Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Arthur King now lives in our cupboard

Spent the last twelve hours sorting through the whereabouts 1920-1970 of Arthur King from Gateshead.

Merry Christmas.

I do not know Arthur, except he looks rather dashing in a uniform and I put a copy of him on our wall of Stolen Ancestors, by which method I hope to strew false clues to a false history, and have my daughters waste their hours trying to track down relatives we don't have.

Arthur had a jolly time of it, if the photos are anything to go by.

And, hopefully, often behaved in a manner that did not meet with the full approval of the Aunty in the Frilly Hat.

But if you are looking for Arthur, then we have him now, safely tucked up, at the back of the heirloom book cupboard, next to Wyn and the Townings. I wondered if he married into the Townings, in which case welcome to the family (girls: your Gran's maternal side c1900), but if he didn't marry a Towning, then I don't think we should have him.

Of course I don't resent the space he takes up, but somehow one's own glorious heroines, heroes, black sheeps, ne'er-do-wells and convicts should come first, should they not?

I'm only pressured into doing this now because Aunty Dee is coming to stay. I want those boxes, including Arthur, tidied up and put away. Otherwise she will get everybody out again and that's the end of my dining table for six days. You recall that last time, she got quite agitated when I suggested throwing away the letters from the GPO 1964-68. I asked if she was going to write a history of Gateshead administration 1964-68, considering we also have letters from the bank and the house insurers, and she just narrowed her eyes at me, like I was in league with the Devil.

Tiger, Squirrel and Shark are a little bemused by this sudden flurry into genealogy. I can't be doing this long, I reassure them, because I have things to do, things to leave behind, and the arrangement of King, Arthur, even looking dashing in his uniform, is not one of them.

But if you are looking for King, Arthur, just get in touch and I'll get him out the cupboard.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

'What can you do with a book?'

Cruising around t'internet one day, looking for ideas about the history of the book, I came across a software salesman - call him something like World Leader of Marketing and Sales Think It Solutions - and he said, while promoting the glories of Think It Solutions, 'After all, what can you do with a book? Once you've read it, that's it.' Then he made a throwaway gesture, like tossing a match.

Hail the future. Buy the ebook!

Well, I have a visceral hatred for people like him, that is true. But what a future!

Have a problem in your life? Can't sort out your own narrative? Howabout we rent a space in the cloud to add our problematic, messy, stream-of-conscious unconnected thoughts. Then press GO, and the lot is reorganised for we inadequate people with our incoherent notes, we who barely string a sensible narrative.

But now, with Think It Solutions, Scrivener meets your Personal Life Coach! Your incoherent notes in the cloud will tell you what to do, what to avoid, how to live better!

Ideas sifted, organised - some undesirable ideas deleted: they come close to thought-crimes - then the lot smoothly connected. Your new plot worked out, your role presented back to you, your narrative of past, present, future, sorted. 

Forget your own cultural connections, your own knowledges that you're striving to articulate, ignore all that, because don't they just get in the way of how your personhood needs to balance itself in today's market! 

Here's what to do next. Pay an extra $150 and send your unique Think It Solution to your phone for downloading to your fridge, because part of the solution is to change your diet, then press YES! to debit your account for this week's special offer Comfort Scented Candles #deliverynow!

Only make sure you keep up the payments for cloud rental. You wouldn't want all your personal notes, your thoughts, the metadata of your life, suddenly taken from you. Payments to restore your notebooks will be high!

In the earth I shall bury my notebooks - the grubby old books and thoughts made on paper, thoughts writ by hand with pencil and pen, ideas that are scribbles and doodles and jottings, the thoughts I committed when I connected one idea to another - I shall bury them somewhere. Not in your view, World Leader of Marketing and Sales Think It Solutions. First you'd have to find them, to toss a match, or press Delete.

In those buried books, I shall leave notes about things that never happened, jotting for fictions, connections of thinkings that show my cultural history, thoughts that have no conclusion, instincts that don't want a resolution, truths I can never speak straight, the thoughts that live only because they are unsolvable contradictions, all the notes from my hand that make me my who-I-am. I shall bury them all, clues for a history that it's in someone's interest to erase.

That's what you can do with a book.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Hurrah! Santa-Free Zone!

It comes down to this: I did not tell my children that a strange man comes into their room at night to leave presents. The end.

This polar position of mine has drawn fire and ire, it is true. Even before I had kids, as I confidently asserted about the age of eighteen, sitting in a boyfriend's house, declaring to his mother, that I would never, ever, tell my kids that Santa existed, and in my opinion, that was lying, and I knew this was like saying 'the Pope is gay' to a Catholic. I was a walking, talking, venial, mortal, eternal sin. Well so what? That relationship wasn't going anywhere, anyway.

When someone gave me the foolhardy task of raising my own mini people, I stuck to my No Santa line, because it's a lie, Godammit. I still remember the hurt and injury when I found out. I also remember saying to my mother I'll never believe anything you say, ever again. Frankly, I'm not risking that from Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. I need them to believe me, because they have yet to hear the family history.

So I explained to my miniatures that Santa was a story, plain and simple. We looked at pictures of fat men in red suits from Coca-Cola advertising strategies circa 1930. Then I told them how some people (the innocent and gullible) liked to believe Santa was real, and - to my uncomprehending children - gave the instruction that they were not to shout out in a Tesco queue in the presence of other 4-year olds, Santa's not real! Santa's not real!

When the mother-in-law-never-to-be heard me declare my soul's intent as a young 18-year old, well, that was me frozen out of all celebrations, joys, and Christmas spirit, because I had stolen Christmas, irreparably damaged it, spoiled it for everyone, made a fool of myself, couldn't iron a shirt, and had no right even walking on planet earth because I was a child abuser and probably a mass murderer.

I cannot say the tone has shifted much in the response to my Santa-Free Celebrations. For whatever reasons, the line still can make people uneasy, and if you are a fellow No-Santa, then you'll have experienced the awkward pauses too.

One of the charges that has been levelled at me, is how I am encouraging children to have No Magic and No Imagination at This Special Time.

I have never given an adequate response to that charge, because it doesn't make any sense. Does it mean we can schedule Magic and Imagination at Christmas and Easter, but not mid-July because, somehow, not being A Special Time, mid-July would be Wrong?

Each to their own. The teens, possibly psychologically dented, thanks to their mother's brutalities, had December's magic and imagination like this instead:

Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House. Brilliant and thrilling, with a plot that involves deceitful mother-love, accidental baby burning, and anvils. Fantastic staging! I LOVED Anita Rachvelishvili's voice as Azucena. If you have pots of gold, then buy tickets. And if you have £7.50, then book kids into the schools performances. The only trouble with my ROH attendance is now I've got into the habit. The idea of not attending HURTS, and we are close to the edge of non-eligibility. So yay me because I've started saving to pay the sodding membership fees to get the mid-range seat prices. Lidl value range pasta at 29p for 500g should help towards this need.

Strange Beasts and Where to Find Them in 4D. I wanted 3D but they only offered the 4D experience. Honestly, don't bother. 3D is fine; you get monsters and explosions right at you, but 4D? Half-way through, I turned to glare at the bloke behind me, for kicking my seat. Then I realised that was the 4D moment. Someone spat at me and Dig spilt wine down his trousers, even after we'd told him your seat will wobble.

King Lear at the Old Vic. Of course I had to take my Gribblysnofflebobs to experience this bit of theatre history. Who would miss Glenda Jackson as Lear? I'd have to be in hospital or dead. A mighty Lear, a superb Fool, a strange Brechtian thread, and a fantastic storm with bin plastic and video rain. Excellent minimalist force. Loved it, although we had to catch the Drunk Express to get home, which was unfortunate.

So there we have it: a December of No Imagination and No Magic. So far. But I suspect that nothing will redeem me: without Santa, I will remain outside human society for ever. Hmm. Thinking about it, I might start a meet-up group for like-minded No-Santaites who like theatre. I'm sure we could get together and wear hats.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Tempest, RSC

I hang around the back of the curtains at Theatreboard these days, but I'm hoiking out this post and doubling it up here, for the use of home educators looking for a video-Shakespeare theatre experience:

Took four 16/17-year olds to see The Tempest at the RSC yesterday. Much discussion followed, including sharp observations (one at college studying theatre). For those interested in teen views, here are 4 teen critics...

1: Wanted the stripped-back and bare versions of the play in the style at the Globe (pre-Rice) with 'actors in the raw' without props, so they were going to be difficult to please ... Teen critic complained about the opening scene with the actors not moving while the ship sloshes about ... they wanted the physicality of the actors bashing themselves about the stage and hanging onto ropes, as one would presumably do in a real Tudor storm; they thought the beginning showed the actors over-relying on the cinematic experience, or acting so as not to be in conflict with it. I think they ended the evening quietly impressed and won over by the beautiful brightness of colour and the imaginative use of image, but after they'd begun by whining 'This is not cinema, I want theatre' then it was hard to come back from that.

2. 'Stunning' Hugely impressed by the riot of colour and image; they enjoyed Ariel's turn as a hologram but complained about image twitching - we couldn't decide whether these were momentary glitches or a deliberate fractioning of movement to echo a style of electrical interference, Ariel being a spirit of the air, an'all (the latter interpretation is fine by me).

3. Enjoyed the costuming generally; very appreciative of the bones of the ship and how adaptable that was as a set; thought the Caliban costume was 'great' and loved the attention to detail on Caliban's fingers and fish fins; also loved how the characters on the island seemed to get muddy feet as they went though the play, as if showing they really were on an island; loved how the play had a bit of everything - opera, slapstick, anguished screaming and frivolity.

4. Found a lot to think about in the relationship of Prospero and Ariel, as in Prospero seemed to love Ariel more than he loved being a wizard conjuring spells with a stick (and who wouldn't want that?); commented how Russell Beale's performance brings out the menacing side of Prospero - they've previously seen Roger Allam in the role and they noted how very different were the interpretations. In the Allam version Prospero came over as resigned but bearing grudges, impetuous and given to rash judgement; with Russell Beale, Prospero comes across as much more considered: no-one wanted to get on the wrong side of him because he'd be vengeful and dangerous. As Prospero screams in Ariel's face, we all felt here was someone with such internal rage and sorrow, he'd be capable of anything.

Personally, I loved the presentation of this play. I thought the combination of sound and light and image was a knockout wonder, and I loved how it brought back the Masque to a proper status, and seems to mark a moment when we can have a new way to explore imaginative theatrescapes. I'd love to see it again in the cinema run, to compare how it works on a screen. Simon Russell Beale is wonderful, and I didn't feel the acting was at all compromised or weakened by the image show. So, from me, a lovely, lovely show. Moving, and visually WOW.
And if you have an opinion on it, then share it: http://theatreboard.co.uk