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.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

24. Rehearsals for Custard Factory Gig

Two images of my Dad that I quite liked, from today's rehearsals for the Pilot Night gig at Custard Factory, this Thursday. The top one is of the handlebars of the superlightweight wooden bike that he and Mum built for the show. Re: the bottom picture, when I showed it to my Dad he said "My Dad had a crease in the back of his neck. Maybe you'll get one too." Went well today - looking forward to showing it again.

Simon. x

Sunday, 14 December 2008

23. Residency Confirmed at BAC / Ideas

Kings of England have a confirmed residency at Battersea Arts Centre in January (26th-31st) as part of their New Year, New Spaces initiative, which gives me space for a week and open doors on the last two days so that Audiences can see our process and a showing.

So I need some ideas. I have been working on some new texts for K of E, concerning decisive moments in our family's history, the things that escape ellipsis and make ot into the chronology.

How to leave or get left, and how to recover (the work has already begun to concern recoveries). And I want to show that some were possible, were achieved. But each recovery we make is miraculous, singular and exceptional, learnt from experience, so consequently it is hard to teach how-to-recover.

The 2008 scratch shows (BAC / You and Your Work 5 / Greenroom / Bluecoat / Custard Factory) concerned loss of memory. We performed to raise a question against the forgotten. So father sang for us "The Aeroplane Over The Sea", whistling in the wind.

But my interest is turning toward other, earlier recoveries. John Berger wrote something like (and I'll check this later): "the world of circumstance and contingency into which I had been born long ago". I can look at my father's life and see the proprieties, circumstances or contingent events that had to occur in order for the story, or the chronology, to be what is is. Were it not for ABC, no XYZ. And that chronology, at a certain point, permitted me.

From "Chapter 2": 1970.

The year sounds more recent that we might have initially supposed, although we are sure that the maths is accurate. Very well, grant us this moment, which, very well, elapsed in 1970. Forgetful of the precise date, so we elect April 17th.

* * *

There are thousands and thousands of songs we could pick, to sound out this moment, since the disappointment is of a very common type. And yet: it is singular, exquisitely and painfully so, so that his could never be like mine, and mine could never be like yours. And perhaps in this respect there is no need to debate particulars.

Top 5 All-Time Undisputed Best Breaking-Up-and-Getting- Over-It Songs (by Male American Recording Artists):

5. “Adieu False Heart” by Arthur Smith Band; 4. “Headless Horseman”, by The Microphones; “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan; 2. “Martha” by Tom Waits; 1. “It Doesn’t Matter any More” by Buddy Holly.

He doesn’t even like Buddy Holly, but these songs, they somehow are sufficient, useful, and for those of you in the audience with a broken heart, please, take instruction. These are the songs that you need.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

22. Dad Rehearsing for Choir

A common sight in our house, Dad rehearsing for choir on his space-age-looking Casio keyboard. I've been wanting to snap it for a while but never got around to it until today. the headphones are open-backed, which is annoying for other people if you're on a train or something, but it means that you can hear what he plays as you walk past him and usually he is singing something but often its the notes to the song not the words. It always gives me a bit of a pang to see him practice. He had piano lessons when he was a kid and hated them, apparently, but now, of course, regrets not keeping it up.

Other news is that I'm working on a new set of texts for the BAC and over the weekend Dad and I will begin rehearsing for our Custard Factory gig on the 18th.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

21. New Offices for Bowes Industries

On Sunday after Me & Dad got back from the Activator gig, Mum proposed something that had not occurred to me in the many months I have been "at home".

Between 1985 and 2001 Dad ran a business, from home and the room he ran it from has ever been "the office". Since K of E has had some initial successes, and since I am now a "freelance artist", she proposed to turn the office over to my purposes and today, it was done.

We spent the morning moving bits of furniture in and out, down and up the stairs. Surely, there were arguments over what goes where (Mum is an expert space-saver), but not so many arguments that we fell out. I am no longer just a 28-year old man who lives with his parents. I am a 28-year old man who lives with his parents and has an office. It is a modest improvement, but an important one.

The office, hereafter "Bowes Industries", overlooks the back garden, a field, and a hill; a view which, in this late Autumn, early Winter light, looks quite remarkable. Today I feel like a lucky man rather than a cornered one.

Monday, 24 November 2008

20. A Good Weekend

Well, it's over, and I am having a day off (sort of, except for this post).

This was probably K of E's busiest weekend so far in terms of gigs, but we got through it, a showing at GreenRoom and a showing at the Bluecoat (for NWN's Activator programme).

The GreenRoom gig was slightly off-tone, I was rather stressed, home crowd, couple of knobheads in the audience but overall, pretty good.
By contrast, the little safe-space artistic-community showing at the Bluecoat was really relaxed, and an absolute pleasure to perform. At both gigs we got great feedback to help us tighten things up and think about contexts for future showings. And, of course, Dad did well, both times.

Squiffy after drinking wine in the show, and the excellent Sunday Lunch (I has Salmon, Dad had Chicken) provided by the Bluecoat, Dad and I went down the Royal to celebrate a couple of modest victories. Then back at home, Salmon for a second time (!), cooked (quite remarkably) by a Wife & Mother who had just walked 17 miles for a British Heart Foundation walk. So the Boweses had a pretty good weekend, all things considered.

It is too early to write a proper report but it seems there might be a couple of opportunities coming our way as a result of the last few months' hard work, so, for now... Now on to Pilot Night at Custard Factory, Birmingham, December 18th.

Friday, 21 November 2008

19. Tonight's the Night

Well, we have been rehearsing, I have managed to learn all my lines, Mum & Dad spent all yesterday constructing a bicycle and arguing about it, and now there's just a few hours before our homecoming gig at Manchester's GreenRoom. Highlights this week have been seeing Mum beaming when she saw Dad rehearsing his Great Big Dance, and Me & Dad's field trip to the local accountants to learn how we can recoup the deductable from this fun, but loss-making, enterprise.

The butterflies just flew in and it could be some time before they fly out again, but it has been a good week and I'm looking forward to the showings.

I'll post up a few documents from the process, and tonight's show, when I have the time.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

18. Rehearsals for Green Room 21st and Bluecoat 23rd November

Today we had a first proper rehearsal for the Manchester (Greenroom, this Friday) & Liverpool (Bluecoat, New Work Network Activator Sunday Lunch Programme this Sunday*) versions of Where We Live & What We Live For. And it went alright. Mum sat in and laughed herself silly when Dad busted out with the Big Dancing in the third section of "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free", which is a good sign. And we still have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Morning. As I write this, mum is downstairs making cardboard objects for the show (thanks, Mum). The Manchester gig is one I'm particularly looking forward to, home crowd for the last ever Volume night, hosted by my good Friends at Sometimes...

Hopefully we will be as tight at we were at the BAC and You and Your Work. But for now, down the local to learn my lines over pint. x X x

*Not open to the public.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

17. Kings of England Accepted to Pilot Night, 18th December, Custard Factory, Birmingham

Good News!

Kings of England have been accepted to Pilot Night, a evening of scratches, at The Custard Factory, Birmingham. The night is curated by Coventy-based company Talking Birds. We will do a 15-minute cut of "Where We Live & What We Live For".

Also on the bill are Stan's Cafe, Peter Fletcher, Millions and Pliers, untied artists and Instant Opera Company.

A good line up, and we're proud to be on.

Friday, 10 October 2008

16. Mum Returns from the Lakes / Report on the past weeks activities

Mum has just returned from the lakes after a week of reasonable weather and good walking (welcome home Mum). In the meantime Dad and I have been lazy and contented, no rehearsals sie our return from Bristol. I have filling out job application forms and Dad has been rehearsing his singing a bit for the MVC and the mixed choir. So I have been doing the cooking a bit more than usual and, overall, enjoying it. If I remember rightly, Monday was salmon and veg, Tuesday was sausage and Mash, Wednesday was mushroom pasta with Lemon, parsley and parmesan, and Thursday was Cullen Skink. This is really the extent of the looking after Dad needs. Tonight it is Tuna steak. As you can see, we eat fairly posh at Bowes Towers. Mum has imbibed the healthy-eating shtick from television chefs and it is rubbing off. Dad and I tend to get on pretty well when mum's not around (I annoy her a lot more than him because she and I are equally stubborn. Dad, wanting a quiet life, is much more relaxed).

On Tueday after Dad's choir we met up in the Royal for a pint and a half of Fine Fettle and talked over "what next". Looking up Thoreau's "Where I Lived and What I lived for" (Chapter 2 from Walden), I edited a bit to adapt it into a new version of the show.
Here is a draft:
Adapted from Henry David Thoreau: "Walden", Chapter 2: "Where I Lived and What I Lived For".

Key: // indicates an edit, (…) indicates an abridgement.

// I walked and wherever I walked //, I thought: there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly (…) Well, there I might live, I said; and there I did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how I could let the years run off // wait the winters through // and see the spring come in.
But I retain / the landscapes, each of them, and with respect to them, “I am monarch of all I survey,” // but I encourage you, my friends, when you walk, to say the same to yourselves.
(…) I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up (…)
Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep (…) To be awake is to be alive // and yet // I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
We // learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake // by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep (…) (And yet) Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men // and when we fight // it is error upon error, clout upon clout.
(…) The winds which pass over my dwelling // bear // the broken strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrial music, but few are the ears that hear it.
(My friends…) Be it life or death, we crave only // another, or others //. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business // and be astonished by one another //.
// There is a // stream I go // fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper. I cannot count // from nothing to // one. I // do not // know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my these, hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated //. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and // paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills.
I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.
The complete, unabridged "Walden" can be found free of charge, on-line at: Happy reading.

K of E. x

Saturday, 4 October 2008

15. Kings of England Ace You and Your Work 5 / Beer Festival with Jaime, Vicky and Andy / Mum in the Lakes


Kings of England performed last night at Easton Community Centre, Kilburn St, Bristol, as part of You and Your Work 5. We developed "Recent Falls" into "Where We Live and What We Live For", a 20-minute text that structured a few short performances from Dad, most notably, a song and dance, which he pulled off with his customary panache.

"Where We Live..." cited or otherwise appropriated writings by Henry David Thoreau (the title is adapted from a Chapter from Walden), Charles Bukowski, John Berger, Yevgeny Vinokurov, Garrison Keillor, Larry McMurtry, and Tobias Wolff. This won't tell you much about the show but a copy of the text is available on request, just email me at the address in the 'about us' section.

For now, here is an excerpt from the introduction:
“Good Evening, and welcome to the (third) of tonight’s performances, which concerns, for the most part, the passing of time, we were kestrels and starlings, the passing of time, let’s drink to that, the passing of time, and furthermore, to dead dogs, dead children, dead lovers, dead heroes and how good it is to be alive.

“We dedicate this, our third show, to a memory of one morning hour spent with a lost friend (and to him) in the summer 2001. And shortly my father will present – in lieu of everything else – a song and dance, mothered by all sorts of hardy emotions and a curiosity see how he moves these days, to hear what he sounds like these days, to reconsider who he is, who he has been, and who, perhaps, he shall be" (...)
We got lots of positive feedback over drinks afterwards, and everyone asked what we're going to do next, encouraging us to develop the work. I think Dad was quite surprised how well it was received and I could see his confidence soar as all the young people took the time to thank him. He was, as ever, gracious and kind, pretty quick after two glasses of wine, great to see him enjoy our work, and the others shows too. I think in his old age he is becoming a live art enthusiast.

But I have to thank the organizers and the wonderful people we met, old friends or new: Birgit Binder; Sylvia Rimat; Katherina Radeva (who held up Dad's cue-cards); Jo Bannon; Chris Collier, Ella Good and the Tinned Fingers gang; Duncan Speakman; Jo Britcher; Zoe Collins; Katrina Horne; Hannah and Maritea from Pennyblack, and the excellent technician (who I think was called Michael). And most of all, big thanks to Dad, for his dilligence and care. After the gig we went back to our digs, a B&B on Fishponds Rd, noisy with the traffic, cracked a bottle of wine and talked for an hour or two like best mates, before 4 hours ragged sleep and then up.

"How Good It Is To Be Alive" Still
Dad arrives in the 'Jump' position.
Photos by Laura Montag.

Beer Festival

Last night: I went out with Jaime and Vicky and Andy to the 16th Annual Beer Festival at the Royal. It was rather a quiet night, things were obviously winding down, but we went through several, but not all, of the 17 pumps. My winning beer was definitely "Fine Fettle" by the Osset Brewery, described as "A strong yet refreshing pale ale with a crisp clean flavour and citrus fruity aroma". We talked our way through Catterick (the Vic&Bob tv-show) George Clooney, the Cohen Brothers, the new Batman, Jaime's cars (he has several), and the house he is doing up.

Dad was out with the village choir doing "Trial by Jury" by Gilbert and Sullivan. About 9.45 I saw a bloke at the bar dressed in a tux, he said to the barman he'd just finished singing . I said "D'you sing with my Dad? Peter Bowes?" He said "Yes". So I rang home, he's just got back. He came over and I treated him to a pint and a half of "Fine Fettle", while he talked enthusiastically about all sorts of things (he could not be stopped), but it felt really good, really normal, he was on form, and pretty funny. And he got to answer question about his third career as a performer, which he was modest about, but clearly made up after Bristol.

Mum in the Lakes

We got up too early, with hangovers, and had a breakfast of almost soft-boiled eggs and soldiers, which Dad described as "warming". I have had headaches all morning and hardly left bed all day (for which I congratulate myself). Mum is in the Lakes so I am in charm of dinners this week. Left to his own devices Dad would probably have beans on toast three meals a day until her return. We took two pieces of salmon out the freezer for tonight so hopefully I can make something else good to complement it. No word from Mum today but she is probably in her element with dry, crisp weather, and doubtless doing no less than twelve miles a day.

Go Team!. x

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

14. Kings of England Ace BAC Freshly Scratched Festival

A belated post, after a mad week rehearsing with Hauser in Leeds on the submarine show...but Good News!

Dad and I ACED the BAC Freshly Scratched festival with a 10-minute showing of recent work. We took to the stage our vintage swimwear (go here for a description), and I narrated through a jump, a fall and a recovery that dad made in 1958, 2001 and 2007 respectively. At the end, Dad sang 'The Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel, his first solo he gave up being a choirboy sixty-one years ago, while I picked the guitar part. I was struck by his bravery and dedication to getting it right, which he did. Despite some pre-performance nerves, he was fantastic, keeping his composure throughout and, he said, genuinely enjoying being up there.
We were joined on stage by Mum who helped out holding texts for Dad and doing other tasks, not a big part but really good to have her there in the background. Saw some other good work by an bunch of ex-Dartington volk called Tinned Fingers, who are based in Bristol.
So it looks like we want to continue with this Kings of England business. We are booked to do a showing in November for peer review as part of the New Work Network Activator programme, run by Peter Petralia of Proto-type theatre, and there is a Pilot Night coming up in Birmingham curate by Talking Birds, which we will also apply for.

So... onward. Next up is "Where We Live & What We Live For", which is just "Recent Falls" +, with added texts and some dancing, at You and Your Work 5, Easton Community Centre, Bristol, this coming Friday, at 6.30PM.

K of E. x x

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

13. Kings of England Accepted to 'You and Your Work 5' at Easton Community Centre, Bristol, 3rd October

Good News!

Kings of England applied to 'You and Your Work 5' and have been successful. YAYW is a platform for performance and live art in Bristol run by Birgit Binder and Sylvia Rimat, the forthcoming platform, their fifth, will be held at Easton Community Centre, on the 2nd and 3rd of October.
Dad and I have been working on the BAC show and this Bristol gig will be substantially longer at 25 minutes. So we had better get cracking.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

12. Research Trip to Auntie Doris's for Forthcoming Residency

This morning my Mum and Dad and I drove over to Liverpool to see my Auntie Doris. The visit was long overdue (I haven't seen her since Grandad's Funeral in January). As well as a social call it was a research session to plan a forthcoming residency at Lena Simic and Gary Anderson (TwoAddThree)'s Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, run out of their Everton address.
Earlier this year I applied with a proposal called 'Several Stories', a two day residency using The Institute as a base to explore the streets on which my Grandma and Grandad lived, an act of mourning for some much-loved relatives. I was accepted and am due to undertake the residency next Monday and Tuesday (15th / 16th), prior to Kings of England's BAC show on the 18th. Not strictly a Kings project, the residency will nonetheless explore notions of family, time, the performance of memory and forgetting.
It was good to see Doris. She is now in her eighties, a widow. She survives her son John who died in 1991 in a road accident.
One thing I will always remember about her is that at Grandad's funeral she was the life of the party, quick to joke and smile, obviously sad but brave with it too. I was considered too young to go to John's funeral but Mum said she was exactly the same at his, too.
Said that not a day goes by that she and her friend Shirley don't think of him, meaning my Grandad. We looked though three albums, she said she got rid of the rest, that nobody was interested. And she said that Paul, her grandson, has got mad at her when she told him she has ripped up the photos. I said, as kindly as I could, that I would have been mad at her too. She showed us the three remaining albums, pictures of my mother aged 6, 9, 13, 16, that I had never seen before. She looked like a fierce child, or perhaps just impatient. But the photographs confirmed what I have always thought, that two lives might not be enough for her. We looked at the picture of Doris in her wedding dress, all the family around, and she said: "Everyone in that picture is dead except for the children. And me".
Visiting Grandad was a part of their weekly routine. He used to say "You girls been to any wild parties lately?" He'd say it every week. And Doris said "I'd say: Ollie, if only. Our wild parties were years ago", and she gave a little shimmy in her chair, reminding us that she is still a dancer. Then she said: "That's one thing I'll say about 'round here. You don't hear any parties. If there was one I'd probably knock on the door. Ask to come in".

Doris, thank-you. You made my day. x x

Sunday, 7 September 2008

11. Dylan's Christening.

This post is dedicated to my friend Dan, his Son Dylan, and Shane, their father and grandfather respectively. This morning at 9.25 I went along to St. George's to see Dylan Christened. Whether we believe or do not believe we sat and stood and sat and stood, trying to sing unfamiliar hymns, perhaps weakly. But it was a privilege to be there. I looked at the three of them together, and their wives and mothers, and I wanted that dedication, and sense of purpose, even that faith. What we saw today was something very old being renewed. Maybe you can call it religion or instead you might call it a sense of decency and goodwill or lovingkindness.

Afterwards, a few reunions. Old friends, old girlfriends. People who otherwise I wouldn't have seen month to month or even year-to-year. Paul, an electrical engineer, has two sons now; Matt, a recruitment consultant, has moved and is engaged. None of us said that much to each other but what we said was sufficient, because it suggested promises. Soon... more weddings, nights out, drunkenness, couplings, boredoms, arguments, laughing, shouting, things to be remembered and smiled over. Wiltshire, Wilks, Pegram, Dubajic, Bowes.

Friday, 5 September 2008

10. Rehearsal & Singsong

Re-drafted the text for the show today, and worked on a few movements and delivery. Dad used to do public speaking a lot for his job (Redundancy consultant, late eighties until late nineties), and its difficult to move out of that formal register into something softer, more intimate, but were getting there. We tried working in some singing today and it went well, even better than I expected. Dad sings in two choirs and has always had a good voice. His voice tires easily these days, and sometimes he surprises me by sounding old. But I have to say some of the best performances I have seen have been his choirs, exclusively over-sixties, belting out old classics. When I go and hear them sing I hear something lively and vital, and usually I consider it more exciting than a lot of the experimental performance I am obliged to see.
Anyway, despite being un-confident with a new song, Dad was in fine voice today. Mum was hovering by the door listening in and I could see that she was happy to hear us jamming. What we're doing is hardly perfect but I'm enjoying us both trying for something in common.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

9. Post-Rehearsal Discussion and Family Meal

Having rehearsed with Dad then re-read the notes for the show we chatted it through over dinner. Mum made a good meal, some kind of unnamed white fish, and veg, and the three of us talked about what the performance should say. Mum was a bit tired after a long rainy walk with her Thursday Walk friends today, but she still gave us a stiff critique. After Dinner, Dad got down on the floor and started showing her some of his positionings and movements we'd been working on. When he was moving around, I thought to myself: that's exactly why I wanted to make this work. The show may or may not be good but at least we're animating the family.

Since dinner I have been doing the half-drudging, half-fun stuff that performance-makers have to do, messaging London friends on Facebook, arse-ing around in the name of work. But today was a good day.

More soon.

8. First Rehearsal for BAC / A Belated Happy Birthday to Dad.

Dad and I have just finished our first rehearsal for the BAC in the conservatory at home. I say 'rehearsal' but it was more an extended conversation and script read-through, with illustrative examples. Dad seems comfortable with the material and we are negotiated what we will do physically. Certainly, this little scratch piece is text-based but ideally it should begin to bring physical movement into our practice.
Dad illustrated how he gets up from a sitting position, and the effort that it takes will bring a certain quality to anything he does on-stage. We have been talking over costume and ideas about how we might stage our different physical presences. Dad said that he was fine with his body but concerned about mine. Charming. But his 74 years notwithstanding, he is probably in better shape than I am.
* * *
And anyway, here's to his continuing good health! This is a belated "Happy Birthday" to my Dad. Last week he did indeed turn 74. I was away rehearsing with Hauser, but I got to sing "Happy Birthday" to him over the phone. Last saturday we went to the Royal for a couple of pints at the Fortnightly General Meeting. They had on a great Marble beer (1332) a Dunham Massey, so we were both happy. In Manchester yesterday, and having been paid for my labours, I picked up my Dad a belated birthday present, a copy of a choral work by William Byrd. Dad seemed pleased with the gift but every time I buy him a record (I always by him a record) he listens to it once and then put is in the garage with all the others but I am un-dissuaded about the importance of buying him more (if not new) music. Anyway, Happy Birthday, Dad!

(Dad gesticulates with the hands as he takes issue with something).

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

7. Kings of England at the BAC, Thursday 18th Sept, 7.15PM

Good News!

Dad and I have been accepted for a ten-minute slot at the Battersea Arts Centre's Freshly Scratched 'Family' themed weekend and will be performing on Thursday the 18th September. The event starts at 7.15PM sharp. We have been working to revise the 'Recent Falls' lecture over the last week or so and are looking forward to performing for a first time - together at least - in the Big Smoke. If you are skint, don't be deterred! It is a "pay-what-you-can" event.

Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, rehearsals start tomorrow, at 2.15PM, in the conservatory. Usually this is where Dad reads the paper and does the crossword. We can only hope that our rehearsal process will be similarly edifying.

K of E. x x x

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

6. Brother Returned Back

This post is a bit late but just a note to say that my brother got back to Canada safe & sound after his three-week visit. Living in an oil-rich province, he told us all about the oil industry, and his trucking business, driving dangerous goods. On many subjects he is an easy conversationalist, and is well informed about world politics, economics and such. On the last night he was here we got thoroughly drunk on Glenfiddich and I think he beat me in a few arguments concerning What is Wrong With the World, but... it kept me humble. He left as he arrived, almost a stranger, but that last night was a good one. I want to send his a copy of the Recent Falls lecture (extracts here), but I keep putting it off.

Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 4 August 2008

5. Brother Returned

My Father, before he was my Father, had a son and a daughter. David was 18 when I was born, and Fiona was, I think, 16. When I was 10 or 12, David, who never lived with us, moved to Canada. Now he owns a transportation company, two trucks and several trailers, has built his own house, is a volunteer for the local fire department. And now he is returned, for twenty days. He arrived this morning at about 8, I went downstairs and met him, a stranger from half-way 'round the world.

Friday, 1 August 2008

4. Back home

Just back from the Cupola Bobber Summer School after a great week (see t-h-r-o-w-i-n-g for a full post, when I get the chance). Dad has taped BBC2's 'The Tudors' on VHS for some context, and I watched a bit of it last night. It's not that bad a show, but it has a lot of sex and shouting in it and it's still quite dull. In fact, neither of us like it that much, but we still watch it, as if life wasn't short at all but really really long.
Dad has been reading 'A Book of England' and 'Afoot in England' (I am building up a library of books with 'England' in the title), and maybe he will find some interesting stuff to make a show about. Other news is that the Battersea Arts Centre are holding a scratch night for live art / performance that concerns the family, deadline in mid-August, which we are going to apply for. No idea what the shape of the show will be but the slots are 10 minutes each.

More soon. SB.

Friday, 11 July 2008

3. Short Stories

This weekend, I am setting my Dad the following tasks: To read Tobias Wolff's short story 'Bullet in the Brain' and to watch the short film of the same title. I remember watching the short late at night after a film marathon with my old friends Emily Williams and Dan Reynolds years ago, and our response was a protracted moment of silence, which rang with a sort of "yes". Last night I remembered this silence, and thought it might be a good connection to make.
Wonderfully, the text is available here as a downloadable.pdf, and the short is up on YouTube here, and there is also an mp3 of another author, called T. Coraghessan Boyle, reading it aloud here. can research-along with my father this weekend while you wait for the rain to stop. I'll add to this post with some of Dad's responses soon.
Happy reading, happy viewing.
K of E might well be on hold for 2 or 3 weeks, since I am off rehearsing with Hauser in Lancaster and then doing a 5-day Summer School with Cupola Bobber in Ulverston. But keep an eye on t-h-r-o-w-i-n-g, if you miss me, might be some posts up there.

Friday, 4 July 2008

2. All Time Top 5 from the olden days

I asked Dad to list his top 5 all-time favourite songs and, on the back of an envelope, he listed eight:

(Hey! You can right- click on the image, or whatever, to get it big and legible.)

The bottom one on the list you might note "Alexander's Ragtime Band", composed by Irving Berlin. If you go to the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project and search for the track you can find a version recorded in 1911, performed by Billy Murray.

Doing a quick search I found that 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' is hardly ragtime at all, but lyrically, there's a lot of references to emerging African American Music.

I just listened to the track and there's a kind of percussive thump to the way he sings, belting it out. In the olden days before microphones you used to have to sing into a metal horn to record. Interestingly, Murray's career started to wane when microphones came in. On The Billy Murray Article at Wikipedia (yeah) it says, his '"hammering" style, as he called it, essentially yelling the song into the recording horn, did not work in the electronic era, and it took him some time to learn how to soften his voice'.

But the ragtime connection is a good one. The term is a corruption of 'Ragged time', referring to syncopation, the musical practice of playing off-beat. Ragtime might be one one of the last musical styles to emerge before the advent, or at least widespread use, of recording technology, although it was typical for ragtime compositions to be printed. But all this points towards something old-world.

I found some interesting modern guitar rags on the 'Crumb' soundtrack by Craig Ventresco, (he plays in quite a forthright style, really twanging the strings) but if you're don't know anything about ragtime but want to, then Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, are early(-ish) standard examples.

1. Note on the name & a thematic concern

I have been talking with my Dad about starting a company in which both he and I are principle devisers and performers. As of yesterday, we are agreed. And as of today, we have named ourselves...

"Kings of England".

We are currently writing up a pitch for some cash but in the meantime, we are modestly underway. A conversation we had a couple of weeks ago as I was researching 'Recent Falls', prompted him to quote me the following, from Alan Bennett's 'Writing Home':

...the dull distorting effects of time, in phrases which sound right but aren’t…He said: Oh, I don’t know, I don’t remember, then he says: one always forgets the most important things, it’s the things one can’t remember that stay with you (Bennett, 1998, p258)

Which, essentially, is what our first work will be about - the fictions that will have to stand in for fact, in the event of forgetting.