Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sung Blog Sunday! "cabbagewhite"

 Another track fresh today! Maybe a bit DJ Shadow-y? DJ Shoddy? Attempt enjoyment regardless, listeners, in this as in all things! (Cover art by Anne ten Dokelaar.)

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Robb Wilton Touches his Face Twenty- Eight Times.


 By my count, at least (I'm not including the ears). Even outside of a world-wide pandemic Wilton's self-jeopardising stagecraft still seems gutsy ninety years on. I really enjoy the guy at the end too. I think he might also be the guy at the beginning being American - talkies were new I guess, Brits weren't that familiar with the accent yet. Actually I had my own lesson in doing an American accent yesterday, thanks to the internet and my friend Andrea...

 My main takeaway, and don't blame Andrea for this, this is my shorthand, is that to sound American, you should stick as a many hard "G"s as you can into every single word - so instead of saying "Madison Avenue", for example, you say "Gmagdigsgon Gavgengoo" - try it - and now, and this is the clever bit, take them all out again... See?... It's funny, I don't associate character comedy with the nineteen-thirties, hang on I'll do some research - Holy Moly, the compere is Peepshow creator Sam Bain's grandfather! Aw. Well, there's more here if you want to see, say, this:

Friday, 27 March 2020

My Space Revisited

I think this was called the "Arena Space". Everything was much lower-res back in 2007.

 The zip's stuck on my jacket, so if I'm leaving the flat, which I very seldom do, I have to climb into it like a hazmat suit, which seems apt. Today was World Theatre Day, and because there's no theatre, and because this is what I was listening to when I went to the shops for salt, and because the Shunt Lounge was such a big, useful focus for this blog when it started over on myspace in 2007, I'm posting a conversation Gemma Brockis had with Chris Goode about the Lounge in 2018 long after it had closed, (and just as we were working on restaging 2003's Invitation to a Beheading). Chris' retrospective take on the place provides a nice sequel to this post. I know he wasn't fond of the word "spaces", and he still might not be, preferring "places", and this rebellion against Peter Brook's idea of theatre as an "empty space" played a large part in the conversations we all used to have. I'm reminded of them these days when I talk to Helen Czerski about science presentation. She's a practical physicist - more specifcally a bubble physicist - and hates the aesthetic of the lab, as well as the word "discovery". Similarly, M. John Harrison posted recently in the comments on his blog that he hates "ideas". I love sticklers. And I hope Chris gets entirely better immediately.

"Bt there's now so many ways in which that space is overlaid. Even when we were there in 2010, six years after Tropicana, the technicians would be referring to the 'Autopsy Space'... even though they were at school when we were doing that show, which had the autopsy in that space, and there's absolutely nothing in that space to suggest it was the 'Autopsy Space'... One space was called the 'Act Two Space', even though Act One, and Three, Four and Five fell away before we even opened the show... The cumulative effect of all of these references, all of which were theatrical, basically, and ephemeral..."
It was even more low-res in 2005.

 Make space. Make room. I've just realised the words"space" and "room" are entirely synonymous. If we can have rooms then, I guess we can have spaces. But yes, neither's ever entirely empty.

Thursday, 26 March 2020


  Time Spanner: "The Dan In The High Castle" is still available to listen to entirely legitimately for a month HERE (and less legitimately, archived alonsgide the pilot here.)

 I love this by robotqueenvictoria.

 There's not much sense performing a post mortem on a thing you've written, especially if you're as sloppy as writer as me - don't get me wrong, I like my stuff, but I seem to put the hours in only on the bits of writing that I find fun - the big splurges and then the problem-solving - rather than sorting out a structure beforehand and playing within that. It's quite an actor-y, hand-to-mouth, gig-economy approach: the unstructuredness feels freeing at the time, but in the long run probably provides less freedom than working with the resources available to someone with an actual plan (which is why I found it so rewarding to write for Shunt, whose shows already had a structure in place by the time I'd join the devising). Specifically, the fantastic exhileration felt when a last minute tweak helps me suddenly understand what I've written, is offset by the powerlessness felt re-encountering all the bits that go nowhere, written before that understanding dawned. But this isn't a post-mortem.

Rainbow over Vauxhall, February, 2020

 Today was a day for applause and thanks, so let me here assert that writing The Dan In the High Castle was a far from lonely experience. Seven months before the recording in November 2018, a first draft was read out at John Finnemore's flat. This had Martin and Gabbie travel two years into the future to discover a dystopia they thought was the work of Kraken, just as in episode that aired, but it ended with them escaping into a mysteriously optimistic 2019, and also their relationship didn't develop beyond Martin finally getting to do something fun with his excellent new friend. This might have made good on the promises offered by the pilot, but what it didn't do, as my sister Susy pointed out, was provide any possible closure if this was to be not just a sequel, but the finale. It was London Hughes who suggested Gabbie should punch Martin in the face. So I put that in and went off to redraft. I'd had a new idea about octopuses, which didn't make it in, and anway months passed and, as with the pilot, it was producer Gareth Edwards who paid for coffee after coffee while trying to convince me that as much fun as I was having penning screwball wise-cracks, the threats should be real, and "Martin should care". It was then ancient friend and collaborator Tom Lyall who pointed out over another coffee that Gabbie should be also be returned to 2016, as missing two years of one's life is obviously huge, and when I suggested Martin should nevertheless still stay in 2018, it was again Tom who said crucially, "Yes, and Gabbie should rescue him."
 "Gabbie should rescue him?"
 Over pints, David Mitchell just said he loved it which was highly encouraging, but otherwise useless, but really encouraging, but otherwise no use, but great. 

Maida Vale studios, November, 2018.

 These improvements made, I sent the possibly final draft to John Finnemore because he's always lovely with notes, and he replied as nicely as any intelligence could that actually he prefered the read-through. This is how his reply ended:
 "I loved the last draft, and the biggest problem with that one - Gabbie's passivity - is now fixed. So it's in great shape. I just miss Martin as my life-line of fundamentally understanding what the story is about, because it's someone who wants something simple and human. More even than Arthur Dent wanting a cup of tea. More like The Dude wanting his rug back. Maybe it's his shoes. It's almost his shoes now, but not quite, because he doesn't really try. And anyway, it's not his shoes, it's Gabbie. It's got to be Gabbie.
Does that help? I cannot imagine it does."
 Of course, it helped. So I threw out the pair travelling to 2018 in order to get Martin "future shoes" and instead made their motivation Martin's investigation of a future in which he gives up Gabbie and the Spanner. And I added Gabbie quitting. And finally, one week before the script was recorded at Maida Vale, I added Martin offering the Spanner to Gabbie at the end. And I remain very happy with that ending, and as I say, wish I'd thought of it a little earlier so I hadn't wasted all that time giving Bridget a load of exposition about "The Usual" that goes nowhere. But if there ever is an episode 3, I am of course now stuffed.

I spent a lot of those months playing "Half-Life 2".

TIMESPANNER BONUS MATERIAL: "I have been given many names...."

 The second episode of Time Spanner: "The Dan In The High Castle" is now available to listen to for a month entirely legitimately HERE (and less legitimately, archived alongside episode one here.) More bonus material will follow but I'd like to open with something I learnt in the year since the show was first broadcast, which is that "Bridget" is acually the name of an already existing Irish goddess...

Some lovely soothing Irish facts.

 "Over the years, the goddess went by several names, including Brigid, Bridget, Bridge..." So, to be absolutely clear, I had no idea about Brigid when I chose the name that Gabbie would finally give to the Voice in Martin's head.

 "Meaning 'firey power', she was often depicted with rays of light or fire emitting from her hair and her head, showing us that she was the embodiment of the element of fire..." The fact that I depicted the owner of this Voice "wreathed in fire" (or as Bridget hereself put it in the pilot: "not on fire, just terribly bright") is therefore a complete coincidence.

 "Through her ties with fire and the sun she was considered to be the goddess of smithcraft..." Similarly, this was not why I made her the creator of the Time Spanner, nor why I gave her a robot - "She was perceived to be the patron of relatively high dimensions... and concepts and activities that elevated oneself..." And again, having the same figure interpreted by different cultures as both muse and angel just made sense, so this was also a coincidence.

When original angel Belinda Stewart-Wilson was suddenly unavailable, we were star-wobblingly lucky to have Sally Phillips agree to join us, but this recasting had absolutely nothing to with Bridgid's "triple aspect" (from London Hughes' Instagram.)

 "She was often seen as a motherly figure... Were some of you not aware the she existed?" Well no! Not remotely! That's my point, video! Gabbie's line was originally "You look like a Janet", because that was just the first name that came into my head, and that's basically how I write, but then I found out "Janet" was already the name of a Heavenly interface in The Good Place, so went for "Bridget" because, you know, she bridges things. Not mentioned in the video however, is the weirdest coincidence of all by far, which is that Brigid has her own cross, and it is THIS...

 An actual swastika. I am, as ever, indebted to the Time Spanner Tumblr for brilliantly inging all of this to my attention, and to this Brigid blog blog for the images.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Looking Things Up. That Is How I Party.

 And according to this party I'm at, in the sixteenth century the English were considered very "kissy" by visitors from the continent.* Gemma, top left (her birthday today), suggests all that might have changed with the plagues. Other topics of conversation have included whether or not Saint Bernards were accompanied (we don't know)...

And when bananas were first introduced into the lyrics of the following...

Apologies for not posting more today. It's been a social whirl.

*UPDATE: Gemma's researched this further here.

Monday, 23 March 2020

O Sweet, O Sweet Content!

All set!

 I am seriously considering a review of the two-hundred VHS tapes I keep in the cupboard to replace Frankenstein Wednesdays. I started on tape #1 last night, containing Flash Gordon, The Man With Two Brains and The Fellowship of the Ring, Extended Edition (or as my Dad put it, the version where they put all the acting). It's interesting to note that Hobbiton, supposedly the most backward, unchanging community in Tolkein's world, appears to be centuries ahead in its influences of the Medieval-inspired civilisations surrounding it. Boom! Blog done. I'd also been considering blogging about Ming's daughter Princess Aura for a while: She seems to have been to Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond what Satan was to Milton: entirely and unintentionally heroic.

 Boom! Another blog. Really though today's post is all about flagging up some of the beautiful ways others have been using their time. The magnificent Andy Stanton, for example, has been reading aloud all of a Mr. Gum book, so we can finally know for certain what everyone was supposed to sound like:

 His fellow Nincompoop, and my own colleague and definite future Dr. Who, Carrie Quinlan, has initiated The Wild Freelancer Blog, and also this: 

 The writers of Mitchell and Webb's "Remain Indoors" sketches have remained indoors to bring us this episode of Rule Of Three (no way of embedding that, sorry) while Mighty Fin impresario Robbie Hudson has set up his own Emergency Broadcast System over on Spotify, on which I can occassionally be heard bellowing songs. Seasoned Science shut-in Helen Czerski (six weeks aboard a ship studying bubbles at the North Pole is nothing to her - she's like an astronaut if space had bears) joins the ranks of Science Shambles' Stay at Home Festival:

 More fictionally, Monster Hunters co-creator Matthew Woodcock has created a surprisingly prescient submarine-based thriller for Definitely Human called Down, its presience almost exactly matching that of Avenue 5, if anyone's seen that. No spoilers. Avenue 5's shuttle pilot John Finnemore meanwhile, perhaps most heroically of all, has gone and shaved his beard just to give us this wonderful thing:

 And obviously I've been rebranding procrastination as "social isolation" from pretty much ever since this blog went daily last Christmas (April the first will be the hundredth straight post) but, Oo! My second pilot to Time Spanner, The Dan in the High Castle, is being repeated on Radio 4 tomorrow if anyone fancies a huddle. Huge thanks and love to all these makers and partakers. Be well, everyone.

For when I run out of VHSes.