On Casting

Are directors bad for the acting trade? Specifically, casting directors. Myself included. Actors are usually cast according to a small, specific brief of criteria, mainly according to how right they look for a part. How right they look for the part is usually determined within the same few seconds of a first meeting in which we decide whether or not a person is physically/scientifically attractive. The actor arrives in their own clothes, perhaps wearing their own make up, more or less in their own natural state. And this is what we base our judgement on. Instead, we should be observing the distance between this natural state and the things the actor does in the audition. The difference between the state in which they arrive at the audition, and the state which they arrive at during the audition. The gap between these two states is a hint at their potential. They are exhibiting what you should be looking at, in between the things you are actually looking at. And this is only the potential they are showing you. There could be more hidden inside them, waiting to be brought out by you, the inspiring and expertly manipulative director. Surely…

The Review That Got Me Fired

I’ve been writing reviews for a few years now, mostly for an online local arts journal, but before that, I covered a few shows for a print publication. I considered myself very lucky and honoured to be a part of the team, and took my contributions very seriously. One day, though, I stopped receiving invites, and the following review was the last I ever submitted. It was never printed, and I never knew why. Indeed, I never even heard from the publication again. I’ve been back and forth over it since then. Is it just not good enough? Did they have a special relationship with the performers I was unaware of and didn’t honour articulately enough? Did the draft I submitted contain hidden Satanic messages? I still don’t know, but having revisited the review again, I’d like to share my appreciation for the show, which I did really enjoy, here.

Music Review: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
Grand Opera House, York, Wed 17th June 2015

From American Blues to Russian folk to British pop, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have got it covered in their touring anniversary show, 30 Plucking Years.

Formed in 1985 “as a bit of fun”, the charm and energy of this eight-piece ensemble after thirty years of international touring is impressive to say the least, in an industry where most artists perish after around five years. It’s fair to say that the speculation on the Orchestra being a big part of the inspiration behind the current worldwide trend for turning every tune into a tiny, twangy cover is justified. Of course, the instruments may be small but the sound is anything but.

Willingly misleading segues and nonsensical, self-aware banter fill the gaps in a pleasing array of covers across genres including Kiss by Prince, Life On Mars by David Bowie and the inevitable Get Lucky by Daft Punk; all with their own individual twist. Each of the six men and two women take their turn in the spotlight with effortless prowess, hosting tracks suited to their various voices and tastes. The band allow the audience to let their guard down in the second half with some low-key numbers before a punchy, funky finale.

The group are fleeing to Germany – one of their “this song is very popular in…” inspirational travel destinations – for one gig before returning to the UK to continue their tour on the 27th June.

I believe this particular tour is over now, but you can read more about The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and their upcoming gig dates all over the world here.

The Siren Call of The Grotesque

My acting ambitions have changed somewhat since I first set my sights on treading the boards. Since I was young I have admired the graceful, feminine icons of the silver screen: Audrey Hepburn, Tippi Hedren ,Grace Kelly. The flawless, fashionable glamour was the height of sophistication; if I could pull off that aura, if I could be eloquent and graceful through anything, I would be untouchable.

Since then I’ve read a few plays. I’ve heard stories about characters that are damaged, desperate, marginalised, fascinating. I’ve acquired a taste for the grotesque.

One of my university lecturers, Harold, who passed away a couple of years ago, introduced me to Jean Genet. He impressed upon us the essence of Genet. The homeless man in town with a bleeding head. The pair of old women who always walked side by side wearing identical clothes.

I began searching for a kind of tragic truth in everything I read and wrote. Detail, pain, wildness.

Around the time of his death, I got the opportunity to act in my first Genet production; The Maids. A friend of mine runs a theatre company and shares a Harold-inspired love for Genet’s works, and we found ourselves very much on the same page. Our maids were feral women in lapdogs’ clothing. They were wild, hurt, angry, fired.

Perhaps there’s something of my old ambitions living in the hearts of Claire and Solange. The desire to be glamorous, fashionable, loved, untouchable. Despite their hatred of the bourgeoisie, while they’re chewing it up, they suck up all the juice. Why not take for yourself the best of both worlds?

Claire and Solange are ugly, twisted, animalistic rebels whose pain and frustrations might just resonate a little loudly with the public of today.

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Photograph courtesy of www.hedgepigtheatre.com

Have awkward conversations

I still question
whether it’s a weakness
to retain words inside you
when they boil up your throat
flap about your brain
because there’s no civilised way out.
We’re taught to behave
to eloquate
articulate
formulate
anything but retaliate.
How some people can look with only a slight smirk,
unerring in the face of complete dissatisfaction,
derogation, insult. When anger would engulf someone smaller
like me
they stand still and let it wash over them
as if they were pleased to be there.
As if there were nothing more pleasant in life.
How trite, how lucky we are to live life,
and these moments are so small, such trifles in the face of the great infinity.
How wise, how enlightened.
I always thought it was a weakness to
let them get away with it;
whatever it was.
Racism, sexism,
crossing of social boundaries,
heinously antagonistic political views.
I thought, “No, fuck you,
how dare you think you can say that, do that,
you must hear that you are wrong,
and discover it, and feel ashamed,
and never do it again.
I have made the world a better place.”
And, of course, I haven’t.
The decided will not notice what you think
if it doesn’t fit their picture.
This is not is your target audience.

Portrait of a Christmas

My dad sits opposite me, scratch-and-scrawling in his brand new sketchbook. Glasses on string balanced low on his nose, head shifting regimentally between the page and his subject.

He draws my sleeping brother – to my right, on the sofa. Loafing.

Family gathered and now not knowing what to do with themselves, baited breath…

… Shrugging shoulders, moving on the balls of our feet, shifting in our seats, offering constant sweets and treats. Thankful. Peaceful.

That’s what gets me, what lets it in, it’s the peace. Lets in the Thought. This unwarranted time off from the world outside, from everything, it lets it all in. Suddenly we’re weak, aching, clogged, hardly able to perform perfunctory functions. Useless blobs, heaving and sighing.

I watch my dad and think about things outside here, back in my reality. We each have our own, to which we will return at the end of the week.

I think about depression, and the long-term things one needs to think about if one is to accept life as a long-term Thing. If one is to join the game, become a member of mature, fulfilled, healthy adult life. Depression in me, and in my partner, and how we deal with those. How we are only just getting to know one another. How we have a whole stretch of wonderful honeymoon life together lying before us. Wonderful, delicious, making me hungry and satisfied all at once. Like standing in a warm wind.

It’s easy in this cosy house to grow nostalgic, romantic, and expect everything to always be alright. Things will be smooth, and we’ll always be together, and everything will be easy. In this cosy house with the wind outside. Untouchable.

“There must be something on the telly.” People make their assertions about what they’d like not to miss; I stay silent, although really, I am desperate to catch Doctor Who. Surely they know. Surely I shouldn’t have to say. Too embarrassing, and I could never find the words, despite having heard them just now from others’ mouths. Too silly and selfish. Better to wait, and catch up on my own later, in my own reality.

To my left, on the other sofa; ‘Aunt’ Vera and my grandma, both engrossed in reading, except of course when there is a chance of engagement with the whole family – a loud noise, a squeal of delight from my baby brother, the offer of cake…

… Everyone seems serene, I think, even me, despite my sudden restlessness with this peace. Inside we must be crawling with anxiety to be normal, or rather to be individual, and yet we all seem at ease.

One more day of full-fat eating and resting tomorrow, before we go back.

Each to our own reality.

Sum’n Sum’n

Fresh-faced little sum’n sum’n
Running, and running, exhilarating,
Escape the werewolves, beat the boys,
Scrape first place and furthest
Pass the berries, pass the ferns,
Whack-and-thwacking care not no – time – breath – can’t – run – and – talk –
These daddy-approved shoes will carry
Over rucks and molehills, down crumbling hills, through stumps and rubble
She thinks she must have got the eye when she took Norb’s elbow but it was actually that fly-away berry,
Making its pretty purple mark just for her mother to see
A shining proud beacon of androgynous disgrace

Inspired by Normal Rockwell’s ‘Girl with a black eye’.