25 February 2007

Day Trip


I went to Northern Stage in Newcastle yesterday to see the work-in-progress show that will become Robert Lepage's new work, Lipsynch. It will come back to this country in 2009 I think, as a 9-hour piece. Yesterday things kicked off at 2pm and my friend Paul and I had to duck out before the last of the seven parts, at about 6.30, so we could catch the last train back to London.

It was quite a trip.

I won't attempt any kind of precis or review here. My hold on the thing is quite tenuous, I didn't take notes and I became very emotionally involved in the first half hour, so much so that I was like a wrung-out sponge by the first interval. Luckily for me the second session was more comedic and playful. By the time we left the theatre my head was spinning like a top.

The company, comprising the north-east based Theatre Sans Frontieres working together with Lepage's Ex Machina people, displayed that distinctive mix of bravura technical skill and artful emotional range. Wagner used to talk of his endeavours as attempting an evolution toward the Gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts, or a 'total' work of art. So many decades on, the form Wagner worked in, though highly loveable to many (myself included), looks pretty limited next to the epic theatre engendered by this unassuming (by all accounts) French-Canadian theatre worker.

Lyn Gardner wrote a preview for the Guardian.

20 February 2007

Really enjoyed The Conspiracy Files the other night on the Beeb, first in a series and it was a beautifully judged, fascinated look along some of the wilder shores of the so-called "9/11 Truth Movement". Particularly gripping was the moment when Dylan Avery, the 23 years young director of Loose Change
and the enfant terrible of the conspiracy world, realised that the crew from England's BBC had not, after all, come to pay homage and play along, but had come armed to the teeth with balloon-bursting logic.

On a lighter note, did you know that the KLF invented Pete Doherty?

Had the most horrendous head-cold over the weekend, and insomnia to boot, so it's all been a bit dazed and confused. Sunday I just about managed to get myself down to the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge to a pilot reading of Ellen Hughes's two new plays, one an adaptation of RL Stevenson's The Body Snatcher, the other a contemporary piece called The Gift. There's good strong writing in both and very impressive for what E herself calls her 'first plays for grown-ups'.

Then last night B and I beetled down to the Donmar for a preview of John Gabriel Borkman, Ibsen's late play in David Eldridge's new version. What can I say but that it was a great evening in the theatre, marred only by some f***ing idiot who decided to wait till the transcendently peaceful, graveyard stillness of Borkman's farewell right at the end before coughing his guts up. Yes it was me, and I was sitting right in front of David, who afterward took it all in good part, but had it been press night he would've had every right to kick my ass.
I actually fled the auditorium and watched the dying moments of the play on a telly in the bar, through rheumy eyes. This reminded me of the evening last year when a full bladder forced me out of Motortown, and I had to watch the terrible murder scene on a screen in the foyer. That was a very unsettling thing. I was allowed back into the theatre as the company cleared the blood from the stage ritualistically, to the sound of an aria from I think it was Dido and Aeneas. Anyway uncannily enough - or not, perhaps it was to do with the properties of that great play - David told me he had a similar experience, only his was written up in the papers - Charles Spencer mistook his loo-dash for the action of a revolted punter.

Thinking about David's work on the play and Michael Grandage's direction, and the work of Ian McDiarmid, Deborah Findlay, Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, Lolita Chakrabarti, David Burke... This is embarrassing but I could only be reminded of aphorisms, tenets, cliches, from the world of football, specifically, the chestnuts about doing the simple things, creating time and space, showing great awareness , and creativity in the final third.

14 February 2007

I hardly know where to start. The choking incident in the early hours of this morning, turning normally sanguine parents into gibbering wrecks? The unbelievable three hours I spent last night running round an abandoned warehouse in Wapping? Cheering my fellow 50ers as they took to the Royal Court main stage with their gorgeous devised pieces on Monday? Commissioning a miniature musical from one of the said 50? No, let's start with the news that the beautiful people at Encore have revamped their site and through some administrative oversight no doubt there's a link to this place on the front page! A feed, indeed, no less. I am thrilled. I'd like to thank my agent, my wife, my personal trainer...
This is a very nice thing though, I'd gotten used to not being linked to by 'specialist' theatre sites, I guess because I wander off topic a fair bit of the time. And though I expect to be rotated off the front page soon I'm chuffed to've been on there at the unveiling of the new design. So thanks, Theatre Worker. Here's mud in your eye.

11 February 2007

I have conceived a mad, strengthening desire to stage a particular Philip Glass song as a sort of miniature opera/dance/piece of performance/live art/whatever you're supposed to call it. I suppose it's a measure of the paucity of my experience in such matters that I don't rightly know what it would be billed as. Chris Goode's recent barely-controlled impatience with us fusty old crusty old playwrights on his brilliant blog (end of the post, and comments) - we're so not with it, it seems, and it's all our own fault for being so li'erally li'erary - has acted as a catalyst. The song is called Changing Opinion and I've become a bit obsessed by it. The lyrics are by Paul Simon. The other song - if it's worth the name - I'm currently deeply in love with is the KLF's What Time Is Love? - don't get me started.

The_KLF-_What_Time_Is_Love _(pure_trance_original)

09 February 2007


Apart from casting, and making a start on my lovely new jobs (which I still can't tell you about yet but hoping that'll change very soon), I've been watching Tony Marchant's amazingly gripping series Holding On with B. We were agreeing last night that it seems much older than its ten years. The hairstyles seem very 19eighty7, and the voracious on-screen smoking is distractingly dated... A more serious point is that the drama is given time to unfold, the relationship between the ill-fated office worker and her sister, for inst, is built up layer by layer till it reaches a tipping point of believability, and begins to touch you in the soft spot. I may be mistaken but it feels like, ten years on, a telly dramatist is encouraged to cut to the chase before way fewer screen minutes have elapsed.

Can I recommend an article? It's in the London Review of Books (8 Feb edition), and is called Otherwise Dealt With... Chalmers Johnson discusses Stephen Grey's book Ghost Plane: The Inside Story of the CIA's Secret Rendition Programme.

08 February 2007

snow 003

It was snow joke for our firstborn today when some of the sticky wet stuff got in his wellies within seconds of embarking on the trek to nursery. He didn't tell me till it was too late, just pulled a sulk at the camera...Poor fella was well miserable and imagine his dismay when he arrived at Aberdeen Park, hoping to divest himself of frozen socks and sit on a radiator, only to be informed that they were all going out to play in the snow... Luckily though Annette was staying in with some of the younger ones so he dodged that particular bullet. And when his mum picked him up she had some clean DRY thick wooly socks with his name on (not literally, we haven't yet experienced the joys of clothes labels).

Auditions are moving forward, I was in on the first London round on Tuesday, in the shadow of the Euston Tower where only last week I handed in my excuse for a tax return. Today and yesterday Serdar and Ginny were seeing people in Liverpool, at the Everyman I think. All very strange - and lovely of course to hear fragments of the play read so well, in such different voices. And so the ship prepares to leave port, the rituals begin.

04 February 2007

Coming up for the twoth anniversary of O, Poor Robinson Crusoe! and I nearly didn't make it - juggling html templates yesterday while also looking after my beloved second child I almost accidentally killed it, the blog that is, and for half an hour I was glumly acclimatising myself to life after Bob Crusoe. My grief was interesting to me - I'd been thinking about chucking it in to be honest - and the relief I felt on seeing the familiar font and blogroll reappear from neverland was quite strong. So I'll not be parking this thing just yet, just finding ways to refresh. I have been marginally depressed by some of the recent, how to put it, pusillanimity? unpleasantness? in the theatre ****osphere (and before you say anything, there's the occasional thing in my archive I'm not exactly proud of, and I'm learning). But you know, I quite like having my own spot on the interweb and some people out there tune in from time to time, so... so what? so anyway I'll be hanging around on the corner of Robinson and Crusoe for a while yet, and while I figure out just quite how I'm going to Stop Worrying And Learn To Love The Hurlyburly in the neighbourhood I'll leave you with a link.

My sister- and brother-in-law and their company Red Redemption have designed a very interesting educational game for the BBC about climate change called Climate Challenge. Click on the graphic to start the action. Or go here for the hardcore science behind the Really Quite Interesting game.

02 February 2007

You know you're going to have fun doing a job when...

...you can watch Bill Murray on top form for a couple of hours and call it 'research'.


Aesthetically a world away but no less enjoyable was my experience at the NT the other night watching Waves, a performance devised from Virginia Woolf's novel of (almost) the same name. I have to say that while I was ready to yield to Encore's persistently admiring advocacy of Katie Mitchell's highly authored style of directing after seeing The Seagull, this Cottesloe show convinces me that we are damned lucky to have someone with such a playful, artful, exploring sense of theatre and its possibilities as an associate at our national playhouse. Waves is consistently astonishing. If I wanted the interval sooner it was because I was overloaded, I needed a break to process all the beautiful moments I'd just been through.


And though she may not consider it an achievement, Mitchell has made it possible for me to read Woolf again, some years after I had sacked her after becoming aware of the disgracefully snobbish nigh on racist things she had said against my lovely hero, James Joyce.