Mouse Trap

I had a day of tidying and cleaning. I was supposed to be going to a festival, but the whole thing somehow didn’t appeal so I stayed and tidied and sorted things instead. I still have too much stuff – especially for someone who is an instinctive traveler. How the hell have I accumulated all this stuff? I was sorting and cleaning, but before it was all finished my friend Flavia come round with her 3 year old.

A friend of my mother in his late 70’s recently forwarded me an email telling me of the death of one of their and my friends.  I read the chain attached to the email, and it was just a string of grief. It made me realise how lucky I am. Right now most of my friends are marrying and breeding. For this guy, his friends are dying and many of them are dead. This existence that we all take for granted – it is so fleeting, so smashable. We have to clutch at the offers of happiness we have. Everything goes so quickly.

I’ve been remembering how to feel recently. It’s not pleasant, but that’s the human condition. I did the best I could to protect myself for years, so putting myself back on the line is a good thing for my sanity. And at least my current issue is to do with whether or not someone loves me, rather than my best friend dying. That’s all to come, and I’m happy to wait, thanks. But I’ve been feeling weird the last few days. So it’s good to just hang out with my old friend. And Ivo.

Ivo is 3. We exist to serve him. If he is not having fun, the world is coming to an end. Fortunately, fun can comprise of putting things into other things repeatedly for hours. We have the Mouse Trap board game here. Ivo spotted it almost immediately and wanted to play with it. It’s an incomprehensible game with loads of fiddly bits, but it looks exciting for kids. He’s a good kid, and we play well together. So I tried to construct the thing, around his attempts to disrupt me by walking on the board, stealing the bits etc.

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He found a box, and was happy with just putting things into the box for ages. It reminded me of myself with the earlier version of the same game back in the 1980’s – It’s about building the traps more than it is about playing whatever idea of a game they’ve structured around them. I suspect I was an annoying little bugger to babysit. I know that one of the women who used to get that job still refers to me as Damian from The Omen.

We spent hours repeatedly flushing a plastic loo and guessing which hole the ball would come out of. It was great fun and no different from what the majority of people do in offices every day. At the end of the evening, Ivo had to be gently parted from his box for putting things in. I thought there’d be a tantrum, but somehow at the 11th hour I swapped it for a Kinder egg Disney Princess and the chance to go down in the exciting old fashioned lift that he’d have gone down in anyhow. Now they’re home and I am relieved to be back in my own space, not having to put him to bed, but also not having to put up with the pain of a growing cancerous tumour, or a broken hip, as all of the emails I saw today were talking about.

Get out there and make positive change. It turns into sludge so suddenly, and then we just fall by the tracks as the rollercoaster keeps rolling. People keep killing themselves and others for ideologies. It’s a weird world right now. I take my hat off to the likes of Flavia, bringing a child into this madness. Let’s all keep forging forward fearlessly.

 

 

London violence

Shortly after I walked through Borough Market and over London Bridge, it appears that once again some improperly socialised cocks have caused horrible chaos. Problem is the papers will big them up and give them powerful names.

I’ve been celebrating love, at the wedding party of two unutterably brilliant hearts. I did As You Like It in Yorkshire with Alan many years ago, and Janey is a writer and actress that I admire hugely. They’re a beautiful couple and nothing but goodness is going to come from that union. I was very happy to be there, as the helicopters scrambled overhead and sirens howled.

I’m walking home now, through the mobilised streets. I’ve been told that the white van is still at large, “trying to kill people.” Some idiot with a messy ideology. I hope, for once, they take him alive so his powerless morinicism can be paraded. We need to stop calling these vacuous idiots “terrorists.” That’s how to make more, by empowering slugs.

Today I’ve been working. I didn’t want to, but it seemed the best idea. I went back to the Dodgems to keep myself busy for the day. To prevent circular thinking. Best to be busy. It was lovely, and I brought people together and shared joy and made laughter. Then they all went back to their lives. I hope all those people are okay – we were right by London Bridge. My final group was two women who arrived just at the deadline. One of them had just experienced heartbreak. I ended up in accidental group therapy with two strangers. I sent them on their crazy Dodgem ride and afterwards they stuck around for a drink and a chat. “This is the first time I’ve laughed for days,” one of them said. That was about an hour before the shitstorm.

Meanwhile London is totally unchanged. The same melting pot of language and culture. The same casual thoughtless space-taking. This city still belongs to that confused aggressive human mess of bravado and love that means business as usual. But again people have died. Unstoppably. Who can predict that a virgin with a driving licence will feel small enough to try and make some adjectives in the tabloids.

Is extreme Islam the given reason for this? That’s the assumption, but it might not be. The reason is simply idiocy and hate, whatever frame the hateful idiots seek. But the more legitimate their hatewank is made, the more powerful these shitbeetles appear. And they’re nothing. Like that pathetic little turd killing kids in Manchester.

I have no eloquent conclusions here. I’m angry that once again, just before our election, people have died while going about their business. I don’t want it to drive people apart further and make them think that isolationism is the correct vote. If the timing has been orchestrated, it’s been orchestrated by people that understand that the more legitimate it is to isolate and make factions, the easier it is to peel off idiotic young men (always men) and use their bad social skills to radicalise them. Tomorrow morning the papers will all be shouting horrors about these idiots, and empowering them with adjectives. They need to change their style. “Pathetic loser attempts to make a splash by killing people.”

Thank God I had such an evening of love. I feel buoyed up and optimistic as I cross town. London has weathered worse storms than this and will continue to.

I’m not going to schedule this. I’ll post it now so I don’t need to tell everyone I’m fine. This is my photo on Southwark Bridge today, past Cannon Street rail bridge to London and Tower.

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Sandal Horse

It’s the first time I’ve worn shorts and sandals since I’ve been back in London so of course the heavens have opened. There’s thunder, lightning, sheets of rain, I’m hoping for fish. Although that might slow the buses down. I’m trying to get across town.

Having spent the glorious part of the day in a dark church hall talking about regicide, now I’m stamping through the damp gloaming on my way to a caravan in London Bridge, where I’m going to watch a short play. I’m already cold and wet. You forget that the action of putting on shorts in London actively summons The Rain God to come punish you for hubris. Still it’s good to have some skywater. The sense that water is coming from the heavens to wash away the sadness. If I was alone, I’d take all my clothes off and run around in the rain howling. I was doing that once in Italy on the veranda of our digs, when some friends unexpectedly got back and, to their credit immediately joined in. Matt and Dean. Somewhere there exists a photo (Sarah). It’s great fun if there’s enough rain. I heartily recommend it.

These “Caravan Shorts” are the brainchild of my friend Robin. She’s repurposed a caravan as a performance space and it’s been parked in Southwark for the month. Very small audiences get a very short show. Last week I went to see my friend Olivia do a beautiful piece she’d written about Lizzie Barton, The Mad Maid of Kent. I know it’s only a matter of time before I end up in there, in drag talking about death or something. Now I’m hoping to get there in time to see whatever is the 6.15 show.


I did. It was the wonderful “dame” Helen Ryan (she’s not a dame. We just call her one.) At 77 she’s still up for doing a piece in a caravan about, as it turns out, how old people might be treated in 2080. It’s called “Citizen Recall: Mrs Helen Stridgen.” There’s free cake. And it’s about extreme socialism. It’s a thought provoking piece, and the third of these caravan shorts I’ve seen. It was a dark future piece, where people who are too old are forced into a “pleasant” euthanasia. Told of course from the perspective of someone who was avoiding the machine and trying to die naturally. It was presenting a socialist hell where living beyond 100 makes you redundant to the state, and you are humanely disposed of. I found it interesting to contemplate. And also rare to watch Tory theatre, even if I’m not sure it was intended as such.

Flipside I’m scared that, being on sporadic income but never signing on, the self employed will be victims when they kill the NHS. There are already many forums where my lack of a guarantee of regular payment queers my chance of being taken seriously. If I had health insurance, I couldn’t make my monthly payments month in month out, but then suddenly I could downpay for the whole year. By which time they’d have already cancelled. I’d need to be lucky about when I got sick.

All that aside, as someone said “It’s great to hear an old lady swear.” And Helen was brilliant. As it turns out, it was the last caravan short of the season. So muggins here ended up taking the caravan back home. I was a horse for a while. I make a good horse. Right now I kind of wish I was a horse. Far less complicated. Neigh.

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Words words words

138 now, of these days where I’ve needed to carry something into a frame and share it. Some days I’ve really not wanted to write anything because it’s been a vulnerable day and we are so used to only sharing the shiny days. Other days I’ve been unbelievably tired, lying in bed with one eye open watching the word count.

The process of putting these days into words has got me thinking about the whole process of writing things down. They change their nature a little when you capture them. It’s like the cultures and individuals that dislike having their photograph taken because they fear a tiny shred of their soul will be torn out and put into the photo. If that’s true most of us would be nothing but tatters now. But my job here is to capture my every day, but make it consumable. Like on Instagram I’m cropping it and filtering. “Hmm this day looks better from this angle.” “Let’s just crop that bit out, and enhance the colour there.”

But then as soon as something is written down it assumes some form of authority. Again like with a picture. Pictures affect our memory of events we attended, and people we knew. Sometimes when I think of my mother I picture her how she looked on her wedding day, in black and white, because my brother has a picture of the wedding in his home. Obviously I never knew her then. Similarly when I look back over previous posts I think “That’s exactly how it happened,” but it’s not.

The written word assumes some form of authority beyond its purpose in the moment it’s made. Often when someone wants to support a conspiracy theory or a piece of hateful thinking they link to an item much like this blog, that has been scratched onto the screen of someone’s phone on the tube from place to place and shoved out into the world. These scribbles seem to assume an equal weight with a multi Pulitzer winning journalist’s year of work honed to a single article. “Yeah sure professor Flibble says that, but this guy on flibbleisaliar.com says he’s lying, and I choose to believe him.”

On the whole I’ve tried to be as candid as I can here. But today for work I signed an NDA (non disclosure agreement), filming in the morning. It always feels like a ball and chain when they make you do that. I had to sign one in Bangkok once on an exciting job. I almost bit my hand off because I didn’t know what the things were that I couldn’t write so I stopped at “I’m in Bangkok”. Nobody wants to get sued.


Thankfully I wrote early today – got the bulk done on the tube from Hanger Lane to Vauxhall. And just as well. I just had a beautiful evening with someone I adore, but the content will take some time to process. I’m an empath and someone who feels things deeply. All my inner muscles have been flexed and I’m feeling like I’ve run a marathon. I’m wrung out, and I’m glad I wrote the above earlier because sentences are pretty hard right now. I stood and looked at boats for a while.

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Fear

What are you scared of? It’s one of those questions you get asked a lot as a kid. When I was a child I made arbitrary decisions, as one does, based on a mixture of desire to fit in and lack of self knowledge. At one point I said “heights” in “My Book About Me”. My mother pointed out how I was drawn to edges. I think that I might have been drawn to them because I knew I was scared. But as an adult that fear is gone. Perhaps because I kept looking at it until it went.

Similarly spiders. Fear of spiders was a pretty acceptable fear at school, although I think I was just paying lip service. I was a kid that spent hours every day lifting up stones to see what was living underneath them. When you do that, there’s a high chance of uncovering a fat spider with a thick tunnel web that has been nesting there for years undisturbed.

Fear of speaking in public? Well we all know where that one went.

I’ve been getting other people to talk about their fears today, in detail. Some people have said things like “I’m scared of losing someone I love.” Others are more generic: “spiders, sharks, death, Trump”. One woman said “rape”. That was an uneasy moment as there’s no way of making light of it. But I thanked her for her honesty and bemoaned a world where that is an honest response. One guy said “nothing”. It didn’t take long to establish that was a lie.

But since I was examining other people’s fear, asking them to be honest, and mocking them if they weren’t I got to thinking about my own fear. As with childhood, so with adulthood, I try to look my fears in the face when I discover them. But the problem with fear is we put it to the side of our consciousness, even as we service it. If you have been fed a constant diet of fear of the other, as many have, it affects how you think of the people you haven’t met but have been told about. You can subscribe to the Daily Mail and still be a generous, kind, loving individual to everyone you know personally irrespective of race or creed. But you’ll probably have assumptions that have dripped on over time about whatever the bête noir of the month is. Currently Muslims and socialists, I think. Although “Freddie from the tennis club is voting Corbyn and he’s lovely.”

So what have I been ignoring? A few people put on the form: “fear of myself”. That’s something I’ve been working through this year. I think – I know – that I’ve been habitually self sabotaging and self negating for years. I treat everyone else’s home better than my own. It’s why I travel so well. This year has been about going after what I want, and accepting that it’s okay to want it. I’m still going two steps forward and one step back. But once you know the name of something then you have power over it. Here’s Marianne Williamson. It’s on the door of millions of loos across the world, and tea towels and painstaking tapestries from Grandma. But as with all these overblown clichés it’s so frequently trotted out because she nailed it. Just change “God” to “God as I understand it” and you’ll be grand.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I’m in Soho. It’s very nearly sunset. Wahoo!

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Gatsby

A little over two years ago I was rehearsing for our 2 man Christmas Carol in The Fleeting Arms pub in York. There was a company building a show there at the same time as us. We became friends even though it was cold and space was limited. Their show was joyful and ambitious even if they were building it into a freezing cold pub on Gillygate in December.

Tom, Jack, myself and maybe two other people went to the first open dress rehearsal. It was beautiful back then when they honestly didn’t know what they had or how it was all going to play. And with so few of us we really got to play.

This evening I went to the open dress of the second London run, in a custom built space. Two years later there are 100 people there. It has only deepened, as the company have bedded in and made sense of their arcs and their way with the audience, and where they can be free. It’s a show that rewards audience for engagement. It’s an “immersive” show – and it really is, they’re not just using the word because it’s a buzzword. You’ll have to be mobile and capable of stairs to enjoy it fully. It does not want audiences that like to sit and dissolve. It prefers audiences with agency. If you’re active and play the game you’ll get a deeper experience, see parts of the set that others don’t see, and maybe even get some free shots of gin (no mixers – I wasn’t drinking at the start so I just kept hold of it.) Although it’s still full of set pieces that require a settled audience to land properly. Too excited and you can break the moments, and they only come once.

I started by introducing my friend to Jordan Baker. My friend is American and Jordan is a golfer. My friend was suspicious of Jordan. I mean there are plenty of other American golfers, even if Mar-A-Lago was actually being built in the 1920’s, so Jordan might have played there. And Jordan’s not a dangerous narcissist.

While the main story was moving forward, Gatsby took some of us aside and persuaded us to do some betting for him on a fixed baseball game in exchange for some Copperhead gin and promises. Later on I sought out his contact, who made sure of me, and gave me more gin. I wasn’t drinking but I was glad of the gesture. It seems I will commit to organised crime for free future gin. Clutching it I ended up in a beautiful and thought provoking conversation with Myrtle, who wanted help with romance and life. “If you had to choose between love or money, what would you pick?” I told her I’d already picked love, years ago. She said “There’s a story in that.” Tell me about it.

Then I had Tom Buchanan joshing me about my suit, resonating with the fact that the last few times I’ve run into the actor that plays him I’ve been wearing it. He asks me to find out about Gatsby. I’m tempted to go do so and come back to him to report my findings, but by this time I’ve decided Buchanan is an asshole and I’m already on Gatsby’s side. I love a show where the audience has choices like this. It’s a complete world in there, and everyone is contributing to make it complete. Phil “superman” Granger was there as George, no longer magically fixing boilers with his pokey fingers but instead changing the room utterly towards the end. Superman in more ways than one. Also I got to see a new Daisy Buchanan, while standing next to the old one. She was as on it as if she first did it years ago. And, like the book, it was all held together by a beautifully romantic Nick Carraway, starting and ending it with poetic narrative.

It’s mostly sold out but they keep adding extra dates, and it’s just wonderful to see so many people I care about being so authoritative with a piece of potentially chaotic immersive theatre. It’s very different from your formal theatre, and all the better for it.

As an actor I love to mix my palate. I’m finding myself craving a bit of the formal right now. I auditioned for a lovely bang on bit of casting in some formal work today, and I’d love to convert that into a joyous summer job in an unfamiliar city. Everybody send positive vibes, as then I can get back shortly to writing about being in a foreign country, which has always been my forté in so much as until I committed to this year, travel blogs were the only regular blogs I ever kept.

Meantime, book for Gatsby if you like fun. And if you can get a ticket. My housemate Brian produced it, back in that pub in Yorkshire. He helped guide it all the way to where it is today. I cannot even begin to express how much he rocks for that. We build community. We move forward, we look backward… “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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The Reduced Gods

I just made my first ever pie with pastry. I’m telling you about it because it’s the only thing I did all day other than walk around reading from a play and mumbling to myself. For those periods where I am studying, I expect there are some people who look out of windows all day who have come to think of me as “mumbly book man”. One of my mumbly walks brought me to the Tesco near my house. They have a reduced section where things go down to 17p. Brian and I have taken to calling it “The Gods”. “The Gods” frequently tell us what we are going to be eating. Sometimes the Gods are bountiful, sometimes confused, sometimes angry. When they are angry, they bring nothing, when they are confused they offer nothing but inedible microwave squalor. The first time Brian and I went there, they were bountiful. It’s what started the whole thing off. There was a huge selection of fish – we got about 6 fillets for £1.20. We turned it into a fish curry and ate for two days. Today the bountiful Gods called for pie. There were two punnets of mushrooms, 2 bunches of spring onions, double cream, puff pastry and a packet of organic chicken breasts. I got the lot for under 3 quid. Then used a bit of old wine and turned them into a pie. Turns out it’s easier than I thought. And tastier than I expected. Although it looked shite and I burnt my tongue from wolfing it. That’s annoying as I have to speak unbelievably eloquently tomorrow.

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Just as the pie came out of the oven, Phil the boiler magician came over to pick up some stuff. Turns out he didn’t pay a plumber to fix the boiler after all. He just poked it a bit and it turned on. Which is disconcerting, as I poked it for ages and got nothing. Clearly Phil is better at poking than I am.

Now I am waiting for my friend Anne-May to arrive and replace Phil as our regular sofa-tenant. It really is a revolving door at the moment. Which is joyful. But that’s the problem with London. This city is absurdly expensive – although LA is worse. Most of my closest friends are broke artists of various kinds. I’m constantly at war with myself about quality of life versus cashflow, in that I know I could be much smarter about how I use this place. But I love having people over when they’re broke, and I rarely feel that they’re taking the piss. And the things they bring to my flat are never unwelcome. Phil poked my boiler happy, and got me a bag of supplies. Anne-May might not know it yet, but she’s going to help me by running the scenes for tomorrow’s meeting in the morning. There’s no substitute for speaking the lines out loud with someone. I wander around outside mumbling to myself because it ensures that I don’t fall into patterns. I usually disguise the script, so it doesn’t look like I’m hoping everyone notices I’m reading from a script dahling. I’d much sooner they thought I was insane than knew I was an actor.