Slight return

Going back to Charlbury was fun. I really enjoyed Alan Fraser’s night, Upstairs at the Cornerhouse. I read some poetry, and also a piece from Straight Life, Art Pepper’s biography about what it is to perform. Alan gave that to me about 10 years ago, and I love doing it, I use it as an audition speech. I also did a piece from Philadelphia here I come by Brian Friel, which is possibly the first audition piece I ever did (apart from Hamlet and a piece from Glass Menagerie by Tennesse Wiliams to get into drama school). It’s about a boy and his father fishing in a blue boat on an afternoon in May. I’m hoping to get Shamus to film both those pieces and I’ll get them up on the site - early 2010!

It’s good to remember reasons why it’s good to be in Charlbury. I have two - my boys - and plenty of reasons not to enjoy being back where I spent 10 years of my life (wow). But the audience at Alan’s night was great, and a lot of friends were there. I left Charlbury on Halloween 2006 and felt that I hadn’t made any kind of mark there and had no friends. I was very wrong.

After Alan’s night I rushed back to Oxford to Tom’s birthday party. Tom is a fellow Tough Guy (TM) - GRRRRR! Not going to let Kersti talk me into that again, no sirreee, it’s a year of pampering for me. I can hear Kersti’s sniggering already. At least she didn’t try to get me to do her poleathon with her. Mind you … The bit in the Oxford Mail said ’single men won’t be admitted unless they know someone doing the poleathon’ ha ha ha ha.

I thought that in terms of work, Alan’s night was probably about the last thing I would do this year, but boy was I wrong (again). As I said in a previous post, the period between Halloween and Christmas is always weird now. So it’s been great this year to be so busy.

I’ve had programming meetings for Oxfringe 2010 and I did my spoken word night, Jam on That? at the Jam Factory. There were a few new audience members which is always good, and some interesting readings. But after I took a summer break, it was difficult to get it back up and running cos I was working on Pork and cancelled September, then had the Guilty Parties read through and Collider so cancelled October and November. I might make it a quarterly thing in 2010. First one is on Monday February 1. After Jam on That? I ended up back at Vix’s house in an afro-celtic-trans-trance-flamenco drumming session. I didn’t know Vix that well, but turns out she used to go out wi’ Arty Reid, ye ken, Arty Reid fae school. She went out with someone from my school! That’s nuts. And her lovely mate Jules was down from there, though she lives in Edinburgh now. I got home at five in the morning, turned round and went to work. The week never really recovered.

I was supposed to be having a drink with Tim Pont on November 25 but he had to cancel because of a corporate job in London. Then he phoned back and asked if I wanted to do it. I ended up at the Wellcome Foundation HQ on Euston Street dressed as a silhouette - head to foot in black, with a black surgeon’s mask and cap and an apron. It was for their Identity Project launch, and I gave out tags with snippets about ‘my’ identity. I gave one to Tony Benn, Fiona Shaw and Britain’s first sex change who went from George Jamieson to April Ashley. And I sat in the Big Brother diary room chair. And we weren’t allowed to speak! Some people looked freaked, some just took the tag politely, and some smartarses tried to guess who we were supposed to be. Thing is, we were all just generic. I was ‘the surgeon’ and we had a priest, a soldier, a dancer and a hoody. These two kept on trying to guess who I was an I went along with them when they named some famous 19th century German surgeon, and agreed (by nodding) when they pinpointed the dancer as Madonna, the soldier as Steven Fry and the hoody as Eminem. It’s a celeb driven world. My original brief was a surgeon who fondled, err examined, women’s breasts (I had the choice of that or the priest, no brainer really). But some bastard stole my stethoscope. Now if I’d had the tools of the trade I’d have got away with it, but without that… I’d've been arrested as a black-clad ninja groping the guests!

Then I met up with Rachel in Reading. Always a life-saving experience.

On 29th I went to see Malcolm Middleton at the Jericho Tavern. That was brilliant. I love Malcolm Middleton, especially Into the Woods and Sleight of Heart. There was this drunk guy who was all over the place. Of course he chose to talk to me and Richard Tilley. He liked me right away cos I’m Scottish (you did know that didn’t you?) - in fact he put me on the phone to his girlfriend so she could hear my voice - and he thought Richard was intelligent cos he was wearing glasses. An areshole, but an intelligent one (Richard, not the guy). We were humouring him, but making frantic eyebrow signals to the bar staff to remove the lunatic, when out of the blue Richard says, “You’re not a pilot are you?” He says, “ash it hapennsh I am” and got out his helicopter pilot business card (next to his brain surgeon and rocket scientist ones). This all seemed very familiar and I suddenly realised that I’d experienced him before in Charlbury when he was similarly drunk. God help all who fly with him. Botched military coups - he’s yer man. At one point, Curly Hair, the support, who were lovely airy fairy folky hippy types, came off stage and into the audience. He had his back to them as the slight, studenty looking singer who had slapped down hair, glasses (intelligent) and a goatee and was wearing no shoes, stood on a chair just behind him. He (folky guy, not helicopter guy) was playing a glockenspiel. I had a brilliant vision of the guy getting annoyed by the ‘noise’, turning round and lamping the singer. That would have been a ‘Hot-Fuzz‘ moment.

I went to Free E-day at Cafe Tarifa, which was not at all what I thought it was going to be. It was a collection of artistes, singing and speaking. Very good though. OUP’s Christmas Show Down on Walton Street, was brilliant. Even the private jokes looked funny. Great and lovely director and musical director!

Huck shares my Charlbury experience. He’s fantastic, I love his voice, and I really wanted Dylan and Aidan to hear him - and Tamara Parsons Baker and Henry Stead. So I was talking to them at Huck’s gig at the Cape of Good Hope trying to find out if any of their gigs would be on early enough for the boys in a reasonably family-friendly pub. Tamara suggested we do a Christmas gig at a time kids could come to. So, A Christmas Cracker was born. We roped in George Chopping as compere, and Abelardo and his mate Richard on flamenco duty. We got publicity in the Oxford Mail, which - as always - didn’t turn out as it should have. Every time I’ve acted as ‘press officer’ and given them a story, from back in the day as The Shed Theatre press officer to this one, they always get something wrong that makes an arse of me! This time, they missed out Henry’s name and cut Huck’s quote out. But the gig was good - if odd. Maybe we’re all a bit dark, maybe we’re all nightpeople, but the early time didn’t quite work somehow. Everyone was their usual great selves, and my boys loved it, so that’s it. Huck is playing with another of my favourite bands, The Long Insiders at the Wheatsheaf in Oxford on January 16.

The guys from Birdwatch, past and present, met up for drinks in Soho, which was a night not to be missed. So I didn’t. Friday December 11 was the Newsquest Editorial Christmas Night Out - organised by … me. I wasn’t going to do it this year, cos last year everyone was so bloody miserable and when you ask them if they want to go they look at you like you’re got two heads. But Richard Tilley persuaded me (because it meant that he didn’t have to do it) by saying he would help. It was, of course, in the Jam, and they looked after us as only they can. Everyone was delighted and said how much they’d enjoyed it - but, just like last year, only three people left a tip. In fact, last year, not a single person left a tip - and I got stung for it - £30.

I missed Echo & The Bunnymen at the Cardiac. Pity, I think I last saw them at Aberdeen Capitol in 1983! They were awesome then, maybe not so much now. But I had a script reading the same day, for a film that ‘might’ be part shot in the Philippinnes - part of the production budget is coming from there. It’s a Japanese-style atmospheric horror, ala The Grudge, The Ring etc. I liked the guy who wrote it and think he might do good things. His name was Brandon Francis.

George Chopping’s Jamboree at the Chester Arms is turning into one of the best monthly jam sessions I’ve seen. I did my Art Pepper and Brian Friel pieces again, and loved doing it. I’d been to the Jamboree the month before. It was the night after Andrew and Tom’s 3rd anniversary at the Jam Factory and Tom’s leaving do, which went on til 5, so I was knackered. And when George asked if I wanted to do anything, I said no. As soon as it started, and the acts were really good, I wanted to do something and be part of it. I asked George and of course, he’d filled all the slots. I got energy and insiration from the others, and it was a great night, but I would have loved to have performed. I learned something important that night. George is a c**t.

The Newsquest Armchair Movie club started up again. I went to the pre-film meal that relaunched it, but missed the film, and I missed the second one, but this one was Annie Hall and I made it. It was great. After work, a film chosen by one of the guys, who explains why they chose it, then you sit back with wine and crisps. Wicked! Nice one Jeremy, Nige and Heath.

On Thursday I made it to Judgement at the BT. I wanted to go but didn’t think I would have time cos I had to go to Hester’s divorce party! But I went to Judgment - it’s a one-man show about a group of six Russian soldiers who were abandoned in a monastery by the retreating Nazis, and when the Russian army liberated them 60 days later, there were two left. They had eaten each other. Alex Rogers was great, a really strong performance of a very difficult script - wave after wave of horror loses its impact after a while, but Alex kept our attention. And one member of the audience actually PUKED! I kid you not. Alex Rogers performance was so visceral, someone threw their guts up.

Last weekend, I took the boys to Where The Wild Things Are. I loved it. I cried (of course - Dyl must surely hate going to the pictures with me!). It was brilliant. Anarchic, loving, life-affirming but never ever cutesy and sugary. I loved it on so many levels.

That night I was in London for Signal Theatre’s A Night Before Christmas at The Hen and Chickens in Islington. This is the play I want to do in London next year, so I really wanted to see what they did with it. It was good. I enjoyed the performances, and it is a fantastic script. Gave me a lot to think about for next year. I ran out of money when I was in London! It’s been an expensive month, what with Christmas and socialising. But the great thing is that the last of my money went on Christmas breakfast for me and the boys last weekend, and the trip to the cinema. I’m strangely untroubled to have not a penny to my name, but then I do get paid on Christmas Eve. And I managed to borrow £20 when I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. It was good to catch up.

A lack of money didn’t stop me and Nige (who was in a similar predicament) from blagging free tickets for the Ultimate Picture Palace screening of Nosferatu and A Trip to the Moon. They were brilliant. Nosferatu, by FW Murnau is great and I had never seen it on the big screen, but I had never ever seen A Trip to the Moon - I’d seen the image - you probably have - of the moon with the rocket in its eye, but never the film. It’s about 10 minutes long, and very very good - the aliens are fantastic. It was the first sci-fi and was made by George Melies in 1902.

Now, I’m sliding to Christmas (it’s very icy). I’m going to Kersti and Tom’s for their Waifs and Strays Christmas special (thanks guys). I don’t have the boys until 28, and it’s going to be really weird. But the boys are Ok, we’ll miss each other, but we’ll speak on Christmas Day and then we meet up and head to Scotland for a few days.

Have a great Christmas and a happy and successful 2010. X