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.