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.

Curious machines overheard from the flat above disharmony mall

Saturday 18th October

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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.

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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

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R x

ps. this is the view from our balcony!

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Adrian’s made us a film…

Adrian Spring (dans le rôle du Pilot) takes a lot of photos. And recently he’s started making them into videos. Here is a collection of photos taken making and touring Volcano going from November 2012 – June 2014. We think it’s mega.

Reshuffling

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Making theatre is hard. Not hard like being a doctor is hard, or like climbing a mountain is hard, or teaching children is hard, but still, it’s pretty hard. Sometimes it feels a bit like trying to get blood out of a stone.*

At the moment our show is in a state of reshuffle. It works like this – each section of the show, of which there are many, is written onto a strip of paper and blutack is affixed to the back. The strips of paper then go onto a board or the wall in an order. And then we run this order and try to work out what’s wrong. And then we fix it.

This bit is ok, but the problem is always with balance. This show, particularly, feels like a very delicate balancing act. So when you move the bit of material that didn’t work where you’d originally placed it, suddenly everything else is wrong. You’ve now got a section where Jojo is talking for six minutes whilst Rachael just sits on the floor, or the pilot sections are too close together and we lose the sensation of weaving the story through.

And so then you have a lot of other bits of paper to move, rearrange, and you can sometimes forget what one you were moving in the first place. Sometimes it even ends up back in the same place with us thinking we’ve moved it and made the show better.

Then we run it again. Talk about it. Find new problems that weren’t there before. Reshuffle…

It feels like we’re getting there, but that feeling of the show constantly being *just* out of reach – we have all the ingredients, all the performances, texts to make an hour long show that we really rate – is infinitely frustrating. We know we have to make it work, there won’t be a golden solution (probably) where everything suddenly fits perfectly, but at the moment the little bits of paper are getting curly at the edges and the blutack is starting to lose its stick and something is always in the wrong place, and it can feel a bit like we’re going round in circles……………….

 

*A mountain doctor?