Congratulations to the team behind Black Watch, my all time favouritest play ever ever EVER and now winner of four Olivier Awards! Whoop! It (quite rightly) got Best New Play, Best Sound Design, Best Director and Best Theatre Choreography.
John Tiffany directed Black Watch, and I’ve got a ticket for his new play Be Near Me, which comes to the Lowry at the end of next month. I’m trying really hard not to get over-excited about it, because I have a habit of building things up and up until I come out of the theatre feeling like shit because even a brilliant performance could not reach my inflated expectations. Still, I can’t fucking wait to see Be Near Me (which I keeping wanting to call Be Here Now like the Oasis album - hope that’s not a sign of things to come…)
The dude who did the choreography was a guy called Steven Hoggett, and I tell you, that guy deserves a tribute tattoo across my forehead, he’s that good. You wouldn’t think that a play about a group of soldiers dealing with their harrowing experiences would warrant much dancing, but that’s what makes Steven Hoggett’s choreography so special. You barely notice it. He uses set pieces to tell the story of the Black Watch regiment through the ages, and to communicate the endless routine and boredom of being on a tour of duty when you’re seeing little action. That’s what makes it so affecting, and so dark; a few twists and turns and a country dancing step or two can bring about this massive sense of oppression. The expectation of the past on these young men who have joined an ancient regiment is just so stifling, and Hoggett turns it all into movement. BRILLIANT.
Well done Team Black Watch.
I have found somewhere to live in Leicester - whoop! It’s an attic room in a six bedroom house and, during the ten minutes spent in the company of my new housemates, none of them demonstrated any personal hygiene problems, kleptomania or an affinity for hard house music. And when I got off the bus yesterday morning, the Café Nero near the bus station was playing John Martyn so this is clearly MEANT TO BE.
I read the final chapters of Rabbit, Run on the way home last night, while listening to () by Sigur Rós in order to drown out the commercial radio on the driver’s stereo. It pretty much turned me to emotional pulp and I had to face the window so no-one could see me quietly sobbing about how totally unfair life is sometimes. I’m not going to tell you what happens in Rabbit, Run, but I can say that it’s a story about someone with whom you alternately empathise and become enraged, and Updike leaves it up to the reader to decide whether he’s a victim of circumstance or his own worst enemy. It’s a story of complex realtionships and the pressures of being a grown-up, and it’s written for an audience who are the same; a bit good, a bit bad, a bit uncertain of the future. It’s the kind of book that makes you examine yourself a little more deeply, and to be honest, that’s not always the kind of fiction I go for, let alone enjoy.
Well done John Updike.
I was going to post a blog tonight about my mate Sophie and the folk and spoken word night that she puts on every month, but I’ve had an absolutely disastrous day so spent most of the evening drawing pictures of snowmen arguing with oil-filled radiators and Barack Obama taking on the call centre staff of Student Finance Direct instead. From what I remember, there was a brilliant duo on the fiddle and harp who played awesome jigs (although they did say that most Scottish songs were really sad and depressing and I was like “Proclaimers! 500 Miles!” and they were all like “well yeah, okay” and then played another jig) and Kathryn Edwards finished off and she’s always good. And there was a harmonica dude to start off who would have been great if Bob Dylan didn’t already exist and a guy on our table was like “I bet he was late because he was shooting up”. He wasn’t even that scruffy-looking.
Anyway, in my lunchbreak today I went to Waterstone’s to buy an A to Z of Leicester, because I’m off house-hunting there on Sunday. Obviously, they had Leeds and Liverpool and London, but no Leicester, so I went to the desk and asked the girl, who was crap. She looked on the screen and said “yeah, we don’t have any in stock” even though that wasn’t even my question. I knew they didn’t have any in stock because I’d looked, but even so, I humoured her and said “so, how long will it take you to get one?” and she was all like “umm… we don’t have any in stock”. YES I KNOW, WHEN WILL YOU BE ABLE TO GET ONE FOR ME? And she was like “all the ones on my screen say they’re discontinued”, at which point I think I said something about how the world’s map-makers obviously just assume people going to Leicester will find their way around using sonar signals or something, and then she went off to find some other guy, because a queue had formed while she was telling me over and over how they didn’t have an A to Z of Leicester in stock.
So the other guy was really nice. He found an A to Z of London and looked in the back and phoned a number and spoke to a guy about publication dates and one-way systems and planned routes for development and stuff for a few minutes and then asked me if I wanted to order an A to Z of Leicester while he was still on the phone to his publisher guy. I was like “Yeah, yeah, definitely! Thank you so much for going to all this trouble for me! Thank you thank you thank you!” and he said some more stuff down the phone and wrote something down and then hung up the phone and said to me “you’ll have to pay in advance I’m afraid, and it should be available to collect in seven working days”.
I’m going to Leicester on Sunday.
That’s the day after the day after tomorrow.
So I paid the guy and smiled and said a few more thank yous and then walked back to work, running through what had just happened in my head. I’d paid in advance for a map that wouldn’t arrive until after my trip, when I could have just bought a fucking map when I got to bloody Leicester bus station. Idiot.
Then, when I got to my desk I had to spend about 45 minutes printing little bits of Leicester off Googlemaps and sellotaping them together to make this big roll of sticky tape that’s like the Dead Sea Scrolls. All because I would have felt like some horrendous customer service abuser if I hadn’t have bought anything from the friendly man who phoned the publisher for me. I couldn’t have less backbone if I was a sea cucumber.
And then, after I’d wasted the rest of my lunchbreak (and then some) sticking together little pieces of Leicester, I phoned Student Finance Direct because they told me yesterday that my application would probably have been approved overnight. Well, it was approved overnight, but the bastards have denied me my tuition fees based on the fact that I dropped out of a course FIVE YEARS AGO, and it was then that I watched my entire future crumble into sawdust before my eyes and phoned my Mum because Mums know how to fix everything. And Mum spoke in her super-calm Mum voice until I started to breathe properly again and then she told me that my evil grandparents (who I haven’t even seen since I was twenty) had put some money away for me but that she hadn’t known how to tell me because she knew I wouldn’t want to take money from them because they’re arseholes but perhaps I should consider using some of the money to fund my education because it’s not like it’s just a new pair of shoes of anything. And I was all like “argh yeah no but they’re arseholes but no yeah argh” and then we decided that I’d just appeal against the funding decision first and see what happens. I never even got a tuition fee loan for my first course so it’s not even like I’ve taken twice the funding or anything. The government are rubbish. And then I went back to my desk for like, the last five minutes of work, and Jo was all like “I bet if we were in America, Obama would give you the money”, and I was like “yeah”.
So, at the end of the day, I was left with a load of house viewings for which I have only a home-made scroll-map, and quite possibly no money for a roof over my head anyhow, and when I got to the cafe where Sophie’s folk night is held, my sandwich was really dry.
On the plus side though, on the bus home a crazy old drunk told me he liked my coat.
Busy day yesterday. I went to Leicester, to an open day at De Montfort University, and to an “informal interview” which was supposed to decide whether or not I got a place on their course, but was actually pretty unimportant since I received my unconditional offer last week.
The guy who interviewed me was brilliant though, really made me confident that I was doing the right thing. My Dad was under strict instructions not to answer any questions so, of course, the first thing he did was shout out “Alan Yentob!” when the tutor, Chris Maugham, asked if any of us could name any famous arts managers. Can’t take him anywhere… Still, it helped break the ice a bit, and when the little talk was over and I sat down with Chris for the “informal interview” we chatted about everything from the lack of young people involved in live literature to the layout of the new Curve theatre, to the economic problems of Brecon Jazz Festival. It just felt right.
Not taken yesterday.
Then, when all our regimented activities were over, we wandered into the centre of Leicester and it seemed lovely. Obviously much smaller than Manchester, but it benefited from it. All that big city grime and drunkenness and litter and filth was missing. There’s a massive covered market with an amazing fishmongers and a whole area for fruit and veg sellers. It was like walking into the old East End of London, with everyone shouting their wares. There’s a gorgeous old clock tower and an area called Leicester Lanes, which is a little warren of independent shops and little Victorian style arcades. Thankfully, it was a sunny day. It’s possible that I would have emerged suicidal if it had been tipping it down. As you know, I do love a blue sky.
On another subject entirely, wouldn’t it be nice to have this tattooed on my feet?