Wednesday, 17 August 2011

a small eternity

I've posted Louis MacNeice on here before but I just read this and the final lines really hit me and I wanted to keep it somewhere I could find it again. I get to study him next semester! So excited. AND LARKIN. Oh English degree, you so awesome.

The Suicide by Louis MacNeice
And this, ladies and gentlemen, whom I am not in fact
Conducting, was his office all those minutes ago,
This man you never heard of. These are the bills
In the intray, the ash in the ashtray, the grey memoranda stacked
Against him, the serried ranks of the box-files, the packed
Jury of his unanswered correspondence
Nodding under the paperweight in the breeze
From the window by which he left; and here is the cracked
Receiver that never got mended and here is the jotter
With his last doodle which might be his own digestive tract
Ulcer and all or might be the flowery maze
Through which he had wandered deliciously till he stumbled
Suddenly finally conscious of all he lacked
On a manhole under the hollyhocks. The pencil
Point had obviously broken, yet, when he left this room
By catdrop sleight-of-foot or simple vanishing act,
To those who knew him for all that mess in the street
This man with the shy smile has left behind
Something that was intact.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

a short, blunt human pyramid

"We cross our bridges when we come to them, and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered."
- from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.

Saw Trevor Nunn's revival last night at the Haymarket and adored it. It's a very wordy play (I must admit I've never read it; I've seen the film, but even that was years ago) and yet it didn't feel overlong or difficult to understand - the direction and the performances made it feel fun and witty, plus Jamie Parker and Sam Barnett's chemistry was astoundingly good. I've seen both of them on stage before but together they were something else. It was actually my third time seeing Barnett on stage, as I first caught him in Dealer's Choice a few years back at Trafalgar Studios and then in Women Beware Women at the National, which I found actually a pretty disappointing production, though he was good in it. Oddly, Parker was in The National's preceding Middleton revival - The Revenger's Tragedy, a couple of years previously, which I adored. We sat terrifyingly close to the front, with all the blood and gore that entailed, and Parker made a very stoic and yet very present-feeling Hippolito. He has a lot of gravitas and I'm sad I missed his productions at the Globe, especially as I've never seen anything there.

However, wonderful theatre or no wonderful theatre and regardless of the excellent catch-ups I had with two excellent friends, the HIGHLIGHT of my brief soujourn to London was the Lynchian nightmare that is the M&M World shop in Leicester Square. So much unecessary sweet-based merch. Why is the green M&M "the sexy one"? Why did I just manage to find a website for said website that features said cartoon lady doing a sexy dance? So many questions, so little time. IT HAS FOUR FLOORS. Nobody needs that many M&M-themed boxer shorts/dispensers/hoodies/oven gloves/etc. Some of the products they'd put M&Ms on were so obscure that we didn't even know what they were.

Friday, 12 August 2011

fringe benefits

The Edinburgh Fringe is one of my favourite places in the world. Although that statement does come with the caveat that there are a bunch of places in the world I still haven't been, it cannot be denied that the Fringe makes me so excited I do that thing where my hands wave about and my voice goes all high-pitched; let me tell you, the internet, that is MIGHTY EXCITED. I've been every summer for the last four years, either watching or performing, which I suppose makes it my annual holiday destination in much the same way that some people visit the south of France every year or whatever, except that it rains a shit ton more in Edinburgh than on your average holibags location of choice (I got back yesterday morning and some of the things I own are still damp). When I think of the best and the worst theatre and comedy that I've seen in my life, so much of both have been at the Fringe - trapped in tiny hot rooms where the door's too near the stage and there's too much audience on either side of you, thinking, 'can I leave? no, no, I can't possibly, but when will this end'; packed into venues that used to be conference rooms and backs of pubs and myriad other things, crying with laughter; stuffing my face with too much pie. I include the bad as well as the good in my remembrances because in a lot of ways they're just as important. I like that I've seen terrible, terrible things in Edinburgh because I like that it exists as a platform for Anyone Who Wants to Make Theatre to just do it and it's right that inevitably some of those things don't work. If theatre was easy, there'd be no point slogging away at it, would there? It should be hard. It should fail sometimes. That's why it's art.

This year I went to the Fringe for six days, travelling up with my boyfriend on Thursday night, on the overnight coach from London to Edinburgh, which was a little bit rough, because how can it not be, but better than I expected. We arrived at 7.30am and saw shows pretty solidly for two days. Some had been made by our friends, some by people we were fans of and with some of them we had absolutely no idea what to expect; in addition to this, we socialised, had a few drinks, ate pie (how many times can I mention pie in this blog? Let's get a tally going: ii), got flyered a LOT and went on and on about how beautiful Edinburgh is. I have been known to shriek "look at the VISTAS" almost constantly in that city. Look at them though!! After he went home to do Real Life Stuff (i.e. earn money like a grown-up), I stayed on for a few extra days with my friends, who are working at the Pleasance and being put up in student halls. I've been a punter and a performer at the Fringe but I've never been staff, and I've got to say that while it looks awesome in lots of ways it also looks super tough - my friends are flyering for sometimes twelve, thirteen hours a day on the Pleasance's street team and I am amazed they're not dead. Be nice to the flyerers, guys; you've been in the rain for ten minutes between venues, and yes it's shit, but they've been in it all day for the last million days. The older I get, the more I realise the extent to which hungover students are the glue holding the Fringe together.

Anyway, I could go on and on and ON about how great Edinburgh is and how much I love it - you may have guessed this - but that won't get us anywhere and, contrary to appearances, I do actually have stuff to get done. So I'm going rely on the preserve of the blogger, i.e. some arbitrary self-imposed rules, and instead name my Top Five Fringe Shows 2011. Although I've talked about theatre a lot here, I'm actually a massive comedy fan too - I just find the former easier to talk about because I know more about how it's put together and works, whereas I love comedy in the same way I love magic, in total ignorance of how they have managed to do this thing - so I was almost tempted to do three comedy and three theatre. But five is the perfect arbitrary self-imposed number, I'm afraid. So, in no particular order (and entirely subjectively), here are my five favourite shows from this year's Edinburgh Festival:
1) Translunar Paradise, 15.40 at the Pleasance Dome, then touring the UK I think? A beautiful story about love and bereavement told entirely without words, using only mime, live accordion music, masks and movement, and it made me cry lots. There are only two actors (and one accordionist) on stage, playing a couple who have grown old together - the actors use incredibly realistic hand-held masks in the old-age sequences which can easily be removed to show that the line between youth and age is actually not a huge one. It was just stunningly performed and all I can say is that if you have the opportunity to see it, you should take it. Aside from being charming and ridiculously well staged, rehearsed, directed and performed, it is genuinely one of the most moving pieces of theatre I have ever seen.
2) Alex Horne: Seven Years in the Bathroom, 20.20 at the Pleasance Courtyard. Alex Horne has a very likeable manner and I was pretty certain that I would enjoy the show even before it began, because just watching him talk is enjoyable. I've been aware of Horne for a little while; I'd seen We Need Answers, his BBC4 forgotten sports programme and was generally aware of his involvement with the Cowards/Mark Watson ex-Footlights set. But this show far outstripped my expectations - in addition to his engaging persona, Horne's chosen conceit works really well. It is that the average man will live for 79 years and spend 7 of those in the bathroom, and he then breaks down not only the average amount of time spent doing most things (sleeping, eating, driving, whatever) but also divides the hour of his show into the equivalent percentages of time spent doing these things. If that makes sense. So, 5 minutes in the bathroom, however many minutes 'working' or 'dreaming'... He eats a Rustler's burger, gets an audience member to paint his portrait and another to do the housework, a panda talks with his voice - it's really quite something. And the main thing, of course, is that it's very, very, very funny. Also on the night we saw it he accidentally covered two audience members in sauce and I nearly fell off my chair.
3) Swamp Juice, 14.00 at the Underbelly. A very charming, weirdly exhilarating show, ostensibly for kids, but also for wide-eyed grown-up kids like me. Bunk Puppets, the company, had a piece up last year called Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones, which was also very beautiful and even made me do a little cry (this list is making me look like a wussy, but in reality I am extremely tough and manly and in my defence I was quite hungover that day); both are one-man shows performed by Mr. Bunk himself, a semi-mute clown character played by Montreal's Jeff Achtem. In both shows, he brings a bunch of shadow puppets to life; Swamp Juice is more narrative-based than its predecessor and the finale is stunning - first he brings the puppets out into the audience, with various audience members having to hold things up to create the scenery, and then HE MAKES THE SHADOWS GO 3D. I think Swamp Juice is my favourite for that reason (you've never heard a room of so many adults go "ohhh my gooooodddd" with such pure amazed happiness), but Sticks and Stones is returning to the Fringe for a brief run at the Udderbelly towards the end of the month and is also very, very worth watching. In conclusion: I love puppets so so much and Bunk Puppets shows are better than real life.
4) Humphrey Ker is Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher!, 19.15 at the Pleasance Courtyard. All three members of my favourite sketch troupe The Penny Dreadfuls have gone solo this year, which is sad in some ways (no Penny Dreadfuls show!) and great in others (three hours of Dreadfuls instead of one!), but mostly it is Interesting. I've been a big fan of theirs since 2008 - can't recommend their Brothers Faversham radio show highly enough - and seeing the very different directions all of their shows have gone in is fascinating. Thom Tuck's confessional Straight to DVD show, in which he discusses straight-to-DVD Disney films and heartbreak, and David Reed's Shamblehouse, off-the-wall one-man sketch comedy featuring a moving doughnut acrobatics tale, are both very funny and very much worth watching, as well as being admirably different to what I think of as characterising their previous work. But Ker's show is just so silly, so tightly written, packed with ridiculous accents and a tiny Romanian dog that it was one of the highlights of my Fringe. It's slightly Milliganesque in its pure beautiful silliness and it made me laugh so, so much.

5) The Behemoth, 16.45 at the Pleasance Courtyard. I'd seen John-Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamil do a few bits and pieces at Latitude 2009 and 2010 and couldn't wait to finally see their whole show because they just make me laugh so much; I saw John-Luke Roberts' solo show last year and loved it, but seeing them together is even better. Much like my last recommendation, it's glorious silliness throughout, right from the beginning, which features a truly special rendition of Stand By Me. After we left, my boyfriend was like, 'You know when you can tell from the first minute that you're going to like something...?' In addition to the show being generally hilarious, Roberts and Kamil have a fantastic rapport and make each other laugh a lot on stage, which I LOVE. I adore the transience of comedy, the feeling that the performance you see is special for you as an audience, so when something goes awry or people adlib it is just my favourite thing, and they were great at it. Also (and here's a shallow extra point for you), ALL of Nadia Kamil's outfits are super awesome. Ugh it's hard to talk about comedy, isn't it? Because just saying "it was really funny!!" doesn't really sum up why that is true, but we quoted this show a lot throughout the rest of the Fringe because it is packed with good stuff and I can't wait to see future offerings from them.

Some honourable mentions of things that very nearly made the list go to Death Song by You Need Me theatre company (I've seen and adored everything YNM have done after stumbling across How it Ended in 2008 and definitely not crying everywhere because, as we have discussed, I am So Manly), the brilliant Max and Ivan are Holmes & Watson and high-energy one-man-show Bane. Also I wanted to mention LUDS' Cagebirds, 13.35 at Greenside, which everyone should definitely see, but I felt this blog post had come a little late to do so properly, as it closes tomorrow; nonetheless, it's full of my friends and they're all bloody great in it, so GO if you can.

In conclusion: Edinburgh is great, I love lots of stuff, my body is still trying to process all the pie carbs I put into it (pie tally: iii) and I'm not sure my brain has recovered yet from two overnight coaches and lots of late nights. Bring on the next Fringe please.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

this doesn't mean i'm coming back to blogging

though part of me thinks I rather ought. No, I've just been on a huge e.e.cummings binge lately - what is it about the lower case that makes everything feel rushed out and desperate and sincere? - which was the kind of thing I'd have talked about here if I hadn't gotten out of the habit. Summer's the exact right time to pick old hobbies up again, though, isn't it? too much free time.

ANYWAY, in the midst of my big cummings rediscovery (and while I'm meant be reading All The Evelyn Waugh Novels Ever, so way to get distracted, self), he got quoted on the current highlight of my televisual week, BBC2's 'The Hour', which is beautifully shot, full of lovely performances and seems to get better every week, after a slightly unconvincing opening episode. The three leads are all fantastic but Julian Rhind-Tutt is sort of stealing the show a bit by being a perfect creeper - and to think that he was one of the great, charming loves of my mid-teens! That's the magic of acting. Apparently I'm supposed to find all the characters very annoying but I somehow don't? It's odd, and terribly subjective, but I do occasionally have the HUGEST love of characters who are slightly pompous/pretentious/dickish/unloveable/whatever, and sometimes absolutely no patience with them at all. Perhaps it's just because I really do think Ben Whishaw is one of the best actors of his generation, but I find Freddie more endearing with each episode - it's the father relationship and the small house and the fact that he's just a snapping working-class terrier underneath all that seeming self-confidence, I don't know, I like that kind of thing. And yet, on the flipside, I have vague memories of being totally unable to finish Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line of Beauty' because all the characters were SO unsympathetic and insufferable, so it's not like I just bloody love bastards.

As a side-note, I just had a massive brain short-out and forgot both the title and author of that book (I haven't been sleeping well lately, give me a break), but managed to successfully locate it by googling, "novel 80s thatcher booker gay". Which gives you both an insight into my brain - couldn't remember the title or author, but DID recall that it won the Booker, what - and a very condensed insight into the plot, if you haven't read it. Also might suggest that I'm just dreadfully unsympathetic to Fictional Tories, as opposed to Fictional Bastards more generally, but then who knows.

None of this is what I came here to say. Here's the e.e. cummings that got quoted on 'The Hour', because why not:
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Sunday, 14 November 2010

and soon, my friend, we shall have no time for dances.

I don't ever write in this anymore. Sometimes I miss it and think I ought to start it up again, but when do I ever have the time? And what on earth do I have to say for myself? (Of course, a more pertinent thing to wonder might be what I ever had; the importance I placed upon the process of saying it used to be impetus enough, but isn't now. I wonder why that is.)

Still. I read this today, sort of by accident in a quiet, dusty, secret little room and I wanted to keep it somewhere because I thought it was just lovely. I'm not sure why, exactly, I found it so lovely, but perhaps if I put it here and don't lose it, I shall come back to it at some point in the future and puzzle that out. Oh Larkin. You're so bloody depressing but you make me so happy!

This was your place of birth, this daytime palace,
This miracle of glass, whose every hall
The light as music fills, and on your face
Shines petal-soft; sunbeams are prodigal
To show you pausing at a picture’s edge
To puzzle out a name, or with a hand
Resting a second on a random page –

The clouds cast moving shadows on the land.

Are you prepared for what the night will bring?
The stranger who will never show his face
But asks admittance; will you greet your doom
As final; set him loaves and wine; knowing
The game is finished when he plays his ace,
And overturn the table and go into the next room?
                                        - II, from The North Ship by Philip Larkin.

I've been reading a lot of Yeats today so maybe I should have posted some Yeats. I'm afraid that I do like him, but I just don't LOVE him in the same way I love Larkin and Siken and my other favourite poets; maybe some people just speak to you and some people you can, you know, appreciate, without being incredibly moved by. Maybe that's why poetry is cool.

Friday, 18 June 2010

and stir the dust underneath the thrust of my clicking heels.

I miss this blog. Perhaps I'll try to get it going again over the summer. That might be nice, mightn't it?

That the Science of Cartography Is Limited

--and not simply by the fact that this shading of
   forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
   the gloom of cypresses
   is what I wish to prove.

   When you and I were first in love we drove
   to the borders of Connacht
   and entered a wood there.

   Look down you said: this was once a famine road.

   I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass
   rough-cast stone had
   disappeared into as you told me
   in the second winter of their ordeal, in

   1847, when the crop had failed twice,
   Relief Committees gave
   the starving Irish such roads to build.

   Where they died, there the road ended

   and ends still and when I take down
   the map of this island, it is never so
   I can say here is
   the masterful, the apt rendering of

   the spherical as flat, nor
   an ingenious design which persuades a curve
   into a plane,
   but to tell myself again that
   the line which says woodland and cries hunger
   and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,
   and finds no horizon

   will not be there.
.                     -- by Eavan Boland.

Monday, 22 March 2010

a week in the life of the lady lozopus: day seven

ALL DONE. Today marked the end of the last weekend before we all go home for easter, so we decided to celebrate/commiserate with a day of deeply wholesome activities. We baked a pie, went for a meal, played some cards and then ate the pie with custard and felt deeply smug. Victories all round I reckon.

Sunday, 21st March.

17.24; Tom Makes A Very Low-Effort Apple Pie

17.52; Pippa Working Pastry Magic

18.12; An Arm Wrestle To Prove Who Is Stronger

18.54; Serious Apple Production Occurs

19.35; Daina And I Create This Creepy Wee Man Out Of The Remaining Pastry

20.03; ...Dreadful Things Happen To Him

20.11; Our Amazing Fucking Pie

21.00; Lovely Meal Out While We Wait For It To Cool Down

The seventh day of my week in the life business is over, so now I shall go back to posting only every once in a blue moon. Hooray possibly?