Thursday, 3 December 2009

Some Nice Words

Here is an appraisal of Dummies (thus far) from Kelina Gotman of KCL on its debut at RADA earlier in the year. Maybe this will give people an idea as to what I might be doing with this thing:

Dummies is easily one of the best works of theatre I saw all year [2009]. It is raw, open, messy, polyvocal, poetic, and completely insane, unravelling before our eyes (and ears) all the indecipherable codes and speech patterns that transpire from the City to our kitchen sinks, and the operating table to the lecture hall. It repurposes banana peels and garbles machinic language, to produce a frightfully lucid depiction of the madness of corporate cultures, work life, and play, in an act of creativity that recalls Joyce, Artaud, Carroll, and the grand traditions of bunraku puppetry. Not quite clown, and not quite performance art, it occupies a space between high and low art, folk and the avant-garde, slipping between worlds faster than it can pause to mop up the mess that was left in the scene before. Truly delightful.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Ursonate at the Camden Head (15th Nov 2009)

Kurt Schwitters

As the wheat made their excuses and left after a long night of new theatre, the chaff remained, much to my delight, and experienced the first (and hopefully not the last) performance of Dummy Company's 'Ursonata: 1st movement'.
It had been a long evening at Short Fuse and I had previously performed in a friend's piece called 'Death of the Author' which, being a piece of straight-forward comedy, had left me feeling quite dejected (despite the audience's warm reception, it reaffirmed why I never even tried joining Footlights). Plus, to top-off the unnecessary pre-performance drama meter, my poor mother had made an oddyssey driving through north london trying to find the Camden Head, which, according to Google was in Angel rather than Camden. All this just to bring me an amp which (don't tell her if you see her) WE DIDN'T USE! She was so tired and stressed that she didnt even stay for the night's entertainment. I was duly punished by lugging the useless device all the way back to Beckton. (Although an amp makes a good seat on a crowded train).

With all this behind me we finally took the space to perform the opening of the Sonata (it would have been too cruel to do the whole thing, and we havent finished devising it all yet). For those who don't know, 'Ursonate' is a half-hour long sonata for voice by Dada/Merz artist, Kurt Schwitters. More a piece of dadaist sound poetry in the heritage of Hugo Ball and shamanistic chant, it requires a lot of tongue blasting and jaw bombadeering. Here's a recording of Schwitters doing it himself: (ignore the cow, lovely as it is)
In anxious preparation I had been downing a glass of water every 10 minutes and my visits to the toilet were getting tedious, also, my throat, rather than feeling limber and cool was feeling chappy and thick so I started drinking a pint of beer which solved all my problems. (I might start performing with a beer all the time my troubles begin).

So anyway, I wanted this to be a practise for my voice and for Shaun and Sophie to do more puppetry. The piece opens with a mini-play with my two 'Little Dog' marionettes. The audience, quite predictably, were taken in by them and thought it quite cute. My worry was that the main performance to follow would render the marionette show meaningless but because it was taking such an informal, un-theatrical form, they seemed to flow quite neatly.
Then we began the 10mins of 'Ursonata'. To my surprise I hardly tripped over anything in my reading and it's definitely the most intense delivery I think I've ever given to anything. The one thing that I did falter over, quite intriguingly, was when I thought I saw an 'r' instead of an 'f', during a long passage which constantly repeats the phrase 'fummsbowotaazaa...'. I thought I saw 'rummsbowo...' and pronounced it. Even though I practically know it by heart, it is evident that my performance was still a 'reading' rather than a memorised delivery.
The object manipulation from Shaun and Sophie, according to the audience, was very engaging. Wish I'd videoed it all, it feels pointless describing it all in detail.

The long and short: we will do the WHOLE sonata as an object/voice piece. And even more so, as I have been dwelling on the idea for a while, we could bracket the sonata with puppet interpretations of some of Schwitters Merz Fairy Tales which have recently been published by Princeton Press. Hope someone else hasn't or doesn't get there first, although what do I care?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Stomunculus Underground (Fragment#?)

Stomunculus blinks voicelessly amongst the crowd.

They march past his trunk and smash his stump.

One follows the other with plugs stuffed in each mouth.

Stomuncles’ oracle is the only unplugged orafice in the tube –

Non-electric unlead mistriggered to his tongue.

Shots of molecular phlegm squeal into Stomucles’ mouth, as a voice tells him to:

Mind the placental jelly that often makes surfaces slipp

ery during inclement residue.

There, across the narrow bars that flicker sparks and come and go into two giant holes, golden screens flash gleams of excrescent beauty; and when their silicone tongues lick a golem’s earhole, the golem drops its jaw, lets fall its plug and dives open mawed towards the glimmering sublime, as its bulk shatters across the spitting tracks.

Stomookoo feels his ribs shuttering within the capsulated stream, pressed by golems blindly sculpting him with paper. Beneath his forming feet heats the beat of something roaring near away. His open mouth lets in the onrushing course of wind as it shafts down his throat.

The golemmings squeeze in clumps on the platform edge, clustered together with their feet on words saying


A little pickaninny notices Stomoral’s gaping O and, under the deluzean that it is a tunnel, puts her little head inside. Barely noticing the little feet kicking from his mouth, Stomuckle stands obedient with the golems on the platform.

By now the beats that beat beneath are rippling through their cortices and the wind storms from the gaping cavity. Paper rustles and golems clench their clusters while the yearning scream erupts from the hole.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Way back in January Jeremy Hardingham and I made a film around Faustus. It's called Glutted of this and if you go to you can watch it in full and read about its genesis and consequent exegesis from Raphael Lyne who gave it an insightful interpretation.

A picture of JH thinking about what it means to watch film

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Stane Musik

Here is Hugh MacDiarmid reading 'Emis Stane' with a bit of Ligeti and Napalm Death. Some how I think that Scots just goes well with grindcore metal. It's designed to be played leading into 'One Doing'. I think I might want to make a little album out of these.

Stane Musik

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Doing what one is doing

Bunged up and groggy I decided to muck about with sound on my computer. Using Soundtrack Pro I created this:

One Doing

Using Gertrude Stein's portrait of Matisse, Shubert's 'Nacht und Traume' (probably because Beckett wrote a TV piece with it) and a bit of Varese ('Dance for Burgess') I spliced, reversed, delayed, phased and flanged my way into this little meandering 'traume'.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Dummies @ The Red Hedgehog (29th July 2009)

follow the link and wait for it to buffer.

thanks to Benjamin Hajir for filming it last minute and Ian Winter for putting it on the cybernet.

some footage was made in my garage.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Filmic Residua Preview of the REAL thing! @$%!#&!

26-27th June 2009

Ian Burrows and I filmed a little something whilst I was up in Cambridge.

And now, for the first time, introducing........MR.PEEL!

So I don't get sued:

Music provided in part by Aphex Twin, Beethoven, Exhaust and Mogwai. Thank You.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Birth Booth ReConceived

SHOW US YER BITS! (Southwark Playhouse, 4.6.09)

Show Us Yer Bits!, a Southwark Secret curated by GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN!

This was the first proper public performance of a Dummies fragment. I had spent a week on the Isle of Wight and made a marionette. It was supposed to be Stomunculus the Homunculus, but I'm not sure it really looks like him. (I don't even know what he looks like, I'm thinking of creating a rod puppet out of goo so he doesn't have a recognisable shape). The performance was a combination of the Birth Scroll with some new puppetry. I'd never performed with a marionette in front of an audience, let along a rickety one I had made in a back garden, so the challenge was quite exciting.

I ate an apple (or tried to eat an apple) as I delievered the birth scroll. Bits went flying everywhere. I wanted to find a way to make speaking a difficult, almost painful process, I think it worked.

The mess we created went well too. Although I splattered a woman in the front row with red food colouring, she didn't seem to mind. If it's worth getting your blouse stained to see the performance then it can't be all that bad?

Becky was in two minds about assisting me (Dr.Shaboo), as we hadn't really prepared a slick routine as 'Doctor and Assistant', but on the last minute we decided to just go for it. The audience wanted more interaction between us, more precision with the objects and more of a performance as a double act rather than man with woman to his side handing him things. These were probably the most important points made as they gave Becky the extra confidence she needed and myself a kick up the bum in regards to incorporating other bodies into the performance. I have to accept that this is more than a one horse show; other people want to work on it too.

Getinthebackofthevan want me to come back on July 14th for Bitten, so finally the birth booth will become conjoined with Stomunculus. (But by then Dummies will have to have reached 60minutes already seeing as a week later it's being performed at RADA).

I'm happy with the role of newspaper in this piece. Kelina Gotman made a comment on how it was like we were cutting into it surgically. Another signpost of manipulative language which I tried to hint at with the Applescript introduction on the soundtrack. I think 'media' is the Golem of Dummies. Newspaper has not had its day yet.

This should link to the backing soundtrack that I made: yLife

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Birth Booth

Out of the Birth Booth, into the Backofthevan

Genesis of 'Birth'

The first bit I had put together for this fragment was a 'Birth' script. It is supposed to be the opening of a book that I want to eventually write. I was interested in re-articulating the voice, making it difficult and experiencing it through an erotics of sound. It presents utterance as a form of birth, but after the first time I read it aloud to an audience (in a very small writers' group) it was quite clear that the thing had a sexual element to it. Then I discovered an article about women who experience orgasm during childbirth - as if now I had validation for writing such an ambiguous string of sounds.

The structure of the piece is centered around the most open vowel sound, a:, which I wanted to exlore as something primal and instinctive, a return to the first utterance, the adult equivalent of smacking your lungs into place as an infant. The first half, therefore, has no a: sounds and is full of short, sharp gutturals, closed vowels and consonants. Then, once I reach the word 'open', the script is overwhelmed by 'a:' words like 'part' 'pass' 'laugh' etc. Within it there are other gradations of the letter A, but I think the effect is bombadeering.

The first performance I made out of it was part of my course at RADA. I used two willing female vessels (Helena Bytnar and Stefanie David) to emit sounds and limbs from under a concealed table with slits cut into the front. As the speech was delivered by me, reading from a scroll pulled from the top of the table, they would produce grunting, wheezing, gargling noises until I got to the a: sound. The piece finished with a collective chanting of the vowel a: which I had coerced some of the audience members to join in with.

I decided to present my part as a sham priest/healer so I put a CD on my head and a bit of white tape on my collar - the birth of Dr.Shaboo. Part of the reason for this had to do with the vicinity of the Church of Scientology which we all had to pass every time we went to Rada on Chenies Street. I had found some a fantastic schizoid, poetic lecture given by L. Ron Hubbard on YouTube and used it as part of the sound recording, being a loose allusion to religious manipulation, whether cynical like the Scientologists or bodily, as with the Glossolalia of many Pentecostal Christians.

One bit that went down quite well was at the beginning when Dr.Shaboo breathes into the top of the table and the sheet is lifted up by the two bodies under the table so it looks like a giant, breathing lung.

Miscellaneous Festival (English Faculty Studio, Cambridge, 12.3.09)

This was a bit of a rushed affair. I didn't have any time to rehearse it with my two accomplices, Jeremy Hardingham and Ian Burrows, and I hadn't quite thought out what I intended to do. Infact, I was also using an entirely different text. I wanted to try out 'Stomunculus the Homunculus', a Finnegans Wake induced tale about a Homunculus who lives inside a stomach. I was inspired whilst reading Steven Conners' book about Ventriloquism (Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism; Oxford, 2006) and eating a sandwich in a Cafe near Russell Square.

Now that I think of it, I did use the birth scroll and then got Jeremy and Ian to read bits of Stomunculus. During Stomunculus I used some clay and eggs to accompany the text, in the hope that it would provide a visual and aural parrallel to the viscous sibilants in the words. But because I had not planned what I was actually going to do with the materials, they lost their effect fairly early on so that rather than providing a gut churning excitement within the audience, all I got was some baffled stares, probably a bit regretful about the rampant waste of food and modelling clay

The first half however, was not a complete disaster. (Not that I'd call anything in performance a disaster). I delivered the text through the table again, with J and Ian doing what Helena and Stef had done, but because it was unrehearsed, and hadn't taken into ac
count the masculine grains of their voices, it became quite shambolic. What had previously been a near mystical presentation became a noisy mess.

Nonetheless, a valuable lesson in the value of rehearsal. Even if you want to leave things to chance and indeterminacy.

The Birth Booth of Stomunculus (Pangea Project, Stoke-Newington, 20.4.09)

This was a 20+ minute piece made especially for Stomunculus. The Birth Scroll wasn't used this time. Most of the work was spent in recording it (you can find the draft here
) and making the little cardboard booth. I'm thinking of producing Stomunculus as a radio piece because there is so much emphasis on sound and it has more to do with its musicality than with theatrical representation. But here was an opportunity to work more with materials that assist the story rather than tell it.

Overall, the performance was too long. The elements that did work were:

Porridge - a curiously revolted reaction from the audience. Within the porridge is the character 'Jonash the Hebroth' (Jonah and the Whale fame), who was made from white tac covering an egg. He also had a disgusting beard made from a girls' hair extension I bought from ASDA. (Actually I seem to buy most of my performance tools from ASDA these days)
. I look forward to working more with gooey, gloopey substances in the future.

Jasper - Warren Drew suggested that when Jasper appeared at the end, crawling through the stomachal box, creeping through the top, lighting a match and flying away, the piece took on a 'Promethean' twist. Unfortunately Jasper suffered in this perform
ance and along with burning his fingers, two of them fell off!

Shadow Puppetry - Towards the end, Kham of Canaan tells a story about the magical beasts that God put into the Ark in order to save humanity after the flood (ofcourse, Noah and his family ate them all because they were hungry). At this point I stoppe
d bothering with bits of miscellaneous objects to put behind the little shadow screen (made from card and greaseproof paper) and used my upturned hand to lip sync his speech. Afterwards I was told that this was a highlight. Kirsten Smith was quite moved by the speech and the simplicity of the hand. Plus I think putting a glass of apple juice between the light and the screen created a nice effect aswell. One to consider.

The next thing to do is to cut it down from 20 minutes to around
5-8 minutes, so I can splice it into the birth sequence.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The 'Dummies' Project, or wriggling a finger through the skin of solipsism

Since 'Dummies' will be performed at the Camden Fringe in August and is going to be my final Dissertation project for my MA, I've had to start thinking of it as a 'show' - a performance piece that I have to reduce to a number of words, whether for publicity or academics. As much as this is incredibly helpful (I actually have to start prioritising things and ensure that there is some kind of substance behind my words and images), summarising work that, for me, is in a constant flux, telescopes the focus into minute spheres that obscure everything that surrounds it.

Dummies is about Something
because it is in Everything
which is next to Nothing


d= E = (d< style="font-style: italic;">about or around to the area in Something, S, which is still nonetheless contained in the sphere of Everything, E.

is a subset of E, and so is d, but d is also an occasional member of S (and a permanent member of E). It follows that if S={d} and E={d} then N={d, S, E ...} so d=N and, therefore, Dummies is Nothing but the sum of Nothings parts which are Something and Everything which are Aleph-one (Ω) infinities because they are uncountable.

Yet a performance is anything but infinite.

So when Dummies relocates into the Something set during a Performance it no longer belongs to the Everything or even the Nothing set and is set free from the powerset, in fact Dummies does not belong to any set (except for when I put it into a set). But in reality, the only set that Dummies belongs to is Performance which is, after all, Everything. Therefore Dummies belongs to Everything because it is sheltered away from Nothing (in a giant circle); it belongs to infinity, but only a set of possible infinities, so each Performance is a fragment of stolen infinity...

I think I'll come back to this Algequatic Investigation at a latter date when my 'pataphysical bullshit tools are improved.


Jasper is a little Puppet-Doll that I made from clay, cloth and cotton-wool. He is a Body without Organs (BwO). I do as much as I can to support him. This is a little film that I made about Jasper.