I’m off to see a show this evening. It’s at The Cockpit theatre, off Edgware Road, down an alley near a shut down street market. It’s alive but you’ve got to be careful. My mate Dan was wearing headphones round here and got hit in the back of the head for them. If you were Batman, you wouldn’t want to go there with your parents. Which in no way affects the quality of the work in the theatre. If anything it enhances it. I saw my business partner Jack play Romeo not so long ago. You’re never too old to be in love. It was awesome. Tonight it’s press night for The Cosmic Trigger. I have a friend in it, and I’m interested in the subject matter.
I was going to wait until I’d seen it and then write on the way home, but it’s a long play so I thought I’d do it before I went in. It’s almost four hours. Four hours is nothing for the woman behind it though. She directed The Warp when she was a teenager. That was 24 hours long. She’s daughter to the legendary theatre experimenter Ken Campbell. So four hours is likely to fly by, particularly as I’ll be supporting my good friend Jethro.
I’ve always felt at home in circles that could be considered “experimental.” The Beowulf we are making is an experiment. Christmas Carol was too. And Sprite, and The Factory. And Coney, FanSHEN, The Flanagan Collective, Baz. I adore people who are knowingly shagging the boundaries and getting us to join them – they’re great. And fearless. And we’ll be friends. There’s nothing that rankles like mummification when it’s not called for. Sometimes we crash. Sometimes we win. That’s the point of experimenting.
This’ll be a show about psychedelics, which is a fun frame for theatre right off the bat. By the sound of the team it won’t be boring, which is the only true sin that theatre can commit.
I’ve always found the psychedelic movement fascinating, and much of the art and thinking that rose from it has new relevance nowadays. The movement coincided with the birth of computers and the space race. The eyes of the world were on the expanse of the infinite universe. “How do we get up there?” “What is that place to us?” “What will be discover now we have machines to do the logical thinking for us?” People started to reach for the stars.
More than one piece of software will scan over even these words, and something might go ‘beep’ when I write “anarchy” “bomb” “jihad” or whatever. We feel we are being monitored. With actual trips to Mars once again being seriously mooted, and people feeling boxed and observed and crowded down on this little rock, once again we’re starting to seek for the cracks around the accepted view of things – looking outside the party line for meaning, healing, community, understanding and shits and giggles. I work at festivals a lot, so I see people on vast cocktails of narcotics. 8 years ago, those cocktails rarely seemed to be mostly heavy psychedelics. There were pills galore of course, but people on downers were smoking weed or falling into k-holes. Now many more people are in space against trees with acid or even DMT in the daytime. I don’t know if that’s to do with supply or demand. But I’ve definitely noticed a shift, not just in my observations but in the stuff people try to sell me.
Just as hundreds of seekers in fields are doing this stuff, so are professors. I know because I worked with a load of neuroscientists. They were conducting experiments on their own brains, pushing their own boundaries. Jolly bespectacled family men with academic posts had been cooking their own 2CP and had enough to share. One of them was talking about direct application of electrical current to different bits of the skull. He would put it on and give himself a sustained dose of low level shock to one side of his head or the other depending on what he was meant to be doing. He was quite odd but he had acres of evidence that it helped. Who knows what these brave madmen will discover. We still know comparatively little about the human brain and we can’t experiment on others without their consent. Their argument was that we need to think outside what is accepted. Fair point. We do.
The play I’m watching tonight is about Robert Anton Wilson, a man who walked the walk. Here’s one of his many quotes, which I think helps elucidate the man he was and why I think he was important.
“Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and ‘progress,’ everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man’s refusal to bow to Authority. We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent. As Oscar Wilde truly said, ‘Disobedience was man’s Original Virtue.”