‘Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.’

Posted in Bepo, Shimmer of Wings, Theatre, University, Unwish, Writing on July 26, 2010 by themrvickers

Life has, in recent months, tightened the leather straps of the old strait-jacket and plunged me head-first into Houdini’s own water-tank, well aware I would work out for myself that the jacket was an replication of a classic Armani number in infinite butterflies and the tank a spotlight filled with the shimmer of glitter. I gave up my air supply, I sent away The Devil I thought gave me so many of my powers, and I made it.

‘Bepo’ was a magnificent thing, a midnight circus of straight-men, chaos-bringers and joy-mongers. I remember Thursday’s quiet questioning “…is this right? Am I doing this right?” You did it perfectly. I remember Mr.Shifty’s love of his monologue, expressed with the quiet professional quality of simply perfecting it. I remember Bepo asking me to put him in character and knowing simply that by placing my hands on his arms and staring into his eyes it would happen. I remember Harry telling me that, “I’m trying this new thing called acting.” I remember Comedy and Tragedy’s irrepressible genuine smiles. I remember the rise of the music, the last spotlight, the battered band of rag-tag troubadours, the explosion of confetti, of glitter, of joy. It’s the first thing I’ve written where I really found my voice. I always wondered if you’d know when you did, and you know what? You do. And it feels like wearing a suit of wings.

More of it can be seen here on the website of the newly founded Unwish Theatre, the reviews here and here, and if I possibly can you’ll have another chance to see a performance of a closer-to-perfection script. Bepo & Co. are here to stay. As a result of it numerous new and intricate ideas are constructing themselves all over my mind. An adaption of ‘The Devils’ by Dostoyevsky set among a revolutionary cell of the Spanish civil war whose members are an ex-brass band with increasingly self-aware characters. A play of parallel stories – one the love between the soprano playing the title-role in a performance of ‘L’incoronazione di Poppea’ and her counter-part castrato playing Nero when she discovers ‘he’ is a woman in disguise, the other that of a gay Toreador fighting the two twin impulses of his life. Ever more ideas – the suit of wings is powered by the internal shockwave of a never ceasing atom bomb. In a week I go to the Edinburgh Fringe with Unwish’s first real debut: ‘Carnivàle‘ – an intimate candle-lit dinner-party where the darkness is palpably closing in, or so we hope. ‘The rail sounds like a round of applause.’ Onwards.


one hundred colours

Posted in Change, Madness of atoms, minimalanimalman, Travel on April 21, 2010 by themrvickers

‘In a desert landscape the trees follow the lines of the riverbed, empty and exhausted. From above, an army marches across the dust, throwing up clouds of sand in their wake, carving their tramp into the edifice of the earth. It gives the illusion of life in a wasted land. The fractal patterns of the desert are like the imprint of a lung, the hollow echo of an object, like the skeleton of a leaf, taking only a last gasp to crumble into dust.’

These are the only notes I made in my trip to Gambia earlier this month working on a volunteer project in a school in Bakau. I made them flying over the Moroccan desert from the relative comfort of a jet plane window seat. I was only there for seven days, none the less I would in any other circumstance have made penned pages of jottings and ideas and fermenting thoughts. It was impossible to do so. Firstly I think because of the culture, secondly the climate and finally myself. Gambia’s culture is one that reaches out and takes hold of you and folds you into itself. I have never met more welcoming people, a community that made more of what it had. This is a country that gained it’s independence in 1965 from a rule that was born in the slave trade and carried through the British empire, a rule that demanded lives and allegiance and was, in all aspects of the word, empire-rule. This is a country whose politics are so complex the current party rely on injunctions instituted by a military coup from 15 years ago and whose incumbent president told his public ‘I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don’t vote for me, don’t expect anything.’ There is another world entirely here that I could only grasp at. Yet when you work beside people, every day, when they infect you with their veracious will to live, you get to know them, personally, humanly. When their children run up to you and treat you with such unguarded affection, when you see a hundred colours fill a street of corrugated iron and mud and lacking in a humming night of smiling bodies, you cannot help but feel. They wear their hearts on their sleeves here. Despite the climate that defines the landscape, that defines the way you live and move and breathe and think in such a place, despite the fact I this is a culture I will never be able to fully understand, I still think it was worth it. Experiences change you, and the more extreme the more they do so, and the more we become inexorably linked as a species, the more be understand one another, the more we understand ourselves. I saw humanity light up the eyes of people I knew like I’d never seen before, not least of all dear Isis. As we sat on the steps what was briefly our dormitory watching new friends making their own unique tea Marx said to me: ‘We bring ideas.’ He’s right, and we have to bring them back with us too. There is no ‘…illusion of life in a wasted land.’ There simply is life. And all of us too easily forget it.

‘And so a secret kiss, brings madness with the bliss…’

Posted in Change, Poetry, Restless, Want on March 21, 2010 by themrvickers

I am a man of obsessions. Of subtle sly passions that grip me for longer than I ever believe they could, passions I do not realise are there still until many years later they quietly leave me. You’d think I’d have learnt by now. You’d have thought.

There is a fragile memory in me that if anything is than this is the only example of sudden and instantaneous love. A love, not a lust, for it endured and would not die or wither or fade and only quietly, in its own unforgiving time would it leave me. And because everything of any worth to me empties itself into words I wrote that moment down. Two poems. The second penned is the only one of mine that I remember people calling my best work, something different and light and beautiful. I called it ‘Intermezzo’ because that was what it was. I still don’t know what I meant by that. And lying there in black and white are words that state a recognition that this could never be. ‘…the feeling of a hand/before it all/before it…’ Crisp snow, a giving, an opening, gentle teethmarks, a bloom in darkness. ‘What was that?’ ‘It was what it was.’ It took until perhaps only a month or two ago before I stopped loving ‘The flutter of your eyelash/silverscreendreamer’. That memory is from September 2008.

If you figure this out silverscreendreamer then I don’t mind. I don’t fear you asking me about it, I don’t worry it will frighten you because something tells me you’ll understand if be perhaps a little bit surprised. I no longer love you. I still respect you and treasure you existence as a pearl of this universe but I do not love you as I did.

And now it comes again. That same sly kind of love. Another night. Another memory.

‘Intermezzo’ is adored elsewhere but the other poem, the first, has always captured that memory of her better. It never gained a title, but then perhaps it didn’t need one. And so I ask again –

…are you?
the warmth returning
giving life
in from the cold
are you?
the darkness of closed eyes
writhing in the
two heart beats
in from the cold

Non, je ne regrette rien.

Posted in Detached, Madness of atoms, Shimmer of Wings, Soleil dans la cave, Theatre on February 3, 2010 by themrvickers

In its wake theatre leaves images and emotions held in one intense moment of memory. There is so much teeming out there, so much richness and wonder. For a brief moment I held a beauty up to the light. In the chattering night a butterfly lands on your hand, a sparkling electric blue; long, sharp tails; midnight body. This is theatre, and all art in that moment when it strikes you and makes you understand the world anew. This butterfly is very cold, very still, precise, unragged and almost unreal, strangely detached. This butterfly is the fourty to fifty minutes created by the hours of effort from six people – you know who you are if you’re reading this, Angeline, Aurore, West, Edmund and our very own Newtonian master of light – you were this fragile insect in the forest, as were all of you who saw this, who honoured us with your interest. Cherish the sheen of colour, the gleam and shimmer on it’s wings, turn them over in your mind and know that they are gone now and that they were. I am out to catch another.

‘…delight in changing reality.’

Posted in Madness of atoms, Theatre on December 4, 2009 by themrvickers

Complicite’s ‘A Disappearing Number’

End of 2007 in the London Barbican. This stands out as the beginning of my theatrical revolution. Conceptually bold, the production interwove the lives of a young couple trying, failing, succeeding to conceive, to understand their lives, with the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and his connection to G. H. Hardy. The dedication and self-destruction inherent in the drive to create unites the two, interwove human struggle into one, to the point where the very concept of the Riemann zeta function, incarnated as the fear that more can only create less, became physically embodied as an invisible force destroying both Ramanujan and the mother, striking down through the actors, through the theatre like lightning brought to life by imagination. The chaos of mathematical concepts became the chaos of the flesh and blood world; the division between living and dead, between generations, between east and west, bound together as one in a way that only theatre can. Visually and technically vast to the level of epic there was something in Complicite’s production that created an unrelenting force, that exposed the power of a united theatre.

Tim Supple’s ‘Dream’

Early 2008 in a London theatre I cannot remember. A multi-lingual version of Shakespeare’s work featuring heavily the native Indian languages of the actors. Yet not one subtly was lost and new patterns of meaning evolved in the power relationships, hidden emotional power was exposed and fore grounded, the raw emotion evident without the artifice of language. And this raw, deeply human quality was central to the piece, embodied in a stage of wood and earth, of paper and rope with arterial scarlet swaths of cloth that in their simplicity held more regal scared reverence than the outmoded iconography of kingship and the ridiculed of politics could ever convey. The physical energy and passion, the violence of obsession, an inability to understand the demands of the animal-self framed as primal magic: all the core empowering elements of the play so maligned and ignored by classical western interpretations. Breathing, naked flesh, lit by oil aflame.

‘The Masque of Red Death’

Early 2008 in the Battersea Arts Centre. In this case the location is both the most important and most irrelevant information. Punchdrunk Theatre Company is the forefront of Promenade theatre at this point and Masque of Red Death was, in hindsight, their performance that lifted them to the global stage. There is really no way to describe briefly the madness of those few hours except to say that to take the mask you were offered at the door was to walk into another world, and that on returning to reality it left every person I spoke to with the bright-eyed joy of sheer liberation, the freedom and the beauty of chaos and uncertainty.

‘La Clique’

May 2009, London Hippodrome. Pure unadulterated Cabaret, joyful dedication to the absurd without pretense or agenda, done to standards higher than anything I had ever hoped for. Theatre stripped down and at it’s most honest done to it’s very best. A stage, a circle, a hundred hapless humans and a dosen who know the secret of everyday magic.

There are other moments in my love affair with theatre that stand out – experimenting with Artaud to create Marat/Sade’s Herald; Jos Huben’s one man show ‘The Art of Laughter’; TheWoodpecker and I drunkenly tearing ourselves to pieces in Paris over bringing ‘The Spurt of Blood’ to life; working, however briefly, with Bruce Myers and glimpsing a world in which, “It doesn’t really matter. I’ve done so many things…” ; Cheek By Jowl’s terrifying, precise, near-perfect, ‘Andromaque’; the masterful clowning of Spymonkey; and most recently Knott’s essay on the absurd and the grotesque in theatre.

Knott talks of how ‘Tragedy is the theatre of priests, the grotesque, the absurd, is theatre of clowns.’ The clown is defiance in a harder hasher world without trapdoors or a get-out clause. But not one without beauty. If we see everything as theatre then the theatre of politics, of commerce, of religion, of tradition, of the everyday – that is the theatre of what is and what has been. The theatre that stands outside of this and comments like a Shakespearian Fool on the rest, that at its best drags the audience physically into this new perspective – that is the theatre of what may be. I chose the brief four words from Brecht’s ‘Art of Theatre’ that are this entry’s title because they may be a description of what the theatre does, of what the theatre is, of what I feel in this physicalisation of ideas
or even a command.

Spitting smoke and flame

Posted in Apocalypse Elegies, Bepo, Desire, DramaSoc, Faust, Soleil dans la cave, Theatre, University on December 4, 2009 by themrvickers

In the first post on here I discussed 3plays I had written or was in the process of writng – ‘Apocalpse Elegies’, an adaption of ‘Faust’ and a piece I felt was unformed and unlikely to succeed entitled ‘Soleil dans la cave’. I will be directing that play with hard fought funding from the university’s DramaSociety next year in the last week of January. Strange how things turn out. I have two new plays burning at the back of my mind, flaring when the concepts meet and strike together. I’m writing so much at the moment; I feel on fire.

The first is called ‘Bepo the Clown’s whistlestop tour of playing the fool in the 21st Century’ which, apart from utilising my deep long-standing interest in the clown character and their potential to induce revelation, I want to really involve the audience – I have ideas about placing audience members at either end of a firing squad without letting the victim know, use of silence and placards etc. The second is currently called ‘Just Enough Rope’ and centres around an idea I’ve been interested in for a long time. In a medieval and earlier practise, during fights to the death opponents would be tied togeter at the waist. The rope was sacred – you might die with a blade in your hand but you did not cut the rope. That was such a striking visual image it’s stayed with me. Now I have ideas to base a script and a staging around it – in the round, 6 characters, 3 joined couples, a central point which they are all bound to, golden underwear, black jackets and masks. In my notes I’ve written ‘ungendered musings on lust, life and loyalty.’ My current feeling is that the later will take form much more easily – but as past experience tells you, my guess at this paticular point is as good as yours.

Theatre fills so much of my life. I cannot write a novel in the life-style I live now. Short stories are always echoes of whoever I currently admire – no doubt if I tried to create one now you could wouldn’t have to wait long for Raymond Carver to emerge. Poetry is a solitary practise, something that perhaps I’ll talk about on here one day. Over the last two year I’ve experienced theatre that reached that pinacle of unspeakable understanding that changes the world, just a little. I’m going to describe a few of the productions that have remained with me in the next entry here.

‘I am a sick man… I am an angry man. I am an unattrative man. I think there is something wrong with my liver…’

Posted in Fever, minimalanimalman, Soleil dans la cave, Theatre, Writing on November 16, 2009 by themrvickers

I have experienced the worst illness I’ve ever had over the last two weeks. I am lucky, it was nothing in comparison to something truly damaging, but it was relentless and seemingly unending and new. I’ve always been interested on the effect of those much more perfect organisms than us on our electrified carcasses. So I collected up a few scraps to see if I could explain the experience. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t. Maybe you think I’m trying to be some kind of martyr. I’m not, this is just what I do. I am reminded of something Thumper once said: ‘Sickness is a very human weakness Tom, I expected better.’ Indeed.
I wrote the first paragraph here, previously in another post just over a week ago. The second are scrawled ideas I didn’t want to lose but for the most part did. The third I wrote yesterday in my first message to a dear friend since it began.

‘…the burning man is the colour of the end of days…’
Now here is something to consider. I have been violently ill for nearly a week now. Nothing incapacitates the human body like sudden illness. There can be no preparation, no slow build up to hell. Instead we are plunged directly into the abyss without warning. We simply burn. Yet every time I step onto those boards, into that theatre of the mind, it all changes. Nothing alters physically, but it no longer matters. I am magnificent in my purgatory, all of us are. That is how it feels. To bring thought to life however you can. To be the laughing man alight.

End SdlC with Yawny at the Apocaypse. new growth – West with hands of earth, green shoot?
hohoho and away I go/ Without putting up even a fight/ Perhaps it’s true what they say/ my dear, and the cap, it fits too tight.
‘art lasts longer than people but neither can be without the other’
film Dostoy-Notes modern. in a shower in pounding water, press head against wall and fingers to ears: hear through neck. long shot approach down corridor,voiceover, always voiceover, never ever corrupt the words. after the girl? stays there, smoking, all story through flashback, writing uncared for, burning at the end?

So, what has happened since I last wrote to you? Well me and this room have got to know each other alot better. I got feverish to the foundations. It was absolutely vile until yesterday because I just could not clean it, I barely had the energy to get out of bed most of the time and by the time I realised what was happening to everything around me it was too late (and I’d evidently transformed into a J. G. Ballard character…) I still feel terrible, but a sane, lucid, coherent terrible that I can cope with, the kind I can drug and dose and sort out and make just fuck off. The kind of illness I’ve experienced before. The middle days of this week there were moments I came the closest I’ve ever come to hallucinations. Several of me, impossible quality of light, spacial distortion of corners in particular. My memory of what looking out the window was like makes me think of a favourite line from J. M. G. LeClezio – “At night, if one looked in the direction of the noise one saw a sort of halo of rosy light hovering over the sky, and one imagined abominable things.”
I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. I always feel naturally intimate with you and I suppose this is a change to examine this strange facet of deformed memory, like a shard of malformed shrapnel. Or an utterly non-Newtonian prism. But I’m not going to erase it. I stand by what I said. “I am magnificent in my purgatory, all of us are.” And in any case, I like imagining abominable things. I understand why tribal cultures induced fever in their witch-doctors. When the shaman ingests he lets go, and of course they go deeper and madder than I did, but they let go willingly, and that makes all the difference.