Cats and audience

Well then. The Pantechnicon opens tomorrow. Bring your name. If you are a supplicant, bring a laurel branch. If you’re afraid of snakes to the extent that you’ll fly off the handle, don’t be a supplicant. If you’re afraid of me so much that you’ll fly off the handle come anyway. I can handle it. First few days are just going to be scratching the material we’ve got and making sense of what flies and what doesn’t within the frame of what we are making.

Mel and I collaborate so well together despite the fact that we can fight like cats. It’s an odd pairing but it works. We both generate sheds worth of raw idea soup. But then we look at all the ideas we have and add more. Occasionally we pick one up and refine it but then as often as not we abandon it for a shiny new one and forget it ever existed. But today we have been forging order from chaos. Now we can bring paying people into the mix and notice how things work outside of our very different slightly bonkers minds. I suspect it’s going to be lovely.

I just picked up a robust and beautiful set of stairs up from New Cross, so now we have an entrance that the audience can use. I have to go home and write some material now, just to thicken the idea soup and make sure the flavours all blend together nicely. But right now I’m sitting in a pub with a Heineken 0, getting this blog down.

I have no house keys. I didn’t think this through. My friend Emma arrived today with her cat in a bag, five minutes after I was supposed to leave for work. Her house is being fumigated. She works at The Lister Hospital which is right round the corner. We locked her cat in my room and went to work. I gave her my keys. It’s now past ten in the evening and she’s walking here having only just finished.

I gave the other set of keys to my nephew Campbell. He’s brilliant. He’s partly responsible for a Shelley poem having made its way into the idea soup. He also is extremely good at switching all the lights off, which is a mixed blessing. I have no idea what I’m going to get home to. Two cats in a pitch black flat with nothing but a locked door between them…

We didn’t have time in the morning to introduce them and supervise it. If Pickle goes for boy, her claws are like razors right now. If Boy goes for Pickle, he is twice her size, although lacking in testicles. They might end up the best of friends… Or they might have been yowling through the door at each other all day and spraying on everything they could possibly spray on. They might have trashed the place running around in crazy circles in the dark.

But this sort of thing is just speculation. Likely everything will be fine. But it’s the nature of what we have had to do all day in the van. “What if an audience member is terrified of snakes and smashes everything trying to get away?”

I’ll let you know when I get home about the cats. I reckon everything will be fine. And if it is then maybe I can let myself off the hook worrying about the show, because it’s the same thought pattern.

Here I am in a fabric shop with snow outside. We got some shiny material, and some Chinese ink. But cripes it’s cold.

(The cats didn’t kill each other. Yet.)

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LAST TWO YEARS

Digging Cars. I just read that a year after it happened. Proof that time is a healer. It’s funny now. I almost died of a heart attack.

Toscars Selection.

Calm night at home

Now it’s time for me to start splitting my head. This’ll be good practice for me. Anyone that knows me well will recognise that I struggle to focus on multiple things simultaneously. Now I’m going to have to.

I’m rehearsing daytimes for a thing in February – one night only, bunch of A-Listers. All very hushhush all of a sudden. It’s not a huge part but it’s well loved and it gets the gags. American accent, but I’m not certain if I’m going to be under NDA right now so I’m being deliberately cagey until I know more. Once I make sure I can, I’ll talk about it. But I’ll have to spend time learning it, working it and developing a character. And then in the evening, fun with logistics, followed by (is it theatre?) our thing in a van – (if I can get the van on site without everything going everywhere.) I like our thing in a van but it’s still a great big unknown to me. And Vault just told me that one of my favourite people that write about theatre is booking in the first few days to come play. Which means squeaky bum time. Suddenly I wish we had a budget, or lots of time. Although this person doesn’t usually mind. She’s as close as we get to an ally on that side of the paper. She likes people working with their heart, on a shoestring. So we should be okay in our odd little Pantechnicon type thing.

It’s good having my nephew staying. I’ve been bouncing ideas off him, thinking forensically about what interests me for this piece and then seeing if it washes with him. He agrees with me that we are starved of ritual in this culture and he’s barely 20. I’ve roped him into helping out on Wednesday as another pair of hands will be intensely valuable and he’s game for it. He also plays guitar and is young and creative. I suspect we will find good use for him, as we can for any number of friends who fancy showing up. We even have a death robe with a big hood. Shy people could just sit in the van silently and occasionally point at people. Or buy a ticket yayyy!!!

I’ll likely keep a tally and let you know when/if the expenses have all been paid for, just as I’m curious and why not.

I’m getting an early bed, for an early rise. Me and Pickle are hanging out in my room – she’s using me as a hot water bottle. Brian and Melissa are dying in the room next door after doing a class with one of those names like “Body Wombat”. Part of me wishes I’d gone too, most of me is relieved I still have use of my arms. Campbell has it right. He’s reading “The Mask of Anarchy” on the sofa.

It’s peaceful, positive and creative here in the flat tonight. Just how I like it before an early start. I just read The Mask of Anarchy as bedtime reading. Now I’m off to dreamland, hopefully to dream some more ideas for the show. Sleep well, pilgrims.

“Rise like Lions after slumber,

In unvanquishable number –

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you –

Ye are many – they are few.”

Also, I found this book today… Using that in the show somehow…

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LAST TWO YEARS

Interviews

Grey River and Stream of Consciousness

 

Fyre and the van

I’ve just watched the Netflix documentary about Fyre Festival. It’s a hell of a thing. A tribute to epic hubris, centred on a pallid grinning creep who has the right mix of no morals, smart friends and an animal comprehension of what a certain type of person will buy. He sold a dream and delivered a sack of pigshit. But his persistence is notable. In the face of overwhelming criticism and a complete lack of infrastructure he kept a face on and just said “Everything will be fine” until it wasn’t.

I watched it with my nephew Campbell. He’s at art school in Aberdeen and came down today for a few nights on the sofa. £35 and 13 hours on the megabus. A baby was sick by him right at the start of the trip. He didn’t sound like he was having a great time. But he’s here to make some street art. It’s to his taste, and costs no more than the material, time and transport. Who knows what will come of it. It’s in a place somewhere between performance and painting, and inspired by very sharp revolutionary political thinking. I sat with him on the sofa as I was getting started on doing my tax return. Not that I’ve got time for that, I should’ve done it months ago, but I get a fine if I don’t get it in on time and thankfully I have a fucking wonderful friend who is also an accountant – and patient with me too. She gets to see my bank statements. There’s got to be trust in that. Every year when I look at them I wonder what the hell I was thinking, and also how I can justify this absurd unpredictable existence when the Fyre Festival guy was selling $12,000 packages to people half my age, and they could buy.

I’m selling tickets to come play and have something happen and get some stuff in a van in Waterloo for £15. We’ll receive £13.50 of that which will be further split through the team. It’ll take a lot of those tickets to sell before the bare expenses are covered. Things creep up on you. For our show it’s solvable via getting helpful people with skills to do things for mates rates or for favours down the line. By buying things on Amazon. By putting in the hours. Thank the Gods for good friends, as it’s  still working out more expensive than I anticipated. It’s a fine lesson because this van show carries very little risk. It’s the perfect frame for me to break the back of making things again after burying my head fifteen years ago when mum died. Even if hardly anyone shows I’ll enjoy it, and if everyone shows then ace! Plus if it plays well we will roll it out to festivals and have a little lovely thing we can go back to in the gaps. That’s the main reason we are making it.

The Fyre guy was selling something very different though. He was selling supermodels in bikinis stroking hogs on the beach with champagne. And it doesn’t matter how much goodwill you’ve banked, you can’t get a mate to build hundreds of fully plumbed luxury cabanas in a few weeks to sleep a bunch of “influencers” who are wondering where the thing they’ve been promoting actually is. I doubt you can get Amazon to deliver top quality food, drink and fresh water in vast quantities to a tiny island in the Bahamas in one day, even if you’ve got Prime.

So come visit The Pantechnicon and save yourself a terrible trip to the Bahamas. No supermodels will be there – or at least I’d be surprised if they were. They’re welcome of course. There’s definitely no jetskis though, and no champagne unless you bring it, and I’m on Dry January so it’ll make me sad. I’ll almost certainly offer you whisky anyway.

Here’s a view from my van chair today… It’s coming.

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LAST TWO YEARS

Astonishing amounts of rain in LA the day after Trump is inaugurated

Rambo, and flights of fancy

Black Octopus

This dark time of year can get into our hearts. Even if we are up with the light, as I have been, the cold squeezes our bodies and stealthily tires us out. Our muscles are constantly tensed against it. Also we make ourselves smaller to keep ourselves warmer. Our breath shrinks into us and we shrink with it. In this hemisphere we should be cocooned into little warm hideyholes for the whole season, waiting for nature to come back and shake us awake. We shouldn’t fannying around with a freezing cold van on the weekend. But, moan about it all I want, it’s fun. If it wasn’t so bloody damn damn bloody cold I’d be having a whale of a time. As is, just remembering to breathe fully is a full time job.

I’ve had the Black Octopus for the last few days. The weird many legged clever squashy sense that … everything is just slightly off kilter. Dread, and a bit of sadness. It’s hard to shake it once it gets its tentacles into your ventricles. I keep on just stopping, sighing deeply and moving on without really knowing why I’m sad. But that’s the nature of the octopus. It just comes and perches on your head. For its own reasons. Sometimes I find myself thinking of exchanges that took place decades ago forgotten by all involved except for me, pulled out of my ear by one of those sucking appendages. Other times today I’ve gone back on the groove of missed opportunities. What might have been. Then I remember my walk in the autumn and how all of that stuff fell into sharp relief. What does any of that matter? I’ve wrestled that leggy twat long enough that it won’t get its beak into me this time. But it wasted some of my time today camouflaging itself.

I went to try and work in the van, realised I’d left the cable runner at Gatsby last night in an almost heroically deliberate unconscious act of self-sabotage. Well done that octopus. No power would’ve meant another freezing day. No. Not three in a row.

But rather than stagnate, a change of plan: Mel went to the warehouse to get the cable, I took the van for a wash. We couldn’t stick things on it and expect them to hold as it was. The whole thing was grimed in crap. I wasn’t washing it myself in this weather. I paid someone even more damn money, and then spent some on a hot coffee and sat there reading my book while they worked. Perfect opportunity to get something done that needed doing. You couldn’t touch it without grease.

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Now I’m at Mel’s. I put myself to bed early because there are covers and it’s warm. We’ve been clarifying ideas and running scenarios. It’s a simple thing we’re making really, and it’s important to remember why we’re making it. Despite a million complicated forms we had to fill in, in the end we are just making a pleasant moment for people. It’s not even acting. It’s just responding. It’s just a thing. I’m just getting chased by my own darkness a little bit. I think I can feel the suckers popping off now though. I’ll make polpetto nero of the bastard like they do in Astorga. Omnomnom.

LAST TWO YEARS

Women’s March vs Trump in Los Angeles

Old School and VR

Running Cables

Today was the last day building outside the warehouse in Borough. The problem with using Gatsby is that we are beholden to them in terms of arrival time. I have to be there at 8am to fend off the trafficbastards, but they don’t really have to be there until 4 and they hold the keys to the inner space. And they weren’t coming in. No money is changing hands, you see. We’re there on sufferance. It’s a favour, and we can’t expect them to change their patterns for us, much as we wished we could today.

I had to reschedule my friend the carpenter when it became clear nobody was going to let us in. Now I’m worried we won’t get stairs made in time for people to get into the van which will mean fun with stepladders. Hopefully it’ll work out. But oh dear God it was a cold morning, until with the artifice of desperation we found a way to get a wire to a plug socket. We ran a cable through a hole in a window cage, then into the building through a gap in the window where the long dead ventilator should be, then through a working loo, up four flights of stairs in a working office building, and boom! Into the socket that the cleaner uses for their Hoover. Just as well I know the code to the outer door and that the loo was unlocked today. I got power to the van just in time for my friend Suzanne to arrive clutching an oil heater to lend us. Bliss. Finally.

The good news is, it takes very little time to heat up. Two hours later we are in a warm van, but complet exhausted from cold, attempting to string sentences together while instead getting fractious because we are both just shattered by shivering. But nobody tripped on the wire and died. That’s a win. And Holly came and got some photos taken of us in weird masks and stuff. So now we have images. And then finally, 8 hours into the day, Gatsby opened their space. We disconsolately shuffled in, returned some stuff, painted a couple of chalk boards, and stopped trying to pretend to be real humans because it was far too much effort. Mel left. I sat in the van and waited for the congestion charge to end, and then drove off too, causing controlled carnage in the back of the van. Barely caring.

The last thing in the world I felt like after that rancid day of ice and disappointment was an ecstatic dance class. I drove the van home full of emotions, mostly sad and weird and unvalued and low and heavy. I shuffled up into my flat, grabbed my tracksuit bottoms, and walked back out before my brain could stop me. I got on the tube, went to Camden, and danced like a maniac for 2 hours despite really really not wanting to do anything of the sort.

It sort of helped, sort of didn’t. I still feel sad but I don’t feel so tense anymore, or so cold. It’s a good workout and I was in excellent company. I think it’ll set me up better for the weekend, which will involve more cold vans but self determined now instead of in somebody else’s space. I’ll probably have to run cable down three floors through a window, but at least I’m expecting that going in.

And when I got home Brian had run me a bath. I’m in it now restoring heat to my bone marrow.

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LAST TWO YEARS

Trump is inaugurated and it rains in California

I get annoyed about Health and Safety but Melissa buys pizza

 

Cold build

The van is parked in a loading bay outside Gatsby. It starts being regulated at 8am so I have to make sure I’m there on the dot. I’m leaving it there partly because until the interior is built it’s tricky to move it without collapsing everything inside, and partly because moving it in regulated hours would mean I’d have to pay congestion charge. Gatsby has accessible power. If there’s someone there…

Nobody got into Gatsby until 3pm though, which meant 7 hours in the van with no power and no loo. It’s telling that on a cold day like today I was happier by far sitting in the cab with the blowers on than I was working in the “comfortable” back section. It didn’t matter what it looked like in there, I was looking at my breath when I was in there. It was like working in a walk in fridge.

I really want people to feel comfortable in the van. We’ll need more than lights. We’ll need more heaters and more cushions, and more time, to warm the thing up before we start if the weather stays like this. If we can make it a haven then we can catch walk-ups. If it’s a cold metal case then we could be PT Barnum in there and it’d go for nothing.

The magic of Facebook though. I’m asking for a lot on there at the moment. I’m very aware that I am. I guess it’s an inevitability when you’re making something and the budget is zero. Whatever the hell I make next is going to have a budget. But this doesn’t, so I’m having to borrow a great deal of stuff – and people keep coming up trumps. An old friend is dropping round an oil radiator tomorrow on the way to the gym. We have staple guns and ladders in the van that don’t belong to us, as well as miles of material, some large items of furniture, some pictures, some shelves, an urn, a lectern and a weird old book. At heart it’s a truck where you get a proper tarot reading. But we are running interference. We are throwing lots of other things at it. Come if you like random. Don’t come expecting a scripted monologue. If that’s your groove you’ve doubtless got hundreds to choose from, right next door. But I’m confident we will find our groove, and with it the find the right people. And if I can solve the heating thing it’ll be a cosy little den and that’s super important. I want “oooh” and not “brrrr”.

But that’s been my day. Man vs cold. Mel had to teach a workshop so it was me muttering to myself and badly sticking pins into things, dragging things up and down stairs, banging my head on metal corners, going back into the cab to warm up periodically, wishing I could make a fire in the middle of the van and have done with it.

I’m excited and scared to get the experience/thingthing/show/truck on the literal road. Obligatory ticket link this sentence.

I’ve written this whole thing in the bath. Warming up before bed…

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LAST TWO YEARS

Headshots and getting over myself

A day of get-outs and break-ups

Pantechnic on sale

It is now inevitable. I’m doing a show at Vault. It’s in a van outside the door in Leake Street. Always on the fringes. Both involved and separate. A comfortable area for me.

I have no objection to sitting on my own in a van with my friend Mel, but I think It’ll be far more pleasant if there are people who have bought tickets and are sitting in the van with us. Then we can go some way towards making back some of the cash we’ve blown so far building it, while giving people a little mad slice of the inside of our heads. I’m on the look out for records of classical music laid down over fifty years ago, so we can have a bit of music as we go, because if not it’ll be generic copyright free music, plus whatever I can persuade friends to play live when they have a moment. We are under contract, tickets are live, and what’s that noise I can hear faintly at the edge of hearing…? The creak of the treadmill in the poorhouse. The crack of the orcish whips…

The fabulous Pantechnicon will be parked out front Wednesday to Sunday. Doors open at 7 and close at 10. We take up to 4 people every half an hour. Stuff will happen. Maybe you’ll save the world. Maybe you’ll save yourself. Book now. Book now. Now book. I’m good at marketing. Buy buy buy buy buy. Money money money. Spend yes spend yes click click click. That’s how it’s done, eh?

Here’s the TICKET LINK

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One thing I’ve noticed today: My friends are great. The unofficial union of friendly theatre types. I was trying to rent some stairs for the back of the van, so audience people can get in without skinning their shins. I went to the first hit on Google. They saw me coming. “Yeah mate you need an 8 foot steel deck under them for stability (like where do we keep that overnight?) and then a handrail and the stairs – will you be building yourself?” “Yes” “Well the decking is £27 times four weeks and then there’s the…” etc etc. I hung up when it was clear he was going to come in at £200 and then add VAT. Go boil your head, sir.

I put one of those posts up on Facebook – the speculative posts you see from time to time. “Anyone got stairs?” It’s not such a long shot despite how it looks to people outside the industry. I know so many theatre geeks and some of them even have garages.

Turns out that all I needed to do was go to the loo. I’ve been building outside the Gatsby space so I can say to the stage manager “Golfo, can I borrow your staple-gun / wazzer / gaffer tape / practical brain / finger?” My mate Ethan is a chippy and he was building some stuff for Gatsby. He said “Hey, Al, I saw on Facebook you need stairs. I’ll knock some up for you for cheap if you have any wood.” Next thing I know, I have someone else offering me the timber we need. By Friday, thanks to two friends and the time I’ve spent in the industry getting stuck in and not being an egomaniac, I have some stairs being custom built for a fraction of what it would take to rent them. And we can keep them against future shows. Or try to rent them for ‘undreds of pahnds to unsuspecting theatremakers. (I wouldn’t. You can borrow them for free. Just put a question up on Facebook.)

LAST TWO YEARS

Running around LA dodging the bus fare

Feeling unfit in January