Om mani padme hum, what a day!
I guess going to meditation (my first in a couple of months) set the tone. We did a body awareness exercise and then the mindfulness of breathing – and for the first time, I felt I was really getting somewhere with it. OK, so I only once managed to make it to ten breaths without my thoughts drifting to something else, but I still felt more focused on the exercise than I ever have before, and when I left the building I felt incredibly perceptive and open to everything happening at that moment, I floated slowly down the street paying attention to everything around me and loving it.
Then in the evening I had an audition for a new drama company, Next Best Thing. I got in. Not only that, but I got a very cool role. We’re going to be performing Nikolai Gogol’s The Marriage, a brilliant comedy (Will, the director, described it as like “an hour-and-a-half of the end sketch in Morecame and Wise”). I read, and was given the part of, Kockarev, who according to this description is the main catalyst for action in the play:
Kockarev is actually the catalyst for the action. He appears at his friend Podkolesin’s apartment at the moment when Podkolesin is making a pronouncement to himself: “Yes,” he intones, “When you are alone with nothing to do, you realize that marriage is the only answer.”
Gleefully, he realizes that Podkolesin has been, like him, nibbling on the sly at the idea of marriage, though without asking his advice or help. Now Kockarev, jealous and hurt, especially since his own marriage has turned out to be less than blissful, takes over with a sort of dare-devil recklessness (like Nozdryov in Dead Souls ) and with considerable elan impels his friend into action.
Kockarev’s name can be linked to the word for ram, (kochkar’ ) and may indicate that he is a bully, very much like Nozdrev later in Dead Souls. Not only is he a bully, but he is sneaky and revengeful, regrets his recent marriage, and now, instead of advising his friend against the disastrous state of wedlock, insists on propelling him into that state because he does not want to see him in a better position than his own. He is also a fanatic, not to mention a magician, when it comes to arranging other people’s lives. He makes things happen, as Gogol would say, “the Devil only knows why ” . His is a character basic to Gogol’s oeuvre, the Russian happy-go-lucky bully, the liar who lies not from premeditation, but from quasi-poetic inspiration (see Khlestakov later): He sees reality and fantasy as absolutely interchangeable, especially since the exercise in prestidigitation costs him nothing.
Andrew played Podkolesin while I acted out Kockarev. Will described them as “Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the Odd Couple. Or Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot.” The play’s on in October. I am looking forward to it!
After the audition, and a quick beer, I went to the Showroom to see Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. It was showing as part of Hallam University’s film studies course, so there was a brief talk beforehand.
I’ve wanted to see this film for a while now. I read Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai a couple of years ago (when Mark and I were coming up with cod-Ronin philosophies for Bradonpace) and, during my research on that book, I heard that Jarmusch had read it during the making of this film and had completely re-written the script as a result. Actually, the book plays a huge part in the film, the main character uses it as his sole guide, and sections of the film are preceded by quotes from the book (lots of other interesting cultural cross-references in the film too, from Rashomon to The Simpsons).
Anyway the film was, as expected, truly excellent. And as I strode out of the cinema into a turbulent grey-and-gold stormy summer sky, I felt like Ghost Dog. I guess a combination of the film and my earlier meditation had chilled me out and connected me to everything; my every move was considered and unhurried, and nothing escaped my eye. I looked at the tops of buildings; for perhaps the first time I noticed the statue on the roof of the town hall (Vulcan, apparently), holding his hand skyward towards the crane which, from my downhill angle at least, towered over his head. I circled back slowly through Sheffield, spotting photo-opportunities everywhere (incredible, I’d been thinking lately how I never seem able to frame a photograph, I realised tonight that I just need to take three breaths before finding an angle and I’ll always find something suitable). Shame I didn’t have a camera.
I didn’t feel like going straight home, but was shy of going alone to drink somewhere. In the end I walked into the Three Tuns just as I was about to give up and go home, bought a drink and read the newspaper at the bar, then a guy Steve and his Japanese girlfriend sparked up a conversation on the basis of my Japanese-scripted T-Shirt (funny, second time I’ve worn it, second time I’ve been approached by an unknown Japanese girl to tell me it’s gibberish). Had a great night. Got quite drunk.