|so i'm in baton rouge on business. my first impressions of the hotel when i arrived last night were quite positive. it remains a nice enough hotel, but the location and services now strike me as quite bizarre. it is conveniently situated next to the offices of the american outfit, and inconveniently situated for anything else at all. there is no bar or minibar; hoping for a beer after i got in i asked in reception and was met with a blank shrug. i'm now waiting for my collegue to arrive and take me to new orleans, effectively trapped here. i asked what there was within walking distance. the answer: nothing.
the hotel also doesn't serve food, so i just walked 15 minute down the dusty freeway to the only place selling food nearby, a drive thru taco bell.
i always make a point of eating the local food when travelling. if there's something on the menu that's unfamiliar, that's what i'm having. deep fried insects, piles of unidentifiable raw things, tripe soup, other insects, etc, no problem. but nothing had prepared me for taco bell. at least with normal strange food, you can usually narrow it down to animal or vegetable. i think the taco bell product is synthetic enough to qualify as "mineral". if i was in a space rocket, submarine, or nuclear bunker, it would be explicable. otherwise, not.
why someone would build a hotel in the middle of fucking nowhere beats me, but there appear to be other people staying there. i'm a bit scared to find out what their stories are, but they seem happy and well adjusted and not in the least bit peturbed by that fact that if their cars broke down they would starve to death*.
also, i'm posting to livejournal because the free internet access the hotel offers (a good thing) has filtering software. it blocks facebook on the grounds that it's a social networking site, but allows livejournal. also, it allows warrenellis.com, which i think is proof if further proof were needed that filtering software is stupid.
*i'm obviously discounting the taco bell as a potential food source. i would rather eat boiled shoe leather and grass than go there again. AFTER i got back the woman in the hotel who directed me there advised me against the "beef", which is evidently what i ordered. presumably the chicken is more realistic.
|We walk in to see a set of rough concrete and tiles, chipped at the edges in a way that could have been caused by time, but which hints at bombs. The solid stone promises a cool refuge from the heat of an Arabian summer (or in this reviewer's case, a sweaty dash down the Piccadilly line) which it sadly fails to deliver, but that seems to be the only thing it doesn't manage to do. Solid and adaptable, it takes us convincingly from London to Baghdad, night club to mosque, insurgent compound to Abu Ghraib.
The opening scene sets the tone for the next hour; there are some very funny and some very insightful one-liners, some set-ups for clever moments that echo lines through out the text in different contexts adding sophistication and layering, and a hefty chunk of exposition. Within seconds we know that this one's a writer, this one's a journalist, this one's a bit gay, this one's a bit insecure, this one's getting married, and this one's going to be the voice of reason. And so we roll into 60 minutes of back story, discovering how everyone got to where they are and showing in an even handed and politically neutral way the human cost of war on lives, onyou can sense the relief from the cast that they finally have something to do. And there is te relationships, and on the once ordinary middle-class existence of once ordinary middle class people.
Perhaps all of the the back story is necessary; it would be hard to point to scenes that should obviously be cut, but it feels like shaving 15 or 20 minutes off the opening wouldn't hurt. If there were an interval after the first act, it would be entirely possible that not all of the audience would make it back. Which would be a great shame, because just as it seems that this is all we're going to get, slightly after a feeling of disappointment and boredom has set in, the plot starts.
Suddenly the pace steps up an order of magnitude; nsion, and drama, and pain. Brutal Americans and murderous Iraqi insurgents to hate, with flashes of humanity lighting up the coldness and numbness on each side. And even what is pretty much a happy ending and the long awaited wedding - with the caveat of a self-referential line in the closing scene:
"Only in stories can a wedding be the end. In life, that's never the case. You can't tell how things might turn out."
The story ends here, but the real life of Iraqis, in Baghdad and in exile, carries on.
Matt Rawle as Salim and Nitzan Sharron as Marwan both give commanding performances, as does Sirine Saba as Luma - though in the scene where she meets Marwan for the first time she comes on so strongly that it becomes impossible to believe that Marwan - even as shy and inexperienced as he is - doesn't get the hint. The lighting is handled with a great deal of good sense and taste, such that although a large number of specials are used, not once did they seem jarring, obvious, or out of place. Ok, just the once - when you throw someone in prison, shining a cold, hard focused spot down on them with sharp edges and playing the sound of a large metallic door clanging is about as bad as conducting a murder scene under "blood" red lighting. The sound design struggles with the almost impossible task of representing gunfire and the even harder task of incoming missiles and apache helicopters, but there are some delightfully subtle moments, in particular the croaking of night time crickets that was so wonderfully atmospheric that I didn't even notice that it was a sound effect until it had been on for about 10 minutes.
Baghdad Wedding is a timely, relevant piece of theatre, with something to say about the nature of humanity that is irreducibly complex; it can't be boiled down to a sentence or two, it needs a whole play to say it in. And it manages to be with and still contain a huge number of quotable lines, dozens of laugh out loud jokes, and a healthy amount of crude innuendo.
|The following groups of people should under no circumstances go to see LotRtM:
1. People who like The Lord of the Rings.
If you know and love the book, or even only the films, don't go. Spare yourself the pain of seeing something good mechanically recovered, chopped up, watered down, and mushed back together again into Lord of the Rings shaped turkey twizzlers.
2. People who do not like The Lord of the Rings
Because, y'know, it's a bunch of fucking elves and dwarves and hobbits fannying around a plot that's too long, makes no sense, and seems to have these inexplicable gaping holes in it as if large sections had just been insensitively cut out.
3. People who do not know the storyline inside out already
Because you'll get no help here. Knowing it so well makes it hard to guess how much sense this would make to someone who didn't already know what was going to happen, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say: fuck all.
4. People who like musicals
Aren't musicals lovely? The spectacle, the soaring emotions, the fit dancers? Even if you can't follow the plot and get confused by acting, you can at least enjoy the tunes? And they spent a fuckload of money on this, so it's bound to be spectacular, right? Wrong. Some of the puppet monsters were good. Except for the Balrog. Everything else, even by the low, low standards of musicals in general (I'm not a fan of the genre, obviously, but even if you are, stay away) is trite and flaccid, the lyrics - on the rare occasions they can be made out - anodyne and weak.
5. People who don't like musicals
Because, y'know, it's a fucking musical.
6. People liable to snigger at any of the following list:
a) Bungee jumping elves
b) Hobbits wearing flesh-coloured shoes with what look like small furry animals glued to them
c) A small flashlight, easily purchased in a common hardware store, named the "Star of Eárendil" that, when activated by the magic words, is then turned on with an audible click by a switch in the base.
d) Elves that provide simultaneous translation of everything they say into elvish sign language, with is apparently composed of a series of hand-waving 70s disco moves done very slowly.
e) Hobbits in fat suits: because clearly there aren't any real short fat people in the world.
f) Rangers with Maori tribal tattoos and Venetian gondolier poles.
g) Vastly expensive sets that shake, wobble and bounce.
h) Ents that talk really quickly
i) The fact they everyone who isn't a Somerset Hobbit or a Partic Thistle supporting "Man of the North" has a Vlad the Impaler style cod-Eastern-European accent, delivered in a portentously wooden manner, with pauses and emphasis in all the wrong places.
j) Really shitty fight choreography, that amounted in one "climactic" battle to this poor bastard of a Dwarf hitting someone over the head with his flimsy plastic axe as if it were Mallett's Mallet.
k) The fact thay they started playing Enya every time the Wizards were having a conversation
Because they use strobe lights. For no real reason and to no real effect, but they're there anyway.
People who should go and see LotRtM:
1. People who really really liked "Ovo", the pisspoor Millennium Dome show.
EDIT: Ian's version
|I'm closing this journal - at least, I'm shutting down random updates about doing things and obsessive checking of the friends page. I won't delete it as it's an archive I want to keep, but anything I post from now on will be creative writing, reviews, opinion or commentary, with comments disabled. And to prevent the obsessive-checking-of-the-friends-list, I'm removing everyone, without exception.|
|the show i am lighting is back for a second run at the arcola! starts monday!
|i have a sleep deficit, a burning knot of muscle between my shoulders, and a mostly working, new, live crm, workflow and data management system.
which we have until the end of the month to integrate with the billing system.
|I am hard pressed on my right; my centre is giving way; situation excellent; I am attacking.|
|i like this:
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice
i've seen other ways of saying the same thing before, but i like this one more.
|The pig go. Go is to the fountain. The pig put foot. Grunt. Foot in what? ketchup. The dove fly. Fly is in sky. The dove drop something. The something on the pig. The pig disgusting. The pig rattle. Rattle with dove. The dove angry. The pig leave. The dove produce. Produce is chicken wing. With wing bark. No Quack.
|the thing that strikes me about this:
story is that for some reason his mother objects to a hyperbaric chamber but is absolutely fine with a home made fusion reactor.
|on the second night of the play
1. we sold out! and presales for the rest of the week are strong.
2. just as i was about to leave the director rushed past excitedly to say that the venue have invited us back for another run, 2-3 weeks, in january!
|will self is amazing. last night at express excess, a little performance poetry / spoken word event at the enterprise by chalk farm, after a couple of pretty decent but not amazing acts, he held the audience tenderly in the palm of his hand for an hour (in much the same way he wanted to cup the cock and balls of the event organiser), talking and reading and exuding a miasma of deadpan depressed confidence. he shared with us his dream of sodomizing jude law, which was one of the funniest things i'd seen since... erm, the night before, at comedy camp, with harry hill (who was trying out some new material and was a bit too random) and ian stone.|
Next week I'm doing the lighting design for this play. It would be cool if you all could come and see it. It'll be very depressing. I shan't be there Wednesday or Thursday when I'll have someone else operating the desk, so given that Tuesday is "pay what you can" night that might be a good time to show up, if you're free.
|The Faust myth is a wonderfully adaptable thing; the central engine that keeps the plot in motion, the "power of the irrevocable act", the deal with the devil, can be applied to many, many situations. So the prospect of a combination of Dr Faustus's story with that of artists Jake & Dinos Chapman was certainly less implausible, than, say, Tristan and Iseult featuring Tracey Emin - but the question remained: How would the stories fit together? What would be added by interleaving them in this way?
And I'm still not sure. There was definitely something; sometimes subtly, as whenever the word "devil" was mentioned in the modern day section the action suddenly shifted back to the medieval (which I didn't notice until Jen pointed it out after), sometimes more obviously, as when Faustus's signature of the contract for his soul was enacted at the same time as the Chapman brothers' purchase of Goya's "Disaster's of War" prints, with one actor playing both the Devil and the Art Dealer. One of my favorites was the way that Faustus's tour of hell and the tortures of the damned was overlaid on the opening night of the exhibition featuring Chapmans' "Hell", with dealers, flunkies, hangers on and artists embodying the seven deadly sins as they went about their business. But the connection was always oblique and tangential (entirely as it should be) and I left the theatre wanting someone to give me an explanation and knowing that I'd have to figure it out for myself.
The opening scene was a little shaky, with Faustus talking to the audience when he should have been muttering insanely to himself, and Mephistopheles's body language was a trifle weird at times, but I found all of the actors portraying modern day characters spot on, especially Jake and Dinos. The staging and lighting and sound were also exquisite - the set involved movable elements you'd only expect to see in the west end, walls shifted in and out as if being carried by an army of invisible daemons, unwanted tables slid across the stage of their own accord, changes of scene and time and place occurred to punctuate the piece but without ever letting the energy drain away in a blackout. The only times the lights were all out the energy was even higher and the action carried right on - throughout a long spell of The Lights Going On and Off.
At the climax, as Faust is damned and the prints insulted (or "rectified"), the perspective switches suddenly with a trompe l'oeil that had me dizzy with its effectiveness and has me still wondering how the fuck they managed it. I felt like I was going to fall out of my seat and plunge headfirst down into the stage, crashing 50 ft down onto the top of the table.
|so all along it's been nothing to do with the mystical significance of bodily fluids - satan's just been trying to save money on ink.|
|some time ago my MD told me that i should take my team out for an evening on the company - as a bonding excercise, or something.
we were two rounds of drinks into an inoffensive evening at an inoffensive bar in clapham, when i learned that most of them 1. had never eaten sushi 2. had never been to garlic & shots.
we put the question to fate, and g&s won the toss, so i made everyone come to soho and eat garlic until it came out of their ears. now i have a bit of a credit card bill to explain to the financial controller tomorrow.
was this wrong?
[ next time they will be eating raw fish at asakusa, which is a very ordinary looking sushi bar near mornington crescent, which i have walked past a hundred times but which is apparently one of the best in london ]
|i've just gotten round to watching scum, which i've had on video for years and years, staring malevolently at me out of the stack of other videos and dvds as if daring me to watch it. and every time i've thought "no, i've had a long hard day, i'll watch some nice comedy and have a cup of tea instead".
well, i'm glad i got round to it. it's impossible not to know the story or the catchphrases - "I'm the daddy now", "Where's ya tool?/What fuckin' tool?" but the power and the drama of the whole thing together, the brutalising atmosphere and the utter mercilessness of the cons and the screws all add up to a really moving film.
and it's weird seeing ray winstone so young.
|will anyone i've lent books to please let me know if they still have them and when they intend to return them? i'm in no hurry, it's just that i'm losing track.
i think someone has my "disinformation:: book of lies". i know that bill has the 7 basic plots. mike at work (and this if for my memory as he isn't going to read this) has the illuminatus. tracey has the complete saki.
but there are other gaps on the shelves i can't account for, so if you could remind me, that'd be great.
it's a fucking long way to the lake district. nimstar drove for hours and hours. once we got to grasmere, we checked into the harwood hotel and did a lap round grasmere lake in the dark with torches.
helvellyn to sheffield pike
outline of route
glenridding - birkhouse moor - helvellyn (via striding edge) - lower man - whiteside - raise - stybarrow dodd - green side - sheffield pike - glenridding (grid ref. ny 386170)
total distance 9.6 miles, total ascent 4000 feet, equivalent distance 17.5 miles
a properly good day's walking. striding edge is one of my favourite things in the world.
plan A was
scafell pike, great end, and bowfell from langdale
outline of route
old dungeon ghyll - rossett gill - esk hause - scafell pike - great end - esk pike - bowfell - three tarns - old dungeon ghyll (grid ref. ny 286060)
total distance 11.2 miles, total ascent 4600 feet, equivalent distance 20.4 miles
but that seemed a bit much like hard work, especially if we were to get back to london that evening.
plan B - just going up and down scafell pike seemed a bit much too. so we ended up with
the langdale pikes and sergeant man
outline of route
new dungeon ghyll - loft crag - pike o'stickle - harrison stickle - pavey ark - thunacar knott - high raise - sergeant man - blea rigg - new dungeon ghyll (grid ref. ny 296064)
total distance 6.5 miles, total ascent 3400 feet, equivalent distance 13.2 miles
but quite truncated and in reverse. it was mostly truncated by the fact that i got us quite lost by bright beck and round the back of the langdale pikes and pavey ark, and by the time we found a path i had one boot full of bog water and was just happy to find any kind of route down.
it's just a shame that we didn't walk dungeon ghyll or pass dungeon ghyll force, as it has a cool name.
we got to the car park an hour after the ticket had run out, and the traffic warden was writing us a fine. and when we arrived he said "well, you're back now, and at least you paid a bit, those other guys didn't bother at all." and let us off. they must breed traffic warderns from different gene-stock out there.
so we left at 3 and got back to london at about 10. it's a fucking long way back from the lake district too. and i ached all over all of today.
pleasantly surprised by the pictures, given that i took them on my phone.
|i have just heard the scissor sisters cover of comfortably numb, and it's one of the most horrible things ever.
which is a shame, because i mostly like the scissor sisters things that get played on the radio.
|There isn't much that can be said about this without spoiling all of the magic. So I will have to confine myself to superlatives.
It was the most interesting thing I have seen since The Shunt Collective's Amato Saltone and Tropicana. It did even more with the audience, it was even more of an adventure, it was even less of a "play" with a story and characters and resolution - but the drama was there. If you like experimental theatre, if you like uncertainty and discovery, you MUST go and see this.
I am in awe at the way the company retained control whilst allowing the illusion of freedom. I am curious as to what else could have happened had we been a different audience. If you can, engage in the email dialog before the show; it helps, I think, though it doesn't matter if you don't.
|i'm submitting this to the daily wtf - every time i look at it it makes my brain hurt with how wrong it is.