I have been to Budapest before. It was perhaps a year after the Communists… left. 1990 perhaps. I was naively interested in the Soviet legacy although as far as I could see it consisted of a great, brooding anger and a strange admiration for Margaret Thatcher.
Last week I saw a Budapest which might as well have been a different city altogether. Margaret Thatcher is now no more solid an idea than the Hapsburgs. Andrassy Utca is a glamorous boulevard reminiscent of Bond St or perhaps the Champs Elysees – whereas I remember it being just terribly wide.
I spent a lot of time writing in this cafe. It was as anarchic as the best of Melbourne’s craziest cafes. Everyone there was in intense discussion or reading or, love us, writing. Does this not happen in London – or do I not notice it? I spent a week taking in strange sounds, an impenetrable language and passively enjoying the company of a city of intense, complicated and often beautiful people. I came away profoundly refreshed. Oil changed.
I just want to write without stopping at the moment – there is nothing more important. It is not possible of course, because there are children and duties and a groaning shelf of quotidian demands. But I am grateful for those too.
The way we (Factory actors) rehearse the Seagull project is to circle and circle the play like a pack of hyenas around some perfect kill. The rehearsal is entirely about tangents – we are just looking at what the Seagull is NOT. Imagine cricket practice in which you spend the entire session trimming the wicket with nail clippers. Like that.
Behavioural experiments have been conducted in which two groups of equally skillful basketballers practice for two weeks. The first group practices shooting baskets by, well, shooting baskets. The second group sit in a chair for an equivalent number of hours picturing themsleves successfully shooting baskets. When the two groups’ skills are compared at the end of the two weeks, of course, the results are the same.
We only get to perform our Seagull once a week (if that) so when we come to perform we go at it like hungry things. It is no bad thing to be so restrained, to go at your work with a tinge of resentment, thinking “about bloody time”, and at the some time for the feasting to be so furious there’s no time to grunt thanks or to recall your best plans. It’s all about what happens in the spaces in between – these spaces are the chalk on our hands, the spikes on our shoes, the reason we don’t notice the blood until after.
It is good for an artist to get lost in a strange city, daydream when a deadline looms, not speak Hungarian, read rubbish books, have conversations with pre-verbal children – it has to be all about how you fill the space.
Sign up here if you want to come and see The Seagull. Tell me when you’re in and I’ll try and make it too. Come as though to a party. We do.