Saturday, 30 April 2016

We Wait In Dramaturgical Hope: Brian Mullin @ 503

We Wait In Joyful Hope
Theatre503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
Tuesday 17th May – Saturday 11th June 2016
Brian Mullin’s debut drama is a frank and wry portrait of modern feminism, friendship and one extraordinary woman, determined to take on the world. We Wait In Joyful Hope is a funny and touching exploration of religion and capitalism in contemporary America.

Sister Bernie D’Amato is a force to be reckoned with. After thirty years running a women's centre in a New Jersey slum she's won battles with priests, police and even gang leaders. But now she's facing her biggest threat yet. With property developers buying up the neighbourhood, and only an ageing ex-nun and a 16-year-old X-Factor wannabe to help, Bernie’s mission to save the centre is becoming ever more of a challenge.
Staged during the biggest displacement crisis of our time, We Wait In Joyful Hope powerfully illustrates the importance of community and having a place to call ‘home’.

Brian Mullin was brought up in Boston by his aunt, a former Catholic nun who founded one of the first shelters for homeless women in New York City. He comments, I wanted to pay tribute to the strong women who hold communities together and, in my experience, few women are stronger, more dedicated – and more unsung – than nuns. When I was inspired to write the play, I ended up going back to the US where I interviewed a number of nuns, now in their 70s, about their lives and work. Sister Bernie is a product of this research – tough, rebellious and, sometimes, impossible to deal with. But, even as everything around her seems to be changing, she keeps fighting for the causes she's always believed in.

Sister Bernie D’Amato will be played by Maggie McCarthy whose theatre credits include Doctors Dilemma, Children of The Sun and Absence of War for the National Theatre. She will be joined by Deirdra Morris (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Southwark Playhouse), The Trojan Woman (Empty Space) and The Women (Old Vic)) as Joanne; James Tucker (One Arm (Southwark Playhouse), Pocket Dream (Propeller) and The Life of Galileo (Royal Shakespeare Company)) as Grady; and Anita-Joy Uwajeh (Othello (Edinburgh Festival), Titus Andronicus (Greenwich Theatre), Ivanov (Boris Schukin Theatre Institute)) as Felicia.

Brian was selected from over 800 applicants to join the 503Five Writer-in-Residence scheme which offers mentorship, advice and support to emerging playwrights.

I believe that the inspiration for the script came from one of your relatives: what inspired you to take up this story?

I would never have decided to write about nuns if it hadn't been for my aunt Gerry, who was a Franciscan sister in the 1960s and 70s.  It was a time of change for nuns and the whole Church - together with other young sisters, she left the cloistered environment of the convent, took over a tenement building in New York City, and converted it into a community where homeless women and the nuns lived side by side.  The story of We Wait in Joyful Hope is fiction -- Sister Bernie is not my aunt! -- but the inspiration for it comes from her and the other extraordinary women of her generation.

Religion isn't a hot topic so often in contemporary theatre: what is it that made you decide to make it part of the conflict in your script?

According to conventional wisdom, theatre-makers and theatre-goers tend to be secular liberals, and stories of faith may not be the first thing they're drawn to.  Sister Bernie, the main character of my play, might upend some notions of what a "religious" person is like -- she's an activist, more concerned with changing the world than with imposing doctrine on others.  Having met amazing nuns who work for social justice, often with little recognition, I don't think that's uncommon.  You may never have met a radical nun, but I hope you can relate to the story of someone who's had big dreams and now must decide whether she's achieved everything she hoped to.

What made you decide that theatre was a good place to tell this story?

This play is traditionally constructed - it all takes place in Elizabeth House, where Sister Bernie lives and works with poor women.  Theatre, when it's done well, can create a charged sense of energy in a space, so that the room itself almost becomes a character.  Our wonderful designer Kat Heath is paying attention to every little detail of the set, so that Bernie's environment speaks volumes about the decades of life she's led.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

There's lots of humour - Bernie is an unconventional nun, who talks back to priests, dresses in t-shirts, and sometimes rolls a joint.  Once you get through the shock of that unexpected portrayal, though, I hope the play makes you think about society, politics, and sisterhood of all kinds.  Though Bernie's shelter faces a threat from the forces of gentrification, I believe the plot is ultimately a hopeful one.  I want people to feel moved by it more than anything else!

Did you use any strategies that will enable this experience?

Well, 90% of a good production is in the casting.  Our director Lisa Cagnacci has assembled the most skillful actors to bring these characters to life.  In rehearsals, I am already enjoying the rapport between Maggie McCarthy and Deirdra Morris, who play Bernie and Joanne.  They are able to bring humor, toughness and all sorts of contradictory feelings to these two old friends.  I'm very happy to showcase older actresses in the leading roles, too!

What do you think of Aristotle?

What a question!  I know the Poetics pretty well, and often use its principles of dramatic construction when I'm teaching playwriting to first-time students.  Not all of my plays follow an Aristotelian construction of time, place, character, resolution etc. but this one surely does!  There's just so much history behind the actions we see on stage, I had to follow Aristotle's rules to create a sense of crisis and turning point. 

I imagine writers sit in their rooms and type all, drinking coffee: what is it really like when you write a script? Does the experience change on different projects?

I drink coffee before writing, but never during it!  And I try not to do it in my room, I need to feel that writing is my job and getting out of the house helps with that.  I have favorite spots around London which have desks and wifi to work at (but I'm not telling where in case someone wants to steal them).  When I'm working on a play, I tend to get up early and start writing as soon as I can for 4-6 hours; I don't think I've ever written anything good after about 3:00pm.  That's a pretty consistent practice I've developed over time.

If I say 'dramaturgy', what comes to  mind?

In addition to writing my own scripts, I actually work frequently as a dramaturg.  I teach playwriting to students and use the principle of dramaturgical analysis to help them devlop their plays into the best possible shape.  I'm also the official Dramaturg of a devising company called Babakas,, which create multi-disciplinary theatre through a collaborative process.  The Dramaturg's job is to help shape and collate the material so that it all comes into some satisfying structure!  It's a bit like being an architect.

Director Lisa Cagnacci comments, after a very competitive selection process we ended up with five fantastic playwrights on attachment with us for the last 18 months and we've really enjoyed working with them. We commit to producing one of the five plays written during the attachment and on this occasion Brian Mullin's We Wait In Joyful Hope has been chosen. I'm very excited to be directing such a beautifully written and finely detailed portrait of a very radical and complicated woman. Most people's ideas of nuns have been defined by Sister Act or The Sound of Music, whereas this play offers a more nuanced perspective on an extraordinary group of women.

Well Lizard, yeah?

Yes, we know David Icke is paranoid and has some very silly ideas. He might even be encouraging antisemitism. And this video has a bad musical score. 

But how long can you watch this video before you disagree with him? Not saying it's a scientific measure, but he is sounding like Bill Hicks these days.

How bad has it got when Icke seems coherent?

Leaf by Niggle @ Tron

So the Satanist and the Jesuit have been saying that they want to
hang out more, and it's a cold yet sunny Saturday afternoon, and what better place for me to play gooseberry on this match-made-in-Glasgow than the Tron bar. The Satanist is rocking a new look, going for the leather guy this week, while the Jesuit opts for man-at-Hugo Boss, black jacket and thin lapels.

"You know, we do share a cosmology rooted in Jung," the Jesuit was whispering when the bell announced that Leaf by Niggle was about to start.

The pair of them file in behind a crocodile of pre-teens, out on a jolly. I wonder which of them would be most likely to corrupt their minds...

The Jesuit keeps up his whispering throughout the performance, until I worry that he is going to get us the bum's rush. The Tron might not have forgiven me for the whole headline about the artistic director's genitalia scandal. Afterwards, he claims he was providing footnotes. 

Leaf is a Tolkein story, but not one of his epic Orcs versus Elves numbers. The charming narrator - the show is like being cuddled and bathed by a fatherly but still handsome man - explains that Tolkein didn't like Leaf to be interpreted as an allegory. The Jesuit isn't having that. The Satanist has some problems with the theology (it is pretty obvious that 'The Second Voice' is Jesus and Niggle's journey is into the afterlife) but enjoys the bucolic atmosphere of the telling. Pretty soon, the original fucking odd couple are back in the bar, swapping opinions about how much they liked the Englishness of the tale. It's all trains and gardens and repressed emotion, only it gets a bit obvious when a shepherd turns up to guide Niggle into the great beyond.

"I don't suppose there was enough grandeur in it," snarks the Jesuit. "I guess you're not happy unless someone is getting roasted in the fire, or falling out of the sky shining like shook foil."

"Honestly, that's more your speed. It's a bit pedestrian though, especially from an author who is best known for writing the template for the world's longest film trilogy."

"It was meant to be for kids - at least this performance was. And don't tell me you didn't enjoy the meandering narrative and the actor's asides about how he got all the props when he tidied out his mum's attic. I loved the way he wrote himself into the plot -"

"Aye, very Brechtian. Let's get the critic over so he can tell us about the monologue as an epic medium. And no, I don't mean epic as in big, I mean epic as in not tragic."

Deciding to leave that can of worms unopened, The Jesuit and the Satanist turned conversation towards that topless bloke who plays a big African drum while singing along to popular songs in the High Street.

"He's dreamy," sighed the Satanist.

"Rather like Leaf by Niggle." The Jesuit pounced. "Okay. It's an allegory about the value of all human life, even the ones that don't get way into making an entire mythology. And it's very Christian, but don't expect me to hate on it for that. Here it is: it is refreshing to hear a spiritual story these days that isn't either liberals having to apologise for the antics of their more right wing fellows, or a fundamentalist raving about sodomite fag-houses. It's not just for kids, and the tale is told by a safe pair of hands. Plus, he has this really cool little bicycle."

Friday, 29 April 2016

Tense Dramaturgy: Adam York Gregory and Gillian Jane Lees @ Buzzcut

Present Tense, by Adam York Gregory and Gillian Jane Lees.

Gillian moves through the space carefully setting several hundred conventional wooden mousetraps on the floor. Her hands and feet are bare and vulnerable, close to the trap mechanisms. She continues until she is backed into a corner... 

We are looking to create a cumulative physical tension through the spring loaded traps and observe if it equates to a growing sense of emotional tension in anyone witnessing the piece – whether the repetition of a task that contains an inherent physical danger becomes more tense when performed repeatedly.

Can you tell me a little bit about the work that you are bringing to Buzzcut?

We're bringing 500 wooden mousetraps for an experiment to see if physical tension can equate with emotional tension in an enclosed space.

What is it about Buzzcut that attracted you to perform as part of it?

It's a unique festival. The space is unusual, chaotic and lively. The audience is a vibrant mix of other artists, locals and folk from all over the world. It's a great place to perform, but we also really enjoy being there as part of the audience too. There's a lot of wonderful work to see.

Do you see your work within any tradition - and are there any artists (performance and beyond) whom you regard as a peer or an influence?

A strong interest in materials and process, progress and form, all wrapped up in a sort of optimism … that sort of makes us modernists, doesn't it?

Adam approaches our work as a visual artist and a scientist, like an experiment whilst Gillian approaches it from the perspective of a performer. As well as creating a type of tension in how we work, and what we make, it also means we have a varied set of influences.

Adam's Top Influences:
Buckminster Fuller, Paul Erdos, Carl Andre, Le Corbusier, William Burroughs and Space Invaders. 

Gillian's Top Influences: 
Rinke Dijkstra, Tehching Hsieh, Anna Teresa de keersmaeker and Robert Wilson.

In terms of peers, that's always an awkward question. What if we leave someone out, what if they don't feel the same? Perhaps it is better to just couch it in the vague notion that we belong to a movement within performance and visual art that tends towards the slow and patient in durational practice. That doesn't mean that we don't enjoy watching other forms of work though, just that we make what suits us.

How 'typical' is this work compared to other pieces that you have made? Did the process follow a familiar or new pattern?

There is a trajectory in our work. The individual pieces share a certain amount of DNA in a thematic sense. They are all experiments in which the human body, Gillian's human body, is pitted against a notional ideal so that we can learn something from an abstract quality that we are curious about. So, we've covered the notion of intent and direction, the concept of failure, the measurement of time and space and now we are looking at tension.

The making process was fairly typical. We like to think, and drink coffee, a lot, before playing in a space. Typically we fight at some point too. 

Buzzcut is concerned with the idea of 'community'. Does community have a special meaning for you, and what relationship do you feel your work has within wider communities?

It's easy to think of community as something essentially 'local', but it needn't be. Art is a great vector for community in that it creates shared experience and commonality. As such our work fits in there somewhere. In personal terms, it has led to friendships all over the world, and that feels like being part of something bigger.

What are you hoping that the audience will experience?

We hope that they'll experience a degree of tension. Perhaps an element of schadenfreude too, if they wish the traps to go off.

Are there any strategies which you used to direct the audience experience towards this?

Mouse traps, mostly.

What is it about performance that enticed you - and kept you making it?

Adam: There's an immediacy in performance. The thing is made as it is shown. That's very similar to conducting an experiment in a laboratory. You can plan and draw diagrams as much as you want, but only when you start the experiment can you begin to get a physical understanding of an outcome or be witness to a process of change.

Gillian: I'm not very confident at maths. 

Virtue of Dramaturgy: Botis Seva (Far From the Norm)

Virtue of Ignorance
Choreographed by: Far From the Norm
Performed by: Botis Seva
Music by:  Torben Lars Sylves

Botis Seva

Do you see your choreography in any particular tradition?
Yes, my craft is rooted in hip hop theatre but it can also be seen as experimental, visual theatre. I take foundations from with hip hop and techniques and I experiment with the form to create my own tradition.

What inspires you to use dance as a medium, rather than another art form?
I don't always have to speak within dance. I can tell the story or convey a message through a different way of communicating, just through the body instead of the mouth. It also allows the audience an open interpretation of what it could be and not dictated by what it is...they have to read between the lines.

What was the foundation or inspiration for this piece?
It was inspired by the creation process I have to go through when creating work and how I tackle my thoughts during this process in my head. It also was influenced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's - Birdman.

Was the making process typical of your usual approach?
No - it was harder. It’s different to be surrounded by my company Far From The Norm and bouncing ideas off my dancers in the studios and having them inspire/shape and take joint ownership of the piece. With this work it was just me, in the studio, with my thoughts again.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Confusion. I hope they will experience some sort of journey that they take ownership of, of finding for themselves.

Are there any strategies you have developed to help this experience happen?
I have used storyboarding a lot to create this piece, I don't always storyboard and I found it valuable to get my ideas out of paper and in front of me, to piece together the bits of the puzzle.


On and behalf of Far From The Norm

Vestigial Dramturgy: Wayne Parsons @ Wilton's Strike


Six promising choreographers and performers will be invited to showcase new work
Works have been developed on the theme of ‘memory’, with the help of professional mentors
The artists have all been carefully selected by a distinguished panel of dance experts including Viviana Durante, Jonathan Goddard and Lee Smikle

After successfully launching the pilot festival in 2014, Wilton’s Strike! is back for 2016, inviting six emerging artists to showcase their exciting new works at East End gem Wilton’s Music Hall. 

Using this year’s theme of memory, the six selected choreographers have been commissioned to develop their work to performance level, with help from professional mentors.

The festival will be running from Tuesday 3 May to Thursday 5 May 2016.

A Vestige
Choreographed by: Wayne Parsons
Performed by: Katie Lusby and Clemmie Sveaas

Do you see your choreography in any particular tradition?

A Vestige is a dance theatre work. It tells a story through movement and text.

What inspires you to use dance as a medium, rather than another art form?
I came to dance quite early in my life. I began dancing at the age of 14 and I’m still dancing now at the age of 35. I have always used movement as my predominant medium as it feels so natural for me to do that. That being said, I think there are limits to what movement alone can say, so I seek to work with practitioners from different disciplines to bring my ideas to life. 

For A Vestige I am working with Theatre Director Pooja Ghai who is acting as Dramaturg, writer Ankur Bahl and composer Angus Macrae who has worked as sound designer on the project. 

What was the foundation or inspiration for this piece?

A Vestige takes posthumous fame as its starting point. It examines how we reconstruct the lives of the dead by looking at what they left behind and how the memory of the dead lives on in the living.

The audience will meet a portrait artist, played by Katie Lusby, and the ghost of a woman, played by Clemmie Sveaas. We hear of how the portrait artist tries to capture the essence of the woman through her artwork; all the while, the woman’s ghost is compliant in fulfilling the artist’s incomplete and subjective constructions of the ghost’s living self.

I’m fascinated with the question of how the narratives of our lives will be manipulated once we’ve passed. A Vestige deals with the subjects of memory, subjectivity, our fascination with the famous and our universal desire to understand one another.

Was the making process typical of your usual approach?

No. My work is always narrative led but this is the first time I have worked with a script. I commissioned Ankur Bahl to write a 9-minute monologue for the work and it is heard in its entirety. This process for me has been all about focusing on the co-existence of movement and text. I’ve found contextualising movement within a script quite freeing actually. There are so many possibilities. I think it’s the start of a lengthy artistic search for me.   

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I’m playing with a sense of the real and the imagined, the present and the past, the fictional and the fact. And I hope the audience goes with this. Above all, it’s a theatrical work that tells a story and when you’re telling stories you hope that it’s a clear narrative. It’s a dense work that incorporates text, movement and set, so some concentration is need, but I hope there’s a pay off for that concentration. 

Are there any strategies you have developed to help this experience happen?

Dance is a largely abstract medium. It’s able to connect viscerally with its audience. In contradiction to that there is something very concrete about words. What I have tried to do with this work is use the movement to exaggerate the subtext within the script or to contradict what we are hearing in the script. I have crafted something that sees the movement and text in dialogue with one another in hopes of presenting a multidimensional way of storytelling.

Wayne Parsons was born in St Albans, England and graduated from London Contemporary Dance School with a first-class Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) in Contemporary Dance and a Postgraduate Diploma in Performance. Straight out of this training, Wayne earned an apprenticeship at Richard Alston Dance Company (RADC).

From this launchpad, Wayne has gone on to work for some of the biggest names in contemporary dance. He has performed major roles in choreography by Mark Baldwin, Hélèn Blackburn, Stijn Celis, Kevin Finnan, Itzik Galili, Jacopo Godani, Wendy Houstoun, Martin Lawrence, Stephen Petronio, and Stephen Shropshire.

Wayne’s long-term engagements as a performer include five years of domestic and international touring with National Dance Company of Wales (NDCWales), and a return to RADC for four tours, including Richard Alston’s 40th Anniversary Season, which was hosted at Sadler’s Wells. In 2011 Wayne moved to Australia on an invitation by Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela to join Sydney Dance Company.

Wayne has also worked with Motionhouse Dance Theatre, Yorke Dance Project, SmallPetitKlein, The Van L Dance Company, Joe Moran Dance, Kim Brandstrup, and Oguike Dance, and was part of DanceLines under the direction of Wayne McGregor. Waynehas also been the recipient of an Arts Council of Wales grant and the Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship.

Throughout his performance career, Wayne has also developed his choreographic practice. In April 2013 he was selected by the National Centre for Choreography to attend the LAB at DanceEast, Ipswich. Here he spent two weeks looking at narrative in dance under the direction of Jonathan Lunn. His most recent works include the duet Meeting, which was premiered at The Place Theatre, London as a part of Resolution! 2013. Meeting was also chosen as the only representative from the UK to compete in the 6th Copenhagen International Choreography Competition in March 2013. In summer 2013 Wayne will make a short work for students at London Studio Centre for their end of year show, Dance Overture 2013. This work will be performed at The New Wimbledon Theatre in July. In 2012 Wayne made Assemble for Monmouthshire Youth Dance Company and this work premieres in June 2013 and tours throughout Wales. In 2008, Wayne created and danced the solo Visiting Then for NDCWales. Preceding this commission, he choreographed Publicly Private Me and Chrysalis, which were both toured by NDCWales in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

Wayne teaches classes and workshops to students of all ages and abilities. Recent teaching includes undergraduate technique classes and choreographic workshops at London Contemporary Dance School, Trinity Laban and London Studio Centre, and professional company classes for Motionhouse Dance Theatre, DV8 Physical Theatre, NDCWales and Ballet Cymru

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hanging Dramaturgy: Peter Arnott @ The Tron

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I've been writing plays now for more than thirty years and I've been wanting to write a play about Casement for all that time. Ever since I first came across his story, the idea of the execution in 1916 of an Irish Nationalist Protestant Gay British Civil Servant Hero of the struggle for human rights in Africa well before such a thing had anything like a name...has had a certain appeal. 

This year being the centenary of that execution, and of the Easter
Rising, it became a time limited kind of a thing...particularly when I realised that no one else seemed to be doing it...which I find frankly astonishing. It's a key story for our times, I think, in more ways than can be comfortably fitted into 90 minutes...Just start with the idea of the break-up of Britain...throw in individual as well as national the fight to expose European perfidy and hypocrisy in the Congo...and take it from there.

How did you become interested in writing for performance in the first place - does it hold any particular qualities that other media don't have?I acted before I wrote plays. Writing plays is still a second cousin of performing in them, only you get to play everyone in the privacy of your own home – though my wife tells me I have the distressing habit of going over dialogue while walking down the street to the alarm of innocent members of the public. I'm an actor with a pencil and without the guts to be an actor.

Was your process typical of the way that you write a script?
Yes and no, in that there is nothing ever entirely typical because of the specificity of the demands on the piece each time. A play text is not a play...the play is something that happens only in performance and only in the minds of the individual spectator (each of whom sees a slightly different play, naturally) so the job is to provoke the story telling in the audience rather than to tell the story. On the other hand, yes, it wasn't unusual in that I was responding to the fact that this was going to be a two hander at the Tron scheduled for May 2016...I mean in terms of craft...

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The action of the play is basically an interrogation. So those who know about Casement will have one experience, and those who don't know about him will have another...Will he hang or not? Is a Socratic question, a political question, a moral question...and a very personal one? Even if you know what happened...

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?Now you're asking! The title comes from an article written by George Bernard Shaw in the Manchester Guardian in 1916. And the play is unfashionably's an argument about Britain, loyalty, Ireland, war, love...between two people who speak in whole sentences. It's historical on a couple of levels. But I think it unfolds nicely...and with actors of the calibre of Stevie Clyde (who does menace better than any other actor in Scotland, I think) and the intelligence and charm of Benny Young as Casement...I think the audience will find themselves in the room with these guys...which will hopefully be an interesting and slightly terrifying experience...

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I see myself as reinventing what I do every time I do it...I'm not sure I could stand it any other way.

A Brief Guide to Critical Personae on the blog

Seriously, if you looked like that, you'd want to wear a mask, too.

This blog uses a variety of identities to explore the possibility that criticism can be a form of fiction. The masks that are worn - the performed persona, if you will - enable a mimetic process of critique, rather than a diagetic

Mad Cyril
The most gangster of all the personae, Mad Cyril was discovered in a brief cut-scene of the film Performance. He gets to say the stuff that The Vile Arts find simultaneously unacceptable, true (as far as truth has any value, natch) and funny. Hence the casual sexism and so on. Cyril, when reviewing, uses a rating of 'dustbins', based on his habit of throwing them through the windows of bookies who owe his bosses money.

The first mask ever worn, Criticulous exists both on the page and the stage: he performed at Buzzcut, The Traverse and The Arches. Conceived as a demonic guardian, like the pictures on the walls of Tibetan tombs, he reverts to a compassionate stance when faced with human beings. He is the clown of the gang, heavily influenced by the 'drunken style' of Ol' Dirty Bastard (hence his other name, Wee Dirty Bastard - given to him by dramaturge Elliot Roberts).

Ghost Faced Critic
Another Wu-Tang steak, GFC is a new addition to the team. Still in
development, he believes but knows nothing, and is likely to become the religious member of the group. 

Gareth K Vile
Remember: personality is performance. I can never be trusted. 

Real People
When he remembers, GKV is a member of the Tempo House collective. References to Lorna Irvine and Elliot Roberts actually describe two of the people he actually listens to. Lorna is a critic of international standing, Elliot is a dramaturge. 

GFC breaks you off some method

Let me explain what method means, son.
It's the approach I use to break you off some.
Take one text - today's The Poetics
And read it close like mental athletics.
The big game in town's scientific observation 
That's a method of testing through experimentation.

(Just for the record, while I have your attention,
Science is not ideas or mental masturbation
Over 'just how cool is the Universe, pop'
In a picture by an artist using photoshop).

Just to throw you off guard, here's a surprise:
Other ways of thinking are valuable, guys.
Like, shit, I lost my coffee, I know I put it down
But do I need a hypothesis to turn my loss around?

If I reckon that I made it, and I bought it in my room
I'll look behind my laptop, I check out behind the bed
It's hidden by the screen, and my guess was right...
Now I got a theory that my looking skills aren't shite.

But Aristotle said - I ripped this from Husain - 
That the method of my study does not always stay the same.
It depends, it depends, on what subject I select
The nature of the thing, the method will direct.

Now I'm reading about ontology in the intro by Husain
Her use of fancy language drives me fucking insane.
If she says 'substantive-methodological' one more time
I swear I'll fucking swing for her like she done a literal crime.

προγονικὸν ἁμάρτημα progonikon harmatema

This morning, at breakfast, in an expensive hotel, in a former
communist country, Ghost Face Critic heard a Scandinavia say (apropos the pollution of the Baltic)

It isn't us in the cities who have caused it. It's the peasants, who put things on the land to make it grow faster.

And this is why Ghost Face Critic remains a Christian. Because the optimistic fallacies of both socialism and capitalism are grounded in human perfectibility.  GFC believes in original sin (progonikon harmatema).

Ghost Face ponders whether the contemporary rejection of religion is not an intellectual triumph (how many people really understand the mechanics of natural selection?) but a desperate attempt to evade responsibility. It's one thing to deny that God exists - and perfectly respectable. It's another to ignore the complex cosmologies (both exterior and interior and sometimes both) that the saints and philosophers designed to explain the nature of being. 

Ghost Face turns harmatema over in his mind. He remembers that it is the same word, more or less, that Aristotle used in his description of tragedy: it was translated as 'flaw' or 'fault', which led to the ever-popular student game of 'find the flaw in the tragic hero'.

But Leon Golden (Tragic and Comic Mimesis, 1992) does not find 'flaw' a helpful translation. It's more like 'missing the mark', an error, a mistake. 

Ghost Face isn't quite ready to find St Augustine in Sophocles, but he does note the continuity (and remembers how Oedipus at Colonus easily became The Gospel).

Besides, Ghost Face knows that he dwells in the darkness, at least some of the time. It's not like he is a bad man. No worse than anyone else... but he knows that harmatema. He's not blaming his father, mind. Progonikon might mean inherited, but it's not his dad's DNA that is the problem. It's being human in the first place. 

Failure is his birthright. And, probably, those things that make him human are those things that make him miss the mark. Language, say. Words allow communication, but they also confuse. Many a slip between cup and lip, and all of that.

"Let's not get caught up," says Criticulous. "There's a good enough survey on wikipedia. Tell me about the Scandinavian."

The GFC replies that in that statement, the sin of the citizen is evident. The failure to accept responsibility, passing the buck ('it's the peasants who did it, not me,' she lies) and othering those poorer, more dependent on immediate success. 

"Why the fuck does she think the peasants are growing food? Not to feed the citizens who can sit in expensive hotels and bemoan the destruction of the ecosystem?"

Monday, 25 April 2016

Temper Tantrum Funtime with the Ghost Face Critic

Ambition realised. liked one of my posts on Twitter. Fuck the respect of my peers, a company designed to advertise the easiest place to get a seaside cheepie regards my comic about Theatre as Voyeurism worthy of a big love heart. Take that, those of you who think that criticism is a thankless task.

Lately, I've been off the meds... legally acquired, safe as the ones that they gave to Elvis and Judy Garland, just a little something to take the edge off your mood, sir... no, I don't think the panics you are manifesting are a natural response to experiencing hyper-accelerated consumerism, sir, just take one of these with your breakfast coffee and try to stay off the heroine. Yes, I know, it does make life bearable, Mr Vile. 

Cut them out and wobbled for two weeks - entire nervous system snapping and glitching like an Autechre b-side for ten days but now I have my personality back.

And I remember why I took the medication. I have a nasty, spiteful streak that no amount of conspicuous consumption or mindful prayer can shift. Worse than Lady Macbeth's damn spot, a seam of hateful savage bile (that, if left unexpressed, wells up and explodes as an abscess in unmentionable places).

For a critic who has been trying to remember that he is writing about real people when he complains about a play... this is not welcome. It's like waking up with a dagger on the pillow and - oh God. Whose blood is this?

I'd give it all up, and make like Johnny Cash, dedicate my life to a Christian blog that preaches love for all and wearing black for those who have not heard the word: except... I find it all too amusing, those perky snarks at the guilty, the sharp tongue, the victimless insult.

"But isn't that the way of it?" you ask. "Isn't the critic meant to be nasty, a vigorous corrective to the vanity of the artist, a mean-spirited joker at the feast of art?" No.

It's not... only a lazy critic mistakes insult for examination. I've been lazy, I like to admit it, I've done my turn of playing the player and not the game, but regret it.

And the seam of bitterness...

I respect those who can be generous and weigh the if'n' butts...

But this seam of bitterness...

Tell both sides of the story, I implore ya...

But this seam of bitterness...

It's as much about me as it is about you...

But this seam of bitterness...


Back to where I began. Today, I was congratulated. Somebody saw my Facebook post that said I was 'in a relationship'. 

(Never mind that I was 'in a relationship' with a plastic train off Thomas the Tank Engine... you know, the Bollywood looking one. She does have a cheeky grin)

I also did a post that nailed the mimetic power of lap-dancing, lending it a meaning that conforms to the Aristotlean idea of performance and identifying a more aesthetic way to address the matter (thereby avoiding the blindly moralistic approach and opening up a question of social context against the typical 'othering' of strippers and punters that dominates the discussion).

Silly me, I thought they were congratulating me on that, not the assumption that I was about to ruin someone's life by hooking them to my fading star.

Not to mention that I was 'in a relationship' with a fictional train. Because I thought it was funny.

Or was it - well done: despite looking like an elderly Jean-Paul Sartre, and being an inveterate bore, you got a pump.

Although I didn't, because it was a train who does not exist, at least in the strict terms of the scientific paradigm of reality. 

That's all, that's all. At least loves me.

Kiss OFF

I liked Prince. 

I liked Prince because he combined a libidinal energy with a sincere quest for religious redemption without compromising on either. Unlike Johnny Cash, say, he did not get all upset after getting jiggy with a lady, and his religious songs had the same ecstatic playfulness as his sexy tunes. 

I liked Prince because he performed queerness before it became a fashion statement. That is not to say all contemporary 'queer' artists are pretending, or that there isn't still some degree of danger in their stance. 

I don't like Prince because he did a dreadful guitar solo over a Beatles' song, though. I am pretty sure that this is getting used as an example of his genius because Prince spent a great deal of time getting his tracks off YouTube.

This is rubbish. Instead of putting the solo at the service of the track (it called gently weeps not has an ostentatious wank), Prince cuts loose and scribbles over the overly respectful, hushed voice cover version performed by one of those super-groups who blight rock'n'roll 'events'.

If Prince hadn't been so obsessive about getting his stuff off YouTube, maybe we could be celebrate his life with Kiss, in which he turns the sweaty lust of funk into an insidious sensuality. Or Sign o' the Times, a fit heir to What's Goin' On

Anyway, I just got this list from the PRS. It is the most played tracks by Prince (on the radio) of the twenty-first century.

PPL Most Played Prince Tracks of the 21st Century:

1. 1999   1982
2. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World    1994
3. Kiss  1986
4. When Doves Cry      1984
5. Raspberry Beret   1985
6. Little Red Corvette   1983
7. Purple Rain        1984
8. Diamonds And Pearls  1991
9. U Got The Look        1987

10. Let's Go Crazy    1984

Okay, who wants to look at the dates of those songs, and say something unacceptable?

I have two possibilities.

He has been rubbish since 1994, and his strategy of giving an album away free with The Daily Mail was the sign o'the artist formerly known as quite intriguing desperately trying to find an audience (although quite how the notoriously uptight Mail readers felt about his cheeky sexy riffs begs a few questions).

The nostalgia that now threatens to overwhelm pop music prevents anyone from listening to Prince's later work, and his prodigious subsequent output contains moments of genius that are lost in this bizarre bricolage of the past that now constitutes 'the present moment'.

Battlin' in Bucarest

Postcard from Craiova

Hello Insert name here

Wish you were here! Sorry about the generic message! I am only allowed one email from my cell, so I thought I'd use it to do one of those round-robins you get at Christmas off people you barely know, but their kids are doing so well at Cambridge and their jam was such a fucking success at the local fete. 

The Vile Arts arrived in Craiova at five on Sunday morning! Mad Cyril was sent out to find absinthe, while Ghost Face Critic and Gareth K started an argument about whether it is racist to say that Cyril's accent is not Scottish. Luckily, everyone quickly fell asleep, only to be woken up at seven (a.m.!!!!! LOLZ) by Cyril coming back with a bottle of absinthe and three Orthodox priests who performed a selection of polyphonic chants for St George. 

Team Vile sent Criticulous out to represent at the Europe Theatre Prize. Sadly, even though he had written a speech, he did not make it onto the National Theatre of Scotland's panel, because he got arrested for throwing a flag off the roof. Quoth Mad Cyril - 'That's usually my mind of caper'!!!!

Meanwhile, Gareth K found out that the artistic director of the NTS, Laurie Samson, has a connection to Wessex. He's a gurt big talent.

In other news, Ghost Face attended a three hours Easter service inside (well, technically outside, Orthodox liturgy fans), and Cyril blagged his way into a wedding reception at the hotel. He did a few turns of traditional folk dancing ('pretty basic group-circle action,' he reported back!!!) before the groom suddenly realised that he didn't actually have an old friend from Glasgow who did not speak a word of Romanian but kept smiling whenever anyone spoke to him...

Friday, 22 April 2016

John Drakakis (Stirling University): ‘Macbeth and Inconsistency’

Willy Maley (Glasgow University): ‘A Scottish Soldier: Macbeth and PTSD’

oh, he is for the ages. my bad.

LEGO® LEGO Wherefore art thou LEGO…..

Happy 400th Anniversary to the Bard of Avon from LEGO UK

This year, the whole world commemorates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare and to mark this landmark anniversary, famous scenes from Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream have been immortalised in LEGO bricks. 

Chosen by young Shakespeare fans*, the most well-loved moments include the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet, witches scene from Macbeth and Bottom being transformed into a donkey from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – now all brought to life in LEGO bricks with a 2016 twist.  As we countdown to the celebrations in the Bard’s hometown of Stratford-on-Avon this weekend, take a look at our LEGO UK interpretation of scenes from some of the most performed plays in history.    

Here’s our tribute from LEGO UK – enjoy! 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

I call it The Vile Salad

In a desperate attempt to get people to pay attention to me, I am now a food blogger. This is my dinner. I made it myself. It's a mix of the classic Greek salad with a middle eastern influence, while recalling traditional British carbohydrate rich meals.

Of course, colour is an important part of my design: food must be a semiotic as well as a sensual pleasure. The surface, which moves away from the architectural mode of presentation towards organic contours. In the range of levels, it suggests the seven hills of Glasgow, where it was born.

The colour pays respect to multi-cultural Scotland - not a melting pot, but a delicious bowl that allows every item to retain its own identity.
However, a literal reading of the colours reduces the semiotic impact. They suggest rather than insist (yet a feta cheese will always evoke fair Hellas, and so comes to perform a memorial to my friend Eric (he's not dead, he just pissed off to Athens). 

Delving deeper, each individual ingredient has its own history. Apart from Feta's association with Greece, we have pine nuts. A firm favourite since the Paleolithic Era, they are the victims of poor ecological protection in both China and the USA, reminding us, in their delicious nutty taste, that we must respect the planet. Coupled with the brazen green of the avocado, perhaps this is a subtle message that we ought to vote Green in the upcoming election.

And Patrick Harvey does look a bit like a pine nut, what with his baldy and all.

I really ought to stop on the Patrick Harvey hate. It's not his fault that I remember David Icke, and Tommy Sheridan, and have a distrust of left-wing men. I mean, the Moby lookalike jokes are on thing, but I am sneering at him. 

But rather like my salad, it is the mixtures of flavours that matter: the tartness of the cheese, the almost bland texture of beetroot and avocado, combining with the deliciously sharp piquancy of the mango and chilli dressing: without the odd bit of shade, writing is bland. 

Why Shakespeare is not 'for the ages'

Pompeo Molmenti: Death of Othello
Before he opens up a can of academic jibber-jabber, Tom Cohen introduces Anti-Mimesis (CUP, 2004) with a brief meditation on the speech made by Othello as he commits suicide. Noting the bathos of Lodovico's response to the Moor cutting his own throat, Cohen ponders whether the farewell speech itself is rather an odd thing to say on a death-bed, being a bit too rhetorical from a man who has all blood coming out of him. 

Cohen draws attention to the wordiness of Shakespeare, and the tension between the visual and verbal. Here's the speech, with Lodovico's comment.

Set you down this; 
And say besides, that in Aleppo once, 
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk 
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, 
I took by the throat the circumcised dog, 
And smote him, thus.

           [Stabs himself.]

LODOVICOO bloody period!

I defy anyone to perform that in front of a group of school-children without causing hilarity. Mind you, it probably set off the groundlings in The Globe if they weren't busy getting sucked off in the back row.

I Wear the Black

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A New Sexual Fantasy (Criticulous said it, okay?)

Last night, before I slipped into my codeine sweetened sleep, I put on a Sargon of Akkad video. You see, there's nothing I like more than masturbating to the voice of a man who sounds like he has kidnapped me, tied me to a chair and is explaining why feminism is wrong while pointing a knife at my throat.

Hey, don't judge me. Everyone has their own way of getting kicks.

Unfortunately, about half an hour into his video, Sargon started shouting at a video he was watching, and woke me from my slumber. And this is when the internet upsets me. The level of discourse around really important topics has become a shouting contest.

Another thing that makes me want to buy a glove made of sandpaper for my special alone time, just so that the pain will distract me, is Brendan O'Neill. Brendan said that he wants to literally eat his computer. He experiences such outrage at what he sees on the internet that he literally wants to devour metal. 

Brendan is not angry because he can look out of his office window and watch a parade of humans, the suffering inflicted by consumerism etched on their bodies. He's not angry because first world feminists aren't doing enough to support women in third world rape cultures. He's not even angry because Sargon woke him up from a post-orgasm snooze. He literally wants to eat a computer because some people found Boaty McBoatface funny. 

From this chuckle-fest, Brendan waxes lyrical on a generation who take nothing seriously. Apparently, these losers are apathetic, apolitical, and challenging them is to be called a kill-joy. 

So, they are not, like, saying stupid shit to get attention. Word up, Brendan: if you want the internet to have more depth, try writing about stuff that has more depth. You do manage to write pieces about, like, real politics, dude. But you have written about Boaty McBoatface, Paul Daniels, The Oscars, Lou Reed and David Bowie. It's fluff, mate. 

And most of your serious articles just rehash that whole 'political correctness gone mad' routine that gives Spectator readers a boner.

Anyway, I'll tell you what would give me a stiffy: a video of Brendan literally eating a computer. He's said this is literally how he feels, so I'll even come round and chainsaw it for him into bite size chunks. And I'll shoot my bolt when he opens his mouth and it has all bits of wire in it.