Monday, 8 October 2007

Time for Blogging

So, where the hell have I been for the last six weeks? At least George Hunka told us all he was going away.

Well, like Alex Ferguson I spent a while feeling a bit down and like I didn't have much to say, and like Chris Goode I am unutterably, spectacularly, broke (although unlike Chris my album collection is too much like everyone else's to be able to sell any of it). All of these things are, of course, down to Edinburgh, which was a great success, but when you follow it with a three-week London transfer and subsequent Yorkshire tour, it went on too long and I was tired. Fortunately the indefatigable Andrew Haydon has been posting enough for the lot of us.

So I've spent the last few weeks trying to get body, mind and credit card back in serviceable shape. I'll tell you about that in a bit, but like Bill Hicks with social comment and dick jokes, I'll butter you up with some thoughts about European theatre first of all. So.

European Theatre

If you're interested in European theatre, you must go to see Don Quixote at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. You may hate it - a shuddering majority has done exactly that - but you must see it. Why?

There's a lot of guff spouted about European theatre on these shores, some of it on this blog. The broad argument, which I endorse, runs like this: ours is too much of a text-bound tradition and we could benefit from a more imaginative approach to space, visual effects. We can, in short, be a bit more crazy.

Don Quixote is utterly bat-shit crazy. If a book falls from the sky, the relief at such a normal thing having happened is palpable. There's a scene on space-hoppers. There's a bit where they do a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, with a bloke dressed as a wizard among the assorted finger-snapping backing vocalists. If you want to see Greg Hicks gyrating to Madonna's Like a Prayer, this is the show for you. It's nuts.

And this is what European theatre looks like. I've seen contemporary theatre on main stages in Austria, France and the Netherlands, and read texts from a good handful more countries. This is what it looks like. It's properly mental. It is not about storytelling. It is not about sustaining dramatic action or tension. It is about a quasi-choreographic agglomeration of more-or-less surprising coups-de-theatre.

I saw a show in Austria, which I later directed in an English translation. There was a bit in the Graz production where everyone threw noodles at each other for a bit, and a bit where they projected some cartoon porn for a few minutes. When I was studying the text for my own version I was trying to remember when all this had happened. The cartoon porn was easily discoverable, as there was a bit where some porn comes on the telly (if only for a few seconds) by mistake. But the noodles were nowhere. All I could figure was that it must have been one of the bits where everyone shouted at one another. Fine. But I'm not sure that was reason enough to leave one of the characters festooned in noodles for the remainder of the show.

Every time someone complimented me on the craziness of my own production, with its gradually inflating airbeds and repeated duckings in various buckets of water, I giggled inwardly at how much less bats it was than the premiere in German: at least all of my stuff was inspired by an image or occurrence in the text. Don Quixote is as crazy as the stuff you get over there, and we've no stomach for it over here.

I quite liked it.

So hurrah to the Royal Court for its current season of European plays. Due to the aforementioned credit card situation, I won't get down to London to see any of them. But I like the sound of The Ugly One, and I like the sound of Ramin Gray's production. But I bet they didn't do it anything like that in Germany.

Credit Card

If you're not interested in what's going on in my life, in those thoughts of mine which don't look for the wider issue, stop reading now.

In by far the worst state of my body, my mind, and my credit card, is the latter, which has taken some hammer since I last earned in early July. Compounding that is my bank account being well over its overdraft limit. No, not well overdrawn: well over its overdraft limit. I went to give blood a couple of weeks ago and they had to stop, because my BMI is so low I don't have any blood to spare. That's what my financial situation was like about a month ago, and they haven't stopped the pump and given me a biscuit.

It didn't help that my car died last week, or that I'm moving house in a fortnight.

So I'm working every hour god sends, in order to pistol whip my accounts into shape. I spent last week running endless workshops on The Merchant of Venice. I'm running a weekly devising class in Sheffield and a writing class in Oldham. I started work at the weekend on my latest show with my fantastic youth theatre in York, a new adaptation of The Trojan Women. It doesn't leave much time for blogging.


I'm also trying to finish my PhD. It'll be news to lots of you that I've even started one, as I don't tend to advertise the fact very widely. Lots of the blogosphere during my hiatus has been preoccupied with discussion of the relationship between bloggers and critics, which itself grew out of a discussion about the proper relationship between critics and practitioners. I've a post brewing on the relationship between academia and practice in the theatre and it's going to be a humdinger.

So there'll be a good deal more on this subject over the next few weeks: if I don't finish the thing by the turn of 2008, I'll be shot, so I'm trying to get a serviceable first draft done for the end of this month. There, I've said it in public, I'll have to do it now.

And with the help of that, I'm starting to feel mentally fresh for the first time in - I don't know - over a year. I've been on a bit of a treadmill hurtling past one major production and the next for some time now and I've not been able to really capitalise on any of them as a result. Having given myself permission to slow down for a wee while and plan some bespoke productions, rather than setting everything up along the same lines as the last one, you can expect a quiet couple of years from me in terms of big splash - just a few pebbles tossed in the pond here and there - before I empty it of water completely sometime in late '08/early '09.

And the freedom afforded by not being a producer means I'm writing again, developing a few little bits and pieces which will constitute the abovementioned pebbles. It doesn't leave much time for blogging.


And finally, if that diet of post-Edinburgh restoratives makes me look like I'm slacking, I'm trying to get into shape again. Before a nasty injury in 2005 that finally got operated on in February, I was doing some pretty good times on the old pins: 37:40 at 10k and 85:51 at 1/2M, for example. I had a feeling there was plenty more in the tank, but then my leg burst open in a game of football and I had rather a long enforced absence. So I'm now following a long, slow training programme to build up my mileage again over the winter before starting some serious training in the spring. Last week I managed just over 30 miles, with a long run of 9, which is peanuts when you consider Paula was doing 140 in the buildup to her GNR comeback last weekend. So I'm gunning for 50/week by January.

But now my knee feels a bit dicky, so I'm going to be doing all this week's miles on the bike (at a ratio of about 4:1 that means I need to cycle about 120 miles this week) to make sure it doesn't get any worse. It's a long, long road back. But Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will feels cocky today, so considers it appropriate to set some targets in public, so as to remove the possibility of somewhere to hide:

In 2008 the 10k time will go under 35 minutes and the 1/2M time under 80. In 2009 a marathon will be run in under 3 hours and 2 1/2 more minutes and five minutes more will come off the other two respectively, at the very least.

For the moment, though, I'll settle for not getting injured again immediately. It doesn't leave much time for blogging. But I'll try not to neglect y'all so badly in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

It's great to have you back on the blog, and it's great to have you back at the 'coach too! Let me know if I can be of any assistance. Ooh, and thanks heaps for coming along last week - really appreciate it. Sounds like a tough couple of months, although I'm sure it'll all make good material.