Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Bring us some figgy pudding

Christmas checklist:

[X] Have early mini-Christmas at a chum's place with gift exchanges and cheer and listen to Haddaway endlessly (watch Night at the Roxbury)

[X] Tidy and clean flat to unhealthy degree

[ ] Look forward to grandmother's arrival


Of all the many Christmas songs that could be sung at this time of feasting and celebration at the birth of the tiny baby Jesus, once, Pink Floyd's Merry Xmas Song (a one-off radio recording in the sixties on John Peel's show) is the one that I'll be lustily belting from my car as I drive past Oceana with the windows down howling like a banshee at the drunk, vomiting idiots in Santa hats.

#Cheerful faces wreathed in smiles
Can see him coming for miles and miles
As he passes by he'll catch your ear
With, "Merry Christmas, guys. And a happy new year"

Turkey and sausages and Christmas pud
"Have another helping, John"
"Oh, I don't think I could"#

Saturday, 20 December 2008

I was later apprehended on Space Mountain

Saw Spamalot on Wednesday night. Not entirely sure why I didn't like it.

Just had a thoroughly bizarre morning which culminated in my failing to see The Tempest at Ham House when I thought it was on at one-thirty instead of one. Dolt. I wandered into the room afterwards to have a look around and was ushered out by one of the staff, and confusedly walked home along the river.

I also underwent a barrage of suspicion when I attempted to buy some heavy-duty drain cleaner at the hardware shop.

On the plus side, thanks to the sterling efforts of Abi and some bandanas, my bathroom is very very clean. Now the living room will follow as the Kitchen Of Destiny nears completion.

Going out tonight to celebrate the return of Mark from the bleak northern wastes.

P.S. Abi is cool.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

T'would be too tedious to repeat

A superb final lecture at uni today before the Christmas break dragged me seven-and-a-half years back to my sole visit to the National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough. We were looking at difficult-to-stage scenes from various plays (including the famous 'pursued by a bear' direction) and one of them was the beheading scene from Judith, which I'd seen at the NSDF back in Easter 2001. It was probably that week in Scarborough which put me off ever wanting to become a drama student (although, in fairness, alongside some dreadful plays and amidst the sweaty throngs of horrible, horrible drama students *ptooie*, I was properly introduced to live physical theatre which ultimately led me to where I am now, so swings and roundabouts I suppose).

Just spent the evening back at uni seeing part of the Shakespeare Festival, with three Shakespeare snippets in the theatre. I was terribly disappointed, largely due to the quality of the performances. The first piece, a well-crafted clowning ensemble of Midsummer Night's Dream's rude mechanicals was the best, even if some of the characters lapsed into dull stereotypes (the primadonna Bottom, or the lion with stagefright, both overdone and mishandled). The next was an snippet of King Lear, which was fascinating visually and initially had me very interested as I don't know the play at all. Quickly, though, the performers started to irritate me and my attention wandered. The same with the final piece, a maritime-themed telling of Pericles, without enough of a maritime theme or confident performances (bar Pericles himself).

I thought back to Destination GB which I saw there last week, a devised piece performed mainly by friends and directed by my tutor. The reason I felt it hard to judge was because I feel like I know the performers too well. Seeing the shows this evening with a completely fresh eye (I didn't know anyone in it or anyone involved, except for, I assume, Al and Paul in the theatre) had me wondering whether it's almost impossible to properly judge work within the confines of the university drama community and whether frequent invitations for external audiences (outside of the cast's friends and families) are the only way to get a subjective view of the work. I felt every foot-shuffle and lifeless face and (what I felt to be) misunderstanding of the text by the actors and I wondered if I would have felt as strongly had it been my friends and peers (and indeed colleagues) that I was supporting.

Another thing came up which rather interested me. The evening was sold to me (I felt) as one event, but it very much seemed to be three seperate plays and companies to the extent that the companies who had already performed would join us in the audience afterwards. When I was about twelve, on holiday in Guernsey, we went to see an outdoor production of A Comedy of Errors in the awesome castle in St Peter's Port. It had the convention of the actors actually playing Shakespearian performers putting on a show, so beforehand we had knife juggling, firebreathing and so on. It was extremely well done, and immediately afterwards, as the audience was wandering off, one of the actors had come out into the crowd to see his friends. "That was great!" his friends were telling him, before he replied, in front of all the people who'd just seen him, "Nah, it was crap."

I kind of feel that you have a bit of a responsibility in the theatre to make sure that the theatrical experience (which a vast majority of people don't get very often) extends beyond what happens on the stage between when the lights go down and when they come up. I loathe hanging around in the bar after shows, and always find it disconcerting to see a performer immediately after their show's over. Not least because this evening a friend of one of the actors was having a heated argument with the girl running front-of-house regarding a refund over some tickets for friends who hadn't shown up. It was very odd and ultimately it's all been a bit unsatisfying.

STILL, getting some semester feedback tomorrow and hopefully going to see The Tempest with puppets at Ham House at the weekend (it'll be the second time I've seen it done with puppets) as well as seeing Spamalot tomorrow night and then hopefully a night out with the drama lot from uni.

Kill all hippies!

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Spaceman Came Travelling

My mini-absence is hereby explained by the fact that I've been working hard on my final assessment of the semester which went off without a hitch today. Then we had drinks and disgusting chocolates (bought from Woolworths). It's been a very tiring time and I'm relieved that it's all done and that Christmas is on it's way.

Had to bid a sad tata-for-now to Annabel whose commitments have piled up to the point where she's had to duck out. Gah.

Meanwhile, people are hurling shoes at George Bush. I can't condemn this, but I worry that this may just be the tip of the iceberg in a spate of clothing attacks on public figures. Next thing you know it'll be jumpers pushed into the beaming face of Rolf Harris, and that, sirs, I will not tolerate.

POLL!

Would you force a knitted jumper down Rolf Harris' gullet?

[] Yes, I would

[] No, I would not

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

I recognise / Myself in every stranger's eyes

I'm starting to feel like it's the end of term, which is weird because I haven't had an 'end of term' for six and a half years. I've got lots of stuff on and lots of things to do, and in many ways I won't feel like the holiday has arrived until the end of January when the YAT project I'm in is done and performed. Then, and only then, will I be responsibilityless. And then the next semester starts.

Work continues apace on our assessment, as a strong idea with plenty of scope for interesting work develops, while I've got loads of things to put in my essays. The problem, as ever, is actually getting around to *doing* it, so that can be my pre-new year's resolution.

Went to see a show at uni this evening performed mostly by the post-graduate teaching assistants. I'm sort of reserving judgement on it for the moment for a reason that I'm reserving talking about.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Well I didn't read the last page / You thought of me at that final stage

I saw two absolutely astonishing things this weekend.

The first was on Friday night when I went to see a showcase of work by students at Rambert's St Margaret's school. The show was a packed ninety minutes of very short dance pieces (some of them works-in-progress, I suspect) ranging from classical costumed ballet to things more akin to physical theatre and maybe even standup comedy. I love dance and was frequently speechless by some of the performers. This spurred me to think about returning to my contemporary evening classes at Rambert in Chiswick and gave me a lot to think about regarding what I really honestly think physical theatre is.

The other was the Korean film Oldboy. You should probably see it too.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Catch you later, Bill and Ted

I think I hurt my foot a little with some vigourous hopping during today's warmup. Ian's warmups are sure to become the stuff of legend.

I'm ever-so busy, don'tcha know? This evening I watched Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure for the first time in ages and found that it's still the indisputable classic it always was. Lots of good work getting done at university, with assessments and essays coming up, and more orchestra work today with more exciting and varied instruments. Good stuff.

I've also been perusing a data DVD filled with photos from all the productions I've worked on with YAT this year, which has been an absolute treat. I really must wibble on at length here some time about how Royal Hunt of the Sun was the best thing I've ever done. I'm sure you can't wait.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Kitchen Sink Drama

Thunderously tired after a batshit week and a physically demanding day (but isn't that the point?)

I'm finally getting a new kitchen put in, replacing my tired old dead kitchen which has been untouched since around 1969. I'm not making this up.

Thing is, this means that most of my home and posessions are currently under a thin layer of red dust, which is most tiresome. I've also got no kitchen, so I'm eating out of boxes or in other people's houses, or taking out which is expensive. So it's a hectic time.

On the plus side, I had a delicious sandwich from a brilliant local butcher, and an interesting chat with some of the guys on another 'pathway' of the drama course, which was nice. Plus we had lots of fun with makeshift musical instruments in the afternoon.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Word

Had an excellent lecture today that was largely about writing dialogue, but with the intention of stressing the value of recording what you're doing in your practical work. It's sound advice and (like most sound advice) it tends to go unheeded by me because I'm terrible and lazy. My physical theatre journal does not get updated as often as it should, and it's something I've been meaning to rectify lately. One of the reasons I started this blog was because I wanted to journalise my progress as the degree goes but also to start a new writing project that I could come to whenever I wanted and could just generally *practice* writing with. My old blog was often a bit scrappy when I was out of practice, and given that I once intended to be a professional writer (I even went for a career in journalism at one point), it's a pretty poor state of affairs when I can't actually formulate a decent post that's interesting to read (I'm well aware that *none* of this is interesting to read) and I want to get back into the habit of writing lengthily and often (hence my wibbling on about Fruit Gums and the Richmond Filmhouse), so you'll just have to put up with it.

But yes, the lecture went well with a short and delicious 'post script' where we looked at an article from The Sun moaning about how prisoners in Whitemoor (including a man convicted for plotting a terrorist attack) are being given standup comedy lessons as part of (*gasp*) a 're-habilitation' program. I'll stop while you catch your breath at the mere *notion*. The point of interest was that the guy running the course has done some workshops at the university with the Applied Theatre group and others, and seemed to be being personally lambasted by The Sun for his part in the program. Needless to say the article was traditionally Sunny.

Discussing the issue however did bring out some fairly strong opinions in the room which I was rather surprised by. The relationship with fellow university-goers is an odd one because it's one that's forced to be very intense very quickly. I'm in another odd position because I live in my own hovel out away from the halls of residence where the huge majority of the year group live. As a result I'm somewhat detached from a lot of the extra-curricular socialising and soforth, which I'm quite happy with in some ways because I did all that about eight years ago. As I'm from the area, I'm quite happy with my own social life and haven't had to go off to university and make loads of new friends out of necessity. Anyhow, I've noticed lately that some people get wound up very easily by other people as a result of their being forced together in this way. This is why I'm quite fortunate in my position because I can go home at the end of the day and forget about anything that's annoyed me, but if you're living right there with the people you work with all day every day, there's no escape and I suppose everything just builds up and explodes now and then.

The migration of forms is the essence of life, Joseph

Apparently The Richmond Filmhouse is about to officially stop being 'The Richmond Filmhouse' and is about to officially start being the monstrously less-interesting 'Curzon Richmond'. Aside from the fact that this means it's no longer clear from the name what the Hell the place actually is, it marks the sad passing of an almost long-forgotten era of my now long-dead youth that spanned from about 2001-2004.

A close personal friend had alerted me to the Filmhouse's Sunday matinees which would be £5 for a double-bill of films (usually linked in some way) from any era or genre or country you could imagine. Across the next few years I went almost every week, seeing some of my favourite films in the actual *cinema* for the first time (Blue Velvet, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and being introduced to things I'd have never otherwise heard of. For a brief time we were friends with the manager who would come down and introduce each film with trivia and analysis (before he left to do a law degree which has a whole other story attached to it that shan't be retold). They were good times, and they also marked the start of my (baffling, to my friends) habit of going to the cinema on my own, something I've done as recently as seeing Quantum of Solace the other week. I don't care what you think.

Looking back on some of the films I saw almost reads like a list of some of the most interesting independent, foreign and classic films of all time- Rushmore, Storytelling, Happiness, Bande √° Parte, Nueva Reinas, Lola Rennt, Memento, The Long Good Friday, The Lady Vanishes and you've not known squirming, stewing-in-your-body-heat fear until you've seen Don't Look Now on the big screen.

The last time I went was on Easter Sunday 2004, where I went to see Spirited Away (which was being shown as part of a children's double-bill with School of Rock which I decided to forgo). I was disappointed when it started and I realised it was the dubbed version, but sat through to the very end as the curtain closed, walked out of the cinema, walked twenty feet down the road and burst into tears.

The one-year BFI membership my sister gave me as a Christmas present last year has gone woefully underused, my having only made the trip down there once to see Akira, my favourite film of all-time, ever. My cinema of champions these days for new films tends to be the Feltham Cineworld if not the Rotunda's Odeon. It's not quite the same though, when I knew the staff at the Filmhouse and would always have a bag of Wine Gums and sit in the same place.

Ah, well. As deals go, it's not a massive one.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ways of Seeing

Just finished watching the last episode of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, a BBC series from the seventies about ways of seeing things (believe it or not), with particular reference to art. We were shown a bit of the first episode at uni back when the course first started (the course titled Ways of Seeing, believe it or not) and it's interesting stuff. The final episode deals with advertising and publicity, and brings home the important realisation of the false 'other-world' offered in adverts (bearing in mind the series was made in the seventies when 'adverts' were quite different to how they are now, believe it or not) by juxtaposing the other world with this world, specifically in the printed medium, where an advert for an expensive perfume can be just over the page to an article about genocide.

It made me think back to when I was working in the old office (for a company that dealt with bonuses and incentives for large clients, believe it or not) and how all our products were emblazoned with smiling happy people with shopping bags, or folks who were so happy to be working wherever they were working, they couldn't help but grin vacuously. I was re-reading Nineteen-Eighty-Four at the time (my favourite novel, believe it or not) and thought a lot about the reality of the images, how these people are actors and models wandering around London somewhere who don't actually smile all the time, or even work for the companies that they were shown to work for in the images. Back in 2004, the extras agency I was with sometimes sent me off for auditions for photoshoots and modelling work. Talk of £600 for a days work being surrounded by lingerie models doesn't really paint the true hell it was having to go into clean, white spaces in exotic Soho, populated by disgustingly beautiful people and to have your appearance (your external self) assessed for it's worth and value in the art of making something else look good (a product, or a service, or whatever).

It's hardly a groundbreaking claim that image-obsessed culture is shit and miserable, but it's good to be reminded of the gulf between actual, tangible reality and experience and a false world made purely out of images which a lot of people accept as being real, believe it or not. Here's one of my favourite ever pictures that shows just how wide the gulf can be.

I'm living in chaos at the moment (and as usual, come to think of it) as work on my exciting new kitchen starts next week. I'm looking forward to washing machine and dishwasher ownership, and it doesn't affect me a jot whether you believe that or not.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

I hate pornography... I haven't even got a pornograph!

I've spent most of this evening rolling on the floor howling at Kenny Everett videos on Youtube. He was bloody tremendous.

"When England was a kingdom, we had a king. When we were an empire, we had an emperor. Now we're a country and we have Margaret Thatcher".

Friday, 21 November 2008

Got me a movie / I want you to know

Hm, maybe it's time I put Saturday's photos up on Facebook. I apologise to any photographees who take offence.

Lots of interesting work today and on Wednesday. We had a guy called Mitch who was a clowning/circus expert of some description and did a small and sweet workshop with some status games and Commedia dell'arte movements which went rather well. Today we had an interesting task to create a sad scene in a happy place, with music running throughout- although we were forbidden to use anything that relies on electricity.

Taking a pretty wide berth on the brief, our group ended up being crisps in a crisp packet that are eaten one-by-one, mourning the loss of their fellows (although not through dialogue, obviously, as we were crisps), accompanied by the constant rustling of the packet (and we all had packets on us to make more noise). We were worried, but it was really well-received. It was a lot better than you're thinking.

Meanwhile, Miyazaki slams Japanese nationalism and their cretin Prime Minister. Woo!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Idiots perform act of idiocy

Whoops.

And here's an interesting map of their distribution.

For those unfamiliar with the group, their Wikipedia page makes for some informative (and refreshingly well-informed) reading. See also the Channel 4 documentary 'Young, Nazi and Proud' if you can get it, and Phil Edwards' rip-roaring turn on News 24, a true masterclass in the art of enough-rope provision.

I'll restrain myself from posting a link to the full list here, but some creative Googling would probably yield results, should (for Lord knows what reason) you want to know if there are any members in your area. Perhaps British readers in ethnic minorities may wish to find out if they need to vary their routes home or something.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

You don't want to hurt the boy, Harvey

Bugger me, it's cold.

(NB: Do not actually bugger author)

We've been looking at Romeo and Juliet in depth today which has me thinking about dualisms and Harvey Dent. The best Harvey Dent ever is the one in the Batman animated series (which to me is some of the most definitively tremendous Batman ever made), especially his early appearances pre-transformation where we really got to like the character and ever-so-slowly see his darker side emerging. The two-part transformation episode is the series' absolute best for me, with his fiancee's concern over his personality shift and the psychotherapist's realisation of what he's capable of before Two Face is unleashed being wonderfully and traditionally tragic stuff. They went in a similar direction (the tragic fallen hero) with Aaron Eckhart's Dent in The Dark Knight, although the time restraints in a film already stuffed to the gills meant they couldn't develop the concept of his pre-transformation duality and his anger problems ('Bad Harvey' in the cartoon) quite as well as the character deserved. Still, it's ace stuff.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

BREAKING NEWS

MAX PAYNE IN NOT-VERY-GOOD SHOCKER!

More on this as it develops.

Meanwhile, I've had yet another thunderous weekend, this time with fireworks and bonfires and raves and lasers and smoke and Haddaway.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Stop that astronaut!

Sainsburys is a terrible place. Not only was it crammed to the rafters with painfully confused and ugly people all buying things, but in the mad panic I accidentally grabbed the DVD of You Only Live Twice instead of For Your Eyes Only. I already own YOLT of course, as it's amazing ("Stop that astronaut!" "Good, Bye! Meester Bond!" and Burt Kwouk) and wanted FYEO as it's one of the better Moores. I must've just seen the 'Only' in the title and panicked. So I've got to back and swap it.

We were working with costume on Friday, but we ran over time so further discussion about the pieces the year group created will be postponed until next week. I look forward to talking about why men dressing up as women seems funnier than women dressing up as men. It's all go!

I'm off to a fireworks party this evening, where I'll hopefully be able to get some fire-eating done. Not to mention non-stop dancing and out-rocking.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

There's Juice Loose Aboot This Stereotype

I've just had some Fruit Pastilles after spending the afternoon clambering around on a pile of rubbish trying not to make any noise at the behest of a visiting acting tutor from one of our sister-universities in Wisconsin (a state which voted for Obama, you'll be thrilled to know). Some folks are (understandably) interested in going over there on a new exchange program they're trying to set up, but I'm not so sure. Spending a semester out in the US seems a bit counter-productive. It might disrupt the flow of the course going on over here, maybe. And I'd rather spend the miserable winter months cursing my lack of central heating and shaking my fist at the grey, drizzly skies *here* than four-thousand miles away from a decent sweet shop.

Those delicious Fruit Pastilles reminded me that I really must get around to boycotting Nestlé, thirty years behind everybody else. They are bastards.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

My mom says I'm cool

I've been listening to some exceptionally groovy music lately, partly because my iTunes shuffler has been behaving, but mostly because Jason left his CDs behind at the party on Saturday and I have been holding them for safe-keeping.

I've been spending more time than I should in the car ferreting myself between home and university, which is where I do most of my music-listening-to. I've found that if I make an Ace Mix CD, I always end up only listening to a few really super-favourite tracks on it, but that if I bring in a proper album I'll listen to the whole thing and get a better appreciation of songs in their intended context rather than mixed in with other random songs I like. So it seems that the secret to excellence lies in albums, not compilations.

This probably applies to other things in life, but I'm too tired to think of any stimulating examples and you wouldn't be interested anyway. I just had a massive dinner with some chums and I've got a busy day of moving about tomorrow, so shut up.

They know what she wants / They know what she wants

I've put Look At The Hits On That! in the car and have been listening to it all day. It's amazing and I don't care what you think.

POLL!

Were you a girl in the eighties?

[ ] Yes, I was

[ ] No, I wasn't

Working with tubes

I've just had a tube of Fruit Gums. It was the first time I'd had any in absolutely ages.

I remember when they used to be plain and unadorned, with a slight texture on top. Now they have a strange raised grid and seem a bit softer.

Of course the *best* Fruit Gums were the ones I only ever got in the cinema; reassuringly hard and tooth-damaging, and shaped like the fruits of their flavours.

My mother always eats Fruit Gums when she is ill and can't eat anything else. I'm sure this has caused some kind of lingering resentment, but I can't put my finger on it at the moment, because all I've had to eat all day is Fruit Gums and I'm freezing.