i doubt the evening standard will give me a right of reply so i’m doing it myself…
i was at the west end opening of curious at the apollo theatre on shafestbury avenue on 12th march. it was an astonishing evening in so many ways. certainly the most uplifting night i have ever spent in the theatre.
i was sitting in the circle. will gompertz, the bbc arts editor, was sitting 3 seats away. we’d met a couple of times before and said a friendly hello. after the curtain call at the end of the play he got up to leave and i suggested that he hang on for a couple of minutes or he might miss something (i won’t spoil it for anyone going to see the play by saying what). that was the entirety of what passed between us.
two days later an article appeared in the evening standard, titled gompertz confesses to curious lapse of memory about the night-time dog. it ran like this
will gompertz, the bbc’s arts editor, confessed to an embarrassing encounter with novelist mark haddon at tuesday’s press night of the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
compering an event at the barbican last night, gompertz told the audience he was seated next to the author of the book-turned-stage production at the apollo theatre and as the lights came up, he said: “well done. but why aren’t the actors taking their curtain call?” haddon replied: “because it’s the first half, you f***ing idiot.” gompertz swears he has read the book but was swept away by the production.
i would never talk to anyone in this way. and i'm really uncomfortable at the idea that many people now think i talk to people in this way. if 5% of the evening standard’s readership read the article that’s 35,000 people.
it’s generally assumed that you should grow a thicker skin if you appear in newspapers or on tv. i think the obligation should be on journalists not to insult people for entertainment.
(god, it's a long time since i've been here...)
a strange thing (not unlinked to 'tiler serendipity below): it wasn't until after i'd written polar bears (a play for the donmar warehouse a few years back) that i had pointed out to me the blindingly obvious link between the title and bipolar disorder from which kay, the main character, suffers. i assumed it had been my lazy unconscious at work, i was rather embarrassed at the obviousness and rather wanted to wind the clock back and choose another anmial and another title (a polar bears also appears in anthony neilsen's play about bipolar disorder, the wonderful world of dissocia, which i hadn't seen at the time).
the other day, however, i was re-listening to nowhere by ride, an album i've been listening to on-and-off for a long time (i owned a cassette of it - that long), and the lyrics of the song polar bear jumped out at me.
She knew she was able to fly / Because when she came down / She had dust on her hands from the sky. / She said, 'I touched the ground'. / She felt so high the dust made her cry.
this, i realised, was what i must have been thinking off when i was writing the play (kay does think she can fly when manic). and i knew that song had affected me because i'd done an etching and called it 'polar bear' (see below - rubbish scan thereof).
i'd forgotten all of this.
footnote: a brief google reveals that the lyrics are an adaptation of a paragraph from j d salinger's franny and zooey. the chain goes on...
i've just downloaded both the ibook facsimile of the shakespeare first folio and the shakespeare's sonnets app, both of which, in their different ways, are great things.
the first folio was published in 1623 by john heminges and henry condell. 18 of the plays had been published before in quarto but this is the main source for the texts of pretty much every play we know was written by shakespeare. the ibook is exactly what it says on the tin, a photographic digital version of the first folio. you can flick through and you can zoom. that's it. but if this is your bag, and it is very much my bag, then it's oddly thrilling. it seems expensive at £14.99 but the norton facsimile on paper is £142.50 which makes this version a bit of bargain.
the sonnest app contains (deep breath)... the notes from the arden edition of the sonnets, a commentary by don paterson, a facsimile of the 1609 quarto edition and video readings by fiona shaw, cominic west, kate fleetwood, david tennant... all synchronised to the texts, marginal notes, a series of little video essays by experts (as opposed to semi-informed celebrities) and doubtless some other stuff i haven't found yet.
it's like the wasteland app (also by touch press) but better.
don't be put off by the sight of stephen fry on the touch press page. obviously, stephen fry is perfect in certain contexts and he does indeed read a sonnet here but his picture belies the seriousness of the project.
this, i think is the future of the ebook. not sinking it's digital teeth into the neck of the physical book industry but doing what can't be done on paper: video, audio, interaction, hyperlinking, synchronising all these things...
some thoughts about tweeting / texting etc. during performances, a topic which keeps cropping up all over the place, in real life, in conversation, online…
i’m not talking about doing it in discreet corner of the auditorium. it doesn’t really matter what you do in a discrete corner of the auditorium as long it doesn’t annoy your neighbours or set light to the building. I’m talking about doing it down the front.
if it’s a rowdy & comedic event it doesn’t matter if a member of the audience is using a typewriter. the same applies, to a lesser degree, if you’re being interviewed at a literary festival. much of your attention is directed at the interviewer and the two of you are sharing responsibility for the entertainment, so as long as the audience is listening and on your side that's all you need. but if you’re performing, if you’re really performing, and not in a rowdy comedic way, and particularly if you’re performing solo, then it’s a completely different situation.
one of the things I sometimes do is an hour’s monologue. remembering an hour of text without notes is not easy, let alone trying to do it well. if I’m mid-monologue and I see someone texting or brightly illuminated by the screen of an ipad then it’s profoundly off-putting. any performance is about connecting with people, about moving them in some way, about generating some kind of shared experience in the room. seeing someone a few metres away working on a keyboard is a bit like having them hold up a board saying ‘you are boring me to death’.
it’s not just a matter of etiquette. it can turn a performance into a psychological assault course. you can’t ignore someone doing that kind of thing. your eye catches them every time you look their way. it’s like trying to do your seven times table while someone whispers random numbers in your ear. it’s just plain difficult.
obviously the person with the phone / ipad could be tweeting / texting lovely things about the performance (though presumably they’re not that enthralled if they’ve decided to tweet instead). but from the stage it is impossible to tell the difference between someone typing ‘amazing event’ and someone recommending a hilarious video of a cat that can make toast, or indeed, telling everyone, ‘this evening is total shit’.
if you really want to sit near the front and write something down during a performance use paper. a good friend of mine always takes a notepad to the theatre and every so often she scribbles notes. it’s a measure of how closely and carefully she is watching and I think this is obvious to any of the performers who see her doing it.
forget the question of whether visible tweeting / texting is rude or not (it’s rude). what potential tweeters / texters should remember is that if they make the performer uncomfortable they are very possibly fucking up the performance everyone else is there to enjoy.
here endeth etc.
... from ardnamurchan. the second one was taken at sanna bay which is a long way from anywhere and all the better for it. the third (of the smaller ben next to ben hiant) contains the very tiny silhouettes to two deer looking over the summit and very possibly saying to one another, dear god, how much noise can those two children make? let's bugger off. and the fourth shows, not a bath full of beer, but the colour of the loch-fed water supply which was, i have to say, surpisingly nice to drink (though not from the bath).