Thursday, 10 September 2009

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Monday, 24 August 2009

48. Kings of England at Forest Fringe + Dad's 75th Birthday

Kings of England will be showing "Where We Live & What We Life For" at Forest Fringe, 6PM-6.30, August 27th-28th, Forest Cafe, Bristo Place £Pay-What-You-Can!

Promises to be a good couple of shows, especially since on the 28th Dad will celebrate his 75 Birthday. 

This will be out last "in-development" show before our residency at Leeds Met Studio Theatre where we will tighten it up for touring (details soon). On Tuesday 25th we will be joined by my Brother, over from Canada for a few weeks and Dad, Mum, David and I will pile into Dad's Honda Jazz for a ROAD TRIP, six arse-numbing hours to look forward to, but the arrival will be worth it. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

47. Two month residency in Lisbon! Acceptance to The Cycle: Tracks, Traces and Leftovers: Documentation Practices in Contemporary Creation

Good News!

I have been accepted to do a two-month (£paid) residency in Lisbon in 2010. The residencies come under the heading "The Cycle: Tracks, Traces and Leftovers: Documentation Practices in Contemporary Creation", and will be hosted by Atelier Real.

The proposal I submitted was to write and perform in response to an obscure branch of my family archive (archive, in this case, is a grand word for an envelope of photographs of an old Liverpudian family, the Furbers, relatives of my grandfathers).

This is on the back of the little work-in-progress I have shown in Carlisle (for the LANWest tour in february) and Manchester (for Sometimes...'s night at greenroom), entitled "IF".

IF is a companion piece to "Where We Live & What We Live For", concerning my grandfather, and particularly the three years he spent in captivity during World War II, but also more general themes of survival, longevity, speed, velocity and trajectory.

46. Very belated reports of CPT & Performing Lives Gigs


First night at Camden People's Theatre, about ten in the audience, mostly on comps. A quiet show but do-able. Difficult to get warmed up when there's three quarters of the seats empty, but it was alright. We got through it. Top drinks afterwards with Sylvia, who we were double-billed with, Kate A and my mates Em and Paul (Banjo). Plus, Sylvia really pulled out the stops. I had seen her show at SPILL but this was really, relly funny, bringing out a humour and warmth for us and, I think, for the Sylvia that was there, but not there, in 2003. Anyway, it was fucking fantastic.
Second night four people showed up, three of whom had already seen it. We decided to pull it, so Sylvia and I were taken out by Matt Ball and Robert Pacitti (thanks chaps!) and, I for one, was drunker than I care to be by the end of it. The next day was all anxiety attacks and difficult travelling. I heard that Sprit was poorly attended throughout, which seemed like nobody's fault, just London summer, expensive tickets, a culture of 'A Night Less Ordinary' and a cheaper West End to contend with. So, the Kings are writing that off to experience.
For our trouble, Sylvia and I received £10.70 in ticket sales, which we have promised to keep in special envelopes and open them when we next drink togther. I hope it isn't too long, what with inflation and everything.


A quiet conference and a split panel meant we performed to about ten people, again, but it was fairly well-received But we took the low turnout on the chin. and I got to meet Simon Ellis and the estimable Kristin Frederickson, who is performing her own Dad show, which was literally astonishing. Dad, the bloody hero, came down & up again in a day. I stopped off at my cousins, which was grand, and stayed in the next day and watched about seven episodes of The Wire Series 1, which was probably better than sight-seeing.

Monday, 22 June 2009

45. Camden People's Theatre 24th/25th June / Father's Day Belated


Okay so 24th / 25th June (Weds / Thurs) Me & Dad on at Camden People's Theatre. Looking forward to it. Double Bill with Sylvia Rimat (happily).

Yesterday we went down the Royal for a father's day pint-and-a-half (I had some kind of Dunham Massey, he had Hydes Original) (picture soon). There's a bookshelf by the chairs we always sit at and on it there's a copy of Redgrave's Factory Act (1966). Dad is more familiar with earlier versions but it used to be The Bible when he worked as a draughtsman in the steel trade. So he got it off the shelf (like he always always does) and told me some Trade Union trivia. And he asked me what books I'd been reading (I said: "The Book Thief") and he said he had been reading the Grapes of Wrath. And He told me how sad it was. He doesn't tend to get sad or sentimental about things so it was was sort of enjoyable to seeing him acting like that.

More soon.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

44. Burst '09

Belatedly, a post about our two-night run at BAC as part of Burst '09: 51 Reasons for Living.

Overall I think it went well. We did about 40 minutes on the first night and cut it down to 30 on the second. The show is - currently - a little too text-heavy, but we restructured it and worked in some new material. For now, it's OK, but we will be working on some more new stuff for the showing at CPT on June 24th and 25th (double billed with Sylvia Rimat).

On the first night the audience seemed well up for it, quieter on the second night but that was partly my fault. After three and a half hours sleep (I was woken up by Dad snoring, particularly, and London in general), it was much harder to muster up the right amount of gusto. But I got lots of feedback from producer / audience-folk, enough to allow me suppose that we're on the right track. Particular thanks to Sunita Pandya and Richard Dufty, Katherina Radeva, her friend James, and Kates Ashman and Rowles, for their support & crit, and to Liz, our technicial, for lighting us.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

43. Carousel / Slide


Bought a Kodak Carousel Slide Projector off eBay the other day. Hundred Quid, 2 lenses, hard case, spare bulb and... remote control! Should be arriving on Tuesday. Alex told me I should get a slide projector, although I had been committed to OHPs. Well Alex, you win! I got the bug for slides after finding a load of old ones a wardrobe a couple of days ago, and I started to feel I was missing something if I didn't check them out. That said, the piece is quite reliant on photographs at the moment and I want to balance that out. But I want each section to have a title, like "Article (...) Nowhere but Here, 2009". And furthermore, I found a place that converts digital images to 35mm slides for about £2.00 each, which seems reasonable. So now with the Carousel I can look forward to lugging more ungainly equipment on trains, buses, the tube, and on foot, very soon.

But I think my interest in slides was started off watching Episode 1/13 of Mad Men, where the character Don Draper is pitching ideas to Kodak for their new projector. He says:

It’s delicate, but potent…
Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.
It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
This device… isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine.
It goes backwards, forwards.
It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
It’s not called the Wheel.
It’s called the Carousel.
It lets us travel the way a child travels.
Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved -


So I spent part of the day with the old 35mm Olympus taking pictures of signage for the titles for each section. It will be trial and error, I've never used slide film before and I don't know if I exposed it right but anyway, here are some pictures from from the digital, through the viewfinder of the film camera. They're very student-y but I quite like them, so here you go:

Two Slides/-

Friday, 15 May 2009

42. Line-Learning / Songs

A couple of interesting things.

First: If you have seen our show, or if you have been reading this, you will know that one of our central themes is memory loss. We are trying to reclaim a lost hour, after a trans-ischemic attack, where my Dad could not remember where he was or how he had got there. Today I was trying to coach Dad through a fairly long text (about a page's worth) that I wrote after finding William's - Bill's - his father's - paintings. I wanted to suppose that the paintings depicted the Wilderness that my Dad found himself in in 1970. And I wanted to suppose that one painting, in particular, depicted a way out. So we tried working on the rhythm of the text: "The-old-man / myoldman /strickeninthechest aged sixty / fin-ally went above-ground". After a few repetitions we were fiding our stride. I don't know if he will remember the text any better tomorrow but today he remembered a whole paragraph without prompting. We stood very close to each other and looked each other straight in the eye: "Thedoctorsaid takeyour-rest, relax / this (...) is how-he-didit / took a clerking job in the pitoffices / settled behind a-desk/ paintedpicturesonsundays after church".

* * *

Second: Mum and Dad doing a bit of washing up. Dad puts on the alarm-clock / CD player and plays a CD of me singing our signature tune. I run downstairs to find them both singing it and I join in. A singsong, there in the Kitchen, and if you knew my Mum you'd know how little confidence she has in her voice.
So - a simple pleasure, fairly short-lived but adequate to its moment, then, Me and my Mum and My Dad singing in the Kitchen, washing up, stopping the clock.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

41. Rehearsals for Burst at BAC / A Kind of Rant / Promotional Material from

Dad and I have been hard at work rehearsing in the front room towards 30 minutes of material for our gig at Burst, BAC (20th /21st May 9-9.30PM £5/3 Concs). We are getting there, having restructured the piece quite a lot. Until a couple of days ago I was bricking myself but I think we have a fair chance at doing a decent show. Mum is off for a walking holiday with her mates on Sat, so we will have a few days to ourselves to graft away. As ever, Dad remains dedicated to his task, but it would be wrong to suggest that it is all plain sailing. Working together this closely intensifies our different approaches and attitudes. We are sometimes irascible, belligerent, un-accepting. And other times we are devoted to the ease and comfort of the other. But either way, the work comes slowly.

* * *

The work is taking on a literary quality, more so perhaps than before, as we deepen our concern for a text that is by now central to the show, from Yevgeny Vinokurov ("Sometimes I'd like to write a book / a book all about time..."). And we are trying somehow to give this book our elders, ancestors (who no longer need it). It is all wishful thinking, but I wonder if that what we know now, from trying to reconstruct this unwritten book, might have helped them. Has it helped me? Vinokurov says that the past and the future are one continuous present, that everybody, those who have lived, those living, and those who are yet to live, are alive now. So one grandfather is still working down the mine, another on a railway and a farm. According to the Russian, they are still labouring to support us long after they have disappeared. I wonder if that possibility, which I have tried to give as a gift, is a possibility worth entertaining, or a gift worth receiving. Last January I saw my grandfather (on my mother's side), the features retreating from his face, become unrecognizable. The pace at which he aged in his last three weeks seem comparable to the pace a child grows in his first.
The show seems based on a conceit, one that I consider has quite hopeful implications, but at times it feels unnecessary - as if I am trying to lighten a load that was born fairly and squarely - honourably - and without complaint.
Anyway - how can we ever measure up to these people? That isn't the point though, is it? The point is to show that impossibility. If ultimately the show is autobiographical, which many people I've talked to think it ultimately is, it is an autobiography of everything I am not or am unlikely to be - as modest, godly, hardy and independent as the grandfathers.

* * *

Above is the promotional material by Mike Fallows at Manchester design Company Mike is one of the old gang, founder of Sometimes..., and it is always a pleasure to work with him.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

40. Testimonial from Lois Keidan, Live Art Development Agency.

From Lois Keidan, Live Art Development Agency.

Kings of England’s Where We Live & What We Live For was without doubt one of my highlights from the recent SPILL Festival national performance platform – a refreshing, entertaining, charming and moving work about love and loss, about family and memory, and about we and me.

Where We Live …used many of the now familiar tropes of contemporary performance – family members, personal photos, song and dance – but Simon Bowes reimagined the potential of these materials and in the process reignited the possibilities of performance in original and deeply poignant ways. I genuinely cannot wait to see what he does next.

So what next?

20th & 21st May - Burst Festival at BAC 9PM, £5/3 Concessions

24th & 25th June - Sprint Festival at Camden People's Theatre, Times & Ticket Prices TBC

Saturday, 25 April 2009

39. Good Crit. From

(Notes by Alex Eisenberg).

Alex Eisenberg, writer and performance-maker, gave a fair crit. of our show on the 19th. To read it in full go here.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

38. St. George.

Happy St. George's day to Kings of England everywhere! Dragons begone. Interesting to note that St. George's Day seems to be celebrated all over the world so in Bulgaria they'll be eating Roast Lamb, in Serbia they'll be going on morning picnics, and in Catalonia they'll be performing the Sardana, a national dance, in the Place Sant Jaume (don't ask me how I know this).

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

37. SPILL Festival (National Platform)


We are returned from a good gig at SPILL Festival National Platform. It was a classic 20-minute performance of "Where We Live & What We Live For". I think we needed a morale booster after a slightly rocky residency at the Nuffield, and we made it. Dad said he wanted to play it for laughs and he did. He was funnier than ever and it was a pleasure to see him enjoy it. Mum seemed to enjoy playing her part too - making sure the world still turns while Dad and I work through the show & tell.

It was a privilege to show work alongside friends old and new. Neil Callaghan and Simone Kenyon did a good run of their "Mokado" show, and Sylvia Rimat's Being Here While Not Being Here" was excellent but particularly useful for me to see as it addressed broadly similar concerns as our show. Sylvia will be on the same bill as us for SPRINT at Camden People's Theatre in June. My personal highlights from new people I hadn't seen before were: Mamoru Iriguchi's "PREGNANT?" Taylan Halici's "Introduction to Floodlondon" and Sara Popowa's "Stick Piece". Predictably, I didn't see everything - busy with nerves and preparatory line-learning, so I'm sure there was a lot of good stuff I missed out on.

Hopefully some good will come out of doing the show. I'm down in the hole financially over it but a lot of programmers and London Artsvolk saw it, so that can't do any harm. But I'm still concerned about the development of the show overall. Not quite sure of the direction we will take but we are committed to showing 30 minutes of mostly new material for Burst at BAC May 20th / 21st, which is a scary prospect. We have to move outside of the comforts of the old show now. But despite being a show that plays o our fears, we made it quite hospitable for ourselves.

Also, a sad weekend - said a kind of goodbye to an old friend, someone who has shaped the course of my life. And I am wondering who I will be in their absence. But like the song says: "the best of friends must part sometimes / any why not you and I?" Nevertheless, I'm hurting. But so what?

But that aside it remains to say a big thankyou to Robert and everyone at Pacitti Company for a wonderful time.

Big Love. x

Photographs from rehearsal:

Friday, 10 April 2009

36. ACE-Funded Residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster (Week 2)

Kings of England have finished our residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, and are getting ready to perform at SPILL National Platform next weekend (19th April). So for now it remains for me to reflect on our our process and a modest 15-20 minute showing in the Playroom on Wednesday 8th.

At the moment, developing the show with Dad seems all difficulty. Since I cannot approach it sensibly you will have to make do with some fragments:

We have made a moderately successful - and conceptually, quite tight - 15-20 minute show (circa YaYW5, Bristol, Oct 08 / Pilot Nights, Birmingham, Nov 08). So it feels quite uncomfortable to disrupt the sequence of events we have built around the jump (1958) and the fall (2001).

The show begun as a search for the other in ourselves - the unknowable things that are the often considered converse of memory and imagination (types of knowledge) but which might more accurately be considered part of them.

Framing the show within a larger research project, we have put a question to ourselves: "Where We Live & What We Live For". It might be best to keep this clearly focused on father and son, but inevitably this begins to point outwardly, towards houses, inns and other buildings, walks or journeys, friendships and whichever kind of relationships that might constitute "home" or make it hospitable. But our beginnings are always shadowed by an end. Homeliness, like Selfhood, might often be considered an historical practice - even if home is not bound to an architecture or a particular geography, it may nevertheless be bound to by tradition. The conception of Home, like the conception of Self seems to require a history; one that can be, in some significant part, be known by us (though never entirely).

This way of talking about it strays. We are being paid to make a popular show that people like, not to do Academic research (though I do consider this Practice-as-Research).

I think about the twinkle in my father's eye, and the twinkle in his father's father's eye, and so on and I want to meet the nameless men and women, not forgotten but now entirely unknown, that might, in some way, have born as many resemblances to us as differences.

The first toast was "to the passing of time" (and to the dead). The second toast - only implied - was to the the life of the living as he "is now, has been, and, perhaps, shall be". In the showing, the third toast was "to the other, old world, the one before us". It might never have existed before Niépce, Daguerre, Florence, Talbot, Eastman, Bayard, who taught us the trick of the instant, documenting, alongside portraits and landscapes, fractures of the rhythm of work and other business of living; I mean the Victorian Scenes where we encounter strangely matter-of-fact kinds of evidence that to the effect that such and such married so and so, begat such and such, and that they, in particular, led slowly to us. To the other, old world, the one before us. And, on the back of a documentary I once watched and a conversation with a friend, I might consider that we disrupt world prior to us and the world after, as if the world during us breaks a certain continuity that our absence reverts to.

But straying.... when I was doing postgrad I was a wayward researcher and I like the idea of picking up another thread - searching for William, Dad's Dad, who I never had the privilege of meeting, and Olliver, Mum's Dad, who I did. Prior to the residency I had been writing about these two men, who courted and married between the Wars. But as yet we found no way of working them in.

Much of our work concerns the impossibility of facing the past or, of being out of step with the present. The picture, below, from rehearsals in Week 2, refers to the walk that Peter, my father before he was my father, made with William, his father, in 1952, aged 17 or 18.

I notice the straightness of our legs, the bend in our left arms. In these details alone, perhaps, we are similar.


Other Pictures:

That's All for Now. More Soon.

Friday, 3 April 2009

35. ACE-Funded Residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster (Week 1)

Me and My Old Man are on a residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, 30th March - 9th April. It is funded by the Arts Council England. We would have announced this on the Monday but there are Wonky internet connections a the University AND at my digs in town.
It has been a slow week and not without its problems. Dad has been by turns patient, enthusiastic, diligent (he has led me to expect nothing else). But prior to the residency our longest rehearsal had been about an hour. Now we have full days to fill, and we are averaging about six cups of tea per day. We have our own kettle and a generous supply of Yorkshire Tea ("Like Tea Used To Be").

I had the intention of working Mum into the show a lot more to expand on the talk I gave in Carlisle about my Granddad (her Dad) (see Post 28), but, for now, we need to focus on the paternal link between William (Dad's Dad), Dad, and myself.
We have been taking a lot of pictures on the little digital I bought with Hauserwages just before Christmas, but also some nice 35mm stuff. I got myself an old Olympus OM10 from Real Camera in Manchester (the shop is amazing, but they are substantially pricier than London Camera exchange). Using Colour ISA800 film and a tripod, I've manaaged to get some pretty decent pictures of Dad under theatre lights. The ones below are from digital:

Mum 'Being Mum', Monday.
Detail from Text "To The Pines" (Bascom Lamar Lunsford) Thursday.
Speech Bubble Texts "Two Lovers on a Park Bench" (Samuel L. Johnson, "Einstein on the Beach, Knee Play 5). Thursday.
Simon in Bespoke Handmade Felt Crown. Thursday.
Peter in Bespoke Hansmade Felt Crown. Thursday.
Dad drinking a pint of Wainright in the Sun Hotel, Thursday.
One of the greatest things so far has been working on a recent rediscovery I made of William (Dad's Dad)'s paintings. It would be a stretch to call him a painter, but between 1966 and 1978 he made several paintings (we have 19, and a drawing he made). He took it up after having a heart attack, the Doctor told him to relax, and that's how he tried to do it. The paintings document a kind of reprieve, a second chance (and the show is all about reprieves and recoveries). But also, it points towards a different way of looking, or a letting in of light.

Before 1966 he worked below ground as a coal face worker, a shot firer, then a deputy (a kind of shift foreman). But after his heart attack he had to take a clerking job. And I like to think of him working on sunny days, with the light streaming in through the windows. I wonder whether he looked at the world any different after the heart attack, and after taking up painting. A lot of our work so far has been about instants, partricularly in how photographs inform how we think about the instant, and how resonant photographs are when we look at them (like Roland Bathes saying that he doesn't believe in lifelike photographs, that the photo is in no way animated, but that it animates him). But William's paintings slow down how we look, if we appreciate the physicality of how he might have painted, brushstrokes, of course, but also moving around it, leaning in towards and away from it. I was watching a documentary recently "The Genius of Photography" (BBC2?) I only watched the fourth one, but one of the interviewees was talking about photographers as "not Gods, but Angels", recording rather than conceiving. But I look at William's paintings, amateurish, and often very bright. But I think that after 46 years working underground, that the brightness is fitting. Dad says he started off copying the pictures that you used to get on Chocolate boxes, but he thinks that he graduated to making his own. So I wonder why he painted what he did when he stopped copying.

From that world - the one in the nineteen pictures - I want to try to create a space in performance that we, my Dad and I, could now inhabit. So, for example, the picture we have on the stream by the river becomes the bank my father crossed as he came out of the Wilderness, in 1970. But it also gives me a space to image how his thoughts might have formed themselves, to insinuate an aesthetic sensibility into our history. But obviously this has can only be at the limit of my own likes and abilities. So it's a self-consciously futile gesture, but it creates a sort of dialogue between then and now, and might be one way of trying to meet William (he died two years before I was born).
For now, I submit the following:

Number 5. William Bowes "The Light I Walked Towards and Walked Back From (It Was Not Bright Enough)".

Because I say it is, this is now the archetypal reprieve painting in the Archives*.

*"What is an Archive? Its shaped like a box, it used to have shoes in it, and it's where you put all the things you can't bear to look at anymore" - SB to AB, 30.3.09.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

34. Kings of England Accepted to SPRINT Festival, Camden People's Theatre, Some Time In June


Kings of England have been accepted to perform at the SPRINT Festival at Camden People's Theatre in June. Dates / times are as yet unconfirmed, but we will fill out this post with the specifics once we have them.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

33. Kings of England Accepted to SPILL National Platform, April

Yes. We have been!

7PM, Sunday 19th April, National Theatre, London £FREE. Our show, about half an hour long, will retain the working title of: "Where We Live & What We Live For": Narrations and micro-performances by Simon Bowes (29) and his Dad (74), exploring love, loss, happiness, and the passing of time.

SPILL National Platform is an event showcasing artists who have been working for "up-to-three years" (i.e. "emerging artists" which I most certainly am).SPILL is curated by Pacitti Company.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

32. "The Wilderness" / Ue O Muite Aruko (002)

This morning Dad and I drove over to the woods to try and document "The Wilderness". On the way we played a CD of "Ue O Muite Aruko" ("I Look Up When I Walk"), by Kyu Sakamoto, and after Dad and I had come out of The Wilderness I took 24 exposures of 200ASA film of Dad walking, looking up, willing the planes above fly straight and true.

We only have a low-quality scanner here but I thought I'd do a rough one so you can get to see what he looked like. More on this soon.

Friday, 20 February 2009

31. Ue O Muite Aruko (001)

Not sure how to work this in, but yesterday birthed a new obsession, the very beautiful "Ue O Muite Aruko" ("I Look Up When I Walk"), Lyrics by Rokusuke Ei, Music by Hachidai Nakamura, Recorded & Performed by Kyu Sakamoto. You can see a video of it on YouTube or hear it on imeem. Read about it on Wikipedia.

This might make it into the show with Dad, but will more likely be part of a lecture on Mum's side of the family (see Post 28).

Monday, 16 February 2009

30. Kings of England BAC BURST Commission

Kings of England have been offered a small commission and a chance to perform at BURST, the Battersea Arts Centre's Annual Flagship platform for theatre / performance, live art and all that. We gladly accept. Our gigs will be on the 20th / 21st May, so diary it if you are London based or somewhere close by. Unfortunately Mum can't make it as she will be on a walking holiday, but Dad and I are excited. The bonus is that this time, it should be worth a week's wages, a bit of expenses and a 50/50 box-office-split. More details "soon".

Big Love,

K of E. x

29. Kings of England Accepted to Performing Lives Conference, Kingston University

Kings of England have been accepted to present at the Performing Lives Conference, Kingston University, 6 - 8 July 2008.

Go here for more info.

The proposal read:

(In response to the question: “WHOSE LIFE?”):

Since April 2008 I have been performing alongside my 74-year-old father under the name “Kings of England”. Our show, “Where We Live & What We Live For” has been scratched at five times and has confirmed for support by the BAC, the Nuffield Theatre and Leeds Met Studio Theatre in 2009.

I found a picture of my father (before he was my father) jumping from the rocks toward the sea. The picture, taken off the South coast of France in 1958, catches him partway down.

In 2001 he suffered a transient-ischemic attack, falling of a bicycle in the hillsnear home. My mother reports that for an hour, he did not remember his name, now where he was; nor where he lived.

I asked him about his fall, and about his landing, and he seemed to be unable to remember much at all except for “how clear the water was” and “all these little fishes”, he said: “talk about a clear blue sea”.

In response he has given me license to reclaim that lost hour, writing invention and supposition into the spaces created in the event of forgetting.

We may accord these inventions and suppositions certain ethical significance, drawing a Blanchotian treatment of the verb “to research” through Levinasian treatment of the unknowable-ness of the other: inventing fictions to replace lost facts, we aim to preserve the dignity of the unknown as unknown, as a point of convergence between us.

For ‘Performing Lives’ we propose to show 15 minutes of performance followed by 15 minutes Q & A.

28. Kings of England at MAP LIVE, Source Cafe, Carlisle

The following extracts were delivered as a short lecture at the Source Cafe as part of a night organized by the excellent Di Clay from Matrix Art Projects, combining Regional and National work with the ACE-funded LANWest tour. Also on the bill were: Leentje van de Cruys, Andy Wilson, Krissi Musiol, Katy and Peter Merrington, and Chris Fitzsimmons.


Good Evening and welcome to the first of tonight’s lectures, which concerns, for the most part, the passing of time.

We are looking for a way out, an escape, an evasion, it could be a door but more likely a window, mark the exits for your safety {point} and it seems that the event of performance is the place in which we are least likely to find it. We are gathered here on the condition that we will disperse. We will go home, sooner or later, more or less directly, for a night cap or a cup of tea, supper, take the dog for its late-night walk, get some sleep before work. To leave and arrive returned, to put distance between here and there, will somehow relate to us that ‘familiar story, the old, old story of…’ time told by the ticking of seconds, minutes and hours.

Article 1/-

You are sick, the doctors say no fluids, and I tell you that when you get out of there were going to going to get you drunk as a Lord. You like the sound of that and for a last time, you laugh. Three or four days later, you die. A toast, then, to the passing of time, and furthermore, to dead dogs, dead children, dead lovers, dead heroes and how good it is to be alive.

Article 2/-

24th January 1915 - 12th January 2008. Thirty-three thousand, five hundred and sixty-eight (33,568) days have gone by.

Articles 4 and 5/-

{first picture}

He is in the third of his ninety-three years. He is already a quiet boy, belying the modest and humble man he will become. He has a lifetime of hard work ahead of him, several disappointments. But for now there is time, as the shutter clicks and the powder flares and the shadow is cast, to be witnessed blameless and free, as the shadow lengthens on the curtain backdrop.

{last picture}

He is in the last of his ninety-three years. It is the last picture in which you can clearly see his face, or rather, his features, as they had been, consistent, to the form that had shaped them, belonging to his twenties and thirties as much as to his eighties and nineties.

He can’t hold much food down and has been troubled by a urine infection to which he will finally succumb. He is visited regularly by his two daughters, their husbands, but he has not seen his youngest grandson for months, and he has not seen his eldest for years. But he is, at least, outwardly, without complaint, and although his wife has died and his memories are receding, and his lodgings are more than can be afforded, he never breathes a word of these losses, not one. You see there are some men who are born complainers, these men have been bested and find no glory in hardship, and little reward. And there are some men, once capable men, who count themselves fortunate. These men have been bested and take pleasure in giving respect.

Article 6/-

Between the first and the last presented with a kind of incontrovertible evidence, if we accept that the first and the second are indeed two points of a continuum, two images of the same person, old man, little boy.

To think that time can be cut and mended, looped, ribboned, tangled and unpicked, is to beg a kind of freedom from the advancing of hours. But I look at your blood that collects in the bag, dirty black blood, and the greyish whites of your eyes and they tell me: don’t believe it. To love time and aging is to understand and accept consequence. The wish to stop time, or open it forever, reflects a desire for a life without consequences, in which mistakes can be rectified, words unsaid, deeds undone, deaths un-died. But then you turned to me and you asked me “is there another world” and the last thing I tell you is “Yes”.

Article 7/-

There are some things that we don’t talk about, because we no longer believe that we need to. Some things we are square with, or else they cannot be squared. And there are some things that we don’t ask about, but because we are young and have boundless love of questions and have not yet been told not to, we ask:

When I asked him, he looked at me and answered.

I wanted him to point and show me and say: “I killed these men”, but they were buried somewhere, far off, where the rivers and forests and villages had names I couldn’t pronounce.

The simple “Yes” satisfied me, even then, and it satisfies me now. He killed those men, got captured, starved for three years. Amongst hundreds of thin men they called him “the thin man” and because he could fix the trucks, the guards thought he was useful and so he survived it, and having secured for himself a reasonable chance of a future for himself, he returned to his wife, raised two daughters, who each had a son and from then he lived as if it were peacetime, kindly, and very decently. And that’s it, and that’s all.

Except for this:

Article 8/-

{Picture of the cover of A Brief History of Time}

In the end, someone else wrote the book and I like to think that the old man, had he of read it, would have enjoyed the nuances, the subtleties, and found the treatment worthy.

Last week I was in London on a residency and I wanted to put the book into flight, so I made a paper aeroplane out of each page, but when I threw them they flew less impressively, the paper was too heavy, the design was all flawed and they nosedived. So the book could not be read in the way it was intended, a series of short durations; ways of coming to land.

I put the aeroplanes in the shredder, a bed for mice, or a kind of snow. And I would like to invite you to file out of the building and congregate in the street, so I can, finally, throw the book out of the window.

27. Kings of England at BAC New Year New Spaces

Between 26th and 31st Jan we were on a residency at BAC as part of New Year, New Spaces, along with LOTS of other artists including the splendid Levantes Dance Theatre, Dancing Brick, and These Horses.

Between Monday and Wednesday I worked with an old friend and collaborator, Kate Rowles, whose work with her own family in the context of visual performance (primarily photo, video and AV installation) inspired K of E's initial scratch at BAC last September. We tried out some movement and writing exercises and by the end of the Wednesday we had the beginnings of something which, hopefully, will turn into a scratch piece in the future.

You can explore Kate's excellent work here.

Mum & Dad turned up on Thursday afternoon giving us a day and a half to pull the show together, which we did. Essentially it was a 10-minute performance lecture with Dad reciting poetry, singing a song, and dancing with Mum.

To offer an idea of the central concerns in the BAC show, we should note that Dad had been married before he married my Mum. I wanted to talk about how it was possible for him to recover from the disappointment of losing one woman by finding another. He didn't want to talk about it, or at least, not in any detailed terms. So in response we had to think of a way of Dad played out the notion of recovery or reorientation in the most general terms. It resulted in the following text, which I think is about Dad but which Mum thinks is about me:

Article 4. "The Wilderness. 1970"/-

He had been out in the wilderness for some time – too long – and dark was the night, cold was the ground, walking until morning and sleeping by day in the dark holler. On leaving civilization, he had imagined some sort of dominion over the animals of the forest. He had foreseen a land of plenty, or, at least, just enough. But by the end of January he conceded that he had been starving for weeks, or had been starving himself. Whilst once a civilised man, he now lacked every refinement he had prided himself on. He now longed for a good meal, a warm bed, and maybe a woman, if he could think of enough to say to trick one of them. His journal entries, growing infrequent, lapsed, and finally he began to tear out the pages to kindle his fires. When the journal was gone he begun with his hymn book, and at last his eyes rested on a familiar passage that his Father, a devout and abstemious man, had taught him many years before.

DAD sings "The Pilgrim Stranger".

That night he walked, as was his custom, but neglected his usual routes, which turned and turned about, listlessly, and instead he tended towards more or less straight lines that befitted a man with newly found sense of purpose.

By morning he is standing at the edge, and in the distance he sees, farmed lands, ordered hedgerows and dry stonewalls, and, squinting, he could see the smoke from chimneys, little houses dotted on the horizon.

He took out his old binoculars and surveyed the land, which looked splendid accordingly and he said to himself:

DAD: “Well, now, there I might live”…

And there he did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how he could let the years run off, wait the winters through and see the spring come in again.

NB. "The Pilgrim Stranger" is also called "There is a Land of Pleasure" and I found it on a website called "American Memory" run by the Smithsonian. You can listen to Warde Ford singing it here.

The last line of the text is Adapted from Thoreau, Walden, Ch2: "Where I lived and What I Lived For". I'll put a proper reference in soon.

Photos of the Show:

"Style is the answer to everything..."
Dad comes out of The Wilderness singing an old hymn "The Pilgrim Stranger"
Dad dances with Mum to "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" arranged by John Fahey & His Orchestra.
Response to Applause.

Photographs Kate Rowles.

Setting Up:

1&2 Mum & Dad re-lay the tape that made up our set.
2-5: A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, each page made into a paper Aeroplanes and put into flight by my father in the Council Chamber, by the Ayes Door 30th January 2009.

NB. The Aeroplanes flew poorly. They were too heavy and nosedived. We were going to start the show with the aeroplanes but didn't. But I did something else with them at Carlisle (see post 28).

Thursday, 1 January 2009

26. Happy New Year / New Year Plans

Dear You All -

Happy New Year from Me & My Dad!

It seems fitting to announce our plans for 2009, which are largely the result of the five scratch shows we performed between September and December the last. In November Battersea Arts Centre offered us a week's residency between 26th and 31st January, for their the New Year, New Spaces programme which will culminate in 2 evenings of showings. Shortly after the BAC invitation, we were offered a £2000 commission and residency the Nuffield Theatre in Lancaster to develop the work into a half-hour show for festivals and studio spaces. Effectivey, the Nuffield money pays for the time at BAC, extending the time we will have to make the work to three weeks. After the Nuffield Commission was in place, we were also offered a residecy at Leeds Met Studio Theatre in September, as well as the chance to show a WIP for the new student intake at Leeds Met, and other venues have expressed an interest in booking the work upon completion.
All this is formimg the basis of an application to Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, which we will submit at the end of the first working week in January. Most of December was given over to tweaking the ACE bid, with Christmas, Bargaintide and New Year providing a welcome break from spreadsheets and the like.

More news on this soon, but for now, thanks to everyone who supported us in 2008 and Happy 2009!

Friday, 19 December 2008

25. Kings of England at Pilot Night No. 15

Good News!

Dad and I are back after a grueling lot of trains and buses to get to-and-from Birmingham for Pilot Night No. 15 (curated by Talking Birds) at the Custard Factory.
Sometimes it looked improbable - Dad had a very bad cough and had had two mainly sleepless night prior to the gig. I was thinking of calling it off but he insisted that it would be alright on the night and, I think its fair to say, he was right. He didn't cough once throughout the whole show (!) and was indeed on good form. His dance was probably the best it had been and most of his lines got big laughs from the audience, who seemed like a kindly and generous bunch. We got lots of people coming and saying nice things so all in all it was pretty rewarding. It was tiring though, and I found it a hard one to perform on that particular night. But Dad's can-do attitude impresses me continually. Mum said: "well, he always liked showing off", and I think now that its my job to give him opportunities to show off in ways that an audience can take heart from. I think we did that last night.
The Bristol-based performer Edward Rapley wrote a little post about us on his blog, which I quote in full:
Kings of England presented Where We Live & What We Live For, they are Simon (imagine Simon Munnery crossed with a razor blade) and his engaging father Peter. Very much in the tradition of live art performance, this direct and contemplative piece was my kind of work. I really did like it, but was that little bit that prevented me from really feeling like I got it, the world they created didn't include me.
In response I consider that the concept of family is inherently exclusive, in some ways, and with your family is a bit like showing a stranger your slides from your holiday, but I think that the exclusivity isn't wholly negative, although we can't be complacent about what we've made and probably need to re-think the points between particularity and generality. As a maker I would agree with Rapley in that I don't really get it all, but don't expect to. But there are a lot of intuitive decision-making which is a largely unexamined at this point (strange perhaps since I consider this a research project). More on this after some thinking.

Photos of The Show:

Dad's Big Dance.

Dad on the Bike.

In the Aeroplane Over The Sea.

...Talk About A Clear Blue Sea

Response to Applause

Photos of our Journey and Waiting:

Instructions for Wooden Bike Construction
Dad dismantling the bike, very early morning 18.12.08
Sandwich time for Dad, train: Stockport to Birmingham (mum made these - Tuna Mayonaisse)
Sandwich Foil and Clingfilm
Typical view-from-the-train from my camera
Bored Shitless in the dressing room, several hours before the show
Dad reading Birmingham Post or whatever the local rag is called, The Kitchen, Custard Factory, 6.15PM, 18.12.08

Pilot Night had a profesh stills photographer so we should be in receipt of some nice digital pix after Christmas & New Year.

Jaime Scowcroft

A special mention to my friend from primary school, Jaime Scowcroft, whom I drink with pretty regularly these days and whom, I am sure, is not a theatre / performance enthusiast as such. He drove down from Manchester after work to meet his brother (he lives in Brum) and see the show. And Just after I'd finished the show, he walked through the door to the bar. I couldn't believe I was seeing him, although this is exactly his style. Usually if he wants to go for a beer he texts me saying at 8.15 with: "Beer 8.30" or "we're in the pub, you coming?" A shame he missed the show but it is, indeed, the thought that counts. It was good to see him and the effort he made to come and see it is a compliment so thanks Jay. King of England.


Lastly, I should say that my personal highlight of Pilot Night 15 was Peter Fletcher's lecture "On Reflections on the Counting of Sneezes" was very very good, so if you ever get the chance to go and see him, do. A great writer, calm and understated performer, great piece.