Self Tape summer Sunday

Up in the morning a bit later than intended. Coffee and breakfast. I’ve hit a yogurt and blueberry habit these days, and of course there’s good coffee. The last of the milk and I knew I’d forget to replace it. Damn.

Into the bathroom for a shave. Strip off that night’s worth of stubble. I grow a beard in about a week. My stubble is ALWAYS visible but I can get it right back so it looks considered. I’m out of practice with the old razor though. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to keep myself smooth. I take a chunk out just to the left of my lips. Squirt it with aftershave but the blood keeps welling up. I go and pick a white shirt, but I’m not gonna put it on now. Tissue stuck to my face as I find my little dicky bow. My best bowtie got nicked by wardrobe department on The Pack right before lockdown. It was an accidental steal – it was in the back of my car with all the actual costume. But all my attempts to get it back got brickwalled. I’ve given up on it. But the guy I’m auditioning for wouldn’t have a high quality bow, he’d have a prefab dicky, so I’m happy with what I find for today. Black suit. I got a ton of them in the costume haul, and this one fits me like a glove. Looks good too. I shove it all in a bag and drive to Mornington Crescent.

Quick coffee at pret and up to my friend’s flat with it. We build a studio in her spare room. Two big lights, an annoying tripod, a screen, reflectors, muslin. Actors… We’ve all got a setup like this stashed somewhere. She’s got a good room for it in terms of space though. I’ve had to do them in very cramped conditions. The room’s being redecorated though so the floor is covered in plastic for paint. This just means I can’t move my feet when I talk. The tape is only a couple of lines though, and it doesn’t ask for movement so it’s only a problem if I need to walk into shot.

I get changed. It’s hot. The cat looks at me indifferently. “Have you got a comb?” She does. I slick my hair back with water. Phone onto tripod. My friend jiggles it around until she’s happy with the shot. We do the scene. Adjust the frame and do it again. Retakes mostly for tech, which is always the way of it. Once it sounds ok and looks ok, mark the take and do an ident. Name agent height location. Nothing too involved like hands and they haven’t asked for full length thankfully. Play it back. Momentary insecurity. Nobody likes watching themselves. It’s just a self-tape though. If they want me they want me, and I reckon this is a good fit so fingers crossed. Would be nice for me and my agent to hit one into the net. Lovely series. I want it.

Rename files on my phone. Upload scene and ident to WeTransfer and send it over to my agent. Watch the percentage go up to 100. And done. Glad it’s a Sunday as parking was free. One of the best things about self-tapes is that once you’ve got your little self-tape community there’s an ease and a shorthand so you can get it done pretty quick, and then use it as an excuse to catch up.

We go to The Edinboro’ Castle and have large amounts of cooked cheese together and we catch up. It’s a lovely summer evening. All is right with the world.

Staggering around London hungover

The downside of drinking tons of wine and eating scallops is that you feel pretty bleary the next day. There was definitely more than one empty bottle on the table this afternoon when I finally pulled myself out of the little single bed in the Richmond spare room and bumped downstairs in quest of coffee.

Facebook must have been listening to us last night as the Saturday morning doomscroll begun with an advert: Clinical trials for unhealthy drinkers. Then the same old hamster wheel of people talking about politics or war or the selected issues of the epoch. I dropped Facebook for ages. Not really sure how I got swept back in. It’s a ridiculous platform and the way they do EVERYTHING is just smug and unethical. They were the pioneers of the shameless datagrab that has really now caused most of us to sign every inch of our identity over to the likes of that jugeared automaton. They’re trying to pioneer a changed language about how we view all the things we do online. “Metaverse”. To try and bring everything together under one platform so we can buy more things that don’t exist. It’s a clever trick by the malevolent alien that wants to turn us into batteries that he looks and sounds so ridiculous and unthreatening. I’ll keep playing computer games. They aren’t Metaverse. Even if my parrot in Sea of Thieves is called NFT.

Despite hangover though I haven’t been playing games today. It’s just been too much of a lovely day. I went to the barber for a luxury £10 shave. The beard was long and wiry and I didn’t want hairs all over my bathroom. Tomorrow I will need to be “immaculate” for a self-tape so I thought I’d get the hardest bit done early. Everything else is just preening. I took my fresh face up to Camden and wandered around by the lock.

It’s lively up there again. London really is packed. All the bars and pubs on the high street were swollen with drunk people. New punks were on the bridge where old punks hung out in my childhood. I took in the noise and the crowd and the memories. I looked into the garden of The Oxford Arms and thought of all the things I did at The Etcetera Theatre when I was naïve enough to think they might help my career, but committed enough to know that any experience is useful experience. And I stopped at Mildred’s for dinner with a close friend. Yummy vegan food, a bit twee in the way they sell their pretend meat. “chick’n*” I had a sweet potato curry because it wasn’t pretending to be anything other than a sweet potato curry.

Now I’m home, happy and full, and almost certainly in a position to crash between clean sheets and sleep the sleep I didn’t have last night.

Tasty absorbent scallops

Organisation…

This morning we walked down to the sea first thing. It’s the calm before the storm down there in Brighton. Pride weekend is a’coming…

I was only down for a quick fix of Lou and the sea the sea. Wonderful to have a moment, but the admin has been mounting up and Lou has things she needs to make. We sat near the banjo groyne and looked at the waves and the swimmers. A quiet weekday beach moment. Something to hold onto. A spot of peace. I often forget, when it’s quiet, that it goes crazy when it goes. Much like Brighton is gonna go mental for Pride, it’s gonna go mental before long in my diary. Part of me wanted to hang out in Brighton and join in but I need to make sure I’m up to date with the laptop stuff before it all starts to get crazy busy again. I’m carrying my diary around with me now so I know the answer when somebody asks if I can do the thing. That has rarely been necessary since the first lockdown. But the things are picking up and I can feel the momentum gathering even in the traditionally quiet month of August. I can better value and enjoy the quiet moments if I’m up to date with the admin. It’s just a practical thing. I’m self employed. I need to send an invoice to get paid, and every so often I need to chase that invoice down through a chain of out-of-office autoreplies. Then I need to remind employers that I’m back…

I have to be in the right state of mind to get myself to focus on the admin stuff. If I can distract myself I will, too often. I think if I was better with it life would eventually turn out to be much less frenetic. My immediacy can be a skill … but just because I like to address things fresh it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.

So I looked into a load of payments due to me for bits of graft or creativity I did before Sardinia. Chile is likely not far away unless I suddenly land some filming, and it’ll be full on once more. I really want to use the fact that it’ll be my third excursion with Extreme-E to be absolutely ready for what will come both mentally and physically. I went to Sardinia half cocked, well packed but leaving loads of unfinished admin at home. Full of energy, but having to fight fires in my spare time. Time to get some letters and emails sent and think about what needs to be done quickly… That was my afternoon.

Then this evening Tristan and I had a load of lovely seafood from the fresh fish place round the back of Fatboy Slim’s, and then we played loads of games together and caught up properly. There’s the other thing missing in all the bustle : friends! It was great to go out in Finsbury Park the other night and see a few of them together at a party, because that’s such a rarity. So this evening I’m writing to you post a good solid catch up with a dear friend, accompanied by drop too much wine and scallops.

We ended up late at night trying to make sense of Exploding Unicorns…

Batgirl

I’m sitting peacefully in Brighton thinking about Batgirl, the movie.

“It’s Batgirling time!”… It will never be Batgirling time. How remarkably hard to countenance. They have made this whole damn movie, filmed loads of it in Glasgow, cut and edited it, likely finished most of not all of the vfx… They’ve paid like $90,000,000. And now, after some pre-screenings, they’ve canned it before release. And the received reason appears to be that it’s a terrible movie…? Nah…

So many feelings about this. First, how did it get this far before they knew it sucked? Was everybody on set for weeks and weeks and in the daily rushes thinking “yeah this is ok”? The number of people involved to get a film this far is astronomical, and I’m sure many of them were veterans. None of them noticed it was gonna be a turkey? I mean, there’s a lot that can be saved in the edit, surely? How do the actors feel? Somewhere there’s a young woman who had her big break. They would have axed her from set after a bit if she turned out not to be capable, surely? There must be more at play than just “this is a crap movie”. Will it cost them so much more to release it and let the people decide? Maybe that’s what’s going on… Let the rumour mill run, let it be the most expensive ever canned movie, and then give it an indy release and hope that there’s karaoke Batgirl in drunk late night cinemas for years to come. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to see it before, but now I’m curious. I’ve seen and enjoyed plenty of atrocious superhero movies. This might have something good. This might have a lot good.

If so few people saw this movie, who decided this movie was crap enough to can? What are their criterion? Is it a challenging movie that challenged them? People with that sort of clout often don’t have any taste whatsoever, and planet sized ego. I’m imagining a Weinsteinalike now: “I didn’t like her.” “But it’s made, sir. It’s ready for a rollout.” “I said I didn’t like her. I’m canning it.”

Or is it just another terrible movie. They released Batman vs Superman, and it’s on in some airplanes etc. Even The Room has a cult following. Michael Keaton is back as Batman in it. It would’ve been watched enough surely to make back some of the money they spent. THEY GOT AN EXTRA $20 MILLION TO FINISH IT! That doesn’t happen surely unless enough people say “Hey, yeah I like this. Let’s get it finished. Whaddaya need?”

I really feel for the company – for the creative team – for all the people who would have slogged their guts out to the best of their ability and with the best of intentions on this movie. Nobody ever deliberately turns in poor work – certainly not at this level. This is about ego or money or both. Some say it’s a tax write-off. Messy stuff, if it is one. There’s a lot of livelihoods damaged in this. Will it be worth it? Time will tell.

Bleh. Batgirl. Now we just have to imagine it. I expect at no point will she say “It’s Batgirling time, Batfans!” But maybe she did. Maybe I’ll get a subpoena for leaking a bit of the screenplay…

I went to a butterfly house with Lou on this working weekday. We let butterflies land on us in a hot tent. It was kinda cute despite all the panicking children.

Coming next year. Butterfly Male. Watch his space.

Fishhead owl is watching you

Poulenc Double Bill at Glyndebourne

Lou managed to sort tickets to go back to Glyndebourne on this lovely summer’s day and take in a double bill of very contrasting short pieces by the modern French composer Francis Poulenc.

These ones are both post WW2, although he was writing inter-war. La voix humaine is an adaptation of a celebrated monologue of the same name by his friend Jean Cocteau. It’s an example of early thought about our dependency on the telephone. It’s about independence and codependency. It’s about a woman having her last phone conversation with a recently finished amour. She has been sleeping with her phone as it is her connection to him. Towards the end she wraps the cord around her neck. This is a strange, tender, hard piece of opera and story. It’s rooted into banal details of life and love. Most of us in the audience were talking afterwards about how we found reflections in our own romantic past.

Stephanie Doustrac sang a rare turn. It’s just her, on a precarious looking hydraulic tilting stage, with complicated splintered text sung soprano in French. Unlike the cliche of opera singers, she was in total control of her movement as she sung. Her instrument body was in tune but connected. Soft bare feet, very close to the edge of a big drop, trusted to be there while carrying this emotional weight and walking backwards. Despite what I’m sure it says in the risk assessment, she did no accidental walking off the edge. I trusted her enough that I could lost in the story and just let my stagebrain witness the realities.

Lou has uncovered that she is the great-grand niece of Poulenc. A lovely family continuation there as well then, for her to be bringing this piece with such integrity to Glyndebourne. That was the first half. In near darkness, a beautiful young woman triggering us all about when we have been too dependent on our lovers – when we have sublimated ourselves into them or ceded too much to the idea of who they are.

Interval. We all pour into the gardens. The interval is deliberately VERY LONG at Glyndebourne as it’s very much part of the experience. Everybody brings a picnic and they scatter through the beautiful gardens. We’ve all been mildly traumatised by the honesty we’ve just witnessed. But most of us know what’s to come.

*pop* say the corks, all round the gardens. *glug* go the audience.

And then we all file in again for part two. Les Mamelles de Tiresias. The boobs of Tiresias. You might think it’s a drawn out Greek myth piece about the hermaphrodite prophet, but it really isn’t. It’s a ridiculous and very funny spit piece about how we kept being told we all need to have babies after the war – (and we all know how that ended up). Shortly after it started, when her boobies detached and began floating around in the air, we all relaxed into knowing this was very much not a heavy piece like the first one had been. Great costume and makeup, great lighting and a really stylish execution made me properly see what it is that people pay for when they put down the asking price for tickets to this place. It’s a whole package. What a chance to see these reasonably obscure French thought pieces staged with great consideration and a huge budget, and embodied by confident and competent performers. It’s a special place, and also it was just great to get out the house and hang out with Lou for the first time since Greece.

Beowulf after five years

My God so yeah, we did this in 2017. That’s five years ago that Jack and Anne-May and I did a Beouwulf sharing in a house in Stoke Newington, and it was good.

“I can get you on the list to send a tape for Jack’s Beouwulf if you want it,” says my agent. Jack calls me a bit later. “If you want it” keeps ringing in my head. This is just for being considered. I’m already thinking about the pros and cons. It’s in Jersey again – same team as Christmas Carol. Jack won’t be in it though. He’ll just put it on and then return to his burgeoning producing empire. I’m still running around the world on somebody else’s dollar. Jack is consolidating at home.

So yeah, it’s an October show and would potentially fit perfectly around my Extreme-E commitments. Potentially. And yeah I would love to do the show. But I have to ask myself if it’s what I want. Jersey again, yay. More opportunity to regraft onto the land I was grown out of. My old home being so absurdly highly priced smashes away my old fantasy of coming back and buying the place to commune with the old land. 16 million quid is steep by anybody’s standards. But I’m still hard-considering a return to that Jerseyplace. As I told the guys back at Christmas, I need two years on a thing like that. One year to just think about it. Then one year to act. It’ll be the end of the thinking year in December.

There’s a lot between now and October. I’m once again remembering how important it is to do nothing in the nothing patches, to make sure I have the wherewithal to do everything in the busy ones. There might be a less frantic manner in which to organise my life. But it would need me to work in an office or something. So I’ll just … stick with what works.

I get to go to the opera tomorrow. Perks. Yay.

Bench joggers

I’m on my bench. I haven’t been here for a while, but it’s a nice evening. London seems so busy again these days. They’re all out running and walking and driving and cycling. The wind is up so it doesn’t feel as close as yesterday. To my left some sunflowers have been tied to a slat and they are dying. I suspect they must be for James Mayley, whose plaque is behind me. I was going to take them up to my flat and stick them in water, but it’s evidently the intention of whoever left them to have them gently deliquesce in the sun under the plane trees. They are firmly tied to this bench. It says on the plaque that he’ll never be forgotten. He’s been dead fifteen years so they are doing their best to stand by it with the flowers. James was 19.

I’m a lot older than that, and I’m somehow still plugging. Still a bit restless. Still wondering what’s next. For now though, I’m sitting on this windy bench watching the people go by and communing with the river, with the plane trees and with the spirit of James Mayley. I’ve written about him before.

I hate jogging so it’s just as well that my ankles are pronated so much that it would be bad for me. “You don’t HAVE to do this,” a man says to himself as he passes and I am in full agreement. Others just plop by easily and happily like dressage ponies. Others still have given up ages ago and are now just having a stroll and listening to music. But there are lots of them. Solo mostly but occasional pairs.

The tide is falling, and a pod of colourful kayakers shoot by between me and Buddha.

Easy going for them so long as they don’t need to get back up before midnight. There’s still a fair few hours in the ebb.

It seems that everybody is back in London. The offices must have filled up again. And yesterday England won the Euro Championship in football. I’m surprised not to see lots of wrecked people still staggering around in strips, happy about the fact it just came home. All I’m seeing is exercise. I suppose it’s exercise hour. Quarter past seven. Home from work, time to change into the specially bought expensive kit that makes you feel like you can do the thing. Out doing the thing in the last of the light. Making yourself healthier, perhaps. I’d sooner do it by mistake while carrying something upstairs or being part of a story. Shakesfit. I’m glad I’ll get to be an iambic pentathlete again before long…

I’m gonna go back into my flat, have a bath and catch some reading.

Summer night out

I’ve very much enjoyed having a week of not much, but I can’t keep doing it. Sunday today. The fridge is well stocked. I spent the day pottering. A few messages in the morning and catching up a little bit with friends. A little bit of pirating with Brian in the evening, but by the time I logged on he was logging off so really we just sold his loot together. Then just the cycle of ways in which I let the time go by when I’m alone at home. We’ve all got those things, where you start doing it and then the hours zip by. I’m between books at the moment – just haven’t found one that captures my imagination. I’ll take recommendations. But there are plenty of distractions.

I was also just a little hungover. Only 4 pints. I’m a lightweight. Maybe it was the heat, but I felt slow. Last night was lovely. A social gathering, of all things. In a noisy bar way up in Finsbury Park. The thing with parties is that they redraw the connections. We have all been in little bubbles by government directive, but there’s a whole world of people out there, and arguably the more of them we spend time with and listen to the wider our perspective can be.

Old friends last night and many of them. Colonising a table, loud music, lots of laughter, moments of honesty, moments of connection. People I used to see so often, now with slightly different shaped lives but still the same. I think I was slightly fried by the whole thing and needed time to process, which is why I wrote about the tube. Maybe also I suspected I’d have a Sunday of not very much. Last night was the perfect segue from mostly just chilling out at home into poking at the world that’s waiting out there.

August. It’s just gone midnight. It’s still so hot, which I have no complaints about even though I’ve had to stick a fan at the foot of my bed.

My sheets were fresh on on Friday and I’ll probably change them again soon. If I don’t wash twice a day in this I start to pong. But yay summer! I won’t be able to keep the fan on overnight. Maybe I should just ditch the duvet for a top sheet like they did in Sardinia and in Greece. But the barometers are shifting. I can hear the wind picking up as I write, over the river. Summer is fleeting in this country. Who knows how much more we’re gonna get.

I’ve got my little hot toddy of Rakomel and honey in chamomile tea. It’s somehow already past 1am on August 1st. Time to switch that fan off and see how the sleep thing goes… White Rabbits.