Let’s Twist Again

Copyright. Of course. We were playing tracks during the show, over the curtain call and in the wedding scene. “I think I can just contact the artists,” says one of the actors. “We can get permission.” “It doesn’t work like that. The producers own the work, not the artists. You can pay the artists, but you need to pay the producers too. And you pay them more than the people who made the work.”

Of course. The music industry. It reminds me of the documentary “Searching for Sugarman,” which if you haven’t seen it will be a worthwhile couple of hours. Bunch of cunts.

How to get round it?

Well, thankfully the director of the company’s husband is a musician. This is his isolation song. Everyone’s got one so sing along.

This morning I woke up, zoomed in, and screamsang in my morning voice, despite it being about 2pm. It was a Chubby Checker song. Chubby’s a tenor. I’m a profundo.

I tried to transpose it down an octave. “It sounds like Pavarotti” says the director. So it’s screaming they need. Fine. Screaming can be musical art too. Drama school teaches vocal care. But there’s a huge amount of traction in vocal damage, as well I know. I was soprano in The Messiah for a school tour when my voice broke. I went from top top to bottom bottom and it took me this long to understand the new thing that adulthood had given me in light of the thing that had been lost.

Profundo is very useful in group singing, to provide the “tench” – (the fish that is at the very very bottom”. But solo singing rarely looks towards those notes. There’s not much written for me that isn’t by Tom Waits. Male showtunes are mostly Tenor. I still have Old Man River as an audition song although politically it’s not the smartest if the company doesn’t already know me personally. Anyone with better suggestions, hit me up.

As for the work Stu and I did : well, he got me howling into mic and he’s cut it into the curtain call music somehow. As for the live bit, well that’s out of my control. Literally. But at least he’s made my morning voice sound boss on the recording.

Claire came and saw it tonight with her sister Helen and Hattie the dog. Also Katherine from my local Buddhist chapter. Yesterday my cousin outlaw Charlotte came. Almost every show there’s been somebody who I’ve been thrilled to see. Friends from long ago and not so long.

Two days off, but apparently not. I’m about to get a load of camera equipment, lights and tripods couriered to me. I’m going to have to record an annual award ceremony as toastmaster. It’ll be the third in a row for this client. But fuck knows how it’ll pan out. I think it should just be done live on Zoom. But it seems they want me to record the content for broadcast, and they’re gonna send me the kit to get it done properly.

Thankfully Jon is doing the negotiating. I’m just the talent. Let’s see where that one goes…

Here’s me mid show. Hex was more mischievous and affectionate than usual. He wouldn’t leave my neck. So I let him stay there as I sorted out props. You can see the studio type thing behind me…

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“Let’s Twist Again! Like we did last summer. Let’s Twist again! Like we did last year! Do you remember when things were really humming? Let’s Twist again. Twisting time is near.”

 

Back into Naples

Back into The Tempest, and again I’m stunned by these creative hearts. I know I’ve surrounded my life with remarkable unusual people. But it takes a show like this to remind me of how deep it goes. I’m the straight man in this. Me. The straight man. Yep. That’s how mental this lot are.

Oh how I love it. I’m happy to be part of something live and fun and silly in this weird isolated world we find ourselves in. I’m thrilled that Creation and Big Telly get to pick up audiences all over the world for a sweet and fun experiment. All of us are constantly having to up our tech game. I’ve bought new lights, which just arrived, but right now I have to work my legs super hard to be at the right angle for the screen. I’ll be buying equipment until I’m satisfied that my home studio environment is flawless. All this for live theatre during lockdown. But there’s not much else that would fire me up as much. This Tempest is bringing people together from all round the world, into the same environment at the same time. There’ll be a lot more of this before too long. But right now it’s still just either unstructured play-readings, monologues or old recorded shows.

Another actor has bought lights for his playing space, and he is not even doing the show at his own home. He has had a history of bad health and is staying with people who offered him a stable space outside of the cities. Like me he has dedicated a space and constructed a greenscreen studio. My greenscreen is still the teal paint in my living room, and I’m seriously considering just getting a proper one as teal is a fairly common colour.

All of us are using everything we have access to. One of us is making use of his sister to provide effects off screen, essentially by getting her to throw things at him. I know that if there was somebody here they’d be co-opted by me into doing something. Also they’d be hounded out for conflicting internet use, as my internet is entirely taken with this. And I need to pay attention as I very nearly spat water all over my laptop keyboard as an effect.

Everybody is using everything at their disposal entirely to make this the best craic it can be. And it’s real craic because we all know it’s a bunch of people stuck at home playing “let’s pretend”.

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That’s the sadness of it. The teleportation thing I touched on a few days ago. There we all are laughing and dancing and suddenly we aren’t anymore. We are alone.

I think that might be the next stage. That we all stay in the zoom and break out the wine and hang out with whoever wants to stay. Certainly for the late show, not for the matinee. It can be like Christmas Carol. “We’ll get changed but feel free to stay, once we are out of costume we’d love to hang out.” Sure, sometimes Jack and I were exhausted and didn’t want to hang out with anyone. But we did, and it cemented the evening for many of the people who don’t normally go to theatre.

Either way, joy. I’m glad to be part of something delightful. And it’s only £20. Not that I need to push tickets. It’s been selling very well.

Late night ramble

Someone reminded me of a post I wrote last summer while walking home to my digs after rehearsal. It was a balmy summer night and I met a badger, but my thoughts were on an apocalypse that was being predicted by the internet. This one was because of the colour of the moon and some Mayan calendar jiggery-pokery.

It wasn’t the end of the world that time, but there are plenty of events around as potential triggers these days. If you roll the dice often enough you get snake eyes. But it seems a lot of people have forgotten that coincidence just … well it just happens. Maybe I predicted this damp and uninspiring apocalypse. A certain personality type might edit the old post to smell like what actually happened rather than loads of words, and then go around with a God complex. The same personality type though would have been drumming up millions of followers by shouting. I’m glad I’m not that personality type. I can just whisper into this echo chamber before bed and not wake up to pages and pages of badly spelt opinions in capitals.

I’m as bad as everybody else about coincidence. I get some good luck and I say it’s “The Universe” so I don’t have to say it’s one of the pretendyface things, but what I call “The Universe” fills the gap left by spaghetti monster or daddy-beardy or fatman or one-eye or threeface or Rum ‘n Raisin or whatever your flavour of God might be.

But we must remember that patterns can come together in nature and stay for a while just by chance. Coincidences happen. And if we are looking for patterns we can sometimes find patterns that are random and assume they must be what we are looking for.

About a year ago my downstairs neighbour came ringing on my bell. “One of your appliances flooded water into my flat last night.”

I’d had the same flat with the same complaint repeatedly a few years previously and they only ever shouted when it rained. That time it was the guttering.

The night before this time it had been sheeting rain all night. It was still raining when we spoke. Open and shut case. “It was raining hard last night. It’s coming in from the guttering again.” I said, even though I ran the washing machine the night before. Two months later in America it became apparent it was DEFINITELY the washing machine when Brian did it twice in a row in one week. Emergency plumber plus Tristan as keyholder plus too much money taught me the meaning of the pompous phrase “correlation does not imply causation”. It had been raining. I wanted the rain to be the cause. I was indignantly convinced the rain was the cause to the extent I was bristling and angry with my neighbor for daring to think it was my appliances.

It was my appliances.

“Correlation does not imply causation”. It’s a phrase people who are overeducated use to try and talk down to people who have what they think of as crazy pattern-seeking ideas. Speaking as someone overeducated: don’t do that shit! You’re never going to win someone over by showing them you know better words. It’s the same mistake to correct their grammar. They didn’t listen to teacher back then. If you make yourself sound like teacher you can be as easily dismissed.

Right now the usual well known suspects are chasing the paranoid pound hard online and no surprises. This is fucking arbitrary this lockdown. We are all stuck at home and if we really want to believe that we don’t have to be, we can listen to lots of voices telling us what we want to hear. “I’ve been out licking doorhandles every day and I’ve had no Coronavirus!” Yes, because everybody else has been isolating, bless you. But it’s always nice to feel you have specialist knowledge. I’ve been listening to some endless stuff today so I can sit beside people and at least have a handle on the indoctrination. The tone of it! Always everything so so very very serious even if the content is rubbish.

Anyway. Time for bed. Telepathic frogs are making you bald. It’s too late for me. They were bred by Henry Kissinger. And do you know who has a frog farm? Barack Obama. But you won’t find that in the mainstream media.

TRANSLATION: Get off social media, Al.

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Quiet

It’s definitely lighter now than it was a few weeks ago at 8pm when we first went to the window and clapped for the care workers. It’s quaint that we still do it, although I can never shake the suspicion that if a care worker was home to hear it they’d be sleeping. Still we get to honk our honkythings and clap our hands and hear one another whooping and clapping and remembering that we are together alone.

Officially another three weeks minimum in the UK battening down the hatches, said Bojo today, and I have a strong suspicion it’ll be considerably longer in the playing. He also put out a “should we postpone Brexit yes/no” questionnaire on his Facebook and I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The ghost of this thing will be with us for years, if not decades. The actor playing Belch in the outdoor Twelfth Night had better think twice before taking a sip of audience wine. Handwashing stations at festivals are going to be swimming pools of mud on day one. Business meetings will start with bowing to each other even if nobody is from a culture where that’s been normalised.

Brian appeared outside my window this morning, sitting atop his vast purring monster of a superbike. We spoke on the phone whilst looking at each other. He had his helmet on and gear so it was a bit like talking to a friendly tank. Still It was the first time I’ve been in the same shot as one of my friends since this all started, and even then it was only the wide angle. I haven’t shared air with anyone since I went for a pub lunch in Chelsea the day before the pubs closed. Most of us haven’t. And most of us are starting to go stir crazy.

I didn’t go to the pet shop. I woke up with unfamiliar but quite severe pain in the small of my back and I’ve decided to blame it on everything from tension to kidney stones to cystitis to sleeping funny. It’ll work out in my favour though as I’m using the discomfort to take booze out in the equation for a bit to let the old body recover. So I rested.

Apart from making food, I’ve just consumed things. Two or three more anthologies from the Judge Dredd Mega Collection and I’m gaining a deep respect for John Wagner as a writer of comic books with heart and content. So prolific as well. I’m not even halfway through reading the lot and I’ve done at least two a day since the doors closed.

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Then I went onto Mubi for today’s movie – I’m going for one a day as it means I just have to watch whatever is coming off, rather then get picky and spend forever deciding. This one was Brazilian : Neighbouring Sounds. Compelling, but unlike many of the foreign movies I find myself watching, not an advert for the country. A hot strange oppressive film, beautifully observed but not relaxing. Streets away from the 1957 samurai bathhouse romp that barely touched the sides yesterday.

Generally, nothing to report. All quiet on the Western Front. Hope you’re all well.

The crow and the sunset and demons.

As the sun set, I sat on my roof and watched the world darken. A crow sat with me, off to my left. It was almost companionship. It was as aware of me as I was of it. Probably not used to being disturbed in its sunset ritual. They’re smart cookies, crows. Smarter than Hex, but so’s an apple. It seems all the creatures I’ve been in close proximity to in the last few weeks would actually eat me if I was tied up and couldn’t defend myself. I should get a dog. But a dog is for life, not just for lockdown.

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There’s a fucking great mansion where there used to be a garden behind my flat. Busy year for someone. They’ve made a huge big pond for the mosquitos to breed in, and a domed conservatory type thing next to it. I don’t hate it. Nor does the crow.

So much thinking time.

This would be a good time to start a new religion. People are trapped in their individual homes, going slowly insane. Any old shit, if you say it with enough certainty someone’s gonna buy it. Don’t write it down. It needs to be recorded. The best target is semi-literate. Tell them about all the books you’ve read and scientific papers you’ve studied. Then just make up some stuff and make it sound important. You can stick a bit of your own politics in as well if you like, and anything else you don’t like – just say it’s bad and make up reasons. Probably there’ll be money at the end of it. Just don’t get them all to kill themselves suddenly. That happens too often. But this is kind of feeling like the ’70s with internet.

I’m hearing the names of old testament demons as if they were an actual problem in the real world rather than ancient distillations of human fear given name. It’s like I’m playing a Dungeons and Dragons timetwister campaign. “Watch out, Baal’s about!” “Would you like to take out a policy against acts of Beelzebub?” “Our decking spray can protect against Moloch!” We just aren’t used to collectively having all this unstructured time, and also not having a quick sounding board. “The reason all the loopaper sold out is because Katie Swivens from number five is actually Belial.” “What the fuck are you talking about?” “Ah nothing, you’re right. Don’t worry.” Instead you post it online and someone is like “me too bro, my neighbor is actually Marchosias. He’s eating all the puppies in my area. But you don’t see THAT in the papers.”

We are starting to crack and there’s lots more of this to come I fear. We are getting fed up of the sound of their own heads if we’re on our own. I really want to go to the pub, to go out dancing, to sit in a restaurant with friends, to have coffee and write in a crowded room.

I’m trying for an early bed so I don’t smash myself with booze at home again. I think a few days down are in order to let my poor body recover.

A good long walk to the pet shop tomorrow to buy mice for the snake. Start to think about how my body fits into all this, and what condition I want it to be when we leave. I haven’t been kind to it since I locked in.

Time is speeding up which happens when you’re forgetting to do things you’ve never done before. I’ve never bought frozen mice before. It’s not much but it’s something. If only Belphegor wasn’t stopping me exercising.

Snakes and Mubi

This evening I was gearing up for another show. Not The Tempest. Now I’m back as a workhorse, puppeting dead mice for a single uninterested reptilian client. “The dance of the sugarplum rodent.

I got it all ready. Mouse out the freezer in the morning. Defrost naturally all day. Warm it up in the tap. The mouse is ready. I’m ready. Marigolds on, time to open the packet and release the concentrated “essence de souris”. I’m confident it’s going to be a good show.

I get to the venue and open the lid. My snakey client is lying in the pool. He literally couldn’t give a fuck about anything mouselike or creative that I’m planning. He’s not interested. He wants to lie in his pool and soak up the waters. I know he’s just going to sit there. If I start the mouse show now it’ll go for nothing.

Fine. We shouldn’t be precious. We have to play to the audience we can get. If Hex would rather soak up the waters than engage in my food-related puppet show then so be it. He deserves a break. He’s had two shows a day for three days, plus rehearsal. I’ll get back to him in a few hours for the tasty-mouse show. Right now he can soak.

There are more shows going online for The Tempest tomorrow. It seems this weird thing we have made is vibing with people so we get to do it for a few more weeks. Maybe until this lockdown madness ends.

I went on Amazon and ordered more home studio equipment as soon as they confirmed the fee. I’m getting stuff to make it better and also so I can make fun things that I enjoy, from home, properly – not just over this crazy time but going forward. It’s an interesting world to explore, working from home like this. I might as well bone up on it now and get some starter kit. My self tapes will thank me.

The rest of the day? Nothing. Why else d’you think I spent two paragraphs on Hex not being ready to eat.

The bath is running.

The laptop is beckoning.

My Mubi just renewed and reminded me I’m still subscribing. That’ll be the rest of the night, catching up on classic movies. In fact, gonna go. The Image Book by Jean-Luc Godard leaves in 6 minutes. If I start now they might let me watch it through the big telly on PlayStation.


https://mubi.com/t/web/global/1jfy2tz

That’s my mubi link. If you go through it you get a free month.

It’s a curated selection of movies from all around the world and different eras. One goes off every day, one goes on.

I caught most of The Image Book. 88 year old Jean Luc Godard spent ages before 2018 in his cutting room with old movies. I reckon he made a load of slates and narrated it himself. It’s made of cuttings of his selection of some of the greatest movies of the old era of film. He was at the forefront of “the new wave” in the 1960’s. 100% there’d be no Tarantino without Godard, not to mention many many other great auteurs.

He’s cut it out of film stock. He’s still at it. I hope he doesn’t get this shitty thing that’s going around.

It’s described as “an essay”. The subtitles are almost laughably incomplete so my half decent French was helpful. But God what a thing. Changed everything, he did.

Now of course he’s contemplating mortality and legacy as you would be if you were pushing 90. And delving into politics which you know you shouldn’t do, grandpa.

He’s thinking about new forms at one point, which resonated.

“When an epoch slowly dissolves into the next epoch certain individuals transform means of survival into new means. It’s the latter that we call art. (The only thing that will live from an epoch is the form of art it makes.) No activity shall become an art before it’s time is over. Thus this art shall disappear.” (Translation in brackets my own as they didn’t bother, the rest partly the atrocious Mubi subtitles and partly me adjusting them a bit in hopes of getting closer to the intention. I know it doesn’t fully make sense. I suspect that’s also intended.)

I wasn’t allowed to finish. At 1am Mubi interrupted me. Buggers. Still, I had a month to watch or download it.

“The living against the dead,” says Godard at one point.

One of the first images was from “Un chien Andalou”. Many were from great early examples of the “every fucking second of every fucking take costs a fortune” era of film. The opening character introduction of “The Berlin Express,” and fucking hell it’s wonderful but more so when you know how hard that must have been to do that in one take back then fucking hell just watch it!

These movies lose power as they lose context. As artists and makers we intellectually know what was possible in 1929 when Bunuel and Dali made something hard to make, mischievous and weird… In 1948 when Tourneur made that groundbreaking thriller on a train.

“The dead are sending the plague,” says Godard. He knows. He burnt the past and championed experimentation. He loves the new and the old too, but he seems to get that the world moves on. Still, there’s much to learn by looking backwards.

I’m glad I’m experimenting with new forms, when I hear his ancient Frenchman speak to me, and then read it badly echoed by the 16 year old subtitle intern at Mubi.

I still recommend a Mubi subscription. Frequently subtitles are not needed (either English movies or silent films.) And even when they are, it’s rare they’ve been done as incompletely as this.

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Managed to get to stream the end of it. The last clip! I’m weeping. Two beautiful happy people dancing with life and vigour, so alive, so present. But footage so old we know the actors are both long dead. And then one of them pretends to die.

Ach. He knows what he’s doing.

All we makers can do is keep on making and try not to harden into bastards if it suddenly goes well for us – and to remember it’s blind chance if it does.

A Mubi subscription is an education and now is a good time for it. Nothing is there by chance, it’s curated. One in one out every day. Next one out is a Japanese piece from the forties. They throw in modern stuff too though, rest assured. It’s a cornucopia.

And if you’re a French translator with art in your heart, there’s clearly an opening for someone better at it.

Get your free trial. Join the weird indie film Covid revolution.

The empty box

It was around this time of year, only a year ago, that I drove The Soul Van up to Maida Vale full of random antiques. I parked it, paid for a few hours, and walked to my audition location. I was about two hours early. As I walked down the canal I had an animated conversation with my agent about some old sheet music I wanted to find a home for. She suggested someone.

I was wearing a grey suit of my grandfather’s, my uncle Peter’s Gucci shoes, a Rolex that granny bought me for my 21st birthday and a trilby. I was auditioning for The Tempest.

I found the location and then swore about the lack of good coffee shops on that road. I walked the streets looking like a relic of times past. I suit vintage clothes better than I suit modern clothes, and I know it. But vintage clothes don’t suit the Harrow Road.

Eventually it’s audition time and I’m in. Lucy the producer has supported my energy for years after we initially collaborated in 2012. It hasn’t worked with previous directors. My agent has said to me before this meeting “This is the last time, Al. I’m gonna tell them to stick it if they try to bring you in again.” I’ve had 4 auditions (three with the same director) and no job. I see her point.

I meet this director, and I vibe with her. She sees where I hide my mischief. There’s a collaboration here, I think. She seems to think the same. I get an offer.

That was last summer. I end up being trusted to go mental on my own in a willow tree. I think I wrote extensively about it. Hope boats and fatherhood and regrets and the responsibilities of power. The Tempest from Alonso’s perspective filtered through wonderful Zoe and with a liberal sprinkling of my brand of bonkers thrown in for free.


They contacted me immediately when we all locked down. They aren’t rich. But they are extremely well named. Creation. They want to create work. They found a way. Today 200 or more people saw our Tempest as the third day of our Easter online pop-up. It worked, so there will be more opportunities. Watch this space.

A month from now the money-places will have caught up and will be able to send high quality halogen lamps and professional greenscreens to the homes of the same old 5 actors who get to be in everything. For this labile period we can be pioneers, and hell it suits me from back in the Rabbit/Coney days. It’s always worth remembering that constraints are the catalyst for creation.

“I feel like bits of me keep disappearing,” I ended up saying one show when I was having greenscreen light issues. But this is the point. Tech is gonna fuck up. Hex is gonna go where Hex is gonna go. The light is never going to be consistent without a proper halogen on the wall behind me. I’m gonna get booted out mid show and other people will cover my absence. Our show is live, and it exists because of the constraints we are under, and it is bringing people together despite these constraints. I see the audience a lot and I see how moved they sometimes are at this rag-tag joyous thing, because we are making light in dark times. Here’s a photo from a friend’s living room!

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I guess this all means that I’m still doing my job. The Fool and The High Priestess on The Chariot. Somehow one of them has still got the reins.

And it means I don’t have to record myself doing Shakespeare in my dressing gown. Thank fuck.

Audiences and chocolate

I’ve just teleported back to my living room after another two shows. It’s still a mess in this living room. I’ll sort that out in one of the endless tomorrows. Now it’s just winding the show out of myself so that I can sleep properly before doing it all again twice tomorrow.

The Guardian newspaper came last night and understood what we are trying to do, which is what you want from someone who writes about theatre, particularly as a nice write-up in a national will likely allow us to extend the run. They gave us 4 stars.

It was only made with this bank holiday weekend in mind, but frankly what else are we gonna do? Chances are we can extend the run.

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Nice to be in an active show that responds to this madness, and to vindicate the friendships I made over the course of a logistically difficult summer. You never know what’s going to come back to you, but for sure the more you put out the more you get back.

There’s a unique opportunity for us in this show, when we are in the wings, to peep at the audience through a hole in the flat. It’s better even than the fake mirror Jack and I used to spy from in Scrooge’s Parlour. The audience are part of the meeting so their cameras are on unless they choose to switch them off. We get to see them enjoying and participating in the playing we do. One of my nephews unexpectedly came to the matinee and I pinned his video for a bit while I was preparing, just to feel a bit more connected with him and his isolation buddy.

Often audience members talk about feeling part of a community again through this. It’s a lovely thing to hear, to know that somehow we can still bring scattered people together with a shared experience. I know one person who joined from Georgia and another from Texas. We’ve reached Ireland New York and Mexico as well. Even my nephew was up in Aberdeen.

It’s an interesting possibility. There are of course constraints in what we can do, but as a tester for a new form I’m very glad to be part of something anarchic human and fun and I think there’s a lot more to explore around what we can and cannot do and how we can keep the story live and involve the audience, but it’s sweet and it works.

I’ll likely announce when tickets go up again, if we extend, and would be thrilled to see old friends and new joining the party. I’m still reeling at the fact that I’m employed to do live theatre in this messy living room and these uncertain times. But often the truth is stranger than fiction, and it seems like decades of working at being generative and positive have started to throw me chocolates.

On which subject I went to TK Maxx before this all started, in January, and they had a load of chocolate bunnies. I bought a good number of them intending to give them out to whoever I met at Easter. Well, I met nobody but myself so omnomnomnom. You’ll need a crane to get me out the flat when this is over…

Shop staff in the real world

I still find it jarring when I click “leave meeting” at the end of The Tempest and remember that I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by all sorts of junk and alone. It’s probably healthy for me though to get used to this. It’s like I’ve had a teleportation device installed that pulls me back to this living room after the show when normally I’d be blowing most of my wages on another round in whatever we have decided is the local pub we like the best. I teleported back to my living room about an hour ago after the second show of a two show day. I finished my mug of white wine and realised I wanted a beer and had none. Saturday night. Post show.

I got kitted up and walked to Tesco.

My Tesco metro is always very “live”. It’s catering to the residents of a large sheltered housing, a couple of old folks homes, the Chelsea pensioners, some of the Rothschilds, whoever lives in Oscar Wilde’s old house, a peabody estate, me, and all the people who have boats privately moored at Cadogan Pier. The thing that most people round here tend to share is a loud voice and the habit of taking up space. Saturday night, and people in the queue. The guy two in front of me wants to pay half cash half card but none of his cards work. He is polite and in no hurry. He occasionally apologises to those of us behind him. But the guys outside the shop are getting restless. One of them comes in and tells the security guard he has only got four inside and he can have six. Someone else tries to just walk in with his hood up. The security guard is new, and in the most heavy duty gear I’ve seen. There are only two staff on duty on the shop floor and both of them are new.

Eventually payment guy pays and the old guy in front of me starts hitting on the checkout girl. She’s Italian, he has some Italian, oh God, and now he wants her name. He’s not reading the room very well but again just no hurry. She’s probably doing something difficult in the normal world but this guy with his cracked voice is either being interested or being too interested. She answers him in monosyllables until he pays, never encouraging, never discouraging. That fine line that you see too many young women in service industries having to tread, knowing how quickly people like him might go sour.

I get to the front eventually. I try to leave so quickly I get called back as I haven’t paid yet. Oops. Thankfully nobody punches me.

I witnessed a fist fight years ago that spilt onto the pavement outside this Tesco. It was between an old guy who wanted alcohol and a manager who had put an arbitrary 10.50pm curfew on alcohol purchases, and some other guy who got stuck in, was immediately roundly insulted and went a bit bananas. It was a full moon, a summer’s day. Me and another guy actually had to break it up. It’s a weird shop at the best of times, and it basically just sells mayonnaise crisps and beef. Today there’s a whole shelf dedicated to UHT milk. I think they use a random number generator to stock the place, the freezers are always broken, and until recently there was a manager who stopped beer from being sold cold from the fridge as groups of people would sit all day on the bench opposite and slowly get hammered and he didn’t like it.

Still, it’s open at ten on a Saturday at Easter and the staff are working hard in difficult circumstances. I didn’t like the guy in the queue getting mardy with the guard. I shouldn’t really have been at the shop just for beer. I know it. So surely doubly important not to be a creep or an asshole.

But people are starting to get restless… Let’s ramp up our kindness this weekend if we brave the outside world. These shop staff – many of the people behind checkout are resourceful local people who have found a way to support themselves and their families through this crisis, but they still have to come to work and be polite while working an unfamiliar till. Fuck knows what they might do in the normal world. “I’m just in for the day, normally I’m in head office,” said the checkout in Waitrose King’s Road last week and thereby hangs a tale I’m sure.

Be safe lovelies.

I’m gonna have my beer now.

Cheers!

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Dress rehearsal in my living room

I’m not sitting in the chair I’d normally be sitting in. Friday night yeah!? I might even go sit on the floor in a bit just because, yeah? Yeah.

I ate very well tonight, because of my new habit of copying an old lady’s shopping. Those Waitrose Gressingham duck breasts are very tasty alongside a spot of spinach and new potatoes – and a can of Stella. I’ve drunk all the wine. It might be Friday but I think I’ll still crash out early tonight. I haven’t got plans for a big one at home, despite the weekend. I even changed my sheets just now to guarantee happy slumber. Let’s see where the night goes though, hey? Hex might have other plans. He’s pretty active right now, so I’m letting him roam but preventing him when it looks like he’ll get himself somewhere that I can’t find him.

We open this show tomorrow, and we come together to do this strange live thing from my messy improvised living room green screen studio.

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We are widely scattered over our United Kingdom, with at least one in Scotland, one in Loughborough, one in Leighton Buzzard, one in Lurgan. Only two in London.

The director’s in Port Stewart near where you could get the ferry when I was a nipper. One is in Cwmnafan, and I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. I’ve never knowingly been in the same room as him. That’s a strange thing to notice.

My Sky internet in London is extremely unreliable at the moment which is a worry. Friends of mine have imputed that it might go down entirely before long under some kind of attack, and much as I’d be fascinated to see the fallout now we are all so reliant on it, I’m hoping it doesn’t interrupt what is a sweet and silly creative endeavour by some good hearts.

The last two runs I’ve been kicked out of zoom. This sort of thing is always the thing to worry about when making a live experience with a tech angle. This is harder to solve than the players not getting a clue by text message.

If my internet goes you lose an actor mid show. I will just disappear, without ceremony.

There’s always a way to cover. But despite the deliberately fragile nature of what we are making I think we would all prefer to give the audience something along the lines of what we are hoping for, rather than an extensive troubleshooting improv session. There’s already enough improv going on considering this is billed as Shakespeare.

We had a five year old watching the test session today though and he had a good long list of things he liked – which speaks well. I think it’s rich and strange from my perspective. I still can’t quite credit it, that I’m opening a show tomorrow. That people have bought tickets and will come online and share the joy with us.

It’s a community of people in lockdown making a version of an old but remarkable and complicated story about redemption and forgiveness, about love and forgetting the past, about magic and responsibility. There’s a lot in The Tempest – the last play written by that hugely influential humanist. We have boiled it down to about an hour. When we did it last summer there were zombies. Now there’s a wilfull snake and loads of beautiful hearts in lockdown.

Zoom into The Tempest in new live interactive adaptation