Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Making sense of the Moon

If we could do this in my kitchen, my nice warm kitchen, I'd be much happier. Braving this cold weather is not good for me in the slightest. Trudging through the cold to get to the studio is putting me in a right grump.But that's enough meaningless complaining for this weeks post. And on that topic, I do apologise (to myself and anyone who reads this) for not making an entry last week - a time tabling change by Drew Hemnet threw me a bit off course.

So, what have we been up to in the past fortnight, I hear you ask with humouring apathy?

We carried on with our creation of filmic moments, playing them off each other; mixing them up and slotting them between each other as we saw fit, and playing with the OHP creating some really nice little visuals and stories. The idea was that the visuals became more and more realistic as the stories we told did the same. The first story was a fantastical love story inspired by 'Le Voyage dans la Lune', an old French film (well known by most for the scene where Mr. Moon gets shot in the eye), was told with very crude shapes and a fairly 'unreal' method of portraying it. But it did create a rather innocent view of love - a naive sort of depiction that you get on the silver screen. We moved through to more realistic stories which we have found through film, such as a tale inspired by everyone's favourite Krakozhian, Tom Hanks in 'The Terminal', which was 'based' on true events. (Though we are aware of how even 'true' events in Hollywood movies range between 'liberal' at best to 'lies' for most of the time). At this point we got a bit surgical with the OHP shadows, cutting out some nice detail with a scalpel to create some nice, life-like shapes. It's a simple idea, but it created some nice moments which had an innocence about them, and kept making us realise how much our views of love in our lives is preconcieved based on what we've been shown on a screen. Love is far duller than what we're shown - I'll never scoop a bullet out of my true love's chest and then massage her heart back in to cardiac rhythm with my bear hands (Christ, I hope not...) - and that's the way I like it, to be honest...

By stumbling about like this we made some beautiful moments, but that's all we had - moments (a concept which our last work was based on.) but no structure. The first time we put all this together and ran it all back to back we could see that we needed a frame to hold it all together. It barely made sense to us, so to make it a bit more cohesive we really did need to add some framing - not only that, but something physical. We were left with interesting texts which seemed to repeat on and on. The words did differ, but the performance remained the same and the pace just hasn't been thought of at all. The plan is to kill two birds with one stone, so to say.

We've been looking at love and the stories which it inspires so we thought we'd make up our own. For a while, we're going to tell our own filmic stories (which may or may not be about love). We'll write them out and then physicalise them - blend them with our own language which we've made up, and create a frame  which our moments can survive in. Whether or not the ones we have already survive, is pretty hard to judge - I hope they do - but if not, we've made our language which we can create work with. Now it's just time to write a story with it.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

... And a Carling Martini for the lady.

This is just an amazing cup of tea. I mean, I'm still tired, so it's not as if my exuses aren't 'valid', but, god, I'm enjoying this. As the only Northern member of Sticky-Tape currently working on this project (Jon Armstrong isn't involved in this piece as of yet) I feel the need to keep it real and moan about working down the mines, my bath of coal and the importance of tea. They just don't seem to get it.

This week in our studio, tucked in the corner of a flat-pack building shipped from Scandinavia, we've been exceptionally busy - on our piece, our research and our voyage in to the world of film. I've noticed before that people seem to comment on how beautiful the movie stars of years gone by are compared to those of today. The women have an extinct natural beauty and the men have an aura of sophistication that just doesn't exist any more. Vermouth has been replaced by Fosters. And, in a way, I think it's all true. But I also think it's the medium which creates this feeling. Everything looks classier in monochrome. Just like in photography, everything looks more interesting in Sepia ink. There's something about out-dated mediums that almost seems exotic and 'out-of-reach' - probabaly because the mainstream doesn't use them any more. So, in true 'done-before' style, we have been looking at techs like this. This week has been the world of shadow, silhouette, and the high-school science favourite, the OHP. It's really interesting to play with actually, and even though it's possibly the most low-tech form of live media around, it feels exciting to revisit it. There's been no sign of any acetate yet, but we have been at it with a pair of scissors making some custom shapes to tell our story. The most intruiging part about it is how easy it is to see through what is happening. You can see our hands moving the shapes, you can see what we're doing to create our images as we go along, and you can see the shapes themselves sitting on the light casting their shadow. Not only that, I love the grain on the image. The specks of dirt and the contours of the lens just grubby up theimage like an old cinema reel projected far larger than it should be. Since my science teachers in secondary school all those years ago, I don't think I've seen an OHP used outside of a theatre and I can see why. Early days, but the images we created really made that 'youthful' feeling of being amazed by something really simple come flooding back.

With absolutely no inspiration taken from the recent buddy comedy starring Will Ferrell and Marky Mark, we've also been looking at the B-Characters from movies or The Other Guys (Trust me, as far as I know, none of us have even seen that film. Honest). It ties in a bit with an idea we discussed on our last show, 'What happens to the characters off stage', but we decided to think of the story as seen by the minor characters and their perspective. The whole story is there, just from a different view point, including the things we don't see. We wrote some text on this individually and decided not to share with each other what films they were inspired by to see how obvious their origins were. A couple stuck out because of the facts, but one which we've sort of stuck with for now just told a great story without giving too much away - something where its quite easy to make what you will of it without being force fed what's going on. This seems to be the direction we're taking this though, we want our film based work happening on stage making allusions and hints at whats going on from a far off perspective, whilst the true narrative occurs way underneath the rest, probably through totally different mediums. I hope anyone who sees it can tweak a few details of what we're creating out for themselves, and that the blanks they don't find get filled in anyway.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Good Will in Black & Fidelity Hall

I apologise, I haven't even had a cup of tea yet, so this may ramble more than usual.

To tell the truth, we haven't really looked at translations too much since I last updated this. But that's half the reason I do it - to try and follow these tangents which three months down the line seem to make no sense. The good news is that we have actually made tangible progress. We can jump up there and perform a good amount of extremely unpolished work. But it's there, and we're moving along.

We started by following (I know, I'm repeating myself) the idea of how disconnected we all are from the media which we live through, and use to cope with our own situations. The way I see it, half of what we say in this way doesn't make any sense whatsoever. It's a reference to a reference; an in-joke. We played about with how much we can make from references like this, but then stumbled on the notion of what the other two (Leo & Jon) like to call the Frankenscene. Funnily enough, if you take half of a conversation from one film and merge it with half from another, the result is about as cohesive as day to day conversation usually is. Maybe not always on paper, but when spoken, it generally works.

We're attempting to tell a story, but not the story which is on stage. What's on stage is the cover-up. We're weaving the story underneath what you see on the surface. It'll be lurking behind the rest of the action in media, shadow and lights. As everything is, right?

We'll be working away, as usual, and hopefully we'll have 30-45 minutes of crashbangwallop within the next two or three weeks. The plan is to then sit back, relax, and rip it to shreds. If 10% of it survives I'll be a happy man.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Warriors, Ho!

The thing is with doing a sort of 'weekly update' on this type of thing, is that I'm pretty sure that it presents me with a quasi-obligation to actually have something to update this blog with. Progress hasn't been slow per-say, but it isn't too apparent. Practically, our work is exactly where it was this time last week - but we have been discussing. Between watching Neil Hannon in Manchester last night (Fantastic, thanks for asking) and working bar jobs to fund ourselves, the work is slowly forming in to a cohesive idea.

Pushing on from Movies, we encountered a few foreign films that seemed noteworthy, and this got us talking about translations. And how fantastical they can be. Everyone has had that little 'miscommunication' between themselves and someone who doesn't quite speak the language, but where can we go from there? Like I said, it might not be a show in itself, but it's fuelling the fires. A Bout De Souffle was a great starting point for this, but it's also definitely worth checking out such classics as 'Star War: Backstroke Of The West'. Which according to translations (as far as I can figure out), is something to do with the Elephant Warriors of the Presbytarian Church.

How do people communicate then? Especially when people are so wrapped up in the on-screen personas which they seem to quote incessantly. Just, as a note people, stop quoting Family Guy - it's gone. I, on the other hand, only quote Arrested Development, which is way, way cooler. I'm sure you'll agree. We all do it. Even if we make an active effort not to.

It's hypocritical, but I just can't communicate anymore. Not ideas, anyway; which would explain the sub-par writing of this page. The others in the company regularly take the piss that all I do is drop my face in to one hand and then spend 20 minutes explaining an idea which can be summarised in 8 words. Maybe people just find it easier to cope with situations that someone else has already proved they can deal with better? Let's quote them!

We're currently very interested in how films are made. Wes, of Proto-type theater, once said to us of something which we'd made: 'Why do this on a stage?. As in, why aren't you making a film? Why aren't you writing this as a novel? It's something which has always stuck in my mind when making work. To be honest, I'm not even sure we ever gave him an answer which he was satisfied with, but since he said it, we've always tried to justify ourselves based around it. We are live art; We are in front of you; We have one chance to 'Sparkle, and not fuck up' - as he eloquently put it. But films have very unique distinctions over theatre in the way they're made (and vice-versa). Can we splice reels together? Can we remove frames of a shot? People have put film on stage, can we put stage on film? Can we genuinely destroy the continuity of a live piece? Even by definition it's impossible. If something isn't how it should be, it's because somebody on-stage changed it. Right in front of an audience. But that shouldn't stop us from trying. Our work, and I use the word 'our' lightly as we've generally made work with numerous other artists up until now, has always had an air of failure about it. I guess that it's just as interesting to see how things don't happen as seeing how they do.

I overheard on the bus this morning, a total stranger moaning that they 'had six minutes of material and Wes just told us to scrap it. The whole thing so now we're back to the start. This always happens to us!'. But it's true of us too, and I think we're finally used to it. Failure is part of the process, and we'll make better material for it. Sooner or later, it might well occur that we'll scrap everything i've been talking about so far and end up creating a show about the Elephant Warriors of the Presbytarian Church.

Hang on, that's not a bad idea.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Cigarettes, Hats, Sunglasses

Well, now it's most definitely official.Taking a quick break from working down the mines, I figured I'd jump back in to the world of bloggery. When I did this last time, I tried to kid myself - 'This isn't a blog, I'm not that person; this isn't 2003 anymore'. The ruse lasted minutes and I decided to end up here next time I tried it. So let's go.

We've actually made progress in the creation of our new piece, but not so much in a practical way. Quite quickly, we've realised that our knowledge of the silver screen is extremely limited compared to the enormous amount of films that are actually out there, so if we wanted to follow our mediatised dreams, we'd have to brush up. Between the huge amounts of New Vegas and Branston Pickle that took up my night yesterday, I picked up a copy of A bout de souffle and am planning to give it a good looking over, followed by many others - it's been done a-plenty, but there is something still very interesting about the 'Noir' feel.

We're playing around with the idea of people coping with their own situation by 'living through' other media. We had a great bit of discussion about American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Mainly along the whole 'Is this actually happening at all?' route. Don't get me wrong, the last thing I want to create is some story where the main character turns out to be rocking back and forth in an asylum the whole time, but it's an interesting bit of storytelling, but I'm still not sure if I'm sold on the Shyalaman-twist yet. I think it's about the coping mechanisms we use, some more than others, but I can't honestly say that I've never done the same myself.

I feel quite lucky at the moment to be rolling out the 'Artist in Residence' card at Lancaster University. It's starting to dawn on me how expensive the facilities here would be to anyone else, and how little revenue one can generate when you're just getting off the ground. We've got a long way to go before the multi-million pound merchandise deal kicks in and after the recent cuts funding is going to be more sporadic than ever. I'm hoping for as much help-in-kind as I can get my opportunistic hands on. It's shameless, but unfortunately, we still don't live in an age where rather than turning over your cash, you can just say 'I'm not paying, I'm an artist'.

Sand is over-rated, it's just tiny little rocks

Yesterday, the very first showing of our work as a trio was shown to Andrew Quick from 'Imitating The Dog' Theatre Company ( In a way, this spurred me on to make a bit of an account of what we're actually doing behind closed doors and let anyone who has a mild curiousity into the workings of a fledgling theatre company to have a read, as well as it being a bit of a reference to me and the others. It won't be fluid; It won't be coherent; but it will be thoughts. If that's important at all.

We began last week by discussing film and the way that we all seem to live through it a bit vicariously. Then we seem to grab bits and pieces of films we like, quoting here and there in conversation. It's a bit odd really, because after we watch films, we seem to wander out in to the world and have fictional characters living through us, every time we steal their lines. So here have we started? Well, we've taken bits of films which we'd all recognise when we see them on screen - a bit here and a bit there, and spliced them. A voiceover from one film, the soundtrack from another, the actions from another. And we're currently playing with throwing them all together to see how the familiar can be represented in what seems an oddly unfamiliar way. Everything which could ever be said has (most likely) already been said. All we can do is rehash it in a way which seems to be new and original. That's the thought we're playing with, anyway.

Andrew described the writing we had used as 'beautiful'. On confession that it wasn't actually OUR writing, he furthered that it did seem familiar, in a way he couldn't put his finger on. I suppose that's what we were aiming for really. To provoke this uncertainty, even when the material isn't particularly new. This performance won't see the light of day for another 9 months, so the likelyhood of ANY of what we've done so far reaching anyones eyes is quite small. But the journey is half the battle, as I've found out a few times, the hard way. When faced with having to make an entire show in 3 weeks after having nothing after 6 months. It all falls in to place if you go round the houses - picking up bits and pieces from every place you visit.

Also, it's quite exciting to be able to rehearse in the new LICA Building at Lancaster University. It's pretty fantastic. Huge spaces complete with sprung floors, pre-set lighting rigs, projectors/screens. It's a nice place to rehearse. And we're the first people to sully it with our presence.