Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How Many Writers Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

How Many Writers Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

So far in my writing career* I guess I've been pretty lucky when it comes to deciding what to call my pieces. By lucky I should probably write 'has stolen shamelessly from other writers'. Because there's a reason that Corinne's New Play has been so-called for the last few months. Coming up with a title - any title - is bloody difficult. And that's when there's just me to argue with[for, fact fans, Some Sort of Beautiful was not always called SSoB, it started life - in its play form - as Under The Red, White and Blue].

So throw up seven different writers, seven different ten minute shorts that - crucially - are not even at first draft stage and seven different brains and you have one big problem. Especially when we need to sell the title to the Carriageworks in the next couple of weeks.

"We need something that says it's about ordinary people and ordinary things but which in their own way are quite extraordinary. If we were being poncey we'd call it De Profundis"

"Dull and Duller?"

"I can see the reviews already"

"Is there another word for ordinary that's - well - more exciting?"

[blank looks all around]

"Grey"

"Teal"

"Magnolia"

"String"

"Beige"

"Shades of Beige?"

If in the future I have to pinpoint the moment that I started drinking seriously, I think we've just found it.

*Oh, writing career, get me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Genetics

Genetics

For possibly the first time this year I'm sitting in the living room with all three of my siblings. This might not seem like such a feat but let me tell you that when there are 14 years between youngest and eldest getting us all in the same place at the same time requires the kind of heavy duty planning that makes organising the Oscars a walk in the park. Or, conversely, it works out that it's a bank holiday and at least two of us have spent all our money on alcohol and thus are at home. Obi3 and Obi4 are not at home for that reason (or at least I hope because I don't want to have to take a nine year old to rehab with me) but - for once - I'm not having a conversation with either of them that involves telling them to turn that bloody X-Box down.

Ronan Keating's on the tv presenting the top forty 'Happiest, bounciest, most feel good songs eva' and we've been sucked in courtesy of Obi2 flicking over to it the moment that the Monkees 'Daydream Believer' was being played and my refusing to let her change channel. Wham. 'Dancing In The Street' (complete with my 'If I were copying Griffin here I'd get this bit wrong'). 'Time Of My Life'. The songs keep coming and, yes Ronan who must be all of 27 these days even though in my head he will always be 20 is living up to the title description. These songs are making me feel good. And even on occassion squeal.

Obi3 and Obi4, like Shania Twain, aren't as easily impressed.

"This is ancient. This must be what the Romans listened to".

This is what you get for having siblings who were born in the nineties. Ever the knowledgable one, Obi4 points out that when he studied the Romans last year it didn't include any of this music. At least we cleared that much up.

After more grumbling and my pondering just how much I onced loved Ronan we finally get to number one. It's Katrina and The Waves with 'Walking on Sunshine'.

"How brilliantly eighties is this?"

"It's so old"

"No it's not - I was alive when this was out"

Obi3 looks like he's considering his next response. I pre-empt it to be something that involves saying that I'm old. It's not.

"It's weird that there's all this stuff that happened before I was born. I can't quite believe it"

It's nice to know that I'm not the only Furness sadled with an ego.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Vogue

Vogue
Someone, somewhere down the line had a bright idea - let's have a Black Tie Dinner. And after spending most of our time together in a field with all the other bits and pieces that fields include (namely flies, creepy crawlies, mud and grass that gets every where so you find bits in your bed days later) it was generally decreed that this was a GOOD IDEA.

Only we all kind of relaxed on the Black Tie bit, which I was secretly rather glad at as my ball dress - a remnant of those days when size eights were too big for me - no longer fits. But I still think we look rather fab even though my hair seems to have gone very fluffy having been in the rain:

Black Tie - Oh God It's The Timer

It was pointed out that it was quite a breast heavy evening, something which was sadly wasted on those present. But there was champagne and chocolate and red wine and eclairs and more chocolate and more champagne so I think it can be assumed that a good night was had by all. So much so that it seemed perfectly normal to be discussing at 3:00am the fact that conversation was aimed much lower than my eye line.
The next theme night? Chav. Somehow I'm looking forward to that one a lot less.

Grazed Knees

Grazed Knees

For the second week in a row it seems that I've managed to miss out going to bed on Sunday night. I'm not sure if I'm going to make crawling into my bed in last night's clothes whilst the world around me springs to life a regular routine. This week was at least better in as much as I didn't have to have a conversation with a stranger whilst sat at a bus stop complete with raging hangover and un-brushed bedhair but it's probably fair to say next week I'm aiming to be home before daylight hits.

As if I'm over compensating for a summer spent wearing rubber gloves and picking people's pants out of a portaloo [yes, people do leave their pants in portaloos, this is so disgusting that it probably merits a blog on its own] I've barely had two minutes to myself since last Sunday. There's been two lunches, a shopping trip, two nights out in York's finest cocktail establishments, a Black Tie dinner and even a night out at Mecca Bingo where I was one number away from winning four hundred pounds. One number. I actually thought I might have a heart attack amongst the ladies with perms and the plates loaded with chips and gravy.

I guess that I've been profoundly grateful for the distractions, missing number 74 and all.

On Saturday night I did touch on the fact that I worried that I was wallowing in all those moments when I was back inside my own head, without something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet. And not just for wallowing reasons which would be bad and foolish enough but for blogging reasons which is just plain daft. Because - and yes I'm vain but every writer has to believe in their own ability or they'd go off and do something else - I'm aware that my current emotional blip is making for some great blogging. But I'm also aware that I don't want to bore you with what is - in the giant scale of things - a little mole hill. A very little mole hill that just got blown up into a full on soap-opera because of its audience. Undoubtedly when I look back in a year or so I'll wonder what the fuss was about. Maybe it won't even take that long, maybe by October I'll have forgotten all about the twisting turning feeling that lurches when I allow my head to wander, a prolonged bout of motion sickness that doesn't seem to abate. Even now my rational self can look and wonder why I'm feeling what I'm feeling; something which is in no way proportional to the experience.

Last night it was difficult to avoid the 'this time last week I was...'. To pin point that memory, that moment as I stood stage right, hidden from the view of the audience, flowers in my hands, singing along to Abba's 'One Of Us' and I looked up to see the light dancing in those startlingly blue eyes, a smile playing on the mouth at just how damn uncool I was at liking Abba. How can I not want to press the pause button? To capture it and bind it up, forever safe, stashed away, just as I've stashed away other nights, other memories - and ones which rightly have the claim of being bigger, more important but which now, here, seem to pale in its wake.

To giggle at myself as, thirty minutes later, I stood in the lock up throwing bags of costumes into the space in no particular order, bellowing that everyone should "PACK FASTER!", an Army General on the precipice of war.

To remember standing on tip-toe as the rain trickled down my back, bouncing in puddles at my feet and I barely noticed.

"You always knew that this is how it would be"

"I know, I didn't have any illusions - but it doesn't change the fact that I liked him"

"No, it never does".

After the initial hilarity, the hangover and then the cold bath of the guilt I've been left with the much less substantial realisation that during the four weeks I'd left myself more emotionally open than I'd expected. You just need to look at how I'm splashing myself on here to realise that. What started as the regular game of who was to be my favourite actor got a heck of a lot more complicated than I'd envisaged. C was, I suspect, far too good at the game. And me, well, I wasn't quite as good as I thought I was.

For all concerned, not least you dear reader, I promise this will be the last time I do the literary equivalent of popping balloons with a pin and giving pronouncements on the noises they make as they deflate. But just now, just for this moment, I need to let the bruising heal.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

There's a good reason why I have a badge saying 'high maintenance'

There's a good reason why I have a badge saying 'high maintenance'

"It's terrible - there he was laid in the middle of the street probably suffering from alcoholic poisoning and all I could do was snog the actor"

[collapsing in laughter] "That was your Plonkers*"

[breaking realisation] "Oh my God, it was! I abandoned my friend for an actor!"

"And it was worse than what we did to you"

"Yes - but [demonstrating with my hands] the outcome was also proportionally higher. Plus my actor was actively trying to stop me helping. Your actor couldn't have cared less if you helped me or not"

"True - but we didn't realise how bad your foot was, we thought you were overdramatising"

[stopping still] "Hang on, you thought I was 'over-dramatising'? I had a broken foot"

"We didn't know that - you'd been walking on it"

"But you think I'm someone who 'over-dramatises'?"

"Have you seen this shop, it's got some great things - there's a mug with a corset on it -"

"Close but no banana - don't try to change the subject. You abandoned me and my broken foot for an actor. And then you went shopping in Tescos. And all I got when you came back was the fact he was a git and you'd bought breadsticks"

"I can't remember why we went to Tescos - "

"Never mind your broken foot, HAVE A BREADSTICK"

"But -"

"HAVE A BREADSTICK!"

*Plonkers: Orginating from the York Wine Bar of the same name.
To be in a situation [usually involving alcohol] where you have to choose between an actor and a friend in their hour of need. And you choose the actor.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lights will guide you home

Lights will guide you home

Val, D and I are in bed together.

In bed at the Evil Eye, obviously, because there's only so much rock and roll any girl can take in one week. But there are cocktails because I'm clearly celebrating the fact that I'm back on solids by ingesting more alcohol into my body. As a concession I'm staying away from my traditional Evil Eye tipple of White Russians because I'm wary of the possibilities of putting milk in my still slightly sensitive stomach. Vodka? No problem. Milk? Oh no. I'm guessing that this is how the alcohol problem starts.

Somewhat inevitably given our shared obsessions we're talking about theatre, and somehow conversation's turned to Alice in Wonderland. Because I clearly didn't talk enough about it when I worked the show for THREE months.

D: "The lizard asked me out!"

V: "I know -"

C: "Yes, I might have blogged about that"

D: "Do you just blog about everything?"

C: "No...
[beat]
I did blog about the van".

D: "Brilliant - 'and then there was this one time when Wayne Sleep grabbed [D's] arse'"

C: "I didn't blog about that.
[beat]
I will now".

Wrap me up now, I'm untied again

Wrap me up now, I'm untied again

We walk into the resturant with D holding my hand as I try my damnedest to slink to the back of our group hoping that being a short-arse is, for once, going to pay off. I have no such luck though, the group seems to magically part in front of me and N looks me in the eye.

Before I say hello, before anyone says anything, I can't help it as the words fall out as N's eyes burn through me and I see something I'm not sure I like.

"Don't look at me like that"

We break eye contact.

"We've come for our money and [C] said that you'd pay Corinne"

Even I laugh as the tension is cut and N holds out a pound coin to me.

"I don't think so".

N starts filling in his petty cash book. And starts to count money.

"Of everyone on this tour I expected this of you least"

"Of everyone?"

"Well, maybe not some of the bible bashers we had in Edinburgh".

"So, the bible bashers and then me?"

"Yes."

And N proceeds to tell me what I already know. What I already knew long before the events of the past fortnight but which in the surroundings of Wagamama come out harsh and ragged. Known facts that I haven't processed, haven't put into lines. Facts outside the cosy world of Kirkstall Abbey Shakespeare that we'd carved. And whilst I protest, it's a half hearted protest because I can see dissapointment reflected in N's eyes as he mentally writes a letter of protest quoting the Trade Descriptions Act. And I'll give him something, he knows how to pierce the armour that seems to have become more and more shaky by the second. Because what is worse - that I was lied to by ommission, or that I knew and still went through with it?

"You're no better than [-]"

I splutter. This was different. Our situation was different. I didn't set out with such careless abandon. But for the first time it's no longer a joke. I can think of few things as profoundly unfunny as the words that dangle in front of me. Because it's all a logical culimination of the way I've chosen to live my life, the beliefs I've chosen, the things I've joked about over the past few years. It had that air of inevitability to it that made it seem perfectly, totally, right. But not right to N.

And I know I don't want to have this conversation here amongst the sanitised white tables of a sushi restuarant. I don't want to have this conversation with N who thinks he understands me but never really did. Because there's nothing that either of us can say to stop the gulf widening between us. And, worst of all, I have the overwhelming sense that if this continues I will cry. Instead I try to sort out some twisted financial arrangements, during which the fact that I vomitted in the 4* hotel emerges.

"You make a good couple - you both vomit in rooms that don't belong to you".

It's deadpan. Fact. But it's a fucking brilliant metaphor and we all know it. N looks up at me.

"Don't look at me like that".

N keeps looking. D takes my hand again and ushers me out. A muffled goodbye comes out as I turn and walk out of the whitewashed room to the grime of the Leeds street.

From here I'm frogmarched to Accessorize where, on orders, I buy a ridiculously expensive umbrella. It's beautiful, I can't deny it. But the creeping experience of a feeling I've never really had before, of something that seems in the last few minutes to have seeped through my clothes and left me cold is still present. And as much as I thought I'd steeled myself for this, thought I was totally in control and knew the expected outcome - it still sticks in the throat.

And the worst thing? The knawing realisation that the feeling most likely isn't mutual.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"You have but slumber'd here/ While these visions did appear"

"You have but slumber'd here/ While these visions did appear"

I spent last August in a portacabin, over-heating and using a porta-loo which quite regularly leaked. Conversely this August has been spent in a portacabin, getting rained on and cleaning a portaloo which quite regularly leaked. The major difference [other than the quantity of bruises I've accumulated] between these two Augusts however has been that this year's portacabins have been in honour of theatre and thus entirely forgiveable. That I even managed to forgive ending up sitting on the floor of a van nestled next to the rubbish [for, yes, my time came] probably speaks volumes about the extent to which I will forgive if the word 'theatre' is somehow involved. Throw in 'Shakespeare', the odd free bottle of wine and some kit kats and BAM! You've got me. I'm clearly a girl of simple tastes. Especially when they come in period dress.

Windswept Romeo and Juliet Boys

But what the last four weeks of sunburn, bruises, set shifting, rubbish clearing and being attacked by the dog who's 'Lucky' in the adverts has shown me is how much I've missed theatre. Not seeing it, or even working in it (I get more than enough of that through the WYP) but being part of it. Of the hotch-potch, shit-this-could-all-go-wrong-any-second momentum of a production. Going to bed at 1:00am, getting up at 9:00am and then going for three hour lunches before the whole process started again. Laughing so much over everything and nothing, of shared jokes and impressions and names. Being part of an extended, crotchety, ill-fitting family that is as all consuming and intimate as any relationship can be. Because this way of life, this thing about theatre, it's either in your blood or it isn't. And if it is you can't fight it.

There have been moments during the experience when I've counted the hours to it ending. Bar stocked, tickets collected, interval finished, audience leaving - day over. Not long now. A week. Three days. One day. Over.

On Saturday night during the last performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, C sat outside with me and asked what I was going to do when Monday came.

"Get my life back".

We both laughed, acknowledging the truth and the evasion in that sentence. But the question and all its possible answers, that's what underscored everything of the next 48 hours. The wrap party, with its promises of meet-ups, of clubbing, of future days that for the most part will have been swept away with the pizza boxes and ciggerette ends - they're the words that try to prolong the experience so Monday morning, 12:00 o'clock trains and real life won't quite intrude, the half held belief that none of us will have to answer the question. The same question that neither C or I asked each other as we stood in the harsh light of the hotel reception on Monday morning.

Theatre's transitory, never quite the same, always somehow out of your grasp. That's maybe the reason I find it so compelling, and maybe why the experience itself is so intense. And this summer, with all the times I've moaned and all the times I've pondered the fact that if this was my permenant lifestyle I'd be an alcoholic, above everything else it's cemented in my head how much I love theatre. Not just the spectacle and the gloss, but the messy, hands dirty, joyously anarchic side which I can't believe I've been without for so long.

Some time after 3:00am on Monday morning - just after I'd finished dancing to 'Tragedy' - I ended up sitting on one of the bar's sofas with D, each of us professing our undying love for the other and boldly proclaiming : "We were great!".

And y'know what? We were. And, most importantly, so was this summer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Just because I'm sorry doesn't mean/ I didn't enjoy it at the time"

"Just because I'm sorry doesn't mean/ I didn't enjoy it at the time"

It's 8:30am and I'm in a 4* hotel. I'm in the hotel because somewhere down the line it seems that four of us getting a room so we could continue drinking in the hotel bar was a good idea. Good idea in the sense that expeditions to the north pole are a good idea and thus, in the cold harsh light of day, probably not the greatest idea that two Oxonians, a writer and a famous actor's son have ever had.

Things that I know the last 24 hours has contained: Baileys, double riccardi and coke (x2), brandy (free), double generic white rum and coke (x4), whisky and some horrid mixer (free), whisky and coke (free). There has also been: musical songs and dancing to Steps and S Club 7. These two lists may well be connected. As may the fact that I have been (I've been subsequently informed) surgically attached to a particular actor for the last five or so hours. Because every wrap party needs a car crash and clearly I'd put my name down for this one.

But now it's 8:30am. I smell of roll ups (not mine) and whisky (mine). Oxonian and FAS have returned from breakfast with bloody marys. Which is just what my stomach does not need.

"I think I'm going to be sick"

"Bailey Rae, you went to St Anne's - you're a clever girl, you're not going to be sick".

I wish I had Oxonian's conviction.

FAS settles down on a chair opposite us. Oxonian decides he's going to have a bath but before he goes - possibly in the knowledge that the room is on his credit card - passes me the bin.

Writer and FAS talk about Directors and baseball bats. I lie back down. And then - oh joy - I hear the word "breathe!" and the only thing I want to be surgically attached to is the rubbish bin.

But even in the midst of this, what with Oxonian in the bath and Writer and FAS watching me vomit, I know there's a great - well, maybe not great, possibly notable is a better word - memory stuck amongst this. Because I like to pretend I'm a bit rock and roll, and this I think we can all agree, is just a little bit rock and roll. And, most importantly, it'll be fucking great in the memoirs.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Don't Worry, Karma Has Already Struck And It Involved Stale Beer

Don't Worry, Karma Has Already Struck And It Involved Stale Beer

"Everyone into the van"

At those words there's an almost immediate panic - a panic that sends people sprinting in the direction of said van. The reason? There are only two seats in the front up for grabs. For the remaining two of our group it's into the back along with all the FoH rubbish. And the FoH rubbish includes yesterday's warm beer and mulled wine. For me there's a bit of added urgency. Because if the threat of rolling around with the rubbish weren't enough I'm wearing a white jacket. A white jacket I'm wearing for the first time. There's only one card I can play.

"I'm a girl"

I turn and smile. Surely the male techies I'm in competition with cannot argue with that.

"That's right - girls and gays in the front!"

I smile at D. Brilliant argument.

It seems our Stage Manager has other ideas. Courtesy of being the person with the keys he's already climbed into one of the two available passenger seats. And he's not budging.

"I'm a girl and I'm wearing white"

Nothing. But I'm nearest to the door - do I stand and fight with the girls and gays line or abandon friendship in the name of a seatbelt? There is, it is safe to say, only one answer. This is me. I have morals coming out of my ears.

I climb in.

Because a white jacket? No one's morals could fight that. Or at the least my morals can't fight that.

"Sorry". I mouth it through the window because I've obviously closed the door and fastened my seatbelt.

"Just you wait".

A few minutes later we're driving down Kirkstall Road. Red lights. We stop. There's a rustle and then a loud thud from the back. And from the partition wall we all quite clearly hear:

"Shit!"

And I know I should be concerned about the fact that D and our soundguy have just slammd into something but as SM and I turn to look at each other there's nothing I can do. I start to giggle. And I can't stop.

I'm still giggling when I climb out of the van at Leeds station. D gets out of the back as gracefully as he can. And whacks me with his bag.

I can't help it, I'm at that place where I can do nothing but giggle a bit more. And tell the story to everyone at work the next day.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Getting Scientific

Getting Scientific

If you've wondered why I've been a bit quiet [or even if you haven't] it has rather a lot to do with finding myself working for the British Shakespeare Company; something made only more interesting by the getting up at 6:30am that the WYP reception cover that I've been doing has required. To get this into perspective - not including travel times - I worked fourteen hours yesterday. More tellingly I haven't seen Neighbours for the last fortnight. And what have I gained out of this? Erm, some money, some CV points and a Romeo and Juliet/ Dream t-shirt.

So, let's get scientific and look at the facts of the past week or so:

Bruise count: 21 [seriously, I look like someone has stood and kicked me. And then kicked me some more. The truth is much less exciting and has rather a lot to do with bottles of Stella].

Number of times I've almost bleed to death: 1 [maybe this is a slight over-statement given the size of the cut in question which, even I admit, was rather small. But my capacity to lose blood is one of my great talents. Clotting is not something I do well. On the positive side this makes me unlikely to get DVT when I'm on a plane. On the negative side it does up my chances of eventually ending up lying in a pool of my own blood. Ah, you win some, you lose some.]

Time spent on Leeds bus system: approx 15 hours. [I should get a medal. Especially when it was hot].

Time spent looking at pretty actors: Oh, literally days.

Time spent laughing at biographies of pretty actors: 45 minutes.

CDs bought: 6. [HMV had a sale on. I know this is not an excuse but in my head it kind of is].

Items of inappropriate seasonal clothing bought: 1 [a pair of fingerless, elbow length spotty gloves that will get dirty long before autumn comes. I think they're beautiful].

Times I've discovered I'm geeky about Shakespeare: Too many to count.

And what does this prove? Bah, I've got no idea. You'd better go ask a Science graduate if you want answers.