The question I am asking myself with the monologue is: how much can one character do on stage? Inspired by John Kilduff of Let’s Paint TV! Like the other North Sea short plays, this is damn near incomprehensible and yet makes me really happy.
Blaide Lallemand and Hilary Cuerdon-Clifford’s Journey to Morning has been included in the ANAT Portable Worlds exhibition. Which means naked-sleep-finig on everyone’s phones, non-stop forever!
I forgot about this, and now I remember. This was a strange night’s sleep, no question. I signed up for this because I was kind of curious about my sleep travels. It turns out that when I’m asleep I look like a half-boiled frog about to leap off a branch.
Sometimes I think to myself that no-one’s actually reading any of this that I’m posting, and I’m mumbling quietly into a huge vacuum that is the internet, a tiny cul-de-sac which no-one has ever trodden down except by accident. I’m confirmed in that opinion by my site traffic statistics, which say pretty comprehensively that I’m the only person who’s ever visited this URL, deliberately or otherwise.
But yet! Instead of getting down, I merely read the thoughtful comments that are posted – sometimes as many as 15 a day – on this blog. A readership! A real readership, that thinks and breathes and has opinions and real insights. Usually I keep these comments to myself, to warm me during the many lonely hours, but on this occasion I’d like to share some of the charming sentiments that people have expressed to me in the last twenty four hours.
From Jolly Complex: Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain
From Chul Rogers: How are things, blind_dragonfly? always cum on time when you take penis pills. Chul Rogers.
From Mirena Weight Gain: Nexium and weight gain. Wheat sensitivity and weight gain. How to gain weight. Patricia arquette weight gain. Seroquel weight gain. Weight gain. Gain weight...
Much respect to you guys, and to all my many other readers – thanks for the feedback and I’ll be sure to visit your sites soon! Peace out!!!!
a recent photo of Mirena Weight Gain wearing a nappy and a pincer instead of an arm
Once a year, starting in 2005, Canberra music-promoter and theatre organiser Ben Drysdale has provided me with a small but potent gift in the form of Seasons of Keene, a series of double-bills of short monologues and duologues by Australian playwright Daniel Keene. Produced by Cardboard Charlie and directed by Ben, they have each been a tightly coiled package of incredibly effective emotional cheesegraters. 2005’s The Given and 2006’s I Alone both left me feeling raw and wretched, and then this week came the third installment: Season of Keene – Below the Line. One untitled monologue performed by Matt Borneman and a glass of twilight, a duologue featuring Borneman and Pat Gordon.
First of all, I’ve worked with Matt and Pat before in various incarnations. Pat and I were members of Buzzing Productions in 05 and 06, and Matt was the director of the ANU Theatre Society which part-funded and produced One Night Only: Dallas Rockwell’s Confessional Tour in 2005, in which they both also performed. I am well aware of how virtuoso they can both be.
Matt Borneman and Pat Gordon in Stuart Roberts’ Loose… Ships (2005). This was not that.
I am not a very good actor, but I’ve been around the theatre for long enough to know whether someone is crap, getting by or actually good. Both Matt and Pat have turned in performances in the past which have made my brain swell and jaw drop. Borneman as the Elephant Man (Moonlight, 2006), Gordon in Trauma Report by Christos Tsiolkas (Street Theatre, 2007), Borneman as Uncle Monty in Withnail and I (Moonlight, 2007), Gordon in Brendan Cowell’s Happy New (directed by Borneman, 2006), Borneman in Keene’s To Whom It May Concern in the first Seasons of Keene (Cardboard Charlie, 2005), Gordon doing a solo physical impro (with sword) for the Buzzing showcase (Buzzing Productions, 2005)… Both of them have the kind of irrational dedication to their craft and an onstage intensity which I admire but have no wish to match.
Drysdale’s Seasons of Keene series seeks the maximum impact with minimum theatricality. The sets are nearly bare (tonight was one bed and one chair scattered across the wide black curtain of the Street Theatre studio) the lighting is utterly simple and though there was a pianist playing a few soft notes in the blackouts between scenes, Drysdale removed any device which would remove the audience from the simple fact: you are watching several human beings barely a metre or two away from you. They are suffering. You can’t do anything for them but watch.
Pat Gordon and Matt Borneman in Seasons of Keene – Below the Line. Image by Cardboard Charlie.
A glass of twilight was the story of a salesman (Borneman) who picks up a streetkid (Gordon) in a bar and pays him for sex. Very simple story, very simple scenes. Not much is said, and Drysdale (as with his other Seasons) keeps the blocking to a careful, precise minimum. Pat’s streetkid was all jagged and scratched, like a bent jigsaw piece that will not fit in the picture, or a fragment from a broken mirror set loose with its fingers and mouth still bleeding. I’ve seen Pat portray angry characters before, but this was different – this was rage mixed in with pain and sorrow and held in check, held in his voice, his face and his hands. Borneman’s salesman, by contrast, was like an old dog which had just received a lethal injection, or a man broken by torture. His vacantly pleasant smile and unruffled demeanour made him seem first callous, then kindly, then as the play unfolded the corners of his skin and exposed the wounds inside, as the numb, frozen response of a truly empty man.
Both performances were contained almost entirely inside the actors’ faces and hands. Keene’s stories are so horribly believable and his lines so brilliantly pared back that every line has an awful weight. The fact that Rod Quantock’s hilarious (nasal) comedy revue was audible from the main stage theatre across the corridor lent a weird authenticity to it – the world of happy, adjusted people was out there, near but not near enough to grasp. In here we were down in the hole, in the freezing black water with two starving, empty men.
When they were sitting on the bed afterwards and the streetkid was saying; ‘You go blank – like those holy men on mountain-tops, you empty your mind,’ I was watching Pat’s huge black eyes glitter in the light and thinking about Yeats’ Long-legged Fly:
That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand upon his head. Like a long-legged fly upon the stream His mind moves upon silence.
all I have to add this evening is that I just uncovered a couple of old notebooks from 2002 and 03, and I was pleasantly surprised with how unintelligible they are. most of the content is scribbled swearwords and song lyrics from Massive Attack and Doves, and frequently inserted insults from Nickamc and Muttley. There’s a lovely quote from Jack (‘If I could give up twice I would’) some half-legible budgets indicating how much money we lost producing Woman in Black and w3 w3lcome the future, and in amongst the wreckage, the remains of a few stillborn scripts.
The following is one of the more coherent fragments; apparently at some point I thought it would be a good idea to write a play about a robot being trained in a rigorous series of simulated scenarios to create innovative and catchy advertising slogans. I title this: robot salesman training!
image by frosty
A sales robot is going through training. Its mentor is an old, grizzled ad campaigner. The robot is thrown into new scenarios and must adapt to make sales within the space of 1 minute.
Robot is thrown into the the 1950s, must sell vacuum cleaners to a 1950s family. Starts with very bad tactics. Fails. The scenario restarts (groundhog minute – it keeps resetting, or it cycles through different scenarios and comes back to this one later) and the robot tries a different sales tactic. Eventually it is successful when it takes on the persona of a 1950s vacuum cleaner salesman.
New scenario – selling a bronze pot to stone age farmers. It tries to sell the pot by advertising as a 1950s vacuum cleaner salesman. Fails.
– selling vacuum cleaners to 1950s family
– selling a bronze pot to stone age farmers
– selling a portion of the earth’s surface to japanese businessmen
– selling a government initiative to change the course of a river (first uses advertising pitch, then religious sermon)
In between scenarios, the grizzled trainer adjusts variables in the robot, fine-tunes its ability to learn. (maybe we discover the robot is actually being groomed to be St Paul – finally there is a switch and Saul of Tarsus is kidnapped on the road to Damascus and replaced by ROBOT PAUL)
For the record, this is a fucking terrible idea. It is not, however, as bad as the Sumerian Detective Mystery, the Underwater Giant-Robot J-Pop Musical, the play set in a whirlpool or the poetry. oh jesus the poetry. 2002-03 was a particularly sketchy year, it would seem. A warm-up to my “Sketchy” period, which ran from 2004-07 and shows no especial sign of abating.
Some picks from the Electrofringe film screenings at This Is Not Art. From the curated collection of 60 second films, Simon Aeppli’s Exosphere was wicked – grand times with a camera attached to a helium balloon – and Lewis Paul and Sarah Taylor’s No Ball Games was sweet underground carpark loveliness. Pika-Pika by the Lightning Doodle Project is amazing just because of how labour intensive those 208 seconds must have been to produce.
The video to Cornelius’ Fit Song won the excellence prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival this year, and reminded Ali and I how stupidly good the man was live. Satoshi Tomioka made a stupidly good promo video advertising something (anything – it doesn’t even matter what, it shall be bought) entitled Exit: Hotel Invaders, and the most joyous depiction of institutionalised prison violence I could ever have bothered to imagine. But by far the most euphoric moment was the finale to Hikaru Yamakawa’s La Magistral, the conclusion to the epic journey of the seven unicyclists through a wonderland of synchronised gymnasts. There was much cheering.
Some of the most intense and beautiful images came from the screening of what I guess I’d call glitch videos – animations drawn from corrupted signals and processed informational collapse. Some of the best were pieces by Botborg, Billy Roisz and Peter Newman.
Firstly, four links to articles and stories online which have crumpled my face with satisfacitity since the last time I wrote any thing. One from edge.org entitled ‘A short course in thinking about thinking’, being a selection of sample lectures given by psychologist Danny Kahneman (Nobel Prize for Economics, 2002) from his short course of the same name. Extremely coherent, nicely applicable to my own stunted half-brain. The other three to posts on the POE-News forums, representing some of the most insightful and skilled examples of the written word since I first downloaded the lyrics to Coolio’s “I’ll C U When You Get There“. We have
Sierra’s King’s Quest 3 – horrible but not dangerous
On a different train of thought, here below is a short piece written in response to Pimmon‘s new recording Your Drone’s Got A Little Machine. This is entitled Incombustible Angel:
When the angels come down they come as faces in the ice
huge cracks appearing on the slopes of icebergs, splitting open
ice crunching and bursting as two huge black eyes open
a split along the waterline tearing into a gaping black mouth
sound of waves rushing in to fill the hole
bursting and crashing against the forming faces.
We crowd up against the window of the train carriage
mountainous icebergs rising out of the sea on all sides
slowly forming into massive faces
feel the surge in the ocean below
the carriage shaking as waves slop over the trainlines
and we look down fearful at the water
white foaming on black.
Under the waves we know the icebergs coil deep down into the dark
hanging like frozen teeth in the ocean’s mouth
and while their upper slopes are bent and deformed into the shape of angel faces
deep underwater they are splitting and warping
fracturing and pulling apart in sudden bursts that pulse through the water and raise huge swells over the tiny rocky islands, over the thin sheets of ice and against the sides of the train as it struggles desperately forward, rocking and heaving and skidding on frozen decaying tracks.
The angels uncoil new limbs
arms and legs torn from the sides of icebergs
ice fists like frozen trees clench and unclench
mountain bodies swivel underwater
turning to face us
under broken brows still cascading fragments of ice, the angels’ eyes fall on us.
the water roars in my head
train swaying on the tracks
carriage window throbbing against my face
So This Is Not Art last weekend. Four days in Newcastle attending (and performing at) the Electrofringe, Sound Summit and National Young Writers’ Festivals. Utterly unbelievable, totally exhausting. Three days of panels, forums, workshops, lectures, screenings, performances and gigs from a massive range of international artists. It would be stupid of me to try and pick highlights, because there was a highlight every three or four hours from Thursday night to Monday morning. Best to focus on just two things and come back to the rest later.
Performed at the New New, a performance of experimental poetry as part of the NYWF. Did all the pieces that weren’t up to standard and god is a renegade, and the audience was totally lovely and seemed to enjoy them. Presented alongside Simon Cox and the DKDC Collective. DKDC = a group of Sydney performers (including Nick Keyes, who once played Mr White against my Mr Pink in a Reservoir Dogs extract for Drama in Year 12) jamming and group improvising on a piece of found text (in this case a scrap of mid-20th century Christian commentary on divorce) backed with sounds by Cleptoclectics. The performance itself had highs and lows, but the process was really exciting to watch – like a verbal equivalent of the physical improvisations I did with Buzzing Productions or the Viewpoints techniques I saw Tess Jamias use with Tanghalang Pilipino.
The only other thing I’ll mention is the TINA official gig on Saturday night, because I’m still semi-stunned by it. Easily one of the most amazing gigs I’ve ever seen, with a line-up of incredible sound artists from around the world. Ralph Steinbruchel (Switzerland) packed in a dense sound-fog which delivered awesome Antarctic visions straight into the back of my brain. Jason Kahn (USA) played a stunning piece with one hand playing a customised drum and the other processing the sound through a mystery piece of hardware. Sebastian Roux (France) played a lovely minimal piece which seemed (from my vantage point) to ebb and flow with the conversation in the bar, studded with bursts of frenetic laser sounds. Leafcutter John (UK) performed a set of ballads with acoustic guitar and eery singing, beautifully layered and transformed through a laptop. (Also one of the most bizarre moments in a gig I have ever seen. When a heckler demanded something to dance to, Leafcutter invited him up on stage and proceeded to waltz with him in complete serious silence, before sitting him at the drum kit and using him as backing on the next song. Brilliant or deranged, I haven’t decided yet.) Pimmon (Australia) produced a gorgeous grinding soundscape with the faintest traces of vocals emerging from under the mulch. Then suddenly he broke out a crunching rock riff, and there was dancing and excitement before it decayed into a thick rich sound-mulch. I curled up against the speakers and dreamed of Aenas and the Sybil crossing the river of death to the land of the dead in chapter 4 of Virgil’s Aenid. Finally, Tim Hecker (Canada) laid out a rapturously beautiful hour of warm, thick sounds and drowned us in a rushing audio-haze.
Most recently: Reuben, Chris, Nickamc, Muttley and myself (aka Sevenen, Alethiometer, the Outloudthinker, Funky Squad and Blind) played the last ever fight fire with knives gig at the Phoenix Bootlegs tonight. We mixed in a couple of verses of Ice Cube’s Today was a good day and Lee Marvin’s opening speech from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dead Flag Blues and closed with Polyrhythms and it was forever fun.