Sunday, 25 January 2009

It's not precisely to the date; in fact if my memory is correct (and it is kind of vague) the actual anniversary was thursday. But as events befell on a cold, overcast Sunday much like today, I thought I would finally 'blog' in some detail and pay respects and memory to Daniel Succony, a friend who is sorely missed and whose presence was a massive influence and inspiration on my life.

I'm in danger of falling into excessive hyperbole. Overwhelmingly kind, always caring, ever reliable, deeply sympathetic... all traits which, while were never 'wholly' absent, aren't words I would ever choose to describe him. A fantastic, waspish, flippant, sharp, cocky, faddish narcassistic, brilliant and intelligent little bugger; without a doubt.

My kinship with Daniel was forged in sixth form, where I blossomed into a wonderfully emotive and petulant little shit, wrapped up my own newfound arrogance and with the supposed weight of the world on my shoulders. I didn't instinctively feel like I was that way, but to gauge a little perspective I used to playfully imply to my friends that I was 'the best' in a-level Drama, pretending to undermine their achievements by addint 'Ahh... but I was the best'. It wasn't something I actually ever meant, but only on talking about it some years later did my self absorbed joke actually become as realised as it ever did in my own head; they all thought I meant it and somehow put up with me! In addition to this, I was prone to moments of enraging piqué, laying scorned teenage loves to waste with embittered words... what an absolute tit I was. But of course, you never feel it at the time, and if you never feel bad you don't see a problem to address. A delusional joy, i'm sure.

But of course, there was Daniel there, ever present. Despite my conceit, and I can actually admit this in his absence, I did deeply admire and to an extent hero-worship him a bit. He was a young man who literally did not give a fuck, and it was absoluitely brilliant. A childhood fraught with illness, he never let the weight of his ill health and unfortunate circumstances get on top of him. I'd never say they didn't affect him, naturally they would, but he could certainly keep a level head and keep on top of things.

I heard a great story about him once; when he was on work experience at a care home in Year 10, before I had even met him. A girl we knew was reminiscing about being on this placement with him, and being incredulous to the fact that he had Nike Air trainers on. It's difficult to remember that kind of pinhole thinking that used to perpetuate at school, but recalling back that's almost all we ever did, bracket and pigeonhole people into ridiculous conventions and to strangely exclaim when they didn't obey these!

'Oh my god, you've got Nike Air' she stupidly blurted;

Daniel's response, even at 14 or 15, was classic; 'Yeah, and I live in a house with windows and doors and everything'

Typical. He was a loyal friend, but he didn't ever suffer fools gladly, as I learnt over the course of our friendship from his blunt, curt responses to my equally thoughtless impulses. There have been many times since where I've thought how much I need him, particularly when personal problems crop up. You can have all the sympathetic, practical friends in the world, but it still always helps for someone to clearly tell you; 'you're being ridiculous', when it's absolutely necessary and even when it's not.

His memory too, could never be fraught with sadness. It's impossible for me to think of him, no matter how much I miss him, without a smile. All the ridiculous things we used to say and do, positive and negative, were such a blessing to me. Our initial friendship from the early days in sixth form descended into a simile for one of those classic fraught relationships; Pete and Carl after he'd robbed his flat, Steptoe and Son... perhaps in many ways it was rather like Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, only with the gay sex and hammer-bludgeoning cut out. At times, it seemed we couldn't bear eachother, but I equally couldn't bear to be without him.

I could write for years and years about memories of sixth form and our short time in Aberystwyth, but I would not wish to expel myself on that matter too soon. Daniel's memory is something that's ever present, so hopefully this will be the first of many steps to revisit these memories and everlasting influence. One thing that was more inspirational than anything else was his attitude to life, he lived almost on borrowed and uncertain time and with an acute conciousness of his own mortality at such a young age. Unfortunately, his condition also rendered him weakened and helpless to fulfil his potential, and I will always wonder what great works may have lay within him. I can't speak for Del, but I will always feel in thrall to his talent, and have no doubts he could have written something a million times beyond the pale of anything I ever have or could. But feeling inferior to others was never his style, so I try to recall that attitude whenever I can; to live and give as much energy as you can to prove your point, make yourself known and heard, and to fully live as much as your capacity can hold.

I often wonder, with those talents in mind, what the three of us could have made theatrically... in brutal honesty, a bloody ridiculous, farcical mess, no doubt! But it certainly would have been fun. Fortunately, to an extent, we get to take him everwhere in our company; Daniel Andrew Succony Théatre. Bold, brash yet understated. That's his style, and it's my continued pleasure to honour and behold it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dead to the World

That was a title for something... something I wrote, long ago. I can't recall whether it was a song (gasp!), poem or just a few scrawls. Certainly can't remember the context. But recalling the title has some fuzzy recollection, an ethereal glow of a feeling or place akin to the expression itself.

Mr Pinter is now, sadly, dead to this world. I however, am not. 2009 has been an upheaval of sorts so far, characters change and plots thicken... on page and in living breath.

All you can ever do is honour memory, stay true and be free.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Getting Personal = Part One

Promotion and publicity is a tough game in the world of performing arts. It's a heady maze to stay ahead of the game, site specific work and quirky devised formats seem to hold the heads of traditional writing firmly under the water, so enamoured are they with the general arts bonhomie. In a world where the stunt is the thing, independent new writing has a complex dilemma in how to generate interest whilst remaining integral and relevant to the piece.

Seeing as the show begins from the pages of the personal ads, I decided it'd be a good idea to revisit my initial research for WLTM = (Bait&Switch), delving deep into the personals once again. During my initial research, I purged through many personals both in newspapers and online. I placed a few bogus ads and watched as a few tentative replies came in. I didn't pursue after the initial contact, as I wanted to build the narrative from that initial, tentative uncertainty. The hallmarks of first dates; the skittish awkwardness and nervousness, but also how much people gave about themselves as an introduction. I would love to write in more detail about how much these responses inspired many elements of the show, but the truth is this original draft was very different from the play as it is now. That original draft bears little resemblance to the finished article; it was a four person monologue show which in the end became so mouthy and, dare I say it, boring that I had to change tact. Looking back, I think I over-reached myself somewhat, the play was shoehorned with characters with a little less grace than Spiderman 3. The whole narrative was in drastic need of focusing, so I took on the key elements of the story which I wanted to remain, trimmed the cast to two and so began the show as it is now.

The personal ads in the show are from the newspaper, as opposed to the internet. Maybe it's some kind of snobbishness, but I felt it was deeply necessary to make that distinction clear in the narrative. Of course nowadays the internet is clearly the preferred medium, but it was important to contextualise it for the newspaper personals; the reason being was initially that I didn't want to make it too 'faddish' but moreso that I didn't want it to be too familiar to people. Social networking and internet dating have adapted into a highly accessible medium. The art of online seduction is too easy. I wanted the characters to be immersed in a sub-culture. The personal ads, antiquated but still going strong, seemed ideal. In meeting they could be discreet, but the format and the process in getting there required a full commitment.

I could expand further, but I think that will do for tonight. They're in the newspaper because the internet seemed effortless and easy. And with less than two weeks to go, frantically racking my brains with Ru for a promotional solution, this was effortless and easy (click for larger)

I placed another ad! Pretty plain, I thought... mildly intriguing but little more. Now my next hope was to see what tentative responses I might get. Well, there's a reason for the delay in posting this blog, and for blanking out that text number too. The responses weren't tentative at all. They were immense, and unrelenting.

Almost sixty emails, and the text phone has simply not stopped ringing or going off. I think the texts must be approaching seventy, so far. Clearly this was unprecedented... but all these people? It seems too good to waste. Some of the effort they've gone to has really impressed me. It's only fair that I reward that intrigue. Question is, can I get any of them to go on an actual, real life date?

Better still, can I get them to come on a date to the Oxford Arms in Camden on opening night just before curtain up?... Find out more in part two...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Musical Theatre goes to Pot... Noodle!

Ask any of my friends what they think I can't consume enough of and they'll tell you straight, it's the performing arts. No question. Well, that's what i'd like them to say anyway. In reality, they're more likely to say junk food, much to my disappointment. But it seems at That Fringe Festival Over The Border is welcoming a show that has an unusual marriage of the two; Pot Noodle the Musical.

The Guardian blogs have been getting quite feverish about this, and it certainly raises some interesting arguments about sponsorship or corporate involvement. It doesn't help the prosecution either when the event appears to be under the umbrella of the the now seperate comedy festival, which hasn't been met too favourably with a lot of people.

Obviously it's a two edged sword, on one hand artists strive for creative control and integrity, but to do so often demands are placed on corporate sponsors to simply cough up the cash and let them get on with it. The full scale musical advert is hardly a subversive idea, they've got a very committed and experienced team on board, and weighing it against the tone of the advertisements on television it would be expected that more slightly self deprecating absurdist humour will follow. We've self funded for two years now, and it's been a struggle for the most part, so funding may be something we could be cofounded with facing in the not too distant future. What to do if only corporate cash is on offer? Naturally, there's the fear of 'selling out', which is prevalent in the minds of all artists. I think if it’s done subtly and sensitively there’s no problem with strong show sponsorship. The over-riding fear, I guess, is that people will be worried if the floodgates open and soon the theatre will be subject to instructions from corporate advertising chiefs. I suspect this is irrational, but time will tell.

For WLTM = (Bait&Switch), I did daydream of how funny it would have been to get a dating site to agree to sponsor the show, perhaps persuading them to empty their pockets without seeing it or knowing what was to unfold… I doubt we’d have ever gotten away with it. if you see the show, perhaps you will agree as well.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Modus Operandi

I fell into the beartrap. I left the blog unattended. One entry and then I was gone. It's so, so easily done. Look! I've even fiddled with the date so the post I made in January looks like it was written a few days ago. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that pesky... me. Telling you.

I'm a little disappointed in myself, because much has happened over the past few months and i've neglected to be webwise. This makes me an absolute idiot, and i've only myself to blame for dismal box office returns. As a web user, I LOVE blogs. Love 'em. Can't get enough of all that reading. Which makes me a plank for not continuing with my own, and giving web visitors or anyone interested in seeing our shows NO incentive to come online. What a prize berk.

So i've decided to slog on with the blog, and I promise to be more proactive. I've brought that date forward to encourage some continuity, to renew my vows almost. Now that the das théatre main website is down (struggling to get Dreamweaver to do what I want, and yes i'm rather particular about how I want it all to look) the blog is an excellent way to keep you up to date in the run up to CAMDEN which is all very exciting. I mean, really exciting. It's a bit of a milestone for us to finally be on the London fringe at last, I can't tell you how overwhelmed and proud I am to be here.

So my aim is to keep on top of things, and update you as things progress. Well, as much as i'm prepared to reveal anyway. I'm making a pact with myself not to whinge or vent, especially in the heat of the moment when things can drag a little and nothing seems to go well... it does happen! das théatre does have it's down days. But I won't give away too many secrets, or i'll ruin the magic of the theatre!

Hopefully if some interesting industry stuff comes up i'll comment a little on that too...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Introduction and Justification

Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

That's the easy bit out of the way. But you see, it's with an awkward stance I begin this new foray into blogging. This time, unlike previous attempts, I'm trying to write something of worth over a document of my own tedious vanity. Not that i'm above it. I've fallen into the bear trap of 'hey, so like... um, this is my life. And I went here today, and did all these things...'

And who on earth wants to read that? I certainly don't.

There's something about blogs and blogging and online journals etc, which just seems to teeter endlessly over a pit of self-ridiculing indulgence and dullard opinion. I would hate to fall into all that. Again.

I wanted to write about mine and Del's experiences with das théatre. Last summer, on the way to rehearsals for 'Penetrator', we found ourselves carrying large holdalls full of props and paraphenalia sans Steve. Struggling down the road in the midsummer heat, I turned to my great friend and co-director and said; 'Did you ever imagine, having your own company... doing your own shows... and it turning out like this?'. Dragging hulking great bags across Twickenham. I wonder if Max Stafford-Clarke ever did this?

But it's experiences such as this (along with flooded campsites, venue hires, printing, lighting boards) which compel me back into the Blogosphere. I felt that these experiences should be documented. At first I considered writing a book, but I think without the occasional touch of humour or slight deviation from topic it would just seem really clinical and offputting. The fluidity of a blog allows an open, informal platform. Immediacy. That's the main driving compulsion.

When you start out on your own initiative, to go independent and to start doing your own theatrical endeavours by yourself you encounter millions of pitfalls that you never saw coming. We're not unique to this. Every fringe company experiences this. But goodness me, I wish someone had given us some advance warning. It's a bit like unicycling through a minefield and spotting a UN envoy on the horizon ready to guide you through. When they get closer however, you realise they’re all made of plywood and HP sauce and are of no help to you whatsoever. Except it’s nothing like that at all. It’s far more ridiculous than that.

Doubtlessly you'll get a flavour of what I mean as the weeks go on, and as we're on the cusp of planning a new show I'm sure the process will provide plenty of substenance. So here's to blogging; let's see what we come out with