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