Alternative Elections at the Hunt & Darton Cafe – Folkestone

I’d like you to cast your mind back to when things were marginally less shit. Can you remember that? When there was still a tiny glimmer of hope – a hope that we might replace one posh white man with another, slightly less offensive one? When we all thought that, well, at least it’s not going to be worse? I know it’s difficult. I’m struggling too. It’s a bit of a stretch but lets all try to go there.

Yes, I’m talking about Thursday. As the country went to the polls – well, slightly over half of them at least – I spent the day in Folkestone at the excellent Hunt & Darton Café, running Clerke and Joy’s Election Day, a participatory event where customers in the café get to stand as electoral candidates (by filling in a multiple choice policy form to create a manifesto), make rosettes, speeches and posters, and finally, vote for their preferred party.

It’s an event we ran before during the European Elections, when Hunt & Darton were stationed in Cambridge, so we had some sort of idea of the fact that people really like to make true on that old adage of ‘I could do a better job than the politicians do’, and I more or less remembered how to make a rosette this time.

The only spanner in the works was that Jojo couldn’t do the gig, because she’s just had an operation on her neck which has made her into a robot, and also goes some way to explaining why you might not have heard much from us over the last few months. She’s fine, by the way, and 100% didn’t die.

So, in classic Hunt & Darton style (they have 7 trained performers who can play them when they can’t do a date), we replaced Jojo with Hannah Sullivan. Hannah is a performer, a woman, a part of Interval and better with children than I am, so she pretty much filled all the Joy criteria and did a bloody excellent job. Unlike Jojo she can also drive so I’m actually considering taking her on full time and getting rid of Jojo all together*.

It’s funny doing stuff like this, because I mainly think of it as fun. Like, we’re creating a fun experience for people that is outside of their routine, and that breaks their expectations of what can happen in a pedestrian space such as a café. Which is nice, and great. But the reason the Hunt & Darton café is so good is because you witness so many moments that break that routine and you realise that even though it is fun, lots of it, it’s not just fun. It reminds me that it’s also important and fascinating and powerful to break that routine, that expectation, and I don’t mean that in a ‘worthy’ way, I mean it in a very real way.

The café is a magnet for a town’s eccentrics and it’s passersby. It’s unmistakeably available for ‘hanging out in’. It feels equally stocked with families and lonely people, both glad of the conversations and interactions they are having.

Some things I witnessed in Folkestone:

A whole ‘set menu’ performance being live-translated into French for a large family.
A three year old winning an election on a ballot of ‘everyone carrying their own stickytape’.
A conversation about the politics of using Nestle products in the café (it’s a political point in itself)
A customer being rewarded for their loyalty with a visual poem.
A speech and a song from the leader of the UKCP (UK Cohesion Party) in a constituency that until a few weeks ago was a UKIP target seat.
A couple who had never voted learning about the electoral system, and consequently heading off to the town hall to see if they were registered to vote. (this was probably the best moment of my life so far)

Hunt & Darton are nearing the end of their epic two year tour, but you can still catch them in Harlow in June, and Peterborough in August and September. And I’d thoroughly recommend you do.

*sorry you had to find out like this mate.

Death by PowerPoint and Angela’s Ashes

It’s Wednesday evening and I’m sitting in pretty much the same position as I’ve been sitting in all day – cross legged on a cushion, typing into my laptop, and now I have square eyes and a sore bum, and the sky has gone dark and the air smells funny (tonight’s flavour is fish, faeces, fog and petrol) and I thought – hey! why move, why do anything different? I’ll just sit here and type some more! Into a blog post rather than a powerpoint presentation this time though.

We are not very good at not being busy.

We’ve been here almost two weeks now – which it’s strange to think is more than half the entire time we were here for last year – and the spare time is starting to grind us both down. Jojo has read three books (1984, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Angela’s Ashes). Maybe four if she is secretly reading extra ones on her ipad (UPDATE: she’s three quarters of the way through The Twits). I have listened to so much This American Life and RadioLab, and read so many articles about British politics, that I can’t work out where I am anymore, and even if I could the arrow wouldn’t point to India. Tom has made some music, so he’s probably winning, but overall the lethargy of unfilled diaries is starting to eat away at all three of our brains, and combined with the heat, which although reduced, still graces about 35 degrees in the day, we are reduced to a pale, slow-moving trio in this rowdy, colourful city.

HOWEVER, this is about to change, and so I must stick my chin up? out? in the air? and get over it. And we have done some things; I suppose it’s just that the schedule has been considerably sparser than either of us have experienced for years. And we’ve sweated all our energy out.

Tomorrow is the first day of Literature Live festival at the NCPA in South Bombay. It’s a big book festival that happens every year and is produced by QTP, who run Thespo. Jojo and I are helping out working on Front of House/AV operating respectively (hence my day of typing into Powerpoint – my poor British laptop had a bad attack of the red squiggly lines at the Indian names) and have to get a train from Goregaon station at 5.55am. I never thought I would look forward to a 5.55 train, but the prospect of being really busy for the next four days appeals to me right now.*

Whilst we woo literary types/herd audience members/press next on powerpoint presentations Tom will continue building up a bank of music (you can hear a bit of what he’s been making here, and also read his blog on which he posts up-to-date information about poos) for Falls 2-11, in preparation for our work in progress showing at the Prithvi Festival next Friday. We went to the press launch yesterday and got asked to pull faces in front of a camera. We’re not sure what they’re going to do with the footage, or why we were doing it, but we expect it might end up on the internet. We also answered questions about the show, which made a bit more sense, and posed in a group photograph. It feels good, the progression of performing at the Thespo fringe last year with our workshop participants, to performing a work in progress at the Prithvi fringe this year, to performing a full show on the Prithvi main stage at Thespo this year. Like a slow build through the Prithvi spaces. It’s a bloody nice theatre.

What else have we done? We held an audition for the show last week! That was daunting – we tidied the flat and fidgeted nervously waiting for everyone to arrive (we’ve never done an audition before and don’t really know how it works) and then everyone came and everyone was good and it was HARD because they were all good. However, after conversations and watching videos back, we have decided to work with Rucha Apte, who’s a brilliant actress that we saw in a show called Kabadi Uncut last year, and we’re very excited about working with her.

We also went to Pune at the weekend and met with Rucha (she lives there) and the creative team behind Kabadi and had a really great conversation about bringing their show to the UK next year, which we are going to do as the first instalment of an exchange between young Indian and British theatre companies that we are setting up with Falmouth. It’s going to be a fucking excellent long-running highly appreciated exchange, and definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve decided to do to date, but we think we can make it work. More on that another time.

Whilst we were in Pune we also came up with the idea for a youtube web-series called Clerke and Joy’s Spiritual Enlightenment which will be about how we found ourselves in India. It’s going to be hilarious, obviously.

We’ll start rehearsals on Tuesday for the work in progress, and then start properly the following Monday, working with Rucha. With any luck (does luck come into it? We’ll graft.) we’ll make a good show. With any more luck, we’ll also tour that show in the UK next Autumn.

So, those are some things. It’s not a lot for two weeks, but it’s not nothing either I guess. And now I’ve written them down I feel a bit better. And so this has become a grumpy-start, rambling-middle, satisfied-end blog post, which is probably at least a little bit better than just a grumpy one.

Nonetheless, I hope, for all of our sakes, to have less time to write such grumpy/long/boring/rambling/satisfied blog posts in the future.

Thanks for reading, and congratulations if you got this far without your eyes falling out of your head.

I’m going to bed because I don’t know what to do with myself now.

Good night. x

*I’m sure I won’t feel this way at 5.55am tomorrow morning, but right now it’s 9pm tonight and I’m going with it.

The Clerke and Joy Diwali Rangoli

For the last week the city has been lit up with flashing LEDs and laterns for Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, and the air has been filled with bangs – fireworks and firecrackers launched from balconies, windows, on the street, in the park. We, in incredibly reserved fashion, decided to partake in a quieter aspect of Diwali by making a Rangoli outside our front door – a carefully arranged powder paint doormat to welcome wealth into our house. We thought it would be easy. It was not. It was fun, though. So here, in all it’s glory, a step-by-step guide to the Clerke and Joy Diwali Rangoli (slightly lumpy, very messy, asymmetric, but hey, we tried)

Oh, and here’s an ‘artfully blurry’ photo of our street at night.

IMG_2009

Curious machines overheard from the flat above disharmony mall

Saturday 18th October

diagram

Greetings from Mumbai. We’re jetlagged, hungover and dying of heat. Hello.

  1. Jojo is asleep on the sofa, which is the most fortified position in the house being both under the ceiling fan, next to the plug-in mosquito repeller, and with a rotating fan by her feet.
  2. Tom is next door, laying out various complicated looking bits of machinery on the bed – home-made microphones, mixing desk, loop pedals and the new sampler, which has a lot of buttons and lights up in satisfying colours.
  3. I’ve just cut a lot of my hair off and had my second cold shower of the day and applied deodorant for the 4th time. I’m pretty sure I’m smelly again already. It’s 1pm.

It feels difficult in this heat – I think it’s about 40 degrees – and this newness and this cultureshock and this meeting-again of friends here, to ‘get started’. Other than a couple of meetings (which felt wonderfully sociable too – we’re back! hello!) writing this is the first bit of ‘work’ I’ve done. This may or may not be a problem. Hopefully/probably it’s not, in the grand scheme of things, but we do also have a script deadline at the start of next week…

For now, we’ve been planning, napping, trying to get our lives set up. It’s very different to think about being here for three months rather than three weeks. For one, it’s worth nesting a bit, which definitely didn’t feel like something we needed to do in the madness of last December where we more or less jumped off the aeroplane and into our first workshop (do not pass go, do not collect two hundred rupees, etc). The flat is nice – light and clean and on the seventh floor, and we haven’t had to kill any cockroaches. We’re the first people to live in the house EVER – apart from Saskia, our housemate, who arrived here from the US 15 days prior to us – it’s part of a brand new and long delayed development above ‘Harmony Mall’, referred to as ‘Disharmony mall’ due to it’s equally long delayed building. Just another big, blocky empty shell on the side of the road. I can’t imagine this city needing more malls, but apparently there is demand. Bombay likes to shop.

(The big supermarket here is called Star Bazaar, and is a joint venture between TATA and Tesco – does this make it the most evil shop ever?)

From the balcony you look out over a dusty earth sports field, which they painted a football pitch onto yesterday and which has almost already rubbed off, a busy road with a market down one side, the aforementioned back-of-disharmony-mall, and – construction. Everywhere, people are building, scaling car-park like prefab concrete structures on bamboo scaffolding; hammering, welding, drilling. The noise, mixed with the constant car horns/engines/shouts/hum of fans is overwhelming, and the soundtrack to this city is coming back to me.

This show will have a machine at its centre – a Rube Goldberg/chain reaction/Heath Robinson type device that will be constructed over the course of the performance, and set off at the end. I think we’ve come to the right city for building such a machine.

Below/above you can see some of the drawings from our prototype version (videos to follow soon) that we designed and built in perhaps a less obvious place – Falmouth. (I suppose they construct boats there… so maybe it is obvious after all?) As part of our UK R&D we spent six days working in Falmouth University’s Woodlane workshop with Andy Currie and the rest of the technicians there who let us take over their courtyard with ladders, suitcases strung to the canopies and crudely drilled bits of wood. We had a lot of fun, got very frustrated and ended up making something that semi-worked with the aid of a lot of clamps and bits of string.

IMG_1946

The challenge with this is that we need to make something that will work. Something that we can put together in an hour, and set off, and know that it will manage to complete its action without getting stuck, or falling apart. We’ve been watching a lot of these devices on youtube for a long time now, and gradually it occurred to us that for every single-shot video of a perfect machine, there are probably 20-50-100 other times that the machine didn’t work, and the artists had to painstakingly reset it all, make adjustments, set up the cameras and try again. That’s not really a risk we can take, which is why theatre is exciting, but is also very daunting from our perspective. We aren’t OKGO, or Fischli and Weiss, or Honda. We don’t really know what we’re doing, and we need it to be perfect (double conundrum) so we’ve been trying to balance out precision with impressiveness with simplicity. It’s exciting to do something that feels impossible though, right? Right??

Off to take another cold shower. I’ve never enjoyed washing this much.

R x

IMG_1942IMG_1944

R x

ps. this is the view from our balcony!

IMG_1033

Thudunk, Thudunk, Thudunk

Just you and air and falling. Your limbs splayed out and the balance tipping over in different parts of your body so your legs and your arms and your head and your front and your back all take turns to lead. Like a dance. A dance that you already know. Like turning up at a wedding and dancing along to the YMCA even though nobody has ever taught you the moves.
A tumble sounds like a very middle class sort of pudding, with plums in it.

It’s a good word, comfortable, rounded. Especially with the addition of ‘drier’ on the end it really does it for me.
If you identify as an elegant sort of a person you probably wouldn’t want to tumble on your way down because it’s an incredibly inelegant thing to do. You don’t really look very cool when you’re tumbling; as an action it yells ‘LOOK AT ME PANICKING’, or perhaps just ‘FAILURE!’.

The clothes in a tumble-drier have no idea where they will end up. updownupdownupdownupdown through and through the air and grabbing, flailing, looking for something to cling on to and the panic the flailing only adds momentum to the tumble until they’re going so fast that from the ground we can’t see what is top and what is bottom and their heads can’t process any of it anymore it’s just a blur heading towards the inevitable end, the splash or the crash or the stop or the landing or whatever.

Thudunk thudunk thudunk trainers, bodies, socks, humans thudunk.

This tumbling is not the kind that gymnasts do on big blue mats. This tumble is limbo.

Some people can control their tumbles. Dancers, boxers. I hate those people. They’re the sort of people who might look cool when faced with death.

I’m out there with the socks man.

I don’t want to be one of them. I’m not a you’ve been framed clip or a youtube sensation.

When I fall I want to look really cool. I want to look like I don’t give a shit. I give so much shit about that. I want to tumble well. You won’t see me doing any of that rubbish tumbling, that’s for other people. The shit tumblers.

Twenty-two thousand, four hundred and forty-three words

For the last two weeks we’ve been calling Bristol Old Vic’s Copper’s Loft our home. It’s a beautiful, big, light space on the roof with plenty of room for dancing and plenty of room for making. But we’ve been sitting in the corner, writing.

Because we are making this show in a different order than usual (we’re writing it and then ‘making’ it in India) we’ve needed to concentrate on getting words out. We need lots of them to play with, so that we can edit lots of them out and be left with only the good ones – that’s the idea at least.

It takes a bit of time to feel okay with being in a big space and not ‘using’ it, but over the course of our residency we began to realise that the words we write in this large room are very different from the words we write in an office, or in our bedrooms. These words that we write here do more, somehow.

We’ve been using timed writing directives to dig into the crevices of our brain and try to find words that we didn’t consider pulling out previously…

A list of thirty ways to fall, and the potential consequences of each

30 minutes, and then 10 minutes, and then 1 minute on tumbling

Write about falling cats, without saying the word ‘cat’

Three short poems or lists (as shit as you like) about the inevitability of falling

8 minutes of writing about when I fell from grace

A physical fall, that occurs whilst falling in love, during the fall of a government

We’ve also been collecting falling stories through our call-out, which you can still contribute to (but not for much longer), and researching, reading and digging through our memories for material. We have 22,443 words at the moment; about 6000 of these will make the show we think.

 

30 Ways to Fall

  1. On your 3rd Birthday, Down stairs gran’s stairs, in a dress from a dressing up box, into a radiator : Cracked head, further distance between mother and grandmother, adult realization that grandmother is uninterested in me.
  2. In Love: Obsessive Compulsive behaviour, rose tinted eyesight, loss of peripheral life vision
  3. Out of the sky: Landing
  4. Parents find out about you having sex: fall from innocence, shame and release of childhood
  5. Up stairs by tripping over the bottom step: carpet graze
  6. Over a paving slab: initiate quick ego recovery
  7. On your head as a baby: adult reasoning behind any natural personality faults
  8. Eating apples: the whole world is ruined – you are blamed
  9. Over your ankle: sprain
  10. Off a shelf: broken Baby Jesus model- you are anti-christ, end of catholocism. Or perhaps you think this is the end of your catholocism but its probably not. It ended long before that. You just drew attention to it by smashing the baby jesus of the nativity at a distant Aunt’s house.
  11. Off a shelf: broken priceless vase
  12. Off a shelf: discovery of house party
  13. Off a roof: loud gunshot sound, body in road
  14. Off a roof: You are Sherlock, you are too clever to die.
  15. Off a waterfall: You are moriaty , in the books
  16. Into a bad crowd: drinking and smoking and fun things
  17. Into a trap: you are surrounded, there is no way out
  18. Into a bear trap: your foot is stuck and its bleeding quite a lot and youre screaming and looking down at it and you’ve watched too many horror movies to think that there is any other result than death/torture by monster/serial killer/mutant/ hill billy
  19. From the top of the Table : you are Manchester united. Not so smug now.
  20. Falling down a rabbit hole : there are rabbit here and they are not nice, they have mistamatosis and will probably die soon. You’re not brave enough to put them out of their misery, you didn’t grow up on a farm, these don’t look like the ones in your friend’s garden called snowy and chocolate
  21. Falling from a tree: you shouldn’t have been up there in the first place
  22. Falling from office: you probably shouldn’t have been up there in the first place
  23. Fall of an empire : you shouldn’t have been up there in the first place
  24. A clock falls from the wall : time doesn’t stop
  25. Fall : Autumn, Alumininum: Aluminium, Mail : Post, Eggplant : aubergine, Color: Colour – My computer thinks I’m wrong but I know I’m right.
  26. Waterfall: its colder than you imagined, and you don’t look like those sxy tanned girls who have traveled the world and say namaste instead of thanks. You don’t really want to be them but you imagined this would be what it was like if you were to stand beneath a waterfall in a hot climate in a bikini. But you are fully clothed. And this is a shower. In England. And you are going mad because you’re in a shower in all your clothes. And you look like a drowned rat and you are cold and the water is running down the inside of your leg and you don’t yet know if its pee or not but if it is you don’t know if you’ll care because people probably wont notice that. They’ll probably notice your mascara panda eyes and your soaking wet clothes and the way your hair looks like you’ve washed it in cooking fat. And someone will notice the large puddle on the bathroom floor. And you will probably notice that you can’t wash away how you feel. And you are not one of those girls that wears bikinis on their gap year under waterfalls with their beautiful tanned bodies and their beautiful tanned boyfriends and money to buy plane tickets to hot foreign lands where they can stand under waterfalls and be in love and be happy and have sex and a happy life. And you are you. In jeans with your stomach hanging over the top, and a jumper you can’t afford to replace. And you’re standing fully clothed in your shower, and that’s not hot.
  27. Before they could fly they fell a lot. People probably thought they were mad. It must be hard for people to think you are mad when you know you are not. But there must be an element of madness, you must go through moments of believing you are mad, especially after all those falls.
  28. Falling over in pain. Emotional pain. A woman on TED was talking about acting. She said a story that she had been told by a couple. A bland couple. They came to her at a book signing. They said they had seen her in a show a few years ago. A Shakespeare play. They didn’t go to the theatre much. And they hated it. Because there was a scene when a woman’s son had died and she fell to the ground and wailed. Not a nice fall. Not a nice wail. A horrible wail. And they said they hated it. They thought it was unnesscascary and over done. And then a year later when the police came to the door and told them their daughter had been raped and murdered the man said : I hated it because I made that noise.
  29. Fallen leaves: its not summer anymore. Put on a jumper.
  30. Falling out of Love: Hating Iceland.

JJ