Watching Kate McIntosh rehearse in Leuven day-before-yesterday. The piece is called Loose Promise and it's a project that I've contributed some text to via a series of triggers/frames that Kate sent to myself along with a number of other writers (Deborah Levy and Mike Harrison included). Green carpet was one of the triggers; there really had to be a green carpet somewhere. Great watching the rather disparate fragments accumulate in the space and through the time of the piece, and great watching Kate accumulate the traces of the stories too through the actions and images that she's slowly building up around them. At this point the text itself - strewn as pages on the floor, folded in clumps, shredded in piles - is a major presence in the performance. Very often its under duress - torn, soaked, falling to pieces in her hands.
Still reading Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts which is also dripping in text - at the level of structure you're navigating layers of stories, and texts nested inside each other etc but as you drop into the vivid madness of the story itself you soon find characters hiding out in vast labyrinths of books, carrying stolen letters as psychic decoys, or throwing bombs made of fireworks and typewriter keys. In a beautifully Burrough's move (with echoes of his essays in The Job) Hall's central character periodically hides his presence in a room by placing dictaphones in its corners playing back tapes in which other people have been recorded as they talk or go about their their daily lives - the result a kind of identity camouflage.
There's a great pleasure reading strange, intelligent, funny and compelling fiction that happens to come from, and is at times set in the north of England. Some perverse pleasure in seeing your own landsacpe mythologised. With Hall and Tony White Sheffield Hallam University starts to look like quite a little contemporary fiction-factory. Raw Shark is very smart. There's a nod to House of Leaves, to Philip K. Dick maybe, and something of a David Mitchell-ness to it but there's plenty of originality, invention and wit in how its put together. I'm liking how these ideas books (like Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Tom McCarthy's Remainder, Tibor Ficher's The Thought Gang...) are so full-on in embracing plot as a device - action and super-abstract ideas all tangled up with each other. It's an interesting moment.
In early research and rehearsals with Forced Entertainment. The collective talking, fooling and digging around for clues, trying to get a scent or catch a hold of something we want to pursue. This part is always hard hard (hard hard) work, and in some way (perhaps an optical illusion) always seems to feel harder than ever before. Ratio right now must be something like 5 hours talking to one hour of practical work. In the studio we are circling and looping and blundering around in the same territory though so something seems to be happening, unable to get a clear position but slowly certain landmarks become clear as they come into view repeatedly thru the fog and the mud. Seems strange that a process so utterly unforgiving (florescent light/no daylight, relentless pulling apart of ideas, diet of coffee and water, room is concrete) can also have me crying with laughter some days. And sometimes, when you really expect nothing, people make the smartest moves in improvisation and suddenly the whole conversation is turned on its head.
When dancer and choreographer Wendy Houstoun first worked with us on Bloody Mess she wrote this piece describing “… a sense of waiting for some silence to fall over the group – of waiting for everyone to give up trying to make it better.” After this kind of silence is generally when something can happen.
Kate McIntosh, whose Loose Promise rehearsal I wrote about recently here, mailed me an image from the studio.
One time its a scrawny kid up there at the highest diving board, the dad and older brother kind of waiting in the water down below. Kid stands at the back end of the board, doesn't want to walk out along it but looks like he is somehow psyching himself up for the dive, or the jump - why else would he be there. Holding on the rail. Looking down. The dad and the brother are gesturing, like come on then, come on, you can do it. They try not to make a big deal, so when there's no action up there for a while they keep themselves busy, start fooling around, swimming, splashing each other. You can tell they still have eyes in the back of their heads for the younger kid though - they know all the time that he's still up there, still not moving, still stood up there at the top. He stands with this firmness that endlessly undoes itself - face scribbled with signs of some big mental battle. Always sure what he's busy with, but there's too much of it; too many tasks, ticks, actions. He takes his hand off the rail and sort of looks down to the water. He looks up the ceiling, or out the window where you can see forest on the lower reaches of the mountains or he just looks to the ground - the tiles and water down below. The father, the brother. Then he looks up again, this time to the roof tiles/ceiling beams. He scratches his head, constantly messing with his hair. Then he's constantly shifting his eyes around; up and down, then side to side. It goes on for a long time all this, maybe thirty minutes and through all of it he's stood up there, going through this very private thing, raised high on a platform for the contemplation of all. Every now and then the older kid climbs out of the water, runs around, clambers up the ladder, squeezes past the scared kid saying this or that, sometimes a brief exchange of words, then takes a big run and a massive jump to splash down into the water. The father's watching, all attention and smiles. But the younger one still up there doesn't get the hint or the message from these supportive and/or challenging displays, he just loops back around into his waiting/psyching up routine. One time he walks out onto the board a few steps, slowly, as if with some kind of resolve, but then he backs away again. Nothing. He's not diving today.
Another time its a guy in his 30s maybe who more or less strides to the brink of the board. Stands there at the end, folds his arms behind him, right behind his back, then after a brief moment lunges forward. Dives. As if in some mentally defective hard-man test-of-resolve he keeps his arms knotted crossed there behind his back the whole way down, enters the water head-first, no arms to break his fall. Big splash. He swims to the edge. Once on the poolside he heads round to the diving board steps again, goes up and out to the end of the board, checks himself, folds his arms again, right behind his back and then launches forwards, arcing downwards like a guy that's shot in movie, falling like a dead weight, again hitting the water head-first with a terrible splash. This routine he keeps, diving time and time again, head first and humourless, compulsive, bordering on self-harm. Head-banging against a water-wall, as if to say in all caps I CAN TAKE IT. I CAN TAKE ANYTHING. AGAIN AND AGAIN. He keeps looping round. Pull out of the water, walk to the steps and clamber, head to the edge of the top board and then fold arms. One two, three and go for it, why bother with four, he's in the air already. Head down crash. Only once he breaks the routine, and on this one time when he gets to the edge of the board, instead of the arms folded behind his back he spreads them to make the wide open-armed salute of a victorious footballer or the splayed arms of a man shot suddenly in the back whilst running. Round and round he goes, a loop of time in which he is always plunging, a kind of amateur tough-nut stuntman of this small town, making ready for some horror-thriller-action role that will never come his way.
Days later I tell all this to Kate who tells me that sometimes, when watching strangers (on the street, in a bar or wherever) she wonders if (somehow) they are dreaming the events they enact; as if a guy like this one is really back at home in his bed while his body has come out - a grim phantom, a compulsion driven ghost - to enact such strange obsessive scenes in the world. Now I think of it they both had this quality of nightmare in action or made flesh - the nervous kid and the head-banger - perhaps not so much people as flickering symptoms of the town's neurosis, or its inhabitant's distress.
This from my brother M:
Way busy in work putting in railway sleepers on the upright to hold
a bank up after we cut a track thru a field. A hundred and thirty so
far and a shit loada concrete. Young fella owns the propert, 26 years
of age. Grandad left 25 mill to him. He gets up, smokes a rolly, has a
coffee, plans his games room, clears the ice off his range rover by
remote from his back door, and goes back in. o yeah, then the dog comes
out for a shit next to my pick up. He stayed in for a year when he
first got it and smoked weed. Brains gone a bit now I reckon, nice
enough lad, but fuck me. Been cold here. Fingers like digits of a
monkey at the mo. Smell naught but creosote from sleepers. Chainsaw has
made me deaf and blind from the shit in them. Just moanin bra, just
This from Kate:
I have promised myself bed by by 12.30 so I'm on the clock. Things are going well here though it feels like eternal night - we spend the light hours and much more in the studio working.. it must be equinox soon from what I can see through the curtains. The studio is painted all black, with ceiling arches so that some places on stage you hear yourself in echo (discouraging when 'acting'). I am half expecting bats. The group in good spirits.For some reason in the last days I am remembering that trucker [in Now Not Moving at 1001 Nights Cast] often - the one you described scratching his family on a napkin in the middle of the forest. Something about being on the road and really not sure that any other recent life is actually current or existent. And trying to rebuild it in your imagination sort of burns it out, or flattens it into stick figures...
Ha! my father just Skyped from the garden in New Zealand! He held the computer up so I could hear a blackbird singing in sun.Permalink
I mentioned before that working is underway on a German translation of my Endland Stories for the Swiss publisher Diaphanes. The new book will feature the stories from the original Endland collection, as well as a collection of further stories in related territory, many of which were written for other projects, notably Barbara Campbell's 1001 nights cast and Kate McIntosh's performance Loose Promise. From time to time I'm getting emails with language questions from my friend Astrid whose got the inenviable task of translating Endland's blunt vernacular into improper German. The following arrived from her this morning - a list of the words, names and terms from the book, for possible inclusion in an ironic/messed up glossary that we're discussing. I liked the list at least - and how it gives a strange, off-centre map of the book, or the kinds of things in it.
Tesco (à Aldi)
(Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Scalectrix (à Carrera)
Yates' Wine Lodge (à Weinlokal)
Fred and Rosie West
? Baby Sham (Fake Kids)
Lucozade (à Red Bull)
? Mr. Twinkle, Mr. Bumpy, Mr. Stretchy
Diet Lilt (à Diät-Fanta-Exotic)
Hammer House of Death (à Haus des Grauens)
Game of Life
Blue Boar Services
Leicester Forest East
Penn and Teller
? George Davies
Plague Dogs (à Hunde des schwarzen Todes)
Images of the Delsarte system of expression, popularized in the 1880s
and found in the volume: The Popular Entertainer and Self-Instructor in Elocution, here, at the blog Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities.
A Stitch in Time (2013)
From More or Less
the continuing drama of untied ends
Neons New (and one 'old') - BAC
Will Be (Frankfurt) 2012
Geukens & De Vil (Knokke)
From More or Less / You Know
Alphabet of Festivals