Pressing Send

balloons_450x350-1I have new speakers on my computer.  Yesterday, when I sent an email there was a slight rustling sound from beneath the desk; like a mouse tossing a mouse-sized post-it note into a mouse-sized bin. Today, when I click send an exocet missile screams past my nose from one side of the room to the other.

I swear to you.  I duck.  It is alarming.

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Regent’s Park

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley

I have left at the interval of no less than two shows out of two shows this week.
I am reaching a point where I simply can’t make excuses for the boredom – especially in this weather.

On the weekend I went to Regent’s Park and it was just – beautiful.

It was warm as a bath and the sky was as big as London can manage and I thought of Athens which makes me think of Melbourne.
And I found a cardigan.  There was a cardigan sprawled on the ground in front of me in Regent’s Park so I picked it up and looked around and of course there are people walking off in all directions and they all have their backs to me and any one of them could be missing a cardigan, it was warm – did I say?  Which is why someone has taken their cardigan off.
I would if I was wearing one.

And I watch these people rippling out from where I am standing with this cardigan.  I am the origin of some explosion of cardigan owners.
As these particles reach a kind of critical unreachability I start pounding after one.  This is not really a conscious decision – it is a physical decision which has shot from >360° of spiraling indecision and I just know they are going to leave the park and jump in a cab before I can get to them – or I will reach them barely able to speak for running and they will look – mystified – at the cardigan.  It will be hopeless and I will look a fool – but I am running now and to stop because I am worried about looking a tit for chasing the wrong cardigan droppers would be less justifiable than it would have been before I started running.  I am now a good fifty yards from them and I imagine more than one person has noticed what I am doing so although the distance is still enough to require the best sprint I can manage it is still a sprint that is required.

Now I am about thirty yards and – look – one of the girls puts her hand to her bag, looks down and (I see this is in slow-motion) turns slowly around to look back the way she has come to see if she can see her cardigan on the ground.

I know she dropped it so far back she wouldn’t see it if it was still there – that’s assuming someone wouldn’t have taken it by now.
Regent’s Park is nice but it’s no enclave.
And here I come and I am so unsurprised to hear an American accent.
“Ohw – my – Gaaaahd – theynk – yewoo – so – MU-ITCH!”
And I can barely speak I have run so far and almost before the cardigan touches her hand I am turning, mouthing “That’s fine..” and pounding back the way I came.

To what?

To my children who have been making the most of the opportunity to show off their handstands to passers-by.  Most of whom are also American.
The world needs more handstands.

Emergent Order 1


I am thinking about Emergent Order.  I came across the term in an article about index cards.  It’s a bit complex.  I’m not there yet but today (say) my definition of Emergent Order is: a coherent system created from stuff which was never intended to go together.
Tomorrow it might be slightly different.

So for instance – do you have those days when you get constant compliments on your clothes? – the clothes which happened to be the nearest, clean clothes you could find this morning? That.  That’s Emergent Order.
You didn’t intend it but it came together.
But don’t share that with a proper scientist.
Or – hey – do – but don’t tell them I told you.

I live with three small boys and at the moment they are really into scissors.
Nothing is safe. Pyjamas.  dvd covers.  Utilities bills. Duvets.
When was the last time you cut up something for the pleasure of cutting something up?

Here comes the four-year-old fresh from nursery with his picture of fireworks.  It is fantastic – I am thinking of finding a frame – it is a monochromatic reading of the notion of fireworks – but indisputably fireworks.  Brilliant.

Half an hour later it is in small pieces, raining on the floor around the chair legs and the trains.  There you are – I wanted to put it in a frame – but for him the sensation of scissor on just slightly resistant card, thick with dried paint… come on.  Fireworks are nothing if not momentary.

It’s the same with intricate plasticine figures – here’s a three-toed sloth hanging from a finely wrought plasticine tree WITH a minute plasticine baby three-toed sloth nestling on the only slightly-bigger, three-toed Mother sloth’s belly.
Trodden into the wooden train track.
Think of it.
All those colours – mixed.
Hair.  Special K.  Yellows. Browns.
It’s a little sloth-a-cide.

Recently I blogged The Factory’s first performance of The Seagull and it was the most exciting writing task I have ever done – not the greatest piece of literature – the most exciting thing to write.  Our first Seagull was a true experiment: we really, really did not know what was going to happen nor even what should happen.
Writing it up was like freezing fireworks. An echo in amber.
I had no idea how to do it. Quote what the actors said?  List all the props? Go for detail or the general sensation of the event?
Not a clue.
So I just wrote in the way I write and hoped for the best.
As we do when we’re in it.

On the one hand there is this adult need to frame things and keep them forever and then there is also this childish joy in cutting something up regardless of its value because the scissors work. There is something in the middle there, squidged into the train track with a fossilized sloth-y smile still marked on its marbled face – that seems important to try to understand.

Hackney Shed

falling_paper72The other night I saw the most amazing thing.  It was a play about a book called Spine.

Spine wanted to die. Spine told a long story and ripped pages out of himself as he went.  He laughed and laughed as big pages with big words on them fell around him.

I took my six-year-old to see this play because he wanted to see his friends in it.  These friends, who are mostly about eight, had also written it.  One friend was a beautiful and sparkly spoon.  Another one was a grumpy chair. He kept whispering to me: “Where’s Inken? Where’s Oskar?”  He wasn’t really following the story about forgotten items of furniture who were all sad because they’d been consigned to the loft.

In the climax of the play, the Hero found Spine. I thought of Martin Sheen stumbling across Marlon Brando.  Spine was supposed to answer the Hero’s question but he was too old and tired and instead he told a long story and ripped his pages out. Spine was played by two boys: one boy told the story and pushed the wheelchair that the other one was strapped into.  The boy in the wheelchair really was strapped in.  You could hardly see his costume for straps.  He couldn’t sit up and he couldn’t speak but my God he could smile. And the laughing! He gave off light. He was so happy to be Spine.

In his lap was a big bag filled with pieces of paper.  Each piece of paper had a single word written on it. FRIEND. DAY. PAPER. As his mate recited the story out they came. MORNING. One by one. BOYS.

It was a really hard task this boy had been given – it was the very limit of his physical capabilities.  He had to concentrate really hard to get his hand into the bag and to get his fingers to pinch each piece of paper and to get each piece of paper past the saggy mouth of the bag.  LITTLE.  Sometimes his smile faded a little bit as though that might free up some strength to put into picking out these words.  HERE. He was working so hard.  It was so important.

And of course all the parents and the grown-ups in the audience had tears coming watching this heroic effort of will – this kid throwing away one exhausting, precious and careful word at a time.  It was so beautiful and so critical.  But all this kid was doing was his special job and his mate behind him was doing his special job too and the most resonant and humbling thing of all was that all the kids around these two on stage couldn’t wait for this long bit to be over.  HAPPY.

They weren’t getting all caught up in some poetic vortex, they wanted to get to the song, thanks.

Even my six-year old did.
They were all fine about leaving the poetry alone.  FOREVER.

There is just stuff to be done. LOOK.  Look how hard we work to get anywhere near this.  LOOK.  Look how easy and how hard it is.  SILENCE. The story is so long and you have to remember all those words.  Look how those pieces of paper are such a long time coming. LOOK. SILENCE.

Look – you’re old and tired – but look – you have a bag of words on your lap – look! – a bag of words!

Ladies in Hats

I work with this theatre company called The Factory.

We have several productions in repertory – The Seagull is one.

At Sunday’s Seagull there was a small lady wearing a hat sitting on the end of the seventh row.  Some short way into Act One she called out:
“Can the actors speak up or use a microphone?”
She said this several times because she couldn’t hear anyone answering her.
Colin Hurley is playing Sorin.  The way we play the Seagull he is called Colin not Sorin.  When the small lady spoke up Colin’s tracksuit pants seemed to catch fire and, staggering slightly because he is playing an old man with a stick, he did his best to bound towards this lady shouting, “We can’t have this!  We can’t have this!”
Max (from where I was standing) seemed to drape himself protectively around her like a helpful scarf. He hadn’t quite finished declaring his love to Elena so it was fantastically awkward for him.
You know when you finally get up the courage to leap on your new boyfriend/girlfriend and your Mum comes in and switches on the light?  And she says: “What are you two doing on the sofa?  Max – did you bring your packed lunch home because I need to put the dishwasher on.  Yes I can see you’re busy… but will you just do that before you go up?… Shall I turn this off?”  and then she shuts the door quietly as though that is going to return you to where you left off.
That was Max Gell.
Actors generally, but especially at the Factory, talk a lot about the Moment.  Max’s Mum was The Moment and, as usual, the Moment doesn’t mean any harm.  There’s just stuff to be done.  Like the dishwasher going on.
“Can the actors speak up?” the lady was repeating (a lot) which was fair enough – she was getting a lot of physical contact she hadn’t actually asked for – from quite large men and, as I say, she was small.
“You come down the front, my love.  Up you come.  We’ll make room for you.” Says Colin. Avuncular, jocular, unintentionally threatening – like Polonius.
“I don’t think you’re going to win this one,” says Max to the lady, or perhaps to Colin, it wasn’t clear.  We were on tenterhooks.
From that point on the show didn’t really go down a gear.  It went up a few now and then, but we never dropped the revs below that moment of frenzied pastoral attention.
She left soon after, in fact at an apposite point during Tim Evans’ ground-breaking play.
Later we learned that the lady had come to see her daughter in the show next door.  Instead she finds herself in the wrong theatre, set upon by Colin Hurley.
We were really sorry she didn’t stay.
We were sorry she missed the beginning of her daughter’s show.
The point is, it was typical of us to be ignited by a lady in a hat in the seventh row.  Like the time Big Ben struck four as Jakob Krichefski got to “…why night is night, day day and time is time…” (Hamlet, County Hall, May ‘08) or a very drunk man passionately joined Alex Hassell’s in prayer “Help Angels!  Make assay!/ Bow, stubborn knees…” (Hamlet, Secret Garden Party, July ‘08) or a policeman moved Scott Brooksbank on just as he was revealing to Hamlet that he had been murdered by his own brother,
“…lend thy serious hearing/ To what i shall enfold.”
“Excuse me, Sir – could you get down from there?”
(Hamlet, Regent Street Festival, Sept ‘08)
These Moments also, don’t mean any harm.  Jakob is very happy to be underscored by Big Ben, Alex hugs his drunk ally and Scott climbs down from the railings to move the audience “List! List! O list!”  to a new perilous position.  There is just stuff to be done.  There is always stuff to be done.  And most of it without practice or forethought.  All of it novel and a bit scary.
Take this newsletter.  This column.  It’s another New Thing.  We’re not quite sure where it will lead or what it might be for, we just know it’s worth getting done.
It’s also a bit like a small lady in a hat who wants to know what’s going on and isn’t afraid to ask.