Monday, 21 January 2019

TIMESPANNER INITIAL MATERIAL


... in other words: whatever the opposite of bonus material is... in other words: the shows! This is a post to provide links to both episodes of Time Spanner now that they're off the Radio 4 site, with sneaky thanks to whoever put them up - long may they hang around - and extrovert, obvious and unending thanks to producer Gareth Edwards, narrator John Finnemore, baddie David Mitchell, goodie London Hughes, angels Belinda Stewart-Wilson and Sally Phillips, and cast of thousands Jeremy Limb. Share and, as ever, enjoy.

Part 1 - "Welcome to Heaven, Mr. Sorry" (broadcast January 7th, 2017) - can be heard HERE.
Part 2 - "The Dan in the High Castle" (broadcast December 21st, 2018) - is HERE.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

TIMESPANNER BONUS MATERIAL: How not to recap.




Happy Boxing Day! I hope everyone's been letting nothing them dismay, and heart-shaped thanks to all who've said nice things thus far about the new Spanner. "VonBlade" expresses hope that in "the next one" (if that ever happens) I might "spend less-time setting the scene for those who foolishly missed ep1." and while you may have a point, VB, I thought I'd put up the following exchange from the very first draft written back in March to show just how much worse things could have been:

GABBIE                           Cool. But get some shoes. And not dinner lady shoes like you had.

MARTIN                          Brilliant! Yes! See you at six.

GABBIE                            (Cautiously) Cool. (Departing) Happy Birthday! Aww, thanks for stopping…

MARTIN                          This is a good idea.

ANGEL                            The shoes?

MARTIN                          Well I need shoes ideally, but – I mean if it starts raining, say – No, buck up, Martin! I need shoes.

ANGEL                            What happened to your shoes?

MARTIN                           Okay, retrace my steps: I definitely had them on when I brought my boss his tea, then he forced me through a magic mirror at gunpoint to find out how to bring back the dead and I was in Heaven – although I don’t really believe in Heaven – and I met you and we stole the Time Spanner because you said I needed to bring stuff back from the Future because my world was dying and you gave me a robot helper which I didn’t really want, sorry, but apparently Heaven’s full of robots, oh and there was something about how you once gave the Spanner to Hitler –

ANGEL                             Yes! Specifically that it wasn’t Hitler!

MARTIN                           Or if it was, that it was an accident –

ANGEL                              No! It was that it wasn’t Hitler.

MARTIN                           Sure, but that came a bit out of nowhere. Anyway! Then you stuck the spanner up my nose, into my brain, which is how you’re talking to me now, sent me back to Earth –

ANGEL                             The physical plane.

MARTIN                          “Plane” yes, the plane, but then I used the Spanner to go round the Universe back in time, just to check… not change anything, just check Gabbie hadn’t heard me say… nice things about her, which she didn’t, so that all seems fine, and everything seems great!

ANGEL                             And the shoes?

                                         Pause.

MARTIN                         Oh, I took them off to go through the mirror! That's it.

I still like the joke. Ultimately though it was decided that this first draft was a bit... well Gareth used the word "glib", but I prefer "easy to write". And while I'm posting bonus material, here from that same draft is the fullest description of the Cat-In-The-Bag. I knew it would almost definitely have to be cut down, but sometimes writing's just fun:

LAIKA                              The Cat in the Bag: Found furniture, peeling leather seating banks, fish-finger sandwiches, Connect 4, Buckaroo, a single chandelier rescued from a Streatham bordello, “Crash Test Dummies” on the jukebox by the Speak-Your-Weight machine, actual crash test dummies propping up the specials, a bowl of pens in the toilet, and on the wall behind the stuffed lynx, a seven foot high monochrome mural of Ariana Grande in a hazmat suit.






(Actually, while it's an obvious stand-in for the Dogstar on Coldharbour Lane, the real inspiration for the Cat was the short-lived "The Rest Is Noise" which is now a TK Maxx, and more recently the Hob in Forest Hill which recently opened as the crushingly inorganic Signal a couple of years ago without a thought for... Christ, listen to me.)

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Wanna feel old? Today was two years ago!


That's just Vauxhall.

I won't keep you long, this is just to confirm that "The Dan In the High Castle" - THE SECOND TIME SPANNER - is finally available to listen to here! And the first one's still listenable to here! (Thanks Kate, whoever you are.) Why not fill your ears with both and feel lush?
A bigger write-up about the new one to follow, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy it, I hope it's the one you wanted, you know, I hope 2018 hasn't completely killed you, and I hope that everyone reading this has a merry, merry VERY CHRISTMAS!



Thanks this Kate too!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Post something, you idiot, it's nearly May!


Well this picture's nice, and will brighten up the place. It's by Rhianna Evans - Thanks, Rihanna! - and bears an astonishing resemblance to the thing in my head. I love the oven gloves on Mr. Mergatroid (who I guess is the matriarch?... which makes sense as both Kraken and the Voice are patriarchs. And Mergatroid does move from one to the other. So then, I don't know, Gabbie's the craftsman, Martin's the clown? Does any of this work?) Sorry you've been out of the loop, blog, but there is to be a SECOND WHOLE EPISODE of "Time Spanner" to be recorded and broadcast later this year. Hazard a whoop! Not a whole series, mind, just another standalone, so if this story - very clearly begun on November the 3rd 2016 - is ever to be finished it will have a pretty interesting shape (and will at least "span time"). John Finnemore hosted a read-through of a draft I wrote last week, and it turns out we won't be using that... Well, it could be better. And needs to be the best. Let's put it like that. Anyway, watch this - if you'll pardon the pun - space. Oh also, a Time Spanner fan blog has been set up which is absolutely full of tangential goodies and is providing, for this writer at least, an incredibly useful resource/spur.

Also, the show was repeated on the actual radio waves! But I'm too late to post a link to that. Sorry. Speaking of continued evidence of my existence however: Series 4 of That Mitchell and Webb Sound was also repeated, for which I wrote some sketches that I'm very fond of, none of which appear in episode 6 however, which is the only episode still up on iplayer. Also, Series 3 of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme is still mostly up, and still incredible - I can see that now unambiguously, this far on. Lucky for me.

Finally, one more regurgitation: "Nightmare in Deskteeth", the surreal short about red boots that appears in my showreel and whose filming I mentioned here, is now entirely visible on vimeo. Or below.



Anything else? Oh flip! Yes! WE'RE STILL GOING ON TOUR! As you were.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

"What silly voices we might have!"


Arms, Simon?

All 4 episodes of "Angstrom" are now listenable-to in some form or other on the web - the first episode as a Comedy Of The Week podcast here, the other three still available on iplayer here. Playing the narrator finally allowed me to put all those Anglo-Saxon classes to use (TANGENT: that's where I first learnt that English poetry originally followed lines of four stresses rather than the five beats of classical verse, which are an affectation towards Italian. This is why Peter Hall was talking bols when he said iambic pentameter just followed our natural speech patterns: ask most people to quote Shakespeare and they'll say "To BE or NOT to be, THAT is the QUES-tion", not "To BE or NOT to BE, that IS the QUES-tion". They'll say "A HORSE, a HORSE, my KING-dom for a HORSE", not "A HORSE, a HORSE, my KING-dom FOR a HORSE". They'll say "SHALL I com-PARE thee to a SUM-mer's DAY?" not "Shall I com-PARE thee TO a SUM-mer's DAY?" I mean, I COULD GO ON, PETER.) Anyway, I don't know how much of this Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley were down with, but they're both excellent musicians (and always banging on about how comedy is music*) and I adore how the finished show sounds - on top of just how much it makes me laugh - and am very proud to have been part of that rhythm section. As for my accent, I don't know... Leslie Caron? And Bols Aashol's voice has, I now realise, more than a bit of Jim Carter in "Detectives on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" about him, which I've no regrets about at all. Joel and Jason don't seem to have any regrets either, and working for them always provides a great opportunity to receive their unconditional love. Thanks to them and producer Lyndsay Fenner for such a leap of faith. Angstrom was, and is, happy.



Oh, NOW you fold them!

... As of course is John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, whose Series 7 finale aired last week. Fans of the show will probably already know that producer Ed Morrish posts his own accounts of each episode on tumblr. I would only add here that John and I went through a number of voices for the Better Memory Entrepreneurs before settling on what you hear; that they sound so much like our goldfish voices is a genuine coincidence which I only wish we'd realised at the time and committed to even more. And how do you top last year's Musical? Well - as Juliet Brando put it on twitter - with a "Finnception" by which I mean, if you haven't already listened to the episode, there's absolutely nothing unusual or spoilerable about Episode 6 at all, it's all just normal great Finnemore goodness.


Pictured: Liam Gallagher's coffee maker, which we found taking up half the studio on day 1.

Even a lip-gnawing, own-tail-chasing louche twat like me can appreciate being in two such special things in a month. As much as performers bring lines to life, lines bring performers to life; John is Geppetto, Jason and Joel are Sid from Toy Story; both are examples of master toy makers, and being brought to life by both was magic fun.

Oh and did you know WE'RE GOING ON TOUR?!


Not with these guys though. Well not yet, at least. Here's that cracking Angstrom theme.

*Let's elaborate: Of course they're right, but "is" is a big old two-letter word. I'd say comedy requires what music requires, but more than it and less of it (although you can't have too much) and the "it" is the wheels of comedy, not the motor, which is an idea (however if I knew more about music, maybe I'd realise ideas are the motors of music too.)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Votes For Women: The Case Against



I ruddy love playing politicians, me. I also love playing police as part of the old immersive (see profile pic above right {or this}) and over the weekend I was lucky enough to do both as part of Story Spinner's interventions and rally celebrating the centenary of Women's Suffrage at the Museum of London. The whole event was incredibly well attended, and I got to see what the City gets up to before noon, which is pretty much exactly what I expected:


We had to write our own speeches for the rally, which was great because I really hadn't done any paid writing at all last year. The first character given to me was "an anti-women’s suffrage politician, of the Liberal persuasion. They were not anti the idea women’s suffrage per se, but worried that women would vote Tory and boot them out..." which of course they then did. This made for a great jumping off point in the current climate of Brexit and Trump, and I loved performing the speech in front of families all waiting for something to boo. Here's a little clip of it posted on twitter, and here's the whole thing:
Thank you for inviting me to speak. I will open my address, if I may, by saying something that may shock you:

I want a fairer society for all. 

Why then do I wish to deny women The Vote, lovely as that might sound? Well, by way of an answer I would like, if you will indulge me, to tell you a fairy tale... Imagine a utopia, a world in which every citizen were indeed allowed to vote. One day a proposition is put to these lucky inhabitants and it is this: If passed by a majority - if more than half the inhabitants vote in favour - these voters will be allowed to banish everyone who voted against the proposition, and take all of their belongings. Now even if voted for, would that be fair? Of course not. So why would anyone vote for such a proposition?

Would it not only be because these voters have as yet no understanding of the responsibility of their vote? No experience of the wider workings of civilization, of the Greater World, of... Society? No ambition beyond their own immediate domestic sphere, their own home?

And am I not now describing a woman?

I say to you that women should not be allowed the vote until it is clear that they know what to do with it. Now you may find me terribly patronizing for arguing as I do… a silly fool, an overbearing jackass. But I would ask you… indeed I would beg you ladies… beg you to consider how far, far more overbearing a tyrant you could face if the job of electing him was suddenly given to those who, by your own argument, have never known freedom. Once you are free, then you can vote. That must be the rule. We have all had too strong a taste of the terror and chaos wrought by any other argument. Though your intentions are good, the road to Hell is - as we know - paved with good intentions, and there is driving these protests something sinister that you might not yet see. But I can. As a Liberal I refuse to believe that any civilization can be made healthier letting its course be decided by those who plant bombs, attack the police, and throw themselves under horses. And I see no reason to think that future generations of women, with clearer heads, might disagree.

Thank you for listening.
Basically last weekend

The second brief was, well... "Second character is a little more tricky. He is an early ‘90s ‘New Man’ type, bit tree hugger-ish, bit trustafarian, who works for Amnesty, but we don't want to take the piss out of him (!). His angle is that although women in our country by then are relatively free and equal, around the world, many are still enslaved, (bearing in mind that the audience are 10 +  and most likely there will be younger ones)." So... something simple and vague but heartfelt and from the nineties. I decided to make him a performance poet, and wrote this to cleanse the pallet:

The first International Women’s Day
Was observed in Russia in 1913,
By textile workers. And who could have foreseen
The revolution set rolling: The Vote, Equal Pay,
And what were their weapons?  Ideas.
Not violence.
And how far we’ve come thanks to those who fought
And marched and shouted and gave no thought
To the men – mainly men - who wanted them silenced.
So I’m here to say thank you but also:
Let’s listen…

For the world’s getting smaller now, but louder
And as we head towards the new millennium
Let’s celebrate all that these women have done
And say: yes, we couldn’t be prouder
But also –
No, and also
Let’s listen…

Because there are still women now, women today
Women alive now in lands far away
Not given their say
Over how they should marry
Not given their say in the children they carry,
Or where they can move, Or what they can learn,
What jobs they can hold, what money they’ll earn.
Around the world women are still crying out
So let’s listen to their stories, join in their shout.
Listen to the world, add our voices to theirs
To the women of the world, not just thoughts and prayers
But – Yes, thoughts and prayers - 
But also arms! Mouths! Ears!
Demonstrate! Remonstrate! Until the whole world hears:
It’s International Women’s Day
Every Day!
Every Day!
International Women’s Day
Until every woman is given a say!
There are still ideas out there that still need defeating
So the message of this movement still bears repeating:
It’s International Women’s Day
Every Day!
Every Day!
International Women’s Day
Until every woman is given a say!
Until all of the planet’s saying “Nowhere to hide!
All those who oppress, it’s the end of the ride!”

And a better world’s waiting if we listen to this one
Already made better by what women have done.
 

Angels

 Thanks to Beccy and Georgia for inviting me aboard, and to Jo "Annie" Bowis (left) and Grace Brightwell for letting me tear down their posters and chase them round the Millennium Cauldron. Here's Al Jazeera:


 
P.S. I'd forgotten that I found this while staying at my parents' over Christmas: "Pank-A-Squith", the contemporaneous Suffragette Board Game!


Thursday, 25 January 2018

The nice reason there's a "Suicide Hotline Phil" on my phone


 Realising I was never going to make it in time to the Wandsworth screening of "Paddington 2" I got off the train at Vauxhall instead and went for a riverside walk past the chrome crates towards Putney. That weekend was a wet state. The inside of the pockets of my parka had become soapy from the rain and maybe the antibacterial hand gel I keep there to stop everything, and I finally found myself standing opposite the flats where we'd filmed "Suicide Hotline" back in 2016, before heading back home. In the evening I coincidentally learnt that the film's director Philip Clyde-Smith had just put the whole thing up online (you have to wait for a film to do the festival circuit first, although of course I was allowed to use some clips for the show-reel) and as the weather's a little cheerier today I thought I'd finally share "Suicide Hotline" with this blog. It was a great gig. I learnt a lot and got to keep the shirt. Filmed in a single take, I suspect both the light and my blocking improved as my performances grew more self-conscious, but we used a later take and that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Mike Fairclough, on the other end of the phone, killed every time. Trigger alerts: nothing graphic, just gloom. Enjoy. And thanks again, Phil.