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Thursday, 24 November 2011

people switching centre


It's sometimes difficult to know which item to select for a blog post. Sometimes there's plenty going on and then it becomes difficult to choose. Other times it's quiet and then can be tricky to think of something.

I doubt if too many people want to hear about my experiments with pot noodle cuisine, for example.

Of course, a ready source of material is the observance of surroundings and I've had a couple of good examples of that recently, with different gangs of people.

A few days ago we were on our way back from a music gig and sat together in a bar area, where, on one side was a corridor leading to a very very early Christmas party. On the other side was another corridor leading to a different bar rammed to the edges with people in 'Premier league footballers and their friends on a fancy night out' outfits.

There was much to observe as the various shimmering groups criss-crossed somewhat erratically through our seated zone.

It was very different from a couple of nights earlier when we'd chatted in an attic bar where it was actually easy to get a drink.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

foghorn days

I’ve been back to the land of fun-fairs for the week, in between my two trips to the North of England and my upcoming visit to Wales.

Admittedly some of this is 'non-work' but it does make for an interesting and increasingly jumbled car boot content.

There has been something quite atmospheric in the seaside mornings, watching the dawn break and then on at least one day listen to a nearby foghorn warning passing ships of the complex navigation and major obstacles close to shore.

There's also been some great evenings, with moody sunsets and still surprisingly good weather, despite the hint of an arctic bite to the edge of the wind.

Another week and I suppose we'll have moved to frosted grass in the morning, and I predict the leaves will have fallen by the next time I get back to see the garden at home.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Hamlet @starandshadow - a knockout

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Thursday and Friday were the days and nights for the playing of Hamlet at the excellent and hospitable Star and Shadow.

I will own up to having some modest role in the events leading to the show, but nothing on the scale of the cast, crew, producers and directors, who have been working away at this for some months. I did put up a short interview with some of them here on rashbre central a few days ago, and it is obvious to everyone involved that a whole lot of love, care and attention has gone into this production.

Those that are familiar with Shakespeare will recognise Hamlet as -er - one of the longer plays and so for this production some cuts to the original script had been made, to run two halves of around one hour each.

The production had also been modified by bringing it into the steampunk era, so there were plenty of leather coats, buckles, goggles and other paraphernalia. These were both on stage and in the entrance areas which included a selection of victorian machinery and a bar transformed into a steampunk attic.
To be, or not to be? That is the question. The production welcomed the audience into the attic, gave a chance for those that wished to become enrolled into the Court of Elsinore and then after supping an ale or two, to be able to take a small personal chalice of steaming poison into the theatre area itself.

And so to the show:

Produced with verve by @bubbleandsqueek and featuring classy acting from a cast assembled especially for the production.

We had an initially good-humoured Hamlet (Naz Kourgli) who progressively spiralled into a base of madness. The new King Claudius (Steven Langley) was played in a style deliberately at odds with others in the court - a useful device to show the way that he had established his position (for those that don't know the plot - he killed his brother the King and then married the King's wife).

Gertrude (Melanie Dagg) played a lively role as the smitten wife of Claudius and is shown to become threatened and torn as Hamlet begins to unravel what has been happening.

Hamlet is influenced by what he believes to be the Ghost of his father, after the delightful ensemble playing of Marcellus (Lee Shillito), Bernardo (James Barton) and Horatio (Neal Campbell) who think they have see an apparition whilst on guard duty.

When Hamlet joins the night watch, he starts along his quest to discover the murder of his father.

But with this as a Shakespeare plot line, there's still more layers and so we have the artfully stuttering Polonius(Eddie McNamee) advising the Court about the source of Hamlet's perceived madness.

Why, it's the love for beautiful Ophelia (Hannah Costanzo) of course, and she produces a love note from Hamlet as a sort of evidence.

Let's say that not everyone is fully convinced by this and we have some very dramatic moments when almost prophetically Hamlet tries to drown Ophelia in his bathtub.
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The 'artificial King' Claudius also has a suitable paranoia about everything that is happening and pays the entertainingly 'posh but slightly dim' Rosencrantz(Peter Kitson) and Guildenstern(Paul McDougal) to follow Hamlet and potentially to accompany him on a rakish trip to England.

The pace and tension of the drama increases like a tightly wound spring that will need to be released.

But first an interval... Check out the shadow puppet video to get a sense of the start of Part Two. Claudius blows a fuse at the play presented which more or less maps the horrible, horrible, horrible deed he has done.

Then Hamlet goes to confront his mother Gertrude but things get out of hand. Polonius was supposed to spy upon the event but is accidentally but unremorsefully killed when Hamlet mistakes him for Claudius.

And when you think things couldn't get much worse, Ophelia is told of the death of her father and flips from her early happy self into a terminal depression of her own, leading to her own drowning in a pool by the willow tree. The deaths of Polonius and Ophelia give Claudius the chance he needs to scheme with the angrily coiled Laertes (Peter Stevens) to plot the death of Hamlet.

Then the famous gravedigger scene with the two gravediggers discussing whether Opehlia's death was suicide, ably explained within the aid of a (steampunk?) custard cream and thermos flask. Hamlet appears in time to see one of the gravediggers unearthing a skull. Yes, it's Yorick...

At Ophelia's burial, her brother Laertes confronts Hamlet, which leads to a set-up duel between them, where Claudius stacks all the odds against Hamlet by a combination of a poisoned drink and also a separately poisoned spike.

The unique musical soundtrack (composed by Simon Stephenson who plays it with Ged Robinson) cranks up a notch as the stage is prepared for the fight.

There's plenty of action here but leading to the tragic ending where Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup to toast to Hamlet. Both Hamlet and Laertes exchange unknowingly deadly poisoned blows but then seek peace with one another before their demise. Laertes explains Claudius' treachery and to cries of 'treason!' from only Claudius himself, we see Hamlet force Claudius to drink from the poisoned cup.

With Hamlet dead in his arms, loyal Horatio closes the play with the famous:

'Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!'


What we also saw along the way in this production were unique interpretations of famous scenes. Hamlet's cut-throat razor shaving scene during 'To be, or not to be'. The bath-tub scene for the argument between Hamlet and Ophelia. Rozencrantz and Guidenstern searching within the audience for Hamlet and the body of Polonius.

This was a dramatic and fast paced production. For a deep tragedy, it mixed the humour well and cast light and shade as required. The time sped past for this dazzling production, which I hear rumours may soon be hitting the road.

I shall be there.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

new recruits to Hamlet's Elsinore @bubble_squeek @Starandshadow Hamlet

To be, or not to be? That is the question. Alongside working over the last few days, I've also been helping out with the Bubbleandsqueek Hamlet production at Star and Shadow.

It rocked. To be, or not to be? That is the question.

But more of that later, as they say. To be, or not to be? That is the question.

Right now, its fun to show a few of the new inductees to the Court of Elsinore, which was a facet of the production. To be, or not to be? That is the question. The woodland grove entrance to the steampunk attic cafe gave people a chance to adapt to the ways of steam before entering the theatre clasping their personal cups of poison. To be, or not to be? That is the question. Along the way was a chance to try out the red attic throne of Denmark, and many of the audience were only to happy to try out running the Kingdom. To be, or not to be? That is the question. As you'll see, some were quite vociferous in their feelings that something was rotten in the State of Denmark. And there's more pix below - click the to view slide show... Audience shots from Hamlet

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

in which I meet a self satisfied door with a Windows memory error

dont panic and carry a towel Every so often another example of something from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" happens to me in real life. Today it was the self satisfied doors to the building's elevators.

There's been that creeping elegance amongst lift designers to try to improve on the basic design. Remember that thing where you press a button, wait a few moments for a lift to arrive, step inside and select a floor?

Too easy.

After installing the helpful voices to call out floor numbers, the next thing has been the removal of the interior buttonage.

We've all experienced these newer designs, where there's a flat panel display outside the elevators.

You press a touch screen to select a floor (or maybe twice if you have -er - hot hands)

The display tells you the next available lift (which in one building I visit is sometimes hidden around a corner)

The lift arrives and you are whisked to the floor on a stopping service with a group of other people. No more ability to see a lift fill up and then select an adjacent empty one to speed past the 'slow service'. Greater chances to see optimally stuffed elevators arrive bursting with people who have experienced a slow ride down 12 or 20 floors.

Today the lift was displaying a message above the door where it usually has the floor number.

It said "Windows Error - out of virtual memory"

We looked glumly at one another as we entered and gritted our teeth for the thought that there wouldn't be another lift along until this one had cleared but this one may now be suffering from unpredictable routing.

Actually, it was fine and we got to the tenth floor successfully.

But as we exited, we noticed the touch screen panel was now filling with white courier ten font writing on a black background and an error message repeating many times, in German. Something about 'eine Fehler'

Bing bong - came the announcement.

"We are sorry to have to report that the lifts at the Southern end of the building are out of action"

An hour later...Bing Bong - another announcement: "We are sorry to have to report that all of the lifts in the building are out of action - please notify security if you need help to leave the building."

I walked down the stairs at the end of the day. I thought I heard the lifts giggling.

“Ghastly,” continued Marvin, “it all is. Absolutely ghastly. Just don't even talk about it. Look at this door,” he said, stepping through it. The irony circuits cut into his voice modulator as he mimicked the style of the sales brochure. “All the doors in this spaceship have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.”

As the door closed behind them it became apparent that it did indeed have a satisfied sigh-like quality to it. “Hummmmmmmyummmmmmm ah!” it said.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Behind the steampunk scenes at Hamlet

Today's little video clip is from a few members of the cast and production for Shakespeare's Hamlet which is being given the 1910 Steampunk treatment. The clips give brief insights into how some of the gang got involved.

I don't have any editing software with me at the moment because I am still on the road, so these are disorganised raw clips uploaded to Youtube.

It's interesting how the cast and crew got together, from a variety of castingcall.com, Facebook, twitter and similar sources.

I know I have a more clips too, but the rest of them are on a Compact Flash card 300 miles away.

Except this test of Hamlet's scene with Gertude after Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius and then sees the Ghost again.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

get thee to a nunnery

There's quite some logistics to moving Ophelia to the right spot. It's one of the delicate plot points in Shakespeare's great tragedy, Hamlet.

After Ophelia's father Polonius is mistakenly killed by the mad Prince of Denmark, there's the scene where Ophelia is told to go to a nunnery. Unfortunately, after a period of her own strange behaviour she is found drowned.

It's ruled as an accident, but the gravediggers have another opinion. Of course, it means carrying Ophelia's body in and then lowering it to the right spot. This takes quite some practice and the little clip shows one of the early takes from Saturday's blocking out of the action.

The second little clip is a trial blocking of Prince Hamlet talking to the Ghost of dead King Hamlet.

The whole production will be given the Steampunk treatment by Thursday and I'll be able to edit some footage instead of just uploading raw cuts from a Macbook. ...And I can't resist one of the test runs of the scene where Hamlet and Laertes argue and which leads to the duel where Claudius plots Hamlet's demise (it all kicks off around 2:05)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Hamlet preparations

Hamlet Star and Shadow Friday evening was a six hour drive to Newcastle, to the rehearsals for Hamlet. This is a Bubble & Squeek re-imagining of Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy, with the added whirr of a steampunk interpretation.

The show is being presented in a multi media format with theatre, music and video showing the madness of Hamlet's world. The Star and Shadow cinema is being turned into the court of Elsinore conjuring dreamlike and nightmareish landscapes.

My initial role was to move some extremely heavy 5 foot high bass bins and sofas before settling down for some filming.

THE STAR & SHADOW, NEWCASTLE
17 & 18 November, 7.30pm
Matinee: 18 November, 1.30pm
BOOK TICKETS HERE (but hurry - its almost sold out)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

sky drops

I was working out that without counting blogging or email, I've probably written over 10,000 words this week.

Unfortunately, only about 1,700 of them are linked to NaNoWriMo. And by my calculations I just don't have the time to catch up.

Originally, I was going to pass on this year's attempt anyway, because I have a couple of other screeds of unfinished writing. I then drifted into a couple of chapters, but pragmatically I realise I have too much else on at the moment.

On the positive side, my travels are giving me some interesting additional locations to plunder.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

screaming and going faster

part of my view It's been a hectic week again. I'm mainly by the seaside at the moment and my hotel room overlooks the twists and turns of a funfair.

The view changes constantly too, with sunshine, rain and mist in equal measures.

It's a bit like this week's work, where the plans on Monday are quite different from those by Wednesday.

Sometimes it's a case of scream if you want to go faster.

Monday, 7 November 2011

someone will be banged to rights

usual-suspects-1995-10-g I don't usually write about annoying personal things and it does take a bit to rile me.

But how about having your debit card cloned?

Maybe being contacted about it a few hours before starting a business trip?

Someone has been trying to buy things from BT with one of my cards. I gather they try a small purchase first and if it works they buy something bigger. Of course, we'll leave the card running so that the perpetrators get found out and suitably admonished (guv).

Meantime, I have to reset all kinds of things because its one of my main cards. Grr.

That was the same day that someone in a Jeep Cherokee backed into my unattended car. I wasn't there at the time but heard one of those announcements 'Is anyone the owner of a ....?'

Kudos to the three witnesses and the excellent description of the car, the driver, the passenger and the number plate as they drove away without admitting they had done anything wrong.

Processes are in place for both situations.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

funny how the distance learns to grow

Saturday night and I'm at a going-away party for a friend.

He's off to Beijing on Sunday to work. It's not that long since I was with a different friend who had a similar plan. Not to Beijing, but instead to Shanghai - hardly in the same vicinity but only 4 hours on the bullet train.

In amongst the drinking and music, the inevitable questions were asked around how/what/why? and some of the people there were expecting detailed explanations. I didn't go along that route and am much more able to settle for the 'It is what it is' type of explanation.

For the moment I'll have to make do with Chinatown in Soho, but it's got me thinking about a visit.

Friday, 4 November 2011

hold your breath till the sun goes down

I was in the supermarket when I spotted the latest edition of Uncut magazine. It's not something I'd normally buy, but the cover with its Tom Waits' Jukebox drew me towards it. Usually it carries quite a few retro articles about (e.g.) how Deep Purple wrote their 1970 hit single "Black Night" (they jammed it as a b-side) or what Bob Dylan was doing in 1976 (Rolling Thunder).

It reminds me of that recently launched magazine that carries slightly old news. There was a copy in a hotel where I stayed recently, and although it was all elaborately printed and typeset, I couldn't really be bothered to read news from the last three months, ending in August.

But I'll make an exception with the Tom Waits article, which was a longish and recent interview as well as the song selections, which feature sufficient bar-rooms, brawls and gasoline references to keep me engaged. I know I reference Mr Waits here from time to time, and to be honest I don't really know how many of his albums I have, except that its quite a lot, including some on vinyl but usually repeated as CDs.

Aside from the lyrics and interesting music, there's often a reason to get the physical packaging with his albums too. Who can forget the cover of Real Gone, with its handy match striker surface? or the little book included with Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards? I personally think he missed a trick by not including any glitter or confetti with Glitter and Doom, but the second CD of talk tracks more than compensated.

There's a new album out now too, Bad as Me, but I shall wait until after my birthday before considering purchasing it.

Well, you play that Tarantella, all the hounds they start to roar
The boys all go to hell, and then the Cubans hit the floor
They drive along the pipeline, they tango till they're sore
They take apart their nightmares and they leave 'em by the door
Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs
I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
Send me off to bed forever more

Thursday, 3 November 2011

I appear to be starting a Mexican hat dance for Nanowrimo

in the valley The trouble with even thinking about NaNoWriMo is that I then start to think about the plot-line for the next novel.

If it was a completely new story then I’d probably get away with ignoring the whole thing, but as the next one is supposed to be the third part of the Triangle, then the characters are pre-formed.

It means that they start to do things again of their own accord. It doesn’t help that when I was in the desert a few months ago I had a few ideas pop into my head which would fit nicely into book three.

Or that when I was in a rather agreeable hotel in the middle of Santa Fe I worked out a pretty cool idea for a scene which I’ve not seen anyone do yet.

And don’t get me started on the Vauxhall train station plotline that could be worked into the story. I picked that up when we were delayed on an inbound train to Waterloo.

It means that the characters that I’ve left by the roadside on US Highway 163 in are already on their way to the Utah border and might even pick up some horses to cut across the Colorado Plateau.

It’s all getting out of hand and I haven’t written a single word yet.

Then there's those two Navajo truck drivers who have pulled off the road by Mexican Hat and are transferring all manner of things between what appears to be two almost identical trailers. There’s clearly something going down, and it isn’t just a refreshment stop.

Oh, well maybe just a little peep...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

no nanowrimo this year?

hazy It's not that I don't want to, but I just can't rationalise doing the NaNoWriMo again this year. My hazy desert picture is indicative of the plot forming in my head.

The thing is, I have two partially complete novels from previous years that it would make more sense to complete.

One is the second part of the Triangle trilogy. It's called 'The Square' and is at that 80% complete status. I still need to write the last 3-4 conventional chapters and then I'd have a reasonable first draft on the basis that I've already polished some parts of it. I already have someone in mind to help me with a sub-editorial review as well.

Then there's last year's effort - which is called 'Pulse'. It's a different genre, but still with a London based theme around it. That's probably more at the 60% stage at the moment and as it involves more countries the various cast of players need to be scooped back into a single area for a sort of denouement.

The thing is, I've already got the hazy idea for the third book of the Triangle series, which happens to be set partly in Arizona. The rationale for the location is like the other ones; pretty much that I happened to be there and I think all the Navajo and pueblo elements can add some other textures.

Did I just hear someone say 'Step away from the typewriter"?