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.