Building into the fantabulous Pantechnicon!

Up to Harrow in the morning to unload the van. Then straight back into town and to Gatsby in order to start building the van show. Empty at last.

If I park outside Gatsby I can run a cable into the van and get some light to work by. That’s not possible at home where I live on the top floor. And the daylight goes so early. But it’s £11.50 daily for congestion charge.

This work reminds me of the Christmas Carol get in, but with fewer tools. Today I’ve been attaching fabric to the wooden frame in the van. That’s the prime advantage of borrowing a van that’s already been used for a show. There’s a wooden frame. Golfo made it. It’s a Godsend. We can tack material to the van interior and we can change the atmosphere. We’re hoping that we can get some reasonable lighting in there too but I’m no expert on that. I’m either going to have to wing it or get some help. And help might be wise because I’d forgotten some important potential concerns.

I just looked over last year’s blog, to discover that I was building into the same festival last year as well. Admittedly it was a much bigger space and for a much bigger audience. Nevertheless I’m remembering what an absolute donut all the health and safety was for the get-in. There’s a guy whose job it is to be as obstructive as he can be. “You can’t close the willow tunnel at the top, it’ll make people claustrophobic.” “You have to drill into the floor to support this supported banister more in case seven people simultaneously fall onto it.” I have no doubt he’ll be all over everything in our van. I’d forgotten about him until just now. Biscuit! Still, we’ll do what we can. We’ll probably end up having to ditch the van and do the show on a picnic blanket that’s been drilled two miles into the ground for stability and is weighted down as a further precaution, is hypo-allergenic with an expensive certificate to prove it, and is sprayed every five minutes with flameproofing by a qualified fireman who has slept more than 7 hours the night before.

In a break today I fell into a conversation with an old friend who runs a theatre space. “We’ve had to spend all our spare time filling in pointless forms and signing on the dotted line. The one thing we haven’t had time to do is work on the show. It’s more important to work out how likely it is for someone to bang their head on a scale of one to ten and write it down. It’s crazy.” “Yeah. Why can’t we just make theatre. Until somebody dies…”

But It means that the admin brains are the ones getting most of the work finished, especially as they are likely to be able to successfully comprehend grant applications, which form another arcane and terrible language understood by few, mastered by fewer. I’m curious to learn. Mel, my creative partner, has done the bulk of the work after I keep looking at the first question on some of these egregious forms and just hearing white noise. But this is at least a start for me. Maybe in a year I’ll think them less egregious. Maybe in two years I’ll do them without thought.

It’ll be worth it when it’s made. Joy will abound. Fun for all! I’m looking forward to getting stuck in now… Tickets might go on sale tomorrow. Imagine! A whole week before we open! Aaargh. Biscuit.

custard_cream_biscuit

 

LAST TWO YEARS

January 2017 – Arriving in Venice LA, still wondering how I got there.

January 2018 – Where I was building in a show for the Vaults Festival!

Odd jobs, health and safety and pizza.

Today has been about odd jobs again. A whole load of people busily making things. I love to work this side of theatre from time to time. You realise it’s a lot of work. It helps you be a bit less of a tit when you’re the one the lights are focused on as you have a better sense of the work that’s been put in before you swagger in there with your clean clothes and immediately start moaning about the shape of the door handle.

I hold my hand up, I’m not the most experienced at set building. I have multiple stage management friends who’ve known me as an actor and would blow their coffee out of their noses if they knew someone let me operate a circular saw at length today to cut some blocks of wood and make a tunnel of willow fronds. And yet here I am with both of my arms still attached, and the tunnel hasn’t collapsed or burnt down.

A lot of the jobs today were about Health and Safety. There’s a lovely guy in a really good suede jacket – I think he’s called Tim. He has to come around and take photographs of everything and make recommendations. There were some very stable stairs that we erected yesterday, and this morning Phil and I had to put some brackets on either side of them to make certain they didn’t move. They wouldn’t have moved. Now they really really won’t move and it’s visible. It was a good hour of work for a formality. A lot of the time I think that the purpose of Health and Safety is to make jobs. And to an extent I’m okay with that as I’m being paid by the hour. But to an extent I’m not, because Brian has to pay me. It’s a vast obstructive waste of time for the most part, Health and Safety. But from time to time somebody doesn’t die. The problem with accidents not happening is that nobody records the fact they didn’t happen. We know bloody well when they DO happen, though, even if the audience miss it. “Oh yeah, so we stabbed him in the back hard with a real letter knife instead of the retractable one. But he was Julius Caesar. He didn’t have anything more to say. We carried him off stage and got him into the Ambulance. The audience never suspected a thing.”

A performer fell 70 foot to her death 4 years ago when a safety rope slipped its harness. It doesn’t happen often, that kind of thing. But it only needs to happen once. Perhaps Tim has earnt that suede jacket.

I started looking up deaths on stage. I was curious to know how many of my brothers and sisters have had things dropped on them etc. Mercifully few. A couple of massive fires brought on by pyrotechnics going wrong, magic tricks going south… But the bulk of it seems to be heart attacks, aneurysm and strokes. So as long as you chill the fuck out and stay half fit you’ll hopefully be okay. Which reminds me. Fitness. I’m writing this after my third can of beer, and Melissa just arrived with this…

img-20180118-wa00071448650662.jpg


Year One – Headshots and Mirrors

Humping

There’s a tunnel in Waterloo which is a throwback to the eighties. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be called. It’s usually called “The graffiti tunnels.” In the graffiti  the war between creatives and morons is played out in microcosm. One person comes and works hard for hours making a beautiful thing. Then they leave, and some prat calling themselves “Spunz” or whatever comes along to spray their dull tag all over it in twenty minutes before walking away feeling like they’ve achieved something. Spunz has no handle on the distance between creation and destruction – which is a major societal problem but that’s for another blog. This graffiti is all sanctioned anyway. Nobody is doing anything subversive by spraying here. The zone is using up spray paint money and time that might otherwise be used to write political slogans in unwelcome and obvious public places.

I was working in “The Vaults”. That’s the name now. It’s a network of old tunnels in railway arches. I’ve been building-in a show. We were very much on that boundary between creation and destruction. I was helping build “Neverland”. But first I had to destroy the remnants of “Hair, the musical”, which had been left there by whoever was supposed to get it out. I broke a lot of stuff, and threw a lot of things away.

When I arrived on site they gave me a face mask for dust and a fifteen minute talk stating the obvious – along the lines of “If there is a large pit full of spikes, don’t jump into it. Make sure you don’t try to eat the tools. If you have a blow torch don’t hold it to your eye.” The only unusual part of the brief was “There are no fire drills today, so if there’s a fire alarm … um … stay where you are because it’s probably not an actual fire… um … yeah… we’ll tell you…”

A face mask – to wear on site. “What a load of nonsense,” I thought, conditioned by the brief, almost throwing the mask aside. Then I walked into the dustiest room in the history of mankind and immediately attached my mask, thanked God for my mask, and made sure my mask was sealed. Mask firmly in place I helped bang together a load of scaff alongside a bunch of people who had named their company after some Irish mercenaries who show up in Macbeth. After a few hours they kicked off because the job was different from how they thought it would be. I absented myself, washed unbelievable amounts of grease from my hands, found SOME GLOVES and started humping vast amounts of furniture in from vans.

I’ll be back in the next few days for more humping. There’s much to be done. After all the humping we’ve done already I’m exhausted, but I’m happy to hump in the name of good theatre. I can hump with the best of them.

Neverland is going to be wonderful. It already is. It ran in Sheffield for December with exactly the same run as my Carol. I’d love to have seen it. I took up a vanload in November for them, and I read the script with some of the makers before rehearsal started. I heard the songs. It’s a glory. You’d have to be soul-dead not to be moved by it. And there are lots of lovely people (and me) working bloody hard to build in the set on multiple levels, and to make it all magical and beautiful. Plus, most importantly, I can confirm that we have been properly briefed at length about health and safety.

Here are two of us – (both beautiful humans who fearlessly but ambitiously make glorious things.) They’re humping stuff together. Maybe if I put a photo of  two attractive young men humping it’ll get me more followers. I’m told that’s how the internet works.

imag2963356245813.jpg