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

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

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.

 

Fall #38

IMG_1846

We’ve been thinking about falling. Months ago a friend posted a link on facebook to a short wikipedia page about William Rankin, the only person to ever survive falling through a storm cloud (he fell for forty minutes and had to hold his breath for bits of it so that he didn’t drown in unfallen rain) and it caught our imagination, making us wonder what our pre-occupation with the sky is all about. Over the following months across texts, emails, conversations and late-night internet meanderings we’ve become more and more interested in this act; the free-fall of the body through space and the emotional parallels and all the other things that this four-letter, one syllable word means. Fall.

So this is what our new show is going to be about, or at least where it’s starting, or at least where it’s so far got to, via India, machines, cities, women and weather, we’ve arrived at falling and we think we’re going to play in this subject for a while.

With this mammoth task (it’s always a mammoth task) ahead of us: make a show – write it, get the people we need, work out what needs to happen and when, all that – we decided to go away to write some things. We wanted to have a word document with thousands of words and thoughts and bits of research about falling. Last week we went to Darlington, away from our normal spaces – habitats – to do this.

Falling is massive. At the moment it’s too big, but it’s also endlessly interesting and you see it everywhere. In Darlington we read and we wrote and we listened and we looked. Some of that:

We drove round North Yorkshire with Tom, Jojo’s cousin, and went to high up places. Malham Cove. A quarry. The top a hill. And we looked down.
We listened to this radiolab episode about falling.
We read about the inner ear and the sensation that lets us know we are falling.
We revisited this article, and this film about suicides from the Golden Gate bridge – one of the first pieces of research we ever shared with each other when we were at Dartington and making Isabella. Maybe it’s finally relevant.
We danced around the sitting room and fell over, again and again.
We started to collect people’s falling stories. We’re looking for as many as possible and you can contribute here.
We wrote thousands of words and read them to each other.
We thought about the fall of the British Empire, and about doing the show in India.
We listened to Laurie Anderson.

And now we embark on two weeks in the Bristol Old Vic’s Coopers Loft to write some more, research some more, fall some more, and try to make a bit of sense of it all. We’re thinking about it like a book or a catalogue; a collection of falls. We’re thinking about it being called Falls #16-781. But we don’t know what the numbers will be yet. It’s exciting to start.

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.

The Home Crowd.

For a while for me, it was hard to know if Volcano would ever erupt for me like it did at The Basement back in May 2013. I guess when something is surrounded in so much tension and emotion and potential for fail- any minor success makes it feel like you may as well have just scored the winning goal in the world cup. And I guess the 10th of May last year was my world cup final. But like me, the footballers go back to their normal lives and carry on earning lots of money and playing football ( yeah exactly like me) but after the world cup its like nothing ever matches quite up to that feeling again.

I’m exaggerating.

The Basement was not the world cup. It was maybe the coca-cola cup or whatever it is called now and we’re just playing in a slightly better league. Competing, struggling, highs and lows.

And there are lows. There are struggles for bookings and difficult team tactics and that kind of makes you forget that you ever won the minor trophy in the 5-aside team. You think back to the way that everyone cheered and laughed and cried and clapped now that they don’t do that so much in the bigger league.

Maybe this football analogy is wrong. Maybe I’m excited about football more than I am about theatre this week because I only have to watch Football and I don’t have to worry about coordinating the washing of sweaty socks or the snacks in the changing room.

When we arrived at Rose Bruford I felt this sudden sense of belonging that I hadn’t done in a while. A festival that reminded me of my days back in Dartington. And I sort of need reminding of those days when I’m not feeling so great.

The People at RB won. They were people who helped and wanted to help and cheered because they wanted to cheer and I suddenly became overwhelmed at all of the support from all of the talented students, the friendly staff, the wonderful Pip Nash (I’m her biggest fan). The Home crowd. Even though it wasn’t even my home.

I love meeting enthusiastic students that remind me of myself just a few years ago, they tell me its OK to think that its hard up here in the premiership (maybe more champions league). I love looking at them and telling them its going to be OK because it will. Its hard up here but can you do it and you can make it work. And it reminded me that I just love getting up there in that big pile of mud and performing.

And I went and sat outside in a courtyard which looked much like the one I had sat in as I student and I thought “Bloody hell Jojo, you’ve only gone and managed to do this for a living”.

I love my job. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

I’m not making any sense. I must stop using football metaphors. I don’t even know anything about football.

JJ x

The Future (aka Cardiff)

IMG_0580

In case you didn’t guess from the name, the Wales Millennium Centre is a big theatre. Really big. Here’s a photo in case you don’t believe me. It’s the sort of big that everyone built around the millennium, when we all thought that the world was going to end because of a computer bug, but simultaneously decided that we were entering the future and everything from here on in would be glass and steel and big money to build big arts centres and tourist attractions. It’s one of those. It’s also in Wales, in case you didn’t guess that from the name either. (Try harder).

It’s so totally out of our league – our poster was up in between Derren Brown and Wicked – but it’s fun to be here and almost in parallel with the venue being way nicer than we’re used to, this felt like the first date where we finally nailed this touring thing, and it paid off in the show. Up until now it’s felt like we’re always doing something a bit wrong; like we’re a bit too rushed, or we don’t know the show quite well enough. Obviously, it’s a learning curve…

In Cardiff we took our time, didn’t scrimp on accommodation and hired a van. Which doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve never done this before. We’re used to being skint and rushed all the time, piling things into suitcases and lugging them on the train, working around other jobs and jobseekers appointments and it’s taken a while for it to really sink in that this is our job, and that the Arts Council have given us money to be able to do this properly. Here, we did. We were the little kids in the big super-future venue but we did ok. We had a small but friendly audience and we even sold a volcano jumper. We had a good time.

Now we’re taking the future-Clerke and Joy from the Cardiff future-venue on to Rose Bruford, to Salisbury and, in June, to France. Now we’re going to do it all properly.

Or something like that.

Tea, Bollywood and Two Eggs in the Morning.

Yesterday we had the honour of meeting Ramu Ramanathan, a Mumbai playwright and academic, to talk about the beginnings of the new Clerke and Joy project (very provisionally titled: the stillness of the storm that never came at all) that we are hoping to bring back to Thespo 16 next year. Loaded with huge and ambiguous questions, it began our series of meetings and research that we are starting this week before heading back to the UK on Monday.
It was much like talking to google.
We’ve never met anyone before with such articulate views and knowledge about the city and the people who live in it. Our brief introduction to the working of Indian theatre in Mumbai left us with the cogs in our brain ticking quickly and very excited about what we might be able to achieve here.
Besides this we talked about women, music, oral storytelling traditions and the performative nature of various religious devotional events. We talked about the man who delivers two eggs to Ramu every morning, without fail, and the language in Northern India where there are 107 words for tea; tea you drink when you are falling in love, tea in the morning, tea when the sun is shining directly into it… We talked about vanishing languages, cities that behave like cities and rap battles.

So this show, we’re not entirely sure where it’s heading yet but here are some ideas:

Journeys
Bombay, Belfast and Beirut.
3 interchangeable performers, 3 parallel stories
Big visuals created live on stage
Weather
Live Music
Foley artists
Prithvi Theatre
Language
A real script
Monologues
Banging text
Height
Dying Languages, Dying Oral Traditions

This week we’re hoping to meet with an Indian women’s group, visit the city’s abandoned textile mills, travel to Pune and Panchgani, to write in nice cafes and go to the cinema to see a Bollywood film. Perhaps if we have the time we’ll try and get in a Bollywood film. But we’re definitely going to make time to party with our friends. Who are ace by the way. They are teaching us how to swear in Hindi and we are showing them Father Ted so its a beneficial cultural exchange.

That will do for now.

Love Clerke and Joy.

Some notes from our meeting with Ramu

20131217-191916.jpg

Last week, yesterday.

Confusingly, here is a blog post I wrote last Monday. We’ve had nae internet til now.

Today is Monday, although it will be a different today when you read this (unless it is another Monday). Anyway, the day you read this is not the day I am writing it, in bed at Rupal Appartments 1, opposite the HSBC bank, just up from Juhu circle.

Today saw the last day of our five day workshop ‘devising about now’, and the bringing together of a little 17 minute show that will happen tomorrow at Prithvi theatre (which is so far my favourite place to be in this city) as part of the opening of Thespo 15 festival. Watching a run through earlier today, I thought, ‘yes, this is a nice wee show. A bit odd perhaps in this context, but it’s a nice wee show all the same, and I am proud of our participants for making it, and for letting us help them to make it.’ It was a nice thought to have.

Today, besides generally nailing the show, we did hardcore warm ups, difficult exercises on ‘doing nothing’, and some excellent ‘walking around the room as a group’, which quickly turned into dancing, jumping and running around the room, as it should. The group were energetic, which more than made up for yesterday afternoon when, after we all went out for a big lunch in the hot middle of the day, the class could have been mistaken for a group of sloths, being taught by two more sloths; all in need of a nap.

Today we were all ‘on it’.

[Today we also had a hilarious conversation about the Hindi pronunciation of jadu (magic) and jhadoo (broom). I’m still not convinced there is a difference.]

Tomorrow will be exciting. Tomorrow the festival starts. Tomorrow is the show. Tomorrow we’re also not going to get up until 10am(!)

But today, now, I’m going to sleep.
Goodnight.
X R

20131216-173857.jpg

20131216-173958.jpg

20131216-174100.jpg