. Character tropes had always been around, but suddenly the structure of these Hollywood narratives had to follow the same patterns too. The mild peril, the aesthetics of romance, the plucky outsider who is obviously the real hero.

That’s the key word of course: obviously. Mass-produced, mass-distributed art flatters its audience and makes them feel clever when they can see all along that the guy is gonna get the girl. “Well I could’ve told you that was gonna happen.” We love that shit. We take in all the little signals and then play the smug bastards when we’re right. Consumers like to feel clever so they choose the art that makes them feel clever, and the producers eventually stop making any other kind.

Adorno and Horkheimer’s prophesy did not come true - thank fuck - and we still have a whole choir of voices in the arts landscape. Hercules comes out at the cinema next week, starring that guy who used to be a WWE wrestler. Meanwhile, you can see Hug by Verity Standen at Forest Fringe (for free) and be gently held by a choral singer. We don’t have a cultural dictatorship forcing us all to listen to nightly propaganda on the radio (in the UK at least). Shakespeare is still a thing, as is Marilyn Manson.

But what we do have, sadly, with this WW1 stuff, is a series of public art commissions that have been designed around likes, shares, favorites, retweets. Let’s get the country remembering, let’s get the country switching their #lightsoff, let’s get the country posting pictures of candles to their feeds, let’s get our engagement figures up, let’s get campaign awareness up, let’s satisfy our funders. Let’s remember the fallen. Let’s keep our jobs.

————-

It’s late, I’m tired, I can’t be arsed to look up any actual Dialectic of Enlightenment quotes, and I know I sound like a cunt. The First World War was a tragedy of incomprehensible scale and that batsignal actually looks fucking amazing. But it’s a dangerous mix of art and emotion with an online PR strategy, and it leaves a bad fucking taste in my mouth.

#Lightsout and the Culture Industry

Look at this picture. It looks fucking cool doesn’t it? Like, Hollywood levels of cool. Maybe it’s touched up a bit, I dunno. Maybe it’s just an incredible photographer with incredible camera equipment.

The work is called Spectra and it’s a project by Ryoji Akeda and Artangel for the 14-18 Now programme, commemorating the start of the First World War with a collective act of remembrance. It absolutely works. It absolutely achieves that objective. We’re all talking about it, all “remembering”. Someone working on 14-18 Now will be counting all the twitter mentions right now, all the retweets, all the photos of candles on Instagram as we join the #lightsout hashtag, all the views of Jeremy Deller’s specially created short films, all the downloads of the app that you need to watch them. All those #lightsout hits are gonna make a fucking blinding infographic for the evaluation report. There’ll be more funding for next year in the bag with this baby, no doubt at all.

——-

I was re-reading an old essay this evening, because I’m cool like that. It was about Adorno & Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. Specifically, the chapter they wrote about the “culture industry”. I put that in inverted commas because they didn’t exactly mean what you or I would describe as the culture industry now, which we might consider to be the organisations and infrastructure behind the arts we see in our Sunday supplements or whatever. Adorno and Horkheimer weren’t a million miles away from Marx, and they’d also fled their home country, Germany, to seek refuge in America, which they were proper fucking bitter old bastards about. This was the golden age of Hollywood and light jazz. A capitalist’s paradise. The “industry” of their “culture industry” was a slur. They didn’t just see the dangers of the mass reproduction of art (in movie theatres, where a couple in Arkansas would watch the same film on the same Saturday night as a couple in Oregon) or the mass broadcast of music on the radio (don’t forget: these guys had just left a Germany in which Hitler provided free radios for every household, and it wasn’t for the widespread enjoyment of Duke Ellington either), they had started to notice the edges being shaved off the art itself. Character tropes had always been around, but suddenly the structure of these Hollywood narratives had to follow the same patterns too. The mild peril, the aesthetics of romance, the plucky outsider who is obviously the real hero.

That’s the key word of course: obviously. Mass-produced, mass-distributed art flatters its audience and makes them feel clever when they can see all along that the guy is gonna get the girl. “Well I could’ve told you that was gonna happen.” We love that shit. We take in all the little signals and then play the smug bastards when we’re right. Consumers like to feel clever so they choose the art that makes them feel clever, and the producers eventually stop making any other kind.

Adorno and Horkheimer’s prophesy did not come true - thank fuck - and we still have a whole choir of voices in the arts landscape. Hercules comes out at the cinema next week, starring that guy who used to be a WWE wrestler. Meanwhile, you can see Hug by Verity Standen at Forest Fringe (for free) and be gently held by a choral singer. We don’t have a cultural dictatorship forcing us all to listen to nightly propaganda on the radio (in the UK at least). Shakespeare is still a thing, as is Marilyn Manson.

But what we do have, sadly, with this WW1 stuff, is a series of public art commissions that have been designed around likes, shares, favorites, retweets. Let’s get the country remembering, let’s get the country switching their #lightsoff, let’s get the country posting pictures of candles to their feeds, let’s get our engagement figures up, let’s get campaign awareness up, let’s satisfy our funders. Let’s remember the fallen. Let’s keep our jobs.

————-

It’s late, I’m tired, I can’t be arsed to look up any actual Dialectic of Enlightenment quotes, and I know I sound like a cunt. The First World War was a tragedy of incomprehensible scale and that batsignal actually looks fucking amazing. But it’s a dangerous mix of art and emotion with an online PR strategy, and it leaves a bad fucking taste in my mouth.


TAGS: art spectre 14-18 now adorno frankfurt school culture industry karl marx

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 3 August 2014

Stop the train

Whoever is looking after the Forest Fringe twitter account right now is talking about Chrises. Edfringe 2014 will be the year of the Chrises.  “Chrises in crisis”. Chris Goode and Chris Thorpe are forever married in my head now, because I saw early runs of both their shows in a 48 hour period last week.  I don’t believe in genius but if I did they’d be it.  Chris Thorpe makes me want to watch American History X again, read Kant (again), about how we know what we know to be real is real because we know we are real and therefore real must be what we know.  Chris Goode makes me remember Make Better Please from Uninvited Guests, and that huge flapping cock made out of newspaper and parcel tape. Then he makes me think about that Boxing Day night two Christmases ago, when we all ranked the Spice Girls according to preference.  He makes me want to write, then scream, then scream, then write, then go round his house for a massive silent cuddle that lasts into the early hours.  

At the Mr Burns discussion group on Wednesday, we talk about how the final act is a bastardisation of a TV show that was based on a film that was a remake of another film that was based on a book that was also “contaminated” by Shakespeare and Batman and Hitchcock and Gilbert & Sullivan and religious ceremony and Britney Spears.

I’m putting my book away at Charing Cross because I’ve reached a section break but in the couple of minutes before we reach Waterloo I look up and see Six Bells by Gillian Clarke, reproduced as part of the Poems on the Underground thing, and it pushes the air out of my lungs.  It’s that line: “punched through the mine a fist”. It rolls around my head and makes my eyes glassy with second hand memories of Orgreave, reconstituted for me by Jeremy Deller, and double-fresh in my mind because last weekend I got the train through Orgreave and recognised it from the film that they made of the reconstruction.  

Moments later I’m at my desk and googling a song that someone says will cure my Gangsta’s Paradise earworm.  It is Chandelier by Sia, and it is the best pop video I’ve seen for years.  It makes me think of Bjork, in that it could be a Bjork video, because she is also that brilliant.  The performer in the video is a reality TV star from the US series Dance Moms.  I am reminded that I still haven’t watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

I go to the Arcola twice this week, get off at Dalston Junction each time and think about this sculpture, then walk outside and remember how disappointing it was that the mirrors used on that Leandro Erlich house last summer weren’t continuous, and the illusion was completely broken by the join.  Inside the theatre there is first a comedy about an Iraqi immigrant coming to the UK, and then a “gypsy punk opera” about Napoleon. Gogol Bordello in Coldplay jackets.  Le Marseillaise sounds like Danton, Robespierre, Hilary Mantel, Zinedine Zidane and that headbutt, and then Francois, that guy I lived with for a bit in Manchester in 2006.  He used to drink White Russians, like he was in A Clockwork Orange or some shit.

Then the 50 Shades trailer. The guy playing Grey looks like a member of N-Sync, when N-Sync were still children.

I would fucking hate a ride in a helicopter. I hope no-one ever does that for me.

The first 14-18 Now season. A 16 minute sound and video installation viewed from a camp bed in an upstairs room in the Cinema Museum. Charlie Chaplin is a funny guy isn’t he, but he’s also Robert Downey Jnr, and isn’t it so sad that he had all those drug problems and looked so beautiful and vulnerable in that Elton John video that time.  The most tragic thing is probably that he’s Iron Man now.  What total wank.  Remember how in Natural Born Killers there were those bits where weird video clips appeared through the windows?  It would be good if this Chaplin thing projected through windows instead of onto the ceiling.  

My auntie once said that Natural Born Killers was the only film she’d ever seen that made her actually want to walk into a public place and just blow loads of people away with a massive fucking machine gun.  

For me it’s Iron Man.

A couple of days later I’m at the Barbican for my first ever theatre livestream, except it’s not strictly fair to call it that. What we’re about to watch is, they insist, absolutely Katie Mitchell’s vision. We will be connected live to the Perner-Insel theatre in Salzburg, where we can already see the back of the audience’s heads as the auditorium there fills up. We will see a screen split into two, the stream of the stage will be mixed together with the video elements of the performance in a van currently parked in the street outside the venue. We are told there is a storm in Salzburg at the moment. The streaming is delayed to wait for the rain to ease.  Then it starts and actually the screen is split into three, so we see the stage twice, from different perspectives, at different zoom settings.  They’ve built a proper fucking massive tube train, which splits apart and pulls in and out of stations, and trundles aside to reveal toilet cubicles and laboratories and courtyard gardens.  Imagine that girl from the Sia video dancing on this set.  That would be AMAZING.  The programme says there is text by Woolf and Arendt and de Beauvoir, but in the end I rush home to watch this on YouTube, because I’ve just come on my period and that can sometimes give me these horrible woozy headaches so maybe I just don’t have the capacity for Katie Mitchell’s vision right now.

Stop the train

Whoever is looking after the Forest Fringe twitter account right now is talking about Chrises. Edfringe 2014 will be the year of the Chrises. “Chrises in crisis”. Chris Goode and Chris Thorpe are forever married in my head now, because I saw early runs of both their shows in a 48 hour period last week. I don’t believe in genius but if I did they’d be it. Chris Thorpe makes me want to watch American History X again, read Kant (again), about how we know what we know to be real is real because we know we are real and therefore real must be what we know. Chris Goode makes me remember Make Better Please from Uninvited Guests, and that huge flapping cock made out of newspaper and parcel tape. Then he makes me think about that Boxing Day night two Christmases ago, when we all ranked the Spice Girls according to preference. He makes me want to write, then scream, then scream, then write, then go round his house for a massive silent cuddle that lasts into the early hours.

At the Mr Burns discussion group on Wednesday, we talk about how the final act is a bastardisation of a TV show that was based on a film that was a remake of another film that was based on a book that was also “contaminated” by Shakespeare and Batman and Hitchcock and Gilbert & Sullivan and religious ceremony and Britney Spears.

I’m putting my book away at Charing Cross because I’ve reached a section break but in the couple of minutes before we reach Waterloo I look up and see Six Bells by Gillian Clarke, reproduced as part of the Poems on the Underground thing, and it pushes the air out of my lungs. It’s that line: “punched through the mine a fist”. It rolls around my head and makes my eyes glassy with second hand memories of Orgreave, reconstituted for me by Jeremy Deller, and double-fresh in my mind because last weekend I got the train through Orgreave and recognised it from the film that they made of the reconstruction.

Moments later I’m at my desk and googling a song that someone says will cure my Gangsta’s Paradise earworm. It is Chandelier by Sia, and it is the best pop video I’ve seen for years. It makes me think of Bjork, in that it could be a Bjork video, because she is also that brilliant. The performer in the video is a reality TV star from the US series Dance Moms. I am reminded that I still haven’t watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

I go to the Arcola twice this week, get off at Dalston Junction each time and think about this sculpture, then walk outside and remember how disappointing it was that the mirrors used on that Leandro Erlich house last summer weren’t continuous, and the illusion was completely broken by the join. Inside the theatre there is first a comedy about an Iraqi immigrant coming to the UK, and then a “gypsy punk opera” about Napoleon. Gogol Bordello in Coldplay jackets. Le Marseillaise sounds like Danton, Robespierre, Hilary Mantel, Zinedine Zidane and that headbutt, and then Francois, that guy I lived with for a bit in Manchester in 2006. He used to drink White Russians, like he was in A Clockwork Orange or some shit.

Then the 50 Shades trailer. The guy playing Grey looks like a member of N-Sync, when N-Sync were still children.

I would fucking hate a ride in a helicopter. I hope no-one ever does that for me.

The first 14-18 Now season. A 16 minute sound and video installation viewed from a camp bed in an upstairs room in the Cinema Museum. Charlie Chaplin is a funny guy isn’t he, but he’s also Robert Downey Jnr, and isn’t it so sad that he had all those drug problems and looked so beautiful and vulnerable in that Elton John video that time. The most tragic thing is probably that he’s Iron Man now. What total wank. Remember how in Natural Born Killers there were those bits where weird video clips appeared through the windows? It would be good if this Chaplin thing projected through windows instead of onto the ceiling.

My auntie once said that Natural Born Killers was the only film she’d ever seen that made her actually want to walk into a public place and just blow loads of people away with a massive fucking machine gun.

For me it’s Iron Man.

A couple of days later I’m at the Barbican for my first ever theatre livestream, except it’s not strictly fair to call it that. What we’re about to watch is, they insist, absolutely Katie Mitchell’s vision. We will be connected live to the Perner-Insel theatre in Salzburg, where we can already see the back of the audience’s heads as the auditorium there fills up. We will see a screen split into two, the stream of the stage will be mixed together with the video elements of the performance in a van currently parked in the street outside the venue. We are told there is a storm in Salzburg at the moment. The streaming is delayed to wait for the rain to ease. Then it starts and actually the screen is split into three, so we see the stage twice, from different perspectives, at different zoom settings. They’ve built a proper fucking massive tube train, which splits apart and pulls in and out of stations, and trundles aside to reveal toilet cubicles and laboratories and courtyard gardens. Imagine that girl from the Sia video dancing on this set. That would be AMAZING. The programme says there is text by Woolf and Arendt and de Beauvoir, but in the end I rush home to watch this on YouTube, because I’ve just come on my period and that can sometimes give me these horrible woozy headaches so maybe I just don’t have the capacity for Katie Mitchell’s vision right now.


TAGS: theatre art film katie mitchell sia 50 Shades salzburg festival mr burns poetry music sylvia plath spice girls chris goode chris thorpe

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