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.