Friday, January 30, 2009

Really, I'm Not A Big Fan Of (Literal) Cheese

Really, I'm Not A Big Fan Of (Literal) Cheese

Not that I am predictable or anything but if I were to be encapsulated in a saving-the-world-bag then it might go something like this:

Coza in a bag

I Heart...

Already it has become something of a talking point:

"Did they get that made for you? Or has someone just started marketing your life?"

"Boys with Guitars? [quite loud sniggers] [-] plays guitar"

[me hanging head slightly] "I know".

Not to mention that I have had to explain the whole cheese sandwich thing more than I ever imagined possible. Which is, maybe, exactly what Bourbon, (Lovely) Tour Guide and Old Friend had in mind...

I'm not sure if I should be worried, though, that no one has questioned the (non) stalking thing...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Distant Aggravation Goes Forth

Distant Aggravation Goes Forth

It was not until I hit publish on the pink tights/ penis blog that I realised that today is the 28th of January. If that shows that I have no real concept of dates then it also shows that I realised immediately that the 28th of January 2009 means one thing in particular: I have been blogging on DA for four years. And there was absolutely no way that I wanted that to pass with only a six foot penis blog for company.

The last year has, without any understatement, been rather epic. I quit my job at the WYP, moved to London, began my MA, started working for New Theatre and became a Literary Associate for a theatre company based in South East London. Rather emphatically it was the year when I took quite major decisions about where my life is going and what I actually wanted to do with it. Which is all big, scary, exciting stuff. Five months down the line, I feel I've settled into what my life has become and, though I still have the occasional pang of missing people and places (though, not all the vomit), I can honestly say there is nowhere else I would rather be.

There were other things I will emphatically remember this year for, colouring my memory every time I look back. Going to Norway, being overwhelmed with how utterly beautiful a country it was and never again being able to hear 'Mmmmbop' without smirking. Our Tent Village at Latitude, helping to boo a "comedian" off stage, wanting to be Martha Wainwright and deciding that every morning should begin with a bacon sandwich and Marcus Brigstocke. Being privileged enough to see David Tennant as Hamlet not once, but three times (with a Berowne in there for good measure too) and witnessing a performance that utterly broke my heart and made my soul soar. Camping in North Yorkshire where I actually almost died (not being at all melodramatic there, obviously), a tent within a tent at a party in the Midlands and staying at what we became convinced was Fawlty Towers in Oxford. Not to mention getting to see Dublin for just over a hour on a somewhat ill fated day trip but laughing until it hurt anyway.

There was more "Griffining" than has been the case for a few years and in a moment of catharsis for every memory that Oxford has for me I finally saw him sing in my Jericho. And, as I will always remember, got to sing 'This Old Heart of Mine' in a flat in Whitby. I broke one of my 'I have nevers' and flew a kite on Scarborough beach. I danced around a pole in a club in Soho. I found new pubs, new dresses, new jokes. I wrote a play that opened a couple of doors and helped me close a couple that needed closing. And, in June, DA featured in the wonderful You're Not The Only One.

Autumn was a boggling mix of highs and lows. In September I had one of my proudest moments: seeing Dean and Director Boy get married and being lucky enough to play a (small) part in it. Oh, and manging to actually find a deer and thus ensuring that the wedding went ahead. I moved to London and - though it is not something I will ever be able to fully articulate other than in those quiet moments to those who were good enough to metaphorically hold my hand - had to cope with the feeling that I was upping and leaving at exactly the moment when my family maybe needed me most of all. Then, as if this fear had been noted, I received a letter from my Mother which had me sobbing at Forest Hill Station and which helped me more than I can say. And then November came and I still cannot find the words to fully articulate those weeks. It should be said: Alex, we all miss you.

Possibly the thing that will stick in my mind most of all about the last year are my wonderful friends. The new ones I have made over the course of the last few months, who mock me mercilessly, make me laugh until I cry and who mean that even if this current adventure amounts to nothing more then doing this MA was entirely the right decision. The Norway Contingent, even though we're not all in the same country, let alone building, any more who will forever remain my Faux-Family, t-shirts, questionable photos, crazy plans and all. The Northern Division - five years and counting and I am so incredibly glad that I took the decision to get on that train to Boro back in 2003. I have never been more proud of you than I have been this year. Here's to the next five years (meet you in the fountain?). And - Dean. For feeding me cake and piecing me back together more often than I think he realises. I can honestly say I have never felt more (affectionately, I hope) mocked, supported and loved as I do now. Which is a rather lovely place to be in.

If I am truly honest then the last year (with the exception of those heady days in June) has been the year of the bad blogger. I scanned the archives of last year a couple of weeks ago and I was stunned by how much wasn't there. All the stuff that got lost because I was living life and not having the time to blog it. But if my link to DA has been possibly the most tenuous it has ever been then I know that I still feel compelled to blog, I still want to write on here, it is still the place I come to help shape and form my thoughts and feelings. And I honestly cannot see that changing.

If this is traditionally my time to look back then it is also the time to look forward. There are more decisions to make this year, big and small, not to mention the choice I am wrestling with currently, in some ways wiser than I was before and in others just as wilfully careless. There are already trips afoot: Berlin in February with some of The Writers, hopefully somewhere other than Luxembourg with the Norway Contingent later in the year. Tickets for The Killers in Newcastle, Kneehigh in Bristol and John Barrowman in Harrogate. There is also the rather exciting matter of moving in with Dean and Director Boy in late Spring. And I am about to embark on writing my final project for my MA. Beyond that - it really feels like anything might be possible. And I will very much be here to tell you all about it.

Pink Tights

Pink Tights

"Can I ask a question?"

Breakfast Club Boy nods.

"What colour tights was the six foot penis wearing?"

It is not a question that I ever expected to have to ask, but then, had you asked me even a few weeks ago I would not have expected to have spent my birthday evening watching a play which contains the stage direction "Enter six foot penis". We shall not get on to the Lesbian Feminist Angels, the kind of language which would have my mother reaching for the soap or the fact that Breakfast Club Boy appeared on stage wearing not much more than a body stocking and a coathanger on his head. Or the fact that it contributed to a rather wonderful evening.


It is as I feared.

"Right, I think we might have been wearing the same tights".

Breakfast Club Boy laughs. "I did think you were..."

I assume that it was only the spectre of my birthday that stopped that potential mockery from emerging on Wednesday night.

"Thank you for not mentioning it".

"Though -"

I wait to see what is coming.

"the girl who plays it isn't that keen - so if you wanted to come and play the six foot penis in your tights, that could be arranged".

Oddly enough, I decline.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Scenes From a Birthday: Diner

Scenes From a Birthday: Diner

"Who's being filmed?"

I look over to where Charming Canadian is indicating, to see two boys wielding cameras. I glance where they are pointing and immediately see something that cheers me.

"They're in a band!" I exclaim.

My reasoning for this? They have floppy hair and guitars. Thus this constitutes official proof that the quietly trendy Diner in Old Street which we are eating in has interesting clientele.

Surfer Girl and I thus become slightly more interested in what is happening a couple of tables away from us, something that is most definitely lost on our dining companions.

"Time for the card!"

It is an immediate distraction from the floppy haired boys.

I open the card which has a slight bulge and am immediately glad I'm opening it in a booth in this restaurant rather than London Bridge Concourse. The chocolate they have already given me has been joined by condoms. Clearly they have a party in mind.

"Thank you" I laugh.

I open the card itself to discover a poem about my breasts.

"I bet it wasn't like this at Oxford!" Arsenal Fan says.

Unable to stop laughing, I shake my head.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scenes From a Birthday: Station

Scenes From a Birthday: Station

"We're not doing anything!" comes the shriek from inside W H Smiths.

"I'll take her out" Arsenal Fan says, and I am unceremoniously marched back out onto the concourse at London Bridge Train Station. Wherein Arsenal Fan and I talk about everything other than why he, Charming Canadian and Surfer Girl were in the shop.

This is made somewhat more comical by the fact that Charming Canadian and Surfer Girl become embroiled in the longest queue known to mankind, so long that there is the possibility we might miss both my dinner and Breakfast Club Boy's play.

As a distraction Arsenal Fan reveals that both he and Charming Canadian are wearing proper-shirts in my honour. I beam. Next step: why jeans are a little bit evil.

Eventually Charming Canadian and Surfer Girl emerge.


"Are we in the right key?"

They stand in front of me and sing 'Happy Birthday' with little regard for tune or tone as Wednesday night commuters pass by looking bemused.

I laugh and it is all just a little bit wonderful.

Scenes From a Birthday: Cookies

Scenes From a Birthday: Cookies

Dean appears at the top of the steps wearing an apron.

"You're a bit earlier than I expected".

Given the attire and the slightly manic expression I assume that I have interupted baking. And since it is my birthday, I have to jump to the conclusion that I may be going to get to eat said baking. And I love baked goods almost as much as I love David Tennant. Which is to say, quite a lot.

Sure enough, thirty minutes later I am the recipient of heart shaped cookies, covered in chocolate-orange-chocolate.

With little regard for the fact that my birthday-dress # 1 almost requires scary stomach holding in pants I eat three and decide I can reconcile no longer being a 'Young Person' (as defined by every discount system) some time in February.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Next Step: The RSC

Next Step: The RSC

I am squashed on a sofa with Charming Canadian, Arsenal Fan and Breakfast Club Boy in the corner of the Amersham Arms, the pub which has been officially designated the 'Nice Pub' near Goldsmiths*. Irish Boy, having been here for less time than the rest of us, is sitting bemused (and with much more space) on the sofa across from us.

Having finished reading our own work we are now reading out the script of the Youth Theatre project I am going to start work on in a few weeks time. This decision has proven to be easily the most entertaining thing we have done today. Not least because these boys are not ones to avoid putting on silly voices for the characters. And we have come to the part where there are talking animals! And a magic cow! And crabs in a forest! It is all nearly too much. Especially when, for no clear reason, one of the birds begins to speak in a German accent. I am clearly a girl of simple pleasures.

The next line belongs to Breakfast Club Boy:

"Ssssssister, you cannot go there without passssssing through the foressssst... and you won't be able to sssssurvive OXUMARE!"

Clearly he is taking his role as Snakey Shakey somewhat more seriously than I had expected. I start to laugh. And realise that I can't stop.

Arsenal Fan pokes me slightly indicating that it is my line.

I open my mouth but nothing comes out other than laughter.

"Sorry, I've corpsed" I eventually manage.

The boys do not seem impressed at working with such an amateur and I suspect that my theatrical pub career may be over before it really began.

* As opposed to the 'Cheap Pub' and 'The Pub Where Corinne Wants To Do The Quiz'.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hamlet The Third: The Readiness is All

Hamlet The Third: The Readiness is All

There had been a point, just after I saw David Tennant's Hamlet for the second time last November, when I computed that the London transfer of the run would mean that DT and I would be working merely one street away from each other for an entire month. An entire month!

Then, of course, DT ended up with a prolapsed disc in his back (crikey, at this rate I'll be getting a complex that there's an extreme form of avoidance going on here) and it wasn't so much a case of us bumping into each other whilst trying to avoid the London Lite Girl on the corner as my hoping that I'd get to sit in the upper circle at the Novello and squint at his feet rather than at Edward Bennett's.

Though - for reasons that I'm not exactly sure of - I was strangely calm about the whole thing. And remember - I have experience in this area, what with the non- non-stalking of Fox in Liverpool just before I started this blog and then the even more comic/ traumatic non-non-stalking of John Barrowman in flippin' Cardiff two years ago. But DT would be back. I knew it.

And he was.

I felt a momentary pang of guilt sitting in my seat that this was to be the fourth time I've seen DT on stage in the last six months what with all those people who either couldn't get tickets or (worse still) got them and didn't get so much as a whiff of Mr Tennant. Not guilty enough to do something stupid like give my ticket away or anything, or for the pang to last more than a few seconds let it be noted. I'm not that nice a person.

But - to Hamlet. Val and I had agreed it was unlikely that the performance would top that which we saw in November (I don't think there is anyone I have come into contact with since who hasn't been forced to roll their eyes as I descended into superlatives about it) but we had equally agreed that seeing it in a traditional pros-arch stage was something we were looking forward to. And bits of it worked brilliantly in this setting - I got to (finally) see the reflections in the mirrors at the back of the stage (who knew that there were waves on them when Hamlet talks with Old Hamlet? Certainly not me!), there was a real majesty to the players scene and the fireworks - well, the beautiful Novello was meant for such lighting brilliance. What the production lost was the intimacy of the Courtyard thrust stage, where the torches were in your eyes, the smoke got in your throat and the actors came at you from every direction. There also was in one quarter - not mentioning any names, aherm, Mr Patrick Stewart - a marked problem in audibility for the first act. Which, really, is inexcusable.

If November's performance was all about the future Mr DA then January's was all about the ensemble. Oliver Ford Davies's Polonius was at his most joyously funny, Penny Downie (last seen when we sang 'Happy Birthday' to her with one of the bar staff in a pub in Stratford) gave something of a masterclass in how to act when so much of her role remains unsaid and Rosencrantz and Guildernstern imbued their parts which such bumbling pathos that they broke my heart a little. And made us complain even more bitterly than usual about the terrible cutting which leaves them dead without any kind of reasoning as to how they might have ended up that way. Bring back the flippin' Pirates is all I can say. I hope Mr Doran takes notice.

If I'd thought that DT might have withheld something - y'know what with just having had an operation and whatnot - I was to be very much mistaken. He rocked (literal rather than metaphorical rocking I'm talking about there, but, of course, I thought he rocked metaphorically too), jumped and ran. And more than the intense physicality of the part - not exactly an actor who likes to stand still here - he pierced Hamlet's words with such intensity that he made me hold my breath waiting for Hamlet's mind to unfurl. There is a real sense with DT's boy-man Hamlet that he is bound only by the leaps of his mind rather than the text of the play he is in. He could, you feel, go anywhere. And, for a play which I have read, seen, studied, re-read, re-seen, studied some more and then seen three times in the last six months that is possibly the greatest compliment I could give any actor. To be surprised at how a line is delivered, or to have a new meaning or interpretation given to you as DT did again and again that Wednesday night - that is something truly special. And I really believe that I will never again be able to read or hear "the readiness is all" without hearing DT's delivery.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the slight DT foot fetish persists (even from the Upper Circle, though I clearly should have shown some forethought and taken opera glasses). And on an equally intellectual note - there was a moment when I got thoroughly distracted by his visible tummy.

As a general observation I do think in critical terms that too much praise seems to have been lauded on this actual production, which is not exactly original and a little bit uneven (I still have largely the same reservations I had back in July). What it does deserve praising for is for the acting within it - the resurgence of the RSC notion of ensemble was emphatically visible on Wednesday night. And when it turned out that not only had we been in, but the Press had been in to review DT too, well, I couldn't have been happier that the performance which I have seen grow so much, to become a Hamlet that deserves to go down in the lines of posterity, could, finally, be recognised.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Christmas, Falling and Willow Cabins

On Christmas, Falling and Willow Cabins

It has been, it is fair to say, something of a busy few weeks. Apparently I had four weeks off of Uni. I'm not sure that I exactly noticed in any other respect than that I couldn't go to the library for two whole weeks. Two weeks. When I had an essay due in on the first day of term. That would be me rolling my eyes. When I wasn't moaning about the library there has been much time spent at the New Theatre, and then much more time spent spending the money I earned at New Theatre. I saw Griffin in London and York (two gigs in one week, it was almost like 2004 again), Time to Leave in Leeds, David Tennant in London and John Barrowman in Birmingham. I pretended I was in Brideshead at Castle Howard, pretended I was in Strictly Come Dancing in York and pretended it was 1903 and Dean and I were having afternoon tea in Streatham. There were drinks round a Christmas Tree with the WYP, a rather lovely Christmas Day with my family, and a New Year's Eve which was chiefly notable for it involving rather more of the Nutcracker than I could ever have previously envisaged. Oh, and there was a LOT of shopping. And then a lot of rather frantic footnoting of my essay at 7am on the morning that it was due in.

If I were to be entirely honest - and where better than a public blog which anyone can read - I surprised myself entirely with how much I fell - and fall would entirely be the right verb here - for someone during these weeks. Maybe because, for the first time in such a long time (as this blog would attest), with this floppy haired boy it just all seemed so joyously uncomplicated. It wasn't, and when it unravelled it hurt, and, if I think about it too hard now, it hurts still. But I continue to muddle my way through it, undoubtedly making some mistakes along the way, but muddling along. And though there were a couple of days there when I wished thoroughly that I could undo those three weeks and return us to where we had been before the falling happened, I'm not sure I would now. I'm not yet at the stage where I can say I'm entirely happy with it all - there will forever be a part of me which is the girl who is quite happy to build a willow cabin at the gate* - but this boy is not C and it would be unfair of me to judge him in that light. And even if we are only ever meant to be friends then I am still glad I met him.

What the last week has shown me, if I didn't know already, was how utterly lucky I am to have the friends I do. Who held me up (on one night, literally), hugged me, drank with me, helped me buy pretty things, wrote me lovely emails and messages, texted to check I was ok, let me splurge, offered to do bad things to his stuff, wrote me '5 reasons never to get involved with an actor'*** and, on one memorable occasion, offered to use actual violence. The details of the events of those days I shall look back on in five months or so, and only be able to recall through my writing. Everything my beautiful, wonderful friends did I will always remember. And for that, more than anything, they deserve a thank you.

*Ten points for anyone who knows where the allusion comes from. **

**And fifteen points for anyone who doesn't for not being a Shakespeare Geek.

*** Clearly I could already have written twenty based on previous experiences, but it seems I never learn my lesson.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creative Writing

Creative Writing

"What was your essay about?"

"Kneehigh and adaptation".

"I wrote a bit about Kneehigh too"

"We really could have pooled our essays and had two that were the right length!"*

"Yes, only I accused Kneehigh of racism in mine".


"Well, they go on about being a 'local' company all the time, and there are all these mentions of Cornwall on their website - so I counted how many times they mentioned Cornwall".

"You did what?"

"I counted the number of times Cornwall was mentioned".

"And accused them of racism because of that?!"

"Not explicitly".

There's a pause as we both take this in.

"So, what happens when I fail this?"

*Mine, surprise surprise, may have been a little on the long side...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Therapy of the David Tennant Variety

Therapy of the David Tennant Variety

If there is any way to deal with a bit of bruising then surely this is it:

David Tennant Therapy

Not just the programme I would like to state. But DT. On stage. Being magnificent. And having beautiful feet.

And, just because I would not be me if I didn't go out and buy something pretty. Not an umbrella this time but wonderful, pretty, (only slightly frivolous) sale bargains:

Retail Therapy

The White Company Bag would be Dean's. He believes in retail therapy too. And if I needed anything else, my Banana Republic purchase came with the realisation that I am a size 4 in their clothing.

So, what with that and a little bit of help from my wonderful friends, all in all, not a bad 24 hours...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Between the Acts

Between the Acts

The night air stings as the lights of London blaze down upon us, two figures in black coats huddled in a doorway.

I hold out my hand -

There's a smile. "I don't want to bruise you".

I smile back. "I bruise when someone looks at me".

He takes my hand, covering my skin in unfamiliar inky writing.

And for a moment, just for a moment, the traffic noise melts into the night and I am gloriously, dizzyingly, happy.


Weeks later, I click on the now familiar name in my inbox. The words make me smile and I realise, just as I am about to click away, that there is another message waiting to be read, the name illuminated in gmail's green ink. I scroll down, quickly scanning the message in my haste to be done before my shift starts.

I reach the third paragraph before I realise there is something wrong.

The words become alien, a gap opening between them and their meaning which I am, temporarily, unable to breach.

And then, with the force of a small collision, their meanings connect.

I sit in the airless staff coffee shop, surrounded by people and voices that I don't know, as my stomach turns.

It is horridly, hopelessly, familiar. History repeating itself at the moment I least expected it to.

Only - there is one crucial difference.

This time I did not know.

And I feel the bruising, not as colourful or spectacular as that which is now just a memory from a University misadventure, but deeper, harder, somewhere I cannot quite place.

I go to the toilets at the top of the auditorium and, my legs on the cold floor, my body reacts in curiously physical terms as, protected by the silence of an empty theatre, I vomit.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Once Upon A Time In Old London Town...

Once Upon A Time In Old London Town...

Coffee in hand, I join the queue for day seats at the National.

Tickets purchased I go to the National Bookshop - picking up a couple of Kneehigh plays for my extended essay - as one of the Booksellers jokes about August: Osage County being known as the Sausage Play.

I wander down the South Bank as the incredibly blue sky makes everything seem just a little bit more beautiful.

Into the Tate Modern - there's what appears to be some sort of spider-esque contraption in the Drill Hall - where I wander, not really understanding much of the painting, but finding a beautiful Barbara Hepworth statue - named Orpheus - which entrances me.

To the pub by the Globe, where I read and listen to the conversations of tourists.

Back down the South Bank - with enough time to browse through the bookstalls outside the National.

To the Lyttleton, where the set is like a giant doll's house, and where there is a moment of such utter delight within August that, just for a moment, I lose my heart to it.

Night descending on the South Bank - the trees are lit up with strings of fairy lights which twinkle and make me feel like I've stepped into an elaborate film set.

On to the Cottesloe, wine, ice cream and the new David Hare play.

Home by 11.30pm and a little more in love with London.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange

"See, even though i'm working two shifts today, I went to the library to send a script (ignore the fact I had to collect a book).x"

"Subby english culture bowing to brash america...x i still have glass in my foot"

"Am trapped between english sympathy & mockery. If your foot falls off don't say I didn't warn you (and, remember, I've seen the pictures)..."

"Haha. Indecision is a national trait of canada (see our trade policy with the usa)"

"It's clearly catching...x ps Canada trades?!"

"It takes technology, jazz and black women and gives back maple syrup, maple candy and maple sugar".

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Performance

The Performance

Makeup smeared across my face I walk into the corridor. For reasons which are complex and many I have just been gagged, blind folded and handcuffed to a table with my feet in a bucket of water. It has, needless to say, been a very long day.

As I turn I see The Boys sitting in the corner.

"There are no no-clapping rules here*" Charming Canadian says.

And The Boys clap.

I may have had something of a Diva Strop when the idea of me - a Writer who privileges sheds and garrets and suchlike - having to perform. A Diva Strop based on something approaching utter horror. And it is lovely - just so lovely - that they have noticed that under the over-dramatised reaction I have done something today that I didn't particularly want to do.

I beam.

"I've been told I should ask to see your arms" Breakfast Club Boy says.

"Oooh, you've not seen my arms". My arms have become my current party trick.

He catches my eye. "Well, I have seen your arms, just not this week".

I smirk before pulling up the arms of my cardigan to reveal, on each forearm, the large oval shaped bruises that have been such a talking point over the last few days. Because if there is anything I do well then it is bruise. And these bruises - caused by the handcuffing to the table malarky - are, if I do say so, fairly spectacular.

Breakfast Club Boy looks from my arms to my face. "You do know that you don't actually have to hurt yourself - there's this thing - acting".

I wonder whether sticking my tongue out is a mature response.

"You should have seen them on Tuesday" Reggae Boy comments. "They were awful".

Arsenal Fan shakes his head in the manner I can imagine my brother doing. "It's just not right".

I kind of stand there, in the midst of this little circle, and, even given the fact my dress is wet from the water and I suspect that I'm going to get an eye infection from the mascara gloop in my eye, I can't help but smile. If nothing else then this moment confirms I have done the right thing, turning my life if not upside down then certainly inside out, by going back to school.

Because I have met these people.

*Inside the performance space we have been informed - much to our bemusement - that there is to be no clapping. Go figure.