Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I Mention It Is Too Hot?

Did I Mention It Is Too Hot?

I hear Dean's voice from down the hall -

"Do you know those days when you just can't find a pen?"

Currently under my bed I know those days where you just can't find anything. London may be melting, our kitchen may be approximately 120 degrees and my skin may be moving from blue -to white - to red and back again but, some how, we have decreed it time to tidy. This is what happens when I should be writing a play and there is no more tennis for me to watch.

"Yes" I say, disentangling myself from a sleeping bag, a wicker basket and a mallet. Free, I look up.

Dean is now standing in my doorway looking sheepish, his hands full of enough pens to supply a small stationery shop for a month.

"These might have been in one drawer".

I look at him, shake my head and then return from whence I came, in the hope that life might make more sense seen from under my bed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Epilogue

Epilogue

I open the door flip flops in my hand because, clearly, tonight is the night when I have decided to give myself a foot infection. I am not exactly drunk, but I might agree that tipsy would be the appropriate word to use. Although Arsenal Fan, who is at Glastonbury, has been texting me all evening about what he is doing, and, obviously I am not there and have been in Brixton instead, I have had a rather wonderful evening. Such is my state of mind currently, I probably wouldn't have swapped it for Glastonbury. Maybe. And this is adding to my general Pimms-Vodka-Comedy triangle of wanting to come in and dance around the living room -

"Have you heard the news?"

Director Boy's voice comes down the stairs the moment I close the door. I know that Andy Murray is through to the third round, which, let me be honest, is my favourite form of news currently. The fact that I do not know there is news of any other sort to be aware of would probably suggest that I am missing out on something.

"No" I say, taking my time over the stairs because, well, y'know.

"Michael Jackson's died".

It is fair to say that this is not what I expected to hear. I round the corner and enter the living room where, ever 21st century consumers, BBC rolling news plays in one corner, and twitter in the other.

And it would seem - it is true. Some how the news sobers me entirely because I know this is one of those 'where were you?' moments. Me, I'm going to have to say slightly tipsy, incubating a foot infection, on the stairs of a flat in Streatham.

I sit down, compelled by some force I cannot rationalise, to watch. Though I know there is nothing more to be said.

Because I buy into this world. I buy into icons and music and fans and fame. I buy into everything that made this man great and made him terrible. More than that I buy into the ability of a song to make you smile, to make you cry, to define a moment of your life in a way nothing else ever quite does. Of the power of one man or woman on stage to make you understand all that cannot be understood any other way. And though I am too young to remember the Michael Jackson of the eighties (and, yes, as a child of Britpop I delighted in that Jarvis Cocker moment) it has not stopped his music, his videos, his dance routines, bleeding into my life and my memories.

And as I sit I realise I cannot fight the aching sadness that it should end like this.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Act With The Flip Flops

The Act With The Flip Flops

"Shush" comes the call from the stage.

Charming Canadian, Surfer Girl and I are sitting on a battered sofa a mere metre or so away from the stage. For it turns out that this particular room above a pub, with its mismatched furniture and over-sized lights and quirky little bar, is even more to my taste than the pub section downstairs. It has already gone on my list of places I like in London.

Because we are a polite audience we respond immediately to the request for quiet.

"There are two teams - " Breakfast Club Boy begins.

It is not the first time we have seen Breakfast Club Boy on stage. This time at least he is fully clothed. As he details the 'rules' of the evening I realise he also has a 'Compere' voice which is, well, very Camerican. Which is unsurprising all considered, but still.

Also, Compere Breakfast Club Boy is mean.

Which is probably equally unsurprising.

And so the improv games begin. Me being me I like the games where either the level of difficulty is cranked up to increasingly preposterous levels (Starting with 'A' Have a conversation where where your line ends with the next letter of the alphabet. And then with sentences that don't include the letter 'E') or where I am firmly in on the in-joke (Trading Shakespearean insults mutating to insults as if you are in a play by Chekhov).

Just as Scene Stealer gets into full on mode Compere Breakfast Club Boy breaks in -

"Now you can only speak in iambic pentameter. If you're going to talk so much I'm going to make it fucking difficult for you".

Iambic pentameter! How wonderful! But then I am a geek.

Then -

"This one is high concept so you need to pay attention".

I put down the vodka, momentarily, lest I should not be up to the job of high concept after Pimms, vodka and the Builders.

Part one of high concept consists of an oversized imaginary character called Boris. This much I can follow.

Part two involves Team Kapow picking a member to go outside.

"You".

I realise Compere Breakfast Club Boy is talking at me. At being the appropriate word. This is not something I'd been prepared for given that audience participation thus far has been confined to shouting out locations and objects.

"Go outside and make sure he doesn't listen. When you hear me blow my whistle bring him back in".

And it would seem I do as I am ordered. Only -

As I stand up I realise that I have only one flip flop on. Because I take my shoes off in public but not always in any kind of sensible manner. Also, these particular flip flops are somewhat difficult to insert my feet into. Because, yes, I am also a little remedial when it comes to bodily coordination. I attempt to slide my foot into the offending flip flop. It skids away from me. I am to be shouted at for not obeying so instead flick the remaining flip flop off and run across the room in bare feet. Some times classy just isn't the word.

In the corridor outside - as I try not to think about the fact that I am bare foot in a pub in Brixton - I see the performer I am supposed to be marshaling. He is looking in the opposite direction. What exactly is the etiquette for situations where an authoritative Compere has ordered you both out of the room? Should I make small talk? But then what if he is in some sort of improv-zone and I destroy it by talking about the heat or Andy Murray or talkative builders?

I settle instead for trying not to step on any piece of floor which looks like something might have been spilt on it. Which is to say - all of the floor.

Just as I have decided to accept that I will undoubtedly contract some sort of foot infection from the floor I hear the whistle.

I open the door and step through and realise simultaneously that I probably should have let the boy who is going up on stage go through first. Oh, well.

I settle back into my seat to watch the game, though not having heard the answers shouted out by the audience whilst I was outside I feel the joke is somewhat lost on me. Though I have a degree of smugness in as much as I guess one of the answers long before the boy on stage does.

Then it is time for Team Bam to send a member outside. He is just leaving the room when -

"You! Why are you still sitting here?"

The audience laughs.

"Go on - go follow him!"

Without a thought for the fact that I am publicly being bossed around by Breakfast Club Boy I stand to attention and scurry out of the room, still in my bare feet because I have not had the foresight to put my shoes back on.

This time I at least get the door thing right when Compere Breakfast Club Boy blows the whistle, remembering to hold it open for the person going up on stage. What with that being my role and what not. However, I do forget how to get back to my seat and - saving myself from having to climb over several people - have to double back and obscure the view of several people.

This time I remain as confused as the boy I was outside with as to the answers so there is both no joke and no smugness. The games continue though, with Compere Breakfast Club Boy artificially manipulating the scores so we have a tie-breaker for the final game. This game involving a plot that has to be played in the style of the genre that our Compere shouts out ("Film Noir!", "Opera!", "The plot part of a Porn Movie") wins my favour quite considerably, not least when "Musical" results in a dead body coming back to life to sing "I'm a dead body" complete with jazz hands.

And then it is over and we have to cheer to decide who is to win. I cheer both teams because I do not know who I want to win as that is too difficult a decision to be made when you have finished your vodka and have black feet.

Compere Breakfast Club Boy catches my eye. "You. Who won?"

It is being left to me to decide? When I haven't made my mind up?

I go with pure instinct and pick the team which Scene Stealer isn't on.

Team Kapow punch the air and cheer, the audience claps and, though I have black feet and have been bossed around, I feel full of joy and power. And, maybe, just a little bit of vodka.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Prologue

Prologue

Surfer Girl and I head in the direction of where we have been informed the beer garden resides. Having been slightly dubious about the venue Breakfast Club Boy had lured us into due to its exterior I have been pleasantly surprised - inside it is all mismatched old furniture, statement wallpaper and hidden booths. Equally I have just been charged £4.50 for a glass of Pimms so I am, quite literally, paying for the distressed pool table. 

We round the corner and there, in all its glory, is the beer garden.

All two metres of it.

For the beer garden is little more than two tables on top of some concrete. I clock slightly too late that the tables are occupied by men in day-glow jackets. And I didn't need that post-Oxford summer spent doing admin on a building site to know that groups of builders with pints in their hands is not my natural habitat.

Surfer Girl and I look at each other.

"Let's sit inside".

We nod in agreement and turn.

"Where are you going?" comes a voice from the beer garden hole.

Where the day-glow shirts are not would be the truthful answer.

"Inside".

"Don't do that - come and join us".

Oddly enough we decline and sit inside.

Talkative Builder, however, decides that our brief appearance is enough to merit an invite to sitting at our table.

"Have you been working today?"

"No - I was sat in the sun reading poetry" Surfer Girl offers.

Even though I have three jobs and the MA still to finish I cannot muster much more: I wrote my column for WOS.com and watched Wimbledon. I am not sure how much scrutiny this stands up to.

"Poetry?" Talkative Builder questions.

"I could read you some" Surfer Girl offers.

Silently I marvel at her ability to engage, as polite as I may be I have very little time for small talk when I don't want to small talk. And pre even a sip of my Pimms I do not want to make small talk with a stranger unless that person has floppy hair and a guitar/ a desire to appear on stage at The National/ is writing a novel/ answers to the name of 'David Tennant' [delete as appropriate]. I am flawed like that.

So Surfer Girl begins to read 'Monogamy' and I am immediately charmed by it -

Though as charmed as I am I still notice Bald Builder pull up one of the leather arm chairs so he is sitting next to me -

"You had to pick a long one" I interject.

Surfer Girl has clearly clocked this too and begins to read quicker.

Meanwhile Bald Builder's eye level sinks to somewhere around my breasts.

I decide to focus across the table, Surfer Girl's poem the source of all of my interest.

Poem over it seems it is time for introductions. At the very least Bald Builder now knows the name of the girl whose breasts he is starring at.

Talkative Builder, meanwhile, has launched into a protracted story of which I am not sure where the punchline is going to come.

And then I see Breakfast Club Boy walking over to us. I smile even though he is wearing a t-shirt clearly given away free in a whisky promotion.

"How are you?" he asks.

I try to wordlessly communicate that help might be needed. Whether my pulling faces achieves this is debatable, though I sense the situation has been noted.

"Are you nervous?"

For Breakfast Club Boy is compering the improv night that has led to us being in this bar with these builders. He has a lot to answer for.

There's a slight pause. "Yes".

"Hold out your hand" Talkative Builder demands.

Breakfast Club Boy obeys, purposefully shaking it.

"I should go back - " Breakfast Club Boy indicates and I realise then that he is to leave us to the mercy of the builders. More than that there is nothing I can do given that he is on stage in thirty minutes and demanding he stay here is somewhat bad form.

"Good luck".

It doesn't come from my mouth because I am nowhere near gracious enough for that to happen.

He disappears from where he came, Talkative Builder begins talking again and Bald Builder's eye level resumes its contact with my chest.

Mature to the end I text an expletive and set about downing my remaining alcohol because I suspect this will be funnier then.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wherein I get a little bit more Will & Grace in my life

Wherein I get a little bit more Will & Grace in my life

"You've come back!" Camp Bookseller says with rather startling excitement.

I get the message immediately that Camp Bookseller's enthusiasm for our return is not so much directed towards me as it is directed toward Breakfast Club Boy. What can I say, clearly the fact that Breakfast Club Boy's red hair co-ordinates with the decor of the Royal Court is working in his favour when it comes to the employees.

"I know which one I want" Breakfast Club Boy says, his decision over which Wallace Shawn play he is to purchase made on account of the discovery that Grasses of a Thousand Colours includes gratuitous use of younger women and centres around Shawn's penis. And people say that I am obvious.

Camp Bookseller, however, is not letting go of the opportunity to flirt that easily.

"Did you like [Aunt Dan and Lemon]?"

Me, I thought it was quite striking in parts but desperately in need of some rather servere pruning. Not to mention the fact that Shawn and I - like Jonathon Swift and I - ultimately see the world differently.

But it is not me whose answer Camp Bookseller is interested in.

There is a pause whilst Breakfast Club Boy considers. 

"Y-es". It's drawn out sounding distinctly, well, Camerican.

Camp Bookseller, however, doesn't seem perturbed by either the hesitation or the accent. 

"And - in one word - what did you like about it?"

One word? This is difficult flirting.

Breakfast Club Boy, not generally lost for words, seems to be struggling. 

"A sentence then" Camp Bookseller suggests achieving a worrying amount of eye contact. I start to wonder if I should leave the two of them alone.

Breakfast Club Boy answers, though I'm not actually listening to the words coming out of his mouth being more preoccupied with how Camp Bookseller is looking at him. And the fact that in this scenario Camp Bookseller has clearly placed me as the Grace to his Will. I refuse to look into the implications of this, especially given the fact that I live with two gay men anyway.

Camp Bookseller changes tack. "So - what do you want it for? A monologue? Acting? Writing? Studying? Directing?"

Momentarily I am distracted from the flirtation by the list. Because, hello, does no one just buy a play simply to read and enjoy it any more?

Breakfast Club Boy pauses and I sense, just for a second, that we are having identical thoughts. Albeit that I am not having to work out which category I'm going to place myself in. 

"If anything - writing" He answers.

"And you've only got the money to buy one?"

Camp Bookseller will be working out Breakfast Club Boy's prospects next. Though if the answer to the previous question didn't point to a life of poverty then I don't know what does.

"Yes, if I want to get home tonight".

Camp Bookseller does not miss a beat. "I don't know - you could take a chance".

MY EARS, MY EARS.

Then, at the moment the subtext has stopped being sub-anything and is now just text, Camp Bookseller suddenly remembers that I exist. It is odd if only for the fact that I too have kind of forgotten that I am actually visible to the man standing behind the counter. I register the flicker of doubt. Excellent, I may not be Grace afterall.

As if to reduce the potential blow, Camp Bookseller looks in my direction as if to suggest that it was me, rather than him, who might have said those words.

I give a look back at him. The kind of look that conveys - Oh no, thank you very much. This is your mess. And I'm not going to be the one to get you out of this. Or even give you absolution by letting you know whether he is straight or gay. I'm mean like that just because this is so much funnier.

All options taken Camp Bookseller accepts that he is actually going to have to sell Breakfast Club Boy the book he said he wanted five minutes earlier. In this upside down encounter selling a product is clearly a failure. Or at least a failure in as much as he hasn't managed to get his phone number into it.

When we finally get into the stairwell the words rush from Breakfast Club Boy's mouth:

"He thought I was gay!"

I do not think it is the place to say that I kind of see why the mis-conception might have happened. I take instead the equally obvious route.

I laugh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

I think I'd been living in Streatham for 24 hours or so when Director Boy first made the announcement that there was going to be a cake competition as part of the local food festival. I wondered for a second if I'd stepped into something out of Private Secret Diary. We shall be keeping chickens next.


"We all need to make cakes" Director Boy said.


I pulled the 'I'm far too busy card' which is currently my favourite card for lots of things, not least as to why I keep forgetting to do stuff. Dean just went for 'no' without the need for any kind of card pulling, because that is the power of his no. 


Unpeturbed by our lack of enthusiasm for integrating ourselves with the cake baking yummy mummies of south-west London, Director Boy plowed on. Even the discovery, forty five minutes before deadline time, that there was insufficient icing sugar did not hold him back.


"It's just like Challenge Anneka!".


And, in an icing-sugar type way it kind of was. Which was, needless to say, how we ended up outside the cafe on the common looking at cakes.


"Yours is the most different" I say, surveying the table which is laden with cakes of the generally sponge variety with neat rows of decoration on top of them. Director Boy's cake is certainly the only one to be enveloped in butter cream icing. It's probably the only one too which could give you caffine shock.


"Mocha cake" The lady with clipboard and score sheets says. Only she pronounces it Mo-cha as if it is some kind of dance. I am not sure this is necessarily a good start.


The judges locate Director Boy's cake and take a slice. The Only Marginally Scary Italian Lady who runs the cafe lets out an 'Mmmm'. Maybe a victory shall be clasped from the jaws on defeat.


As the judges quietly give their marks to Clipboard Lady the remains of the slice go round the audience.


A man to our right, picks off the buttercream icing and gives the cake to his three year old child who happily munches it.


Director Boy turns to me.


"I wouldn't be giving that to a child".


I look back at him.


"There's four cups of espresso in that".


I feel a flash of pity for the man as he continues to feed the cake to his daughter though neither Director Boy nor I make a move to stop him. Sometimes lessons have to be learnt. There is, after all, a clue in the word 'Mocha'.


When the results come through Director Boy's cake, scandelously, remains unplaced.


"If there'd been an Adult Male Category you'd have won" I offer. It is a small matter that he is in fact the only adult male to have entered. But we will not let such small trifles get in the way.


Director Boy promptly rescues the cake before it is devoured by Streatham children. Its chocolately-mocha goodness is not for them after all.


Back at the flat I finally get to eat some cake. I decide this is a successful afternoon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The One Without The Ducks

The One Without The Ducks

Hmm, did I mention that I might be a little bit busy?

There is much I shall return to in a couple of weeks when the current pace of my life slows down slightly (coinciding, not coincidentally, with the end of my contact hours of my MA) - a new job, a new project to get excited about, seeing John Barrowman's bottom again, a picnic in Greenwich next to a film set, standing on the balcony at the Royal Court surveying Sloane Square in the evening sunlight and being utterly content. And cats. Not the musical, but the animal. They have become, in a startling turn around, a recurrent feature of my life. And remember - this is me. I don't even like cats.

But for now - you can read my first 'Best of This Week's Blogs' over on Whatsonstage.com. So - theatre bloggers out there - please write lots of interesting things next week, I beg you.

And the other thing, and the thing that's really taken up all of my time these last few weeks - my play foreverafterwards has, along with the plays of The Writers (many of whom have graced these blogs for the last six months or so), its reading at the Soho Theatre next week. And because we've put in a super-human effort there is a bewildering number of theatre-types coming over the course of the readings (including my favourite London theatre, eeek). We're doing the first 25 minutes of foreverafterwards which is sad in as much as it means that Breakfast Club Boy* won't get to do duck noises during it (should you wonder, the final scene takes place at a duck pond. In my second workshop when asked to list what they enjoyed about that particular draft everyone opened their list with - the ducks. Talk about scene stealing), and my favourite scene (which has an extended conversation about a pencil in it) isn't in there. But doing the first 25 minutes is good because, as I said some time ago, I can't write first acts for toffee. Or indeed for any other kind of sweet. And this has pushed me to deal with some of those demons and write an opening that I'm actually happy with. Which I sort of, maybe, am. Even though there is a (short) conversation in there which references Old English and which therefore NO ONE will get. But I will begin rambling soon (I say soon, did you see the length of that first sentence?) - needless to say, Monday 8th June at 4.00pm the Soho Theatre is the place to be. There will even be free wine if I don't drink it all first.  

*Gratuitous reference due to the fact that he keeps bugging me as to why I haven't written more of his adventures on here recently. I shall keep all remarks about egotistical actors to myself. This, I am afraid, will have to do for now. Or until he buys me things.