Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wherein there is talking on the tube

"I've got a present for you" Arsenal Fan says as we sit opposite each other on a Northern Line train.

"How exciting" I respond as he begins to go through the contents of his bag.

And then pulls out a copy of The Metro.


(It should be noted this isn't my standard response to being offered a battered copy of a free newspaper - I have some standards - but I have an inkling as to what might exactly be in this particular copy)

"It's somewhere around the middle" Arsenal Fan offers.

I flick to the middle and then - I see what my present is.

Namely: Harry McFly without his top on.

(Yes, I know. Small pleasures and all that please)


(And let the record state: I'm not really into that whole 'look at me without my top on thing' given my prediliction for arty, pub-beats-gym boys. But even I am not immune to Harry McFly's chest it would seem).

"Look" I say folding the paper over so that Purple, who is seated next to Arsenal Fan, can see Topless Harry McFly. I do so in the sort of generous manner which means everyone else on that side of the tube gets to see the photo too. What can I say? I am a nice person.



I turn the paper back to face me. "This is a great present".

The woman sitting next to me starts to giggle. "That is great" she says "Look at him!"

Only she doesn't need to say this because we are all already looking at him. It turns out that you can file Topless Harry McFly in Free Paper along with Freak Weather and The End of Days as situations which make it okay to talk to strangers on the tube.

"I think this might have made my day."

"Mine too!"

"He has to win after this"

"Harry to win!"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I am mainly listening to:

Every so often Breakfast Club Boy pushes some music my way which won't result in my having earache for the following three days. Thurston Moore's album came with some disdainful commentary on my taste in such matters but, apparently, "if you're a man and you decide you must sing about your feelings and make an album with an acoustic guitar then this is as good as it's ever going to be". Given my love for the BoyWithGuitar genre I was, naturally, loudly irrate about such damning-with-faint-praise. But Demolished Thoughts is gorgeous and 'Benediction' especially so.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A brief return to the spires

"And that sweet city with her dreaming spires
She needs not June for her heightening."

Oh, yes, Oxford. You still have it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

dressSTORY: The Tartan One

The blog post I wrote about hoarding made me think harder about stories and histories and all the ones that go unrecorded and disappear. Combine this with my urge to catalogue and the fact I'm wanting to have some running threads on here to help me back into this 'being a good blogger' lark and dressSTORY was born. The deal is - for each dress I own I will catalogue it with a story/history/something creative involving words. I'd love to know the history of some of my dresses before they got to me - and maybe, though it may never be this, these stories might pass on with my dresses.

The Tartan One
The Facts: 1980's M&S.
Purchased: £10 from Armstrongs in Edinburgh during August 2011

It was 48 hours before the end of my Edinburgh Fringe, I'd been existing on somewhere between four and six hours sleep a night for the past month, the rain was torrential, I was full of the impotent rage of the morning after a first falling out, my brogues had developed a hole, and I had two hours to appease myself with a dress for the following night's party.

And then I found this dress nestled in the midst of oversized 1980's kitsch. First thought: would it be too horribly cliche to comemorate my month in Edinburgh by buying a tartan dress? Answer: Probably but I suspected I was about to do it anyway. And then when I tried it on and it pretty much fit (as ever with 1980's vintage it's slightly too broad of back and long of arms, but nothing that some clever placing and artfully rolled up sleves doesn't disguise) I knew I wasn't leaving it, even though I knew it most definitely was not a dress for a slighty very sweaty drunken goodbye party. But that's probably in its favour rather than against.

So excited was I with this dress I promptly wore it the next day (okay, yes, I do normally wash vintage first but, hey, it was Edinburgh Fringe and I was excited to have something to wear that I hadn't worn seven times already in the past month. Hopefully I didn't smell too badly of old lady.). As I was walking through the meadows a Chugger caught my eye:

"You're from Scotland, right?"


"Oddly - no."

I can't say this dress has led to further confusion over my nationality but it is destined to forever be a reminder of the damp feet, sore throat, full heart of Edinburgh in August 2011.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My N30

It's worth noting: I am not a public sector worker. But then nor was I a student when I joined the NUS march last autumn, or equally pertinently, when I got charged at by horses on the day the tuition fee bill was passed. I do, however, fundamentally disagree with many (most?) of the values espoused by the current Government. What Cameron and Osborne are engaged in (and the Lib Dems are supporting) is an ideological attack disguised as economic necessity. Because, however much they like to pretend otherwise, there are choices. You can choose who (and how) you tax. You can collect that tax effectively. You can introduce the so-nicknamed 'Robin Hood tax'. You can decide who (and where) your loyalties lie.

Of course N30 was about a specific issue - and my attendance was as a marker of my support for all those who picketed and marched throughout Britain. Work longer, pay more, get a smaller pension at the end of it. And the notion that public sector pensions are better than public sector ones and thus everyone should shut up is blatantly ridiculous. We shouldn't be playing to the lowest common denominator - we should be aspiring for the best. For everyone.

My N30 looked something like this (excluding the bit where Arsenal Fan and I kept getting papped by tourists. It would seem we look like the acceptable holiday-snap version of the protest. I also got papped by a woman with an awesome vintage camera but I like to think that was because I had my awesome coat on):

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today I would mostly like:

Mike and Ollie to cater our next house party.

Tickets for all the Philip Ridley goodness taking place next year.

(And, since we're here, you could throw in tickets to Matilda, Babel and Zach Braff's play* too).

Some really, really good cake.

Some wooden clothes pegs (seriously).

A fully functioning immune system (oh hello, cold number 27 of the year thus far)

New bedsocks (if we're being fussy, maybe these. HA! £49 for SOCKS!)

To see the sea.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

DA is mainly supporting Harry McFly

Temporary Housemate (The 2nd) puts his head around the living room door. It is 1:00am. Myself, Arsenal Fan and Purple are in the midst of our (almost traditional) late night reality tv catchup. Temporary Housemate (The 2nd) betrays only mild confusion at the realisation that this is how we have chosen to spend our Saturday evening. I mentally commend him for this.

Purple gestures:

"You can tell this is serious - Corinne is wearing her McFly t-shirt".

For yes, after the whole managing to be out of the house after 6:00pm for the first time in a week and eat something approaching actual food, I have promptly come home and changed into pyjama bottoms and a McFly "stargirl" t-shirt. I bought the t-shirt with ironic intent so this is okay, right? (A quick search on DA just revealed I paid 18 whole pounds for it back in 2007. That is some moderately-overpriced irony.)

But, obviously, it is serious. Harry McFly is indulging in competitive dance and I have reacted to this by: i)shouting "love you Harry" at the tv whenever his face pops up unexpectedly (predictable, really) and ii)complaining equally loudly about the fact that he has been repeatedly, and inexplicably, UNDERMARKED by the judges. Hey, it is like I care about a reality tv show or something.

But then, how could I possibly not care with a quickstep like this?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where everyone wishes I were still on blogging hiatus


Also: nine hours sleep (minus the bit where I woke up because my stomach felt like it was going to explode) and no weird dreams.

Plus: Mine and The East Ender's pickled red cabbage experiment is complete and has worked. Obviously I can't actually eat it currently but, as pickling novices, this is a moment of intense vinegary triumph.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I am mainly listening to:

Tonight I should be at Chelsea Theatre watching Action Hero's Frontman. After 13 hours of sleep filled with oddly vivid dreams (though any form of remembered dream is odd to me and my dream-forgetting-brain) and a diet that still predominantly consists of toast based produce I have had to conclude that whilst I might be able to drag my body to Wednesday matinees the chance of either my ears managing to cope with the NOISE or my body staying in an upright position for the entirety of the evening are slim and I shall have to stay home with fruit tea, the latest issue of Mollie Makes and intellectual television programming America's Next Top Model (cycle 12). We won't mention this again.

What I may mention again is Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow. LOVE LOVE LOVE.And, if you're wondering, my favourite word for snow may well be number 48: vanishing world.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On Hoarding

"And, judgemental as this may be, I don't entirely trust people who exist without stuff"*.

I've been saying it as a flourish, the obvious point being that I am most definitely a stuff person. I come from a family of stuff people. My house may not quite be at the get-a-documentary-crew-in-here-to-question-why-you-have-seventeen-unused-coffee-makers-and-haven't-seen-your-floor-since-1997 stage but I can see the path which might lead there and that path is strewn with play programmes and Shakespeare mugs and more shoes than will actually fit in my wardrobe.

A few weeks ago I had to clear someone else's stuff. It was one of those default things where there was no one else to do it and it needed to be done and for all I am capable of running around shrieking and waving my hands in PANIC I like to think I can be calm and practical when the situation calls for it. But it was odd. Not only for how I would hate someone to do the same with my much-loved stuff (though that, I guess, is the inevitable fate for all hoarders) but because of how little inconsequential life-stuff this person had. Which is why when I read Franca's In Defence of Stuff blog post I immediately felt the heart skip of recognition.

I don't think I indulge in minimalist fantasies, though I do indulge in organisational fantasies where I would have enough room for everything to either be stored or displayed correctly and, maybe most of all, where I would immediately put things back where they were supposed to live. Obviously these things would require me to i)not live in rented accommodation in London and ii)get a new personality. So, for now at least, this is destined to stay a fantasy.

(Fascinator from Dean and Director Boy's wedding, St Anne's College Scarf 2001, vintage suitcase from charity shop in Richmond, lace glove from Victorian murder mystery 2010, vintage headscarf from Deptford Market, picnic basket that belonged to my parents, shoes from my 25th birthday)

Rationally I know I can't keep everything and that one day, either out of lack of space or sheer desperation, I will have to collect the boxes of Sindy dolls and my little ponies that I refuse to let my parents dispose of (not to mention the fact that three quarters of my book collection still lives in Leeds) and that even I probably don't need to hold on to all those notes from lectures about The Battle of Maldon and Paradise Lost. I did a quick count before writing this and have discovered that my dress tally currently stands at 49 (and I suspect there may be more in the wash basket). FORTY NINE DRESSES before I even got on to the skirts. Given I hold on to my dresses more than anything else I suspect I'm going to hit critical mass some point next year and my wardrobe will cease to function any more and I will have to replace my bed with storage instead
(Tea set from charity shop in Leeds first bought for the Brideshead Revisited Picnic, glasses bought from a charity shop and gifted to me on Henman Hill at Wimbledon in 2009, dress pearls that belonged to my grandmother, white flower from the set of that production of A Midsummer Night's Dream back in summer 2006)

But - all this stuff makes me happy. Some times because it reminds me of things or people or adventures. Some times because it simply makes me happy to wear a nice dress or look at the spines of my books or drink coffee in the mug I got from Newstead. Of course the memories and the feelings would exist without the stuff, but that moment of happiness when your eyes alight on something and you remember or just feel happy in its presence? That wouldn't exist.
(Photo of David Tennant's Hamlet from Stratford, postcard from the V&A's Art Deco Exhibition, Monet from Blackwells in Oxford, Klimt from Blackwells in Oxford, Postcards from: Oxford 2005, Rome 2002, the French Alps 1997, Cambridge 2009, Vienna 2004, Budapest 2004) 

I am me because of all of the stuff (and I should point out that much of my stuff is worth relatively little in monetary value) and I think that part of my reason for feeling (finally) feeling settled in London is because I can, for the first time in many, many months, have my things out and not packed away. I put the pictures above (and there are more of them) up a few weeks ago - the first time they've been out of their packing since May 2009 and immediately it felt a little bit right.
(Puffin Postcards: birthday present from Dean, Everything is Illuminated: present from Breakfast Club Boy, More Trees To Climb: Bought at Latitude 2009 and signed by author, Lady Chatterley's Lover: 1960's Penguin from charity shop, To The Lighthouse: 1932 edition from bookshop in Balham, The Waves: my first copy bought in 2001, The Death of Bunny Monroe: present from me to Breakfast Club Boy [I probably should return it, oops], Sylvia Plath Eye Rhymes: Bought at South Bank Centre and signed by author, The Lives of Lee Miller: birthday present from Dean, Klimt: present from History Boy and then more coffee table books given to me by Dean and Director Boy)

I'm sure there are lots of ways to analyse my desire to hold on to inanimate objects as a form of comfort as well as my desire to continue acquiring. Equally, though I proclaim not to trust them, I know lots of people don't feel the same or would recoil in horror at the chaos of it all. But for me stuff is about stories. It's the background narrative to my life. And stories matter to me more than almost anything. When I was clearing that room, and there were quite simply no stories, just the every day business of life, I felt profoundly sad. For what are we if we don't have stories?

*For the record: I don't trust people who don't own books either.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Midweek Matinees

Now I've progressed to a diet that predominantly consists of toast (we're not going to talk about how much I would like a coffee. Almost enough to risk what it would do to my currently very delicate digestive system. Almost.) and I have exhausted the number of episodes of America's Next Top Model which you're legally allowed to watch in any 48 hour period I decided to seek comfort in the form of a mid week matinee. It's ingrained in my theatregoing psychology (probably from the years of watching matinees at the Oxford Playhouse) that weekday matinees are safe and warm and comfortable. Indeed you can take a blanket and a flask of tea and not look out of place in the audience. Whilst I wouldn't want to, y'know, live at a weekday matinee, they have their place. Namely: today.

I did manage to up the stakes slightly, however. One by choosing to see Death and the Maiden, a play concerned with torture, retribution and the brutality that humans are capable of perpetrating (hmm, not quite so comforting). And two by sitting down in the auditorium and realising that my right ear had inexplicably started to bleed. Which is exactly what you want - oh, great I'm having some sort of hemorrhage whilst sitting in the second row of the stalls at the Harold Pinter Theatre* during a weekday matinee. The front of house staff are going to love me. Obviously, though, my brain wasn't hemorrhaging and the ear bleeding stopped and I got to sit down and enjoy the brutality. Which is nice.

General thoughts: Thandy Newton is beautiful. Properly beautiful. But she takes a while to warm up. Tom Goodman-Hill, who I adored in the original Earthquakes in London production, owns the play (and with a role which probably shouldn't). There's an interval crammed in only for the purpose of selling drinks and letting people go to the toilet when, really, the play needs to be viewed in one sitting in all its twisting claustrophobia. There are some lovely directorial moments but the scene changes are just plain lazy. The play itself speaks loudly of a particular moment in the 1990's and yet there's also the feeling that it's not entirely bound by this. And Ariel Dorfman has some very good writing going on, at its best the play tangles your morals and makes you hold your breath. It's all good stuff  - some of it is very good indeed - and yet it falls short, in an annoyingly non-specific way, of being great. This is a play which should linger and I suspect it won't.

*Given my not at all disguised dislike of much of Pinter's output I can admire the karmic reward of this event.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Science of Feeling Unwell

To cut a long story short (and leave you without anecdotes about my digestive system), I have today accepted that I might be ill and thus have permission to stay indoors and do lazy stuff. If you take out the bit where I sobbed for about 30 minutes whilst watching Gareth Malone Empower Women Through The Magic of Song today has mainly looked like:
I realise I am, once again, plunging myself into parody but, yes, fruit tea. In a Penguin Gatsby mug. I've got a bewildering number of literary mugs but this is the one which, on pain of death, no one is allowed to use. Back at the start of September a Temporary Housemate used it and the looks of horror which this generated on the faces of my other housemates probably points to the fact that I have issues. Not wanting to do something like shout in the face of Temporary Housemate and come over weird with the whole 'erm, yes you can use the Woolf mug or any of the Shakespeares and you may even borrow the Byron but NEVER GATSBY' I did the most mature thing I could: I hid the mug. Which makes the whole parody-of-myself-fruit-tea-thing seem perfectly normal and acceptable. This tea is raspberry and something and something. The somethings are because I decanted these tea bags from their box into a nice metal tea box I picked up for 50p at Deptford Market. Which is nice for storage but, when you forget to properly label it, makes knowing what you're drinking more challenging.

Really I should be progressing with The Great Homemade Christmas Present Extravaganza that currently exists only as the pile of fabric I bought from Fabric Rehab but, hey, rules of being ill and not doing actual stuff, so I thought I'd make a start on Crochet School. Yep, Crochet School. My mum taught me to crochet when I was six or seven but I haven't done any since the mid nineties when I stopped making things because any time that didn't involve reading Smash Hits or hanging out at the Odeon on Briggate was, quite frankly, wasted time*. So I thought I'd start the class from the beginning as a conscientious student and turns out, I STILL REMEMBER some of the stuff. It is almost like riding a bike (hopefully without the bit where you - okay, I - don't ride a bike for five years and then you - I - do and your - my - bottom hurts for DAYS). Maybe everyone will just get granny squares for Christmas instead.

I got the Zadie Smith book of essays in September during the first Do Cultural London Stuff Eat Cake night, this one at the Wellcome Collection who have a bookshop stuffed with books I want to buy. I read a couple of the essays - I honestly think I'm a little in love with Smith's writing - and then promptly left the book at @arexx's flatwarming (I also left half a bottle of rum, I didn't try and claim that back. I am a good guest). And then it stayed in that flat for a while (and went on a trip to Nottingham) before it made its way back to me by which point I was reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks so it got pushed to one side. Also in this book's adventures, I got borsch on it when, y'know, the big purple soup made with Veg Box Veg leaked in my bag. So Changing My Mind has had it tough these past couple of months. Anyway, it's clever and beautifully written and makes me want to write essays on Middlemarch all over again. Which is genuinely pretty much all I ask for from essay collections.

*Of course neither Smash Hits or the Odeon on Briggate exist any more. This officially makes me feel old.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I am mainly listening to:

I'm not sure what the official line is on the number of times you can listen to an album on loop before your housemates/ neighbours/ everyone who can see your spotify plays via Facebook stage an intervention. There is the distinct possibility that I have exceeded this limit several times over with the new Florence + The Machine album and I am on some blacklist for obsessional listeners. But, oh, it is gorgeous and epic and makes me want to run around moors. Or something like that. And, yes, total girl crush alert.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The One Where I Get A Veg Box

"Do you know what day it is tomorrow?" I ask and then, without waiting for a reply, immediately answer my own question: "VEG BOX DAY".

Seemingly my late twenties have brought with them an irresistible urge to sew, ponder interior decoration and get excited about veg boxes. Coming on the back of the discoveries that I now prefer red to white wine, am a coffee snob and have opinions on quilting magazines I can only conclude that I am on a very slippery slope towards becoming a caricature of my floral dressed self. At the point where I start watching Sunday evening television we should make some sort of pact to punch me in the head repeatedly before forcing me to go and dance to Boys with Guitars, drink tequila and fall over in a fountain.

But: the veg box.

What was labelled recently (and I hope affectionately) as my preoccupation with "THE ISSUES" is probably neatly summed up by the veg box. For reasons big and small I'm attempting to shop as ethically as I can (I suspect I will talk about this again, you have been warned). With perfect timing Riverford Organic did a leaflet drop on Brockley and enthused with having local, seasonal produce delivered by a man named Simon I signed up. Thus I now have a half share in a veg box and get to spend at least five minutes on a Thursday pondering with The East Ender exactly what that odd shaped mud coloured vegetable actually is.
Today's box has come with the quandary of whether we have a beetroot or simply a large clump of dried mud. I suspect the borsch which The East Ender intends to make will provide us with the answer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November in Bloomsbury

Someone commented in an offhand way a couple of weeks ago that I was looking lovely at the moment and thus was clearly an Autumn/Winter person. Let's put aside the fact that this means for the other six months of the year the implication is that I do not look lovely (though the state that Edinburgh Fringe left me in might make this a fair comment) and take the compliment. And, really, any excuse to wear brogues and my gorgeous Fever Charlotte coat and kick leaves about in Ginny Woolf's back garden (sort of) makes me deliriously happy. So, yes, I like Autumn.

But it's probably a bit more than that if I'm honest. Somehow, without my expecting it, and even with the Real-Life-Grown-Up-Drama, the Chest Infection of Death that wiped out much of September and being quite frankly a bit poor, I think this Autumn has made me fall back in love with London. So - thank you Autumn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where I demonstrate yet another slight involving a cat.

I am standing in the shed-meets-workshop-meets-random-room-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden that exists in my shared house. For brevity's sake we shall now forever more refer to it as "the den" because this is the shorthand the house declared long before I moved in. Next to me is my newest housemate, The East Ender. We are standing in silence contemplating the enormity of what we are going to do.

"I don't know where to start" The East Ender says.


If you are wondering here about my tone on voice it is distinctly high pitched, fuelled with the sort of panic that goes straight to my voice. For, it is clear, we are going to have to clear the den. Which sounds like an innocuous enough sentence until you realise that the den contains not only spiders the size of my head but also the remnants of The Great Snail Infestation of September 2011 and enough general life stuff to fill our four bedroom house all over again.

There is a long story (and one not without its dramatic/ comic merits) as to why The East Ender and I are clearing the den at this moment, rather than, I don't know, leaving it until the third decade of this century but I'm saving the story for i)telling everyone I meet in real life ii)the novel I am going to write about it and iii) THERAPY. Needless to say, post Edinburgh in our Brockley household has been eventful. Eventful in the same way that The Shining is eventful, but eventful nonetheless. Now though - we are going to tidy!

Here for illustration (and not pride) is one of the nicer sections of the den (I have numbered the offending items and everything):
1. The hot pink '80s dress I wore for Prom Night in the Guilty Pleasures Tent at Latitude 2009. 2. The homemade scythe from The Perils of Love and Gravity. 3. An over-large (and ugly) mirror that once resided in the house itself. 4. A doll who is, for reasons I have not quite fathomed, the son of Arsenal Fan. 5. A bin belonging to The Housemate Who Shall Not Be Named. 6. Faux art and, possibly more importantly, the home to two of those Bigger Than My Head spiders. 7. Cycle helmet, owner unknown. (It is a quirk of fate which means that in a house with one cyclist we have ended up with four cycle helmets. This is safety conscious even beyond my wildest dreams). 8. Pointless photo frames. 9. Possibly broken heater. Possibly because it is so caked in dust that if we were to attempt to test it we would all instantly die from lung disease. 10. An empty beer can courtesy of The East Ender's last band practice. 11. Hundreds of paper tags left over from The Wall of Change during The Brixton Project.

(As much as anything that list probably points to why you shouldn't live with people who make theatre. They acquire stuff)

Please remember: that is one of the nice sections in as much as it does not contain: something ridiculously heavy, something broken, a pile of unmarked boxes which will fall on you and kill you or something which smells really bad.

Having spent at least five minutes starring and talking in a high pitched voice (me)/ increasingly East London accent (him) we decide that clearing may actually involve moving touching the stuff. And y'know what? It doesn't start too badly, we get a clearing system working and I devise storage areas and we fill bin bags and The East Ender lifts stuff and I poke spiders.

That is until The East Ender discovers the box of cat food.

Now, despite the fact that I have an inordinate number of cat people in my life (for clarity: people who like cats as opposed to Cat People, though the latter might be the cooler), my general non-plussed attitude to this particular species is well known in the same way that my love of baked goods, dresses and David Tennant's hair is well known. And whilst I'm sure that cats have to eat and tins of cat food most likely don't smell, it remains: old packets of cat food smell really, really bad.

The East Ender has gone a shade of green that isn't particularly inspiring. I, meanwhile, have already resolved that I would rather have my hands eaten by the spiders than touch the cat food.

We share a look which says: maybe we could just lock the den and inform everyone that no one is allowed to enter it again until at least The End of Days.

Then, just when I'm thinking that this might actually be workable, the reality sets in. The reality being: my entire writing archive is in a box in this den and I'll need all that bumph when I write the memoirs.

"We should..."


Some how we manage to get the box into the garden so, at least, we aren't in a confined space with the fumes. The East Ender holds open a plastic bag and I start to pour the contents of the box in, making sure I don't do anything stupid like inhale.

Just when I think we've got this bit cracked I notice that the bag has ripped (most likely through coming in contact with a toxic substance) and the food is leaking out on to The East Ender's foot. I can't lie: this is simultaneously the most horrific and the funniest thing that has happened this week.

"There's a hole!" I exclaim, though, if I were accurately depicting that sound it would go something like: "Haa..urggh...haaa..a..HOOOOOLE!"

The East Ender discovers what is happening. Undoubtedly in some sort of shock, he doesn't move. And then:


Five minutes later, after I've stopped convulsing and we've both disinfected our hands with bleach and are back in the den, The East Ender accidentally knocks down one of the strip lights. Falling at the perfect trajectory it manages to spear my left arm and I concede he might well have a point.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It had to happen one day...

It's 12.30am in the bar of the Cavendish Arms. I've drunk quite a bit of mulled apple juice and rum (it is served in china teacups! I intend to start doing this at home). BillyTheKid has performed a five minute standup set which involved an elaborate extended rant on missing Jenga pieces. And now, because I am nothing if not conforming to type, I am having what we shall call an exchange of viewpoints with @arexx about what constitutes a "meaningful" relationship in social media terms. I am going to repeat some of those words: meaningful, relationship, social media. Yes, of all the conversations we could be having at 12.30am this is the one we chose. I am judging us too.

Just at the point where I have started gesticulating wildly with my arms whilst hopping on a semantic point of order the host of the evening comes over to our table and, striking a blow for publicans who I have traumatised thoughout the past decade of my life, pops a sign on the table:

In the moments that follow I acknowledge two things: 1. That this is undoubtedly overdue and 2. That I am glad that it is @arexx and not I who starts the "this isn't a debate" debate.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bits and Pieces: The First

The last fortnight has looked a bit like:

Somewhat accidentally Arsenal Fan and I have been on something of a Mike Bartlett kick in the last fortnight. For Arsenal Fan’s birthday I’d fashioned a voucher promising him a trip to the National Theatre and he’d made noises about seeing The Kitchen and I’d umm-ed and gone “if we must” in a way that betrayed that though this was his birthday present and thus I would sit through some tepid Wesker if I must this was not exactly what I’d had in mind. Then Arsenal Fan happened to offhandedly mention 13 and I started shrieking about this being THE PLAY WE SHOULD SEE and he got the message, and we went to the first preview. And, bloody hell, I loved it. Epic and complicated and intelligent and funny and disturbing and ambitious and powerfully (painfully) about what it is like to live now. It also has a beautiful analogy about the limits of human understanding that is the type of writing that makes my heart soar (if I used Linksuch terms I would say it was Stoppardian). Filled with Bartlett love we then went to see Earthquakes in London, which I’d seen in its original staging in the Cottesloe and which I claim – with much arm waving and superlatives - as my favourite production of 2010. Transposed to a proscenium arch theatre and with an entirely new cast it did feel like a little bit of a different play, clearer and more emotional, but also smaller and less visceral. Even after my slew of “climate change plays” in early 2011 (thank you The Heretic, Water and Greenland) I still think it is the most interesting and compelling play on the subject. Basically I heart Mike Bartlett.

Back when I was living in The Flat on the South Bank at the start of the year I won, via twitter, priority booking for Michael Sheen’s Hamlet. Which I thought was a very cool thing at the time, but which nearly resulted in the type of rage that I’d previously only experienced in relation to CAMERON MACKINTOSH SEVERS. After almost punching a computer I ended up marching to the Young Vic (which I could do as I was living just down the road if I hadn’t mentioned it) and purchasing tickets by cheque as their card machines had gone down and coming home with my ticket details written on a compliments slip as they couldn’t get their computers to work either. Then I realised I’d accidentally booked for Halloween (I know, it’s not like it moves each year) but decided this was a GOOD THING as there is a ghost and everything in Hamlet.

Obviously I should note here that I SAW A PREVIEW and everything I say should be seen in that light. There is a lot of Hamlet going about in recent years (it is, I say in earnest tones, the Shakespeare of our times, in the same way that there was a lot of Lear going about in the 80’s. Read into this theory what you will) and this production is certainly not safe. It’s got a central concept (spoiler: it is set in a psychiatric ward) which yields some truly stunning, I’m-seeing-these-lines-in-a-new-way moments (the players scene is a little bit joyous and Vinette Robinson, who I’ve already loved this year in Tender Napalm, gives the best Ophelia mad scene I’ve ever seen). It also unbalances, reduces and sometimes even stops the play from making sense. There’s a real beauty simply in hearing Sheen speak Shakespeare’s words and there’s a manical glint to his Hamlet that makes the play truly disturbing (I’m rarely scared in theatre and, even knowing the play to the extent I could do a quote-along-version, the first encounter with Old Hamlet scared me). The concept also meant that even I could only do a half hearted Sheen-is-too-old-to-play-Hamlet. But: this is mad Hamlet writ large. And y’know what? I don’t think Hamlet is mad. And, as the play unwinds, it’s difficult not to feel a little cheated. What changes in this world of Hamlet from the beginning to the end? Possibly nothing. And three and a half hours is a lot of time for nothing.*

*It does, however, have “Let be” and The Pirate Scene.**
**It doesn’t, however, have the line “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead”. EDITING, PEOPLE.

Though designed as an exercise in doing cool London stuff together, if I’m entirely honest there is the possibility that mine and @arexx’s cultural excursions have become an elaborate excuse to eat cake. Which is why I should note that whilst Tate Modern delivered us an utterly glorious Saturday evening view of London it failed entirely with the cake bit. I had to settle for some sort of tart whilst @arexx was consoled with olives stolen from the women whose table we colonised. Frankly, I expect better and if the Tate wanted to give us some cake as an apology then that would be good.

Tate Modern did considerably better with the art bit of the bargain (as you would hope), even as we wandered around using @arexx’s response as an indication of whether something was art or not (apparently a mirror is not art, a mirror that is not quite a mirror is. What can I say? I do not make the rules). Tacita Dean’s Film, the peg to which I’d hung our visit (film is much less scary than MODERN ART, right?), turned out to be most interesting in its relationship to the space of the Turbine Hall and the people viewing it. Even though Dean labels it a poem and labelling things poems immediately makes me take note, I struggled to engage. Not to be out done by children kicking the projections and people pretending to ride the on screen escalators, once everyone had buggered off and the hall was deserted but for a few people taking photos at its limits, @arexx and I stood so that our silhouettes were part of the footage and he pointed out that I was now part of the poem. And, okay, so at this point I did like Film a LOT because I am a sap.

Unexpectedly it was the Gerhard Richter exhibition that proved the hit of the night (especially given neither of us knew his work beforehand). Seeing the twists and turns of someone's artistic output over the course of decades proved entirely compelling and Richter has the sort of preoccupation with form that thrills me.

This may look like some odd scribbles, and I concede they are odd scribbles, but this is also the notes for The New Play I am writing. Really it came out of a challenge that Breakfast Club Boy set me for whilst I was in Edinburgh (which I failed miserably) but I’m about two thirds of the way through the play and it doesn’t make me want to stab things in my eyes so we are calling this a good thing.

This is a Porn Star Martini. It came from Ballans in Soho. It is a cocktail of JOY and the substance in the shot glass is champagne. I "wasn't having a late one" this night. That didn't quite work out.

Hoop art is my newest, favouritest sewing thing. Three things to note:
1. The quote is the final line of Ginny Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (ten points if you already knew that)
2. The fabric is from Sanderson's Bloomsbury range (it's "Vanessa" should you be wondering, and Vanessa was, of course, Ginny Woolf's sister. This all makes me very happy indeed.)
3. The wonky "o" is as yet more proof that I shouldn't try and sew whilst watching X Factor as the rage it induces is too distracting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Edinburgh Fringe 2011: The One With The Best Bits

I'm going to write up a couple of actually thought out blogs about making work at the Edinburgh Fringe (and, since it's one of my pet blogging topics, about REVIEWING in Edinburgh) but, first up, I thought I'd get my personal memories out of the way. I've even made a playlist of what my Edinburgh Fringe sounded like because this is what I do.

(Okay, I realise it is some months since I have blogged and now I am all back and - hey - this is what I've been doing when I've not been blogging, without so much as a hello, how are you? Yes. I am a bad person. And, rightly or wrongly, I assume most of you have been bored by me talking on twitter about the show)


For me, Edinburgh Fringe 2011 was...

Wet clothing. Shoes in the airing cupboard. Running down streets and slipping on cobbles.

Truth or Dare. Jellybeans and Designer Emily’s reign of (almost) terror.

Paper planes.

Bedlam Parties that started at 3am and threw us out into the street at 7. Dancing, arms flailing, to Misters Jones and Brightside. Shrieking “WHERE’S [BILLYTHEKID]?” during Alice Cooper.

The Girls’ Dorm and deciding that the number of people living in (and connected to) our flat gave us optimum gossip capacity.

Giving code names to everyone and then giggling whenever someone shrieked “LEMONADE”.

In general, departing from my most-of-my-close-friends-are-boys-stance to spend more time with a group of girls than I have since the early part of this century and loving every second of it (though noting it made me more “girly” than I normally am).

Seeing how, from night to night, the ebb and flow of laughter for Perils changed but every audience found the joke about Italians funny.

A lady leaving a comment on our page in the Bedlam book to say she was Italian (complete with a drawing of a boat).

Shedding a tear during Vertigo and Gomito breaking my heart a little bit with some ribbon and a pair of scissors.

But, in contrast to Fringes 09 and 10, not crying because I was actually sad.

(Though) Getting so angry one evening that, in the throes of THE RAGE, I attempted to get into the wrong flat.

Having, as of 29th August, 41 bruises.

People actually texting our “How’s My Sailing?” phone number.

Getting a Bryonny Kimmings ticket as a (very) belated birthday present (!) and proclaiming loudly to all who would listen how much I LOVE her and, indeed, sort of want to be her (and not just because we’re headscarf twins).

The night of the “I’m kinda busy up here/ friendless bastard” adlib.

Hot chocolate at Elephant and Bagels, cider in C SoCo Gardens, rum and (full fat) coke on the floor of the living room in our flat, coffee at Black Medicine, red wine (and couscous) in a cafe where we thoroughly confused the waitressing staff and a lot of vodka in the beer garden at the Three Sisters, Brass Monkey and the Library Bar.

Cake and coffee at Bedlam Cafe at any possible excuse.

The “Team Perils” lexicon: OHP!, Graeme Wins!, what a guy!, Well done [insert name]! (it seems we spent the month using exclamation marks almost exclusively) .

The phenomenon of “Bedleg”.

Staying up too late, drinking tea and sharing life stuff with someone I didn’t really know before Edinburgh.


Talking about Opera with someone who writes for The Guardian (Ha! How it has changed since the days of this blog post)

Discovering two thirds of the way through our stay that our flat had a mouse. Disapproving greatly of him being named “Peter”.

The "how many stars?" debacle.

The changing tunes of “Radio Get-In”.

Leaving Edinburgh (and phone reception) for 24 hours and, on re-discovering signal, finding out the only messages I had were about A HAIRCUT.

Proclaiming BillyTheKid the calmest director I have ever worked with during The Long Night of The Soul When The Projector Died.

Bumping into people who I haven’t seen for some time, including someone I haven’t seen since Oxford.

Playing Fringe Bingo (“DRINK!”) and being proud that the only cliché in Perils’ blurb is that it is a “fairy tale”.

Accidentally getting BCBoy into trouble in the Bedlam Tech Box because I over-enthusiastically (read: semi-drunkenly) jumped on his back when he wasn’t expecting it.

Apologising profusely about the above incident and being repeatedly told it absolutely wasn’t my fault and that it was BCBoy who was in trouble. And thus feeling even more guilty.

(Standing outside Bedlam at 7:15am explaining to BCBoy that he is, quite simply, an easier blame target than me)

Giving BillyTheKid a congratulations card and being told it was “gay”.

BillyTheKid giving me a card which almost made me cry and him rolling his eyes at this.

Tech Xander giving me his hoodie (for the second time in less than a week), even though it meant he was sitting outside – in Edinburgh - at 3am in just a t-shirt (“that’s really sweet” “No, it’s to stop your whinging”), everyone saying I looked like Little Red Riding Hood in it and this pleasing me more than anyone could have anticipated.

Getting RSI (almost) from stapling quotes to hundreds of flyers.

Lying in the road outside Bedlam on our final morning in Edinburgh.

Coldplay jokes.

The Psychology of Flyering (Perils Edition).


The final breakfast.

Being ridiculously (sickeningly) proud of Team Perils.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wherein I would be a rubbish revolutionary

Not for the first time in my life it struck me that I would have been utterly confused during the Civil War (yes, these are situations I do ponder). For I am, without doubt or hesitation, a Republican (when I pointed this out in the middle of Pizza Express on Wednesday evening Dean almost choked on his one-olive pizza. His response is probably worth my republicanism alone). I don't need to go into all of the reasons why (not the time or place), nor do I need to point out that, as things stand, the monarchy wouldn't make my top ten list of things I would change this minute if I were somehow granted such terrifying (and misplaced) powers. However, should you be so inclined, my position and some of my reasoning, is summed up very neatly by Labour List.

So, Republican, right?


Answer: I have stood at the end of three shows in the past four years, one of them had David Tennant in it, one of them had lasted over six hours and the final one was Wicked. I LIKE SEEING MY MONEY ON STAGE. (A turn of phrase that, unfortunately, fits as well with yesterday's wedding).

I like beautiful clothes and big shows and community involvement and drinking champagne at 11:00am (okay, 10:30am - we'd opened the second bottle by the time it got to the actual wedding and, given that I was, aherm, working I can only guess what it was like outside of the confines of - hmm, maybe I should be at my desk). I like history and beautiful buildings. I like cake. I really, really like cake.

I don't like my money being spent on an already wealthy family. I don't like the police pre-emptive response to the wedding. I don't like hierarchy based on an accident of birth.

But - SPECTACLE. And happiness. And cake.

But, to mix metaphors, sometimes the team that you don't want to win has the best tunes. And yesterday was that writ large.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On why you should not blog about theatre AND tie dye

“Do you know what happened today?” I ask in a pitch somewhere between my BREADSTICK! and DELFONT MACKINTOSH SERVER voice.

“Go on” Breakfast Club Boy says. Fleetingly, and silently, I commend his bravery for letting me continue.


There is a second pause before the laugh comes. Albeit a laugh tinged with the knowledge that I am going to start talking in CAPS LOCK.

“What did they say?”

“He said I didn’t count as a theatre blogger because I WROTE ABOUT TIE DYE”

(Of course that isn’t quite what Andrew Haydon said but, let it be clear, it seems ridiculous in the great-preview-debacle of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 not to consider that theatre blogs come in all shapes and sizes and thus rules and categories of print journalism are obviously not going to fit exactly. To suggest that it might be okay for me to blog about previews but others can't is as stupid as the idea that anyone can dictate a point of rather tenuous industry ettiquette to the web)


(Obviously it is not BCBoy’s fault that I chose to blog about his Christmas present or that Andrew Haydon couldn’t be quite bothered to read my blog before he picked at it and so, in many ways, this is a squealing over-reaction of the type that deserves my being told to SHUT UP. And to which I know at least five people reading this will be going “SHUT UP CORINNE”. And to think that this isn’t the occasion in the last month when BCBoy put the phone down on me.)

“Tie dye” I sort of whimper.

“That’s great” BCBoy says, though, for once, he doesn’t sound like he actually means it. “No, it’s not great, is it?” he says in a quiet voice.


So, lest you weren't paying attention to the ho-haa and the Guardian Stage Blog (and if you have a normal life, why would you be?), DA got featured. Without any mention to tie dye thankfully. Needless to say I fundamentally disagree with the thrust of that post but, hey, posterity and all that.

Maybe because some of the whole debate got me thinking - and then I went to an incredibly interesting session on theatre blogging arranged by the fabulous Twespians - I decided I want to put some of my theatre-stuff elsewhere. Obviously not the 52:52 stuff (yes, oh yes, I'm behind. I am going to sit and blitz it over the next few days before BillyTheKid shouts at me more than he already has). So I've started writing on the fault line, which is a blog about new performance writing and all that stuff.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

52 weeks, 52 fringe venues: Venue #13 Soho Theatre

"You can't try and tell me that Soho Theatre is a fringe venue".

I look across at Breakfast Club Boy.

"As I've set out on the blog - the rules are-"

BCBoy stops me. "I've read the rules and your attempt to justify them."

Bugger. I forget he does stuff like read this blog.

"Also - I don't like the pizzas at the Lyric Hammersmith. They're overpriced."

Suddenly, everyone's a critic.

In an ideal blog exchange I'd have come back with something scathing and witty at this point. Instead I make a sort of squeaky "meh, meh, meh" noise.

But, for all people might poke and question - I REFER YOU BACK TO THE RULES (and the fact that I'll have a proper non-capitalised discussion on what 52:52 has suggested 'fringe' might be at a later date).

Which is why I'm at the Soho Theatre for 52:52. Or, really, the Soho Theatre and Writers' Centre. That bit has got to warm my heart. The building itself is all glass new build in the heart of Soho, complete with an entrance to the Box Office that I always think won't open (it's a fire door, which confuses me no end). If the writer bit didn't give it away, new writing is (spot my theme of 52:52) how Soho defines itself. Only - that's not entirely true. For Soho also houses a lot of comedy. I can't comment much on that because I've never actually seen any comedy there. But then I hardly ever see comedy anywhere.

I, however, have a rather particular association with this venue: namely of being force-fed whisky in the bar 30 minutes before the rehearsed reading of foreverafterwards in order to STOP MY CRAZY.

It's a visceral memory I have to confess.

Ivan and the Dogs, however, is pretty much the opposite of that memory. It's quiet and gentle and spreads out around you slowly and deftly. As a young boy Ivan runs away from home to escape from his abusive stepfather. On the freezing streets of Yeltsin's Moscow he befriends a group of wild dogs and what emerges, childlike and fragile, is a story so quietly bleak that you cannot but wish this were simply a fairy tale. Of course you know it's worse than that; Ivan is based on the true story of Ivan Mishukov.

Hattie Naylor's script rolls with childlike attention from one event to the next, each crashing into each other with an immediacy which Rad Kaim, as Ivan, owns completely. Ivan judges nothing, it's left simply for the audience to infer the waste of life and hope and childhood around him. As his world shrinks, the icy cold white box which imprisons Kaim on stage betrays the starkness of the story he has to tell us.

Out of the theatre and seated on the top deck of the 176 as my favourite view in London loomed before me I looked out of the window and had a little cry. If I could have made George Osborne watch any play I saw in 2010 then this would be the one.

Fringe Quest Lowdown:

Production: Ivan and the Dogs, Hattie Naylor

Type of space: Main theatre seating 140, studio theatre that is really - and oddly - wide, a large bar which is (I believe) franchised.

Type of productions: New work, comedy and, currently, an opera.

Nearest Station: There website helpfully informs me that the nearest tube is Tottenham Court Road. Obviously I didn't use the tube to get there because there's Charing Cross Train station and the 176.

Seating: (In the main theatre) Padded seating of the bench-sort with a good rake, excluding the front two rows. So, unless you want your view obscured, don't sit in the second row. There's some seating at the top on stools which is of the bendy-neck Cottesloe variety.

Condition of toilets: Large, spacious and suitable to sit in for a few minutes when the whisky has gone to your head.

Bar produce: Okay - not cheap. Didn't buy anything before Ivan because of remembering the prices being silly previously.

Other comments: Both theatre and studio are up a couple of flights of stairs. There is a lift but, if like me, you're too embarrassed to use it, get ready for a little hike.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I could have screamed but instead I wrote this.

Let me throw something out there before I write my response to Matt Trueman’s post on the Guardian Theatre Blog. Trueman’s someone who, as a theatre critic (and indeed the owner of a blog), I respect. I enjoy reading his long-form criticism (criticism which his blog allows the space for). I think he writes intelligently and articulately about theatre, something I rate quite highly. And the note on his blog does say that his views should be shouted down. So this is me doing just that.

I’ve no desire to get into the critic vs blogger debate (seriously, I can’t believe that we’re still here), though it’s difficult not to smell the whiff of the ‘superiority’ of that debate in some of Trueman’s post. What I want to talk about is the blog post itself. The sentence that got me? “Equally, bloggers must stop the cynical practice of reviewing previews”. If the “must” in that sentence didn’t compel me to throw something at my computer screen (where was I when Matt Trueman was voted commander-in-chief of theatre bloggers?) then the “cynical” did. I am cynical about many things (including but not limited to TFL, possible British success in any sport that doesn’t involve sitting down, anything that comes out of Nick Clegg’s mouth, the fashion trend of leggings and haggis). Theatre and blogging would make the top ten list of things I am least cynical about. They both involve far too much personal effort to be otherwise.

But let me give Trueman’s reasoning a chance. Reason one: bloggers attend previews to save money (but then undermine this by stating that the lack of discount entitles them to blog). Let me use my example of buying Hamlet tickets this week. I booked for a preview performance because it will save me £10. Ten pounds for me is half of my weekly travel budget. Any discount (however small) is a good thing when you see as much theatre as the average theatre blogger does. I still paid £17.50 for my ticket though. That’s not an inconsiderable amount for me (even living in London there’s still a lot of other things I could do with that money). Am I less entitled to write about that show than when I’ve paid £10 for a dayseat at the National? Or when I’ve paid £8 to go to Southwark Playhouse? Or £12 to the New Diorama? Or when I’ve been papered? What Trueman’s statement doesn’t take into account is that a discount is HUGELY important on a financial basis when you’re paying your way but this discount doesn’t mean you’re not giving out a sizeable chunk of your weekly budget to this theatre.

[There’s a bigger question about previews that I’d like to note. As long time blog reader will know, for 18 months I was a Duty Manager for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The WYP have previews that usually last for 4-5 shows. Every time there was a preview we’d pull out a big PREVIEW SIGN that bruised my ankles on more than one occasion and generally got in the way of everyone. And I lost count of the number of times an audience member asked me “What does preview mean?”. These were people who’d bought tickets and didn’t understand what a preview meant. In truth previews only mean anything for people who regularly go to the theatre or for the people who make it. For anyone else, given they’ve paid for their ticket, this is the show “concrete” (to borrow a word). At the point that you charge people to view your work this is the inevitable reality.]

The second reason given for blogging previews being “cynical” is that they are “chas[ing] hits”. And y’know what? It’s nice when you get hits. And writing early in a run means you’re more likely to get them. However, if I were really after hits I wouldn’t be writing about theatre. I’d write about Justin Bieber EVERY DAY. Or I wouldn’t, because I only know who he is because of twitter, I’d write about David Tennant a lot more than I already do. I can only marvel at those bloggers who keep up with their viewing in a less chaotic manner than me. I’ve pointed out before that theatre blogging takes effort and rushing out to see every show first and then rushing home to write about it rather than sleeping or going to work or spending time with your family or friends just so you can get some hits which only you will know about (because it is 2011 and no one has a stat counter visible any more) seems utterly ridiculous. Moreover in terms of effort and reward that’s a pretty skewed equation. Writing that blog post and getting hits isn’t the reason theatre bloggers go to the theatre (something that Trueman’s post forgets). They go to theatre for the theatre.

My disbelief doesn’t, however, stop there. I’m bewildered by the notion that theatre bloggers must have “ethical responsibilities” to productions. As a blogger I have ethical responsibilities to my family and my friends and the people I care about. I have ethical responsibilities to the theatre that pays my rent. I have ethical responsibilities to my reader (in terms of those productions that I may write about which involve people I know, or when, as sometimes happens, I get sent free stuff). Personally (and this is just me from my own experience as a writer) I have ethical responsibilities to companies/writers if I’m at “Scratch” event (either for free or for some nominal fee). If you invite me into your rehearsal room I have ethical responsibilities to you. If I come to your dress rehearsal I have ethical responsibilities to you. If you charge me £10, £17.99 or £35 or more for a ticket and I do not know anyone involved and have no connection to the building or company I have no ethical responsibilities to you other than arriving on time, paying attention and being polite to the FOH staff. I am a paying customer. I make no claim for my writing being the official view of anyone other than my own subjective, meandering self. My blog isn’t a newspaper or a carefully curated academic journal to be preserved in someone’s archives.

I also can’t help but feel that Trueman conflates some of his own reasons for blogging with those of other theatre bloggers. I’d suggest that few bloggers want the same “respect” as critics (if we take respect to principally mean industry acknowledgement). I just want as much respect as anyone who has paid to see your show, has bought things in your bar, has supported you. Which I’d suggest deserves at least as much respect as any critic (if we take respect here to mean something much more important).

It’s nice in some ways that Trueman considers theatre bloggers to be influential enough to merit such a post (bloggers are most useful to smaller theatres/companies/those who are not in the London centric gaze of the “dead white male”, thus those who are least likely to have extensive previews) . In other ways it’s laughable that Trueman felt the need to expend the effort on the post – a futile attempt to hold back the sea by wagging a finger at it and pulling a stern face. Theatre criticism isn’t the same as it was ten years ago. Bloggers and web forums and twitter and onwards. Who knows what it will look like in ten more? Bloggers are here to stay, bloggers reviewing previews (for all the reasons listed above) are here to stay. It might not be the brave new world that Trueman would like to envisage but it isn’t for us to adapt to the existing system – it’s for us all to invent something new.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Obviously I didn't actually buy a bun for my blog...

I have begun to wonder how quickly this seems to come around. Possibly it worries more than my actual birthday (a week ago exactly, should you be wondering, though you most likely weren’t and, anyway, your complete ignorance of this probably makes you better off than the person who had me explain to them that whilst Christmas and my birthday might be relatively close and they might have made me an awesome and time consuming Christmas present this DOES NOT COUNT AS A PRESENT FOR BOTH. Unless, y’know, I’ve expressly stated/been told in advance of the 25th of December that this is the deal. And then they wonder why I HAVE A FACE ON.*). But it remains – today DA is six.

As it's traditional I now have to look back at the past year (realising in the process all the things I didn't blog). Last year, however, already has a blurry quality about it. There were some wonderful things: our little shop in Brixton, being in the Sunday Times, a blog post I wrote going mind-bendingly global and ending up in the Guardian (no, I did not mention that enough: it is a "brilliant corrective" people), possibly my favourite Latitude Festival ever (Daniel Kitson alone might have clinched it for me), the whole of August and Edinburgh Fringe and how emotional and brilliant and liver-busting that was, in general all of the theatre I saw (and there was a lot, I’ve not added up but I think I ended up around the 120 mark). I made some lovely new friends this year, possibly chief amongst them being BillyTheKid who I see so much of that Breakfast Club Boy has commented that if he were to die now at the very least he could say he’d achieved something by introducing us**.

There were momentous and yet unpleasant things. I stayed up all night with Arsenal Fan watching the election results in May. A few days later I cried when Gordon Brown resigned (as I tweeted at the time, history may or may not judge me but I liked him) and forced me to accept what I hoped was not coming. A few months later I stood outside Downing Street with hundreds of others on the day Osborne revealed the budget that is an ideological attack disguised as economic necessity. A month or so after that I was outside Milbank when the first protestors broke in. A month or so later still I was part of the crowd in Parliament Square who were charged at by Police Horses. The morning after that, as I sat on a packed commuter train headed for London Bridge and everyone sat reading the papers and their novels and listening to their music I wanted to scream and shout. Did they not realise what had happened? Did they not see children and young people being kettled on a bridge over the Thames in minus temperatures until almost midnight? Did they not realise how utterly betrayed we had been and how my world, in the most unexpected of ways, had shifted slightly.

Six weeks or so later a good friend told me, as we sat in the comfort of a warm pub in Leeds, that what had happened was hardly on his radar. That he certainly didn’t agree with why we had been there and, maybe, he didn’t really care. And I saw the faultline, mixed with my still raw autumn hurt, righteous anger and hardly concealed pride.

“How would I ever look at myself in the mirror if I don’t stand up for what I believe?” I said when what I really meant was – that I thought much less of him.

It almost rounded the year off in some neat way. Working in Brixton actually changed me slightly. It got me thinking about community and choice and our responsibilities as individuals. My fledgling quest to shop as independently a possible (I stopped buying books from chains or Amazon a couple of years ago) found its natural home with the UK Uncut movement (y’know I don’t miss TopShop at all. I miss Dotty Ps if we’re honest).

Then, because obviously the bad bits of 2010 weren’t just about my ideals (altruistic and selfless as I would like to claim I am****), there was the downright crappy bit of spending most of 2010 unsettled since I spent the grand total of five weeks of the year living in properties which weren’t either up-for-sale or sold. Let us be clear: it got REALLY SUCKY around March/April because of this, as well as making me really poor.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how rubbishy it was at times with the stuff I almost got this year or the stuff that almost happened.

For the record, though, my getting an iPhone in July actually has changed my life a little bit. This may be both a positive and a negative.

And since we’re here and it’s nice to end a review of the year on a high note: I saw David Tennant manhandle a microphone stand whilst I sat mere inches away from him.

It’s odd, however, writing a review of the last year in DA’s life at this moment in time when I’m so firmly committed to what’s happening in the future. 2011 is already starting to take some sort of shape and there’s a big August shaped project that I’m both hugely excited by and rather a little flattered about being asked to be involved in (shush, don’t tell them I said that. I am aloof and professional and busy and important). I’ve a meeting next week about something I’ve written possibly being staged in the Autumn. I’m in the throes of a first draft of something very different to that project that I don’t yet hate. Plus – I have Liberty fabric to make my new computer cover out of and a ticket to see David Tennant in Much Ado.

It would be wrong of me, if only for posterity, not to mention that I sit writing this in my living room on the South Bank. Admittedly there’s going to be another move (sadly to somewhere that most likely won’t have a 24 hour porter who calls me “Madam”) but I’m rather content about that.

*Okay, so I wasn’t quite that bad. But I was bad enough that I felt the need to apologise the morning after. Repeatedly. The high maintenance badge I have is not entirely a joke.

**I’m not entirely sure he did introduce us (knowing the components at play I imagine BillyTheKid and I introduced ourselves) but it felt churlish to undermine the sentiment.***

***Which, obviously I have now done. Sorry.

****Stop laughing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Great Badge Challenge 2011

A couple of weeks ago I saw this in my twitter stream:
If you were paying attention you'll know that I visited the New Diorama as venue six of 52:52 (yes, I know I'm behind with writing up my venues - I'm on it). If it wasn't obvious I got a bit of a crush on them in the process. And do you know how thrilled I was when they won an award at the Peter Brook Awards? So thrilled I did a little dance around my living room (it's okay, Old Living Room was visible to no one. If I did that now half of Bankside's office block workers would see me). It even placated me after the Royal Court's innovation award for doing something that I did before them. Hmm.

Now not only do I love the ideas behind New Diorama (I'm not going to gush again - you can read me gushing here) I love how they've engaged with people on twitter. As a general twitter principle the smaller venues and companies could teach the big ones a lot. And I have to give New Diorama even further credit for noting the fact that i)I love badges and ii)I love a challenge. Basically they got me well and truly. I have to bow down to this.
Plus - a surprise prize! I am way too easy.

So, if you haven't understood the subtext here, I'm going to attempt to collect a full set of the Getting Connected Season badges. Game on.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sometimes you close your eyes/And see the place you used to live (A Year in Theatre: Show #3)

“Could someone explain what “It”, which is the same as “Tag”, is?” The boy James asks, all striped pyjamas and restless limbs.

BillytheKid stands up.

“Tell everyone [BillyTheKid]”

(I was going to write there that it strikes me at this point that BillyTheKid has a story appropriate name. But obviously BillyTheKid is not that name. So it’s not appropriate at all. But trust me – BillyTheKid’s actual moniker fits in brilliantly with this refracted Peter Pan world)

“It, or Tag, or Tig is a game where someone is nominated ‘It’, they then have to chase people trying to make physical contact, with the person they touch becoming ‘It’ in turn. This person then has to harass everyone else”.

Everyone clustered in Belt Up’s dark Edwardian study in the Southwark Playhouse vaults laughs.

“And now you have to pick someone to be It” The boy James says mischievously.

“The man looking comfortable in the tie”.

I look across the room. BillyTheKid has picked well. Comfortable Tie looks around for the comfortable man in the tie.

“Yes – you”. BillyTheKid emphasises.

“And now you’ve got to tag someone” The boy James says gleefully.

Comfortable Tie prods the woman next to him, who in turn prods the woman next to her.

“Okay, now you’re not allowed to tag the person sitting next to you”.

The boy James might have a point.

There’s more movement, more climbing over cushions and chairs and the collected paraphernalia of a Belt Up show.

And then the rules change – and suddenly everyone in the room is climbing over cushions trying not to be caught. Obviously a game such as this doesn’t exactly play to my strengths (but when your strengths involve sitting down and writing mildly amusing blog material there are very few physical games that play to them) and I’m caught within five seconds.

Which is how I end up standing in a star shape with my legs apart in the midst of Southwark Playhouse.

For the only way you can be freed is by someone crawling between your legs.

Suddenly I’m very glad I’m wearing very thick tights.

Once I've been freed and then tagged again and then freed again (look: I did say I was rubbish at this) the boy James announces that James is coming into the room and we must hide. I end up with a sofa cushion over my face as we all revert to the child-like 'I can't see you so you can't see me' rule of combat.

Maybe this is what captivates me most about The Boy James, as I sit peeking over my cushion. By removing our inhibitions and engaging our own lost selves Belt Up transports us back to the place before we walked away from our innocence. To some degree maybe that sums up what Belt Up always do.

It is never quite this funny or carefree for us again. The Boy James becomes a soundtrack to the melancholy of everything we lose as we grow up. James is fighting a battle we know he will lose - time itself proves to be as much a physical force as does the violent sexualisation that awaits him. The play is a little too ethereal to be entirely satisfying, a little too much is left half-whispered and half developed. There's been more than one suggestion of misogny (which writer Alexander Wright has been open enough to tackle) and it's true that as the play stands the Girl who invades the study is the most under-developed of the trio (Wright notes that he doesn't find Peter Pan misogynistic - neither do I but I do find it sexist, an important difference which is maybe where some of the problems of the Girl lie). But The Boy James burrowed its way into my head, a half-remembered poem that I felt more than I understood.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A bee in my bonnet (A Year in Theatre: Show #2)

Maybe I was being a little harsh when I posted the following on twitter (not to mention: HEAR THE SUBTEXT THAT I AM CURRENTLY LIVING ON THE SOUTH BANK):But, y'know, it truly was the thing that excited me most about the entire evening.

Theatre can be (and should be) many things. I got my fair degree of mocking whilst doing my MA for the fact that I adore Stoppard and Shakespeare (and have a deeply unfashionably in new work circles penchant for David Hare). I have loved (and cried at) many a musical. In 2010 I fell in love with Mike Bartlett and Belt Up and Little Bulb and Bryony Kimmings and Daniel Kitson and the TEAM and Stan's Cafe. My ultimate favourite show of the year was the one man Invisible Atom (just edging in front of the epic Earthquakes in London). The shorthand version of this: I'm less biased about theatre sub-genres than a lot of theatregoers (and certainly a lot of makers).

But - and this is my big but - I have to care about why you're putting on this play now. And the reason might be as simple (or as big) as this will transport and suprise and delight you. But there's got to be a reason. Otherwise - why should I care? And, moreover, I'm going to sit there going YOU ARE SPENDING MONEY ON THIS?

I suspect that I would prefer to sit through a glorious failure than a well made-nothing.

And when it came down to it A Flea in Her Ear just wasn't funny or charming or delighful enough for me to think it in anyway justified in answer to a 'why?'. The plot hardly matters - though there's the requisite amounts of doors and confusion and misunderstandings, complete with a good dollop of extra-martial sex. There's also a bit of supposed humour directed at a character with a speech impediment which, as well as being mildly offensive, isn't actually funny and was greeted by the kind of auditorium silences that are a little painful. As expected down at the Old Vic the sets are glorious and, well, that really is the extent of my interest.

[As a totally superficial footnote, probably as a result of the fact that we should go to the theatre less, I have an ongoing debate with some friends about which theatre has the best looking ushers. Two words: Old Vic]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

May contain tie dye.

I'm not entirely proud to say that the following was born out of competitive present giving. I was going on about the things I was making as Christmas presents and Breakfast Club Boy responded with both a 'pah' (though more energetically depicted) and "that's easy". And then he suggested that, so easy was it, that we should make each other a cushion as a Christmas present, the key being it had to be made to the taste of the recipient and not the maker.

And then he mentioned tie dye and I had to go outside and get some air.

Once I'd recovered (some time later) I was forced to ask: "Where do you buy tie dye?"

Obviously BCBoy wouldn't tell me (apparently that would be CHEATING) so obviously I looked on the internet (whilst wearing dark glasses). And y'know what? There is lot of overpriced tie dye out there. WHO BUYS IT? WHO? And even making my own (oh, the shame) wasn't looking exactly cheap. (Plus I was worried about the level of embarassment I'd have to endure if it transpired that I couldn't actually do tie dye)

So I did the only thing I could: I went to Lewisham.

To give Lewisham's fabulous Rolls and Rems credit, it had many beautiful fabric examples. It also had this:

Obviously when I was buying it I had to hold in the need to go "it's not for me, y'know".

Then I set about actually making something with the bloody stuff. It was suggested to me by Dean at this point that I should take photos and pretend I'm a craft blogger. Ha! Welcome to 2011 at DA.

Obviously that's not the tie dye. That's an old dress of mine. That I bought in Oxford during all of that Summer 2007 stuff. So not weird at all. In an attempt to impose some coordination on the whole project I decided to patchwork the front with this and the tie day and squares with tie dye applique. Twenty five 10 cm by 10cm squares if you were wondering (you most likely weren't).

And letter stencils, because, remember, this is a COMPETITION.

There was some stressing whilst working what shapes I could feasibly create relating to things which BCBoy likes. As competition busting as it would have been, I don't think I've quite got the stamina to applique David Bowie's face. I'd like BCBoy to work on liking football and flowers for next year. Also: I'm not sure he likes maple leaves as much as it is an easy cultural stereotype. I don't think there's an English easy-shape equivalent (for which I'm glad).

As someone who is pretty non-plussed by animals in general I'm bewildered by the number of cat people in my life (note the capitalisation there: not Cat People because Russell T Davies never made me the tenth Doctor's Assistant). Anyway, BCBoy likes cats more than he likes humans.

That's a special button right there. It's from Duttons for Buttons ,York branch (as are all the other buttons used on the cushion) which is pretty much a Yorkshire institution. The beads are from my own collection. Also I realised whilst doing this that it's all about the placing when this shape could be a cat or a pig or an owl. I'm not sure that's a true reflection on life.

And then I started sewing the patchwork together. Which is both cathartic and something you can carry in your handbag and do in your lunch break. I'm noting the irony here that after one of my line manager's saw me doing this during a break he said I was talented. Brilliant. Since working there I've written plays, got an MA, turned an empty shop into performance venue, been in the Sunday Times and talked about Shakespeare A LOT, but cut out some squares and cat faces and throw in some sewing and bam! Wow, if only I'd known it was that easy...

This is the part where I'd fail as a craft blogger because I forgot to take a photo of the whole, adding backing of tie dye fabric in an inside-out manner, before turning the cushion cover the right way malarky. But, well, I sewed on the backing of tie dye fabric in an inside-out manner before turning the cushion cover the right way.

And then I popped in my cushion insert (bought at Chiltern Mills, Crossgates branch - which is an East Leeds institution for myself and Dean if for no one else). A few more stiches to close it up - and then we have a fully functioning cushion. In tie dye.

(As a footnote if anyone needs tie dye material I've got some going cheap)