I’ve gone over my bandwidth limit for this domain (5 Gb per month) – I didn’t think that was ever going to happen. Not a problem as I’ve upped it to 10 now (out of a maximum 100 for all my domains), but… what are all you people looking at?
Monthly Archive for October, 2004
Well, it’s finally arrived. I’m on stage, acting every night, and loving it.
Wednesday was our opening night. I was shitting myself, mainly because it was also Will’s birthday and I’d asked Gill to make him a cake, which I planned to present to him onstage after the curtain call. I even scripted out a little ceremony, in character. But the night before, Will had a screaming fit after we cocked up the curtain call, and I was terrified that this could so easily go wrong, that it would cock up his play and that rather than loving the gesture, he would be incensed. The rest of the cast seemed to feel the same as me, but even more strongly. I was warned against doing it, that such an “unprofessional” gesture would reflect badly on the professionalism of the rest of the play, that we should just wish him happy birthday quietly backstage.
In the end, everything was fine. Will was extremely touched by the gesture, and loved the fact that I’d written a script for it. Nothing whatsoever to worry about there.
If only the same could be said of the acting. I hadn’t realised quite how much I would be affected by the presence of an audience. I couldn’t even look at them for the whole first half, which was rather a problem as a large part of my character is built on asides and knowing glances. I improved a little over the second half, but I still didn’t feel great about my acting. It wasn’t that I did anything wrong – I got all of my lines at least 99% right, stood where I should have done, did all the moves, it was just that I didn’t feel I’d done very much right – those little extra touches that are essential to bring the character to life. I felt like I was basically Dan Sumption standing on stage reciting a few lines and doing the odd bit of shouting.
Unfortunately, the first night was also the night the critics came. Still, everyone else in the cast felt they’d acted an excellent play, so I hoped (but doubted) that perhaps I was just being a bit pessimistic about the whole thing. And I braced myself for the reviews, which I felt certain would pick up on my charlatan attempts to act. The first review, in the Sheffield Star, came the very next day. I needn’t have worried about the reviewer, Joy Wright (Wrong!), criticising me, in fact I needn’t have worried about her mentioning the performance at all, it seemed as if she hadn’t actually seen it. She wrote:
GOGOL’S ‘Marriage’ is
described as satirical
comedy and he himself has
been described as a leader
in Russian literature – a
thought to bear in mind
should you watch this
The production focuses
on marriage and it’s [sic] place in
social stature, marriage as
an institution and as an
event which simply ought to
happen in a persons [sic] life,
according to the times.
The character commentary
is vaguely amusing at times
and the circumstances certainly have great potential.
There are caricatures of
people within caricatures of
scenarios which , if
interpreted by another playwright, could have the audience rolling in their seats.
The volume of work
undertaken by Next Best
Thing Productions is
evident, although the end
result is weakened by a
collection of thoughts
Gogol’s script may appeal
to a select audience but is
unlikely to appeal to a wider
Not quite sure what she meant by all of that. She sounds somewhat like a deranged, disillusioned A-Level literature student who has only read the script, rather than watching the play, and a different translation of the script at that. She can’t even write proper English (apart from the unwieldiness of her sentences, check out the way that the apostrophe in “person’s” has slipped back half a sentence, and landed slap in the middle of “its”. And what the hell is “social stature”? And… spaces before commas? Since when?). As Will mocked “no, I didn’t think much of that Romeo and Juliet play, I mean it’s so irrelevant, 13-year olds don’t get married, do they!?”
Anyway, the Telegraph review came out today, and, damn, Marion Heywood spotted my lack of acting:
NIKOLAI Gogol is perhaps now best remembered
for The Government Inspector, a sparkling and
savage satire about Russian bureaucracy.
Marriage was to be Gogol’s last foray into comedy
before he rather unwisely embarked on his unfinished and unfunny novel Dead Souls. Marriage is
well worth a revival and all credit to this company
for doing just that.
Director Will Bird of Next Best Thing Productions
has updated the play from the 1830s to the 1900s
which works. However, the claims in the programme
notes about a rediscovery of a classic to rate alongside, say, The Importance of Being Earnest or the
Comedy of Errors, seem a tad over-inflated. Still, this
translation by Stephen Mulrine is fresh and lively.
The farcical plot with patches of dark comedy
seeks to expose the marriage business in St Petersburg. It revolves about the efforts of a mad old
matchmaker to arrange a marriage for Agafya, an
eligible heiress, the young woman at the heart of the
action. Along the way, Gogol unveils a gallery of
grotesque suitors and the ending is surprisingly subversive.
The playing is rather patchy throughout. Some
scenes really sparkle, others fall flat and the staging
is somewhat awkward at times, too. Still, Zoe
English is an appealing Agafya and there is some
good playing between her and Rachel Sylvester as
the striking and rather scary match-maker.
Good comic timing, too, between the idle and
indecisive would-be suitor Podkolyosin (played by
Andrew Hawcroft) and his servant, Stepan (Alex
Will Bird is a suitably foppish, shrill, Anuchkin
and Mike Gordon an impressive Omelet. David Reid
is an assured rakish and very funny Baltazar.
However, Dan Sumption isn’t really sinister enough
in the crucial role of Kochkaryov .
This is the company’s first production in Sheffield.
It’s good that this company is prepared to be adventurous, but not all amateur theatre in Sheffield is -
again to quote from the programme notes – “dominated by the over-familiar.”
URK!! She praised everyone else in the cast, and then said that about me. The fact that she was right softened the blow a little, but not much.
Anyway, I had a good and very reassuring chat with Will afterwards. Firstly he pointed out that the review didn’t actually criticise my acting in any way, just said I wasn’t sinister enough, and he had never directed (or intended) me to be sinister: just manic & weird. His main point of reference for me was Oliver Hardy, and as he pointed out Hardy isn’t sinister, just pompous and overbearing, as I was meant (and mainly managed) to be. He also took most of the blame for the criticism himself, pointing out that her main issue was with the programme notes. His comment that
“…theatre in Sheffield seemed to be dominated by the overfamiliar. Alan Ayckbourn or an adaptation of a classic novel wasn’t for me.”
seemed to get peoples’ backs up as much as I had expected it would. He says he didn’t mean it in an overly negative way, nothing wrong with the performances other amateur groups give, just that the material chosen doesn’t range as widely as it might.
Anyway, that was that and not a lot we can do about it now. But I wasn’t too bothered by the review (not too bothered)
because I already knew my performance on Wednesday was far from my best (I managed much better on both the technical and dress rehearsals), but mainly because on Thursday night I pulled out a blinder, and I know that tonight I can manage better yet. Wary of my nervousness the previous night, I realised that there was one crucial ingredient missing in Kochkaryov’s makeup: a very large glass of brandy. Well, it worked when I got married for real, so why on earth not now, eh? I quickly downed a treble before setting off for the theatre. I had some cause to be nervous: unlike the previous night there were now people I knew in the audience – my mum & dad and Sanjida. But the brandy put paid to any of that, and had me running around backstage, cracking jokes as the makeup went on, and thoroughly looking forward to things.
Despite that, the play didn’t start quite as well as I knew it could have. The audience took some warming up, and I did too. But nonetheless the first half was much better than before. By the second half… well, I was flying. I really got into my stride, full of confidence and loving every minute. After the show, Will gave us his customary de-brief in the green room. He spoke to us one-by-one, giving praise and suggestions. When he came to me he said “Dan…. excellent! In the second half I thought you acted the best…” “Yes, I know” I interrupted, expecting him to finish the sentence “you’ve done so far”. When he actually said “of the entire cast” I was well shocked and well chuffed. He went on to point out that I’d got people laughing where they’d never laughed before, and my performance had moved several notches up. And now I’m really excited because I know that I’ve enough confidence to do even better tonight (when Gill & the kids will be along, with about ten of their friends).
Postscript: just finished writing this, and got the following email from Will:
Just thought I’d let you know that Zoe’s mum thought you were the best thing
in it last night too!
Probably the first thing we’ve agreed on in the 3 years I’ve known her….
OK, I checked the MT logs and it seems we are succesfully keeping the spammers out. The other interesting thing is… I’ve just noticed that it logs searches that people run on the blog. Makes me wonder why people were digging out particular entries… OK, the searches for “gd2″ and “GD2″… was that you Guy, or somebody hunting you down? And the person who searched for “glasses” and “contacts”… were you looking for a specific entry that you remember seeing before, or are you just interested in my views on short-sightedness in general. Other stuff… who’s rachel and why search my weblog for her? What does “less than jake” mean? Why ‘the thesis for this story”. Etc etc etc.
URK, huge overnight increase in comment spam to my blog. This has finally prompted me to install MT-Blacklist, which was ridiculously easy to do. Let’s just wait and see whether I got it all right and spam comments will become a thing of the past. If you experience any problems posting here, please mail me.
Mal has started selling Oggz off his website – amazing cool colour-morphing egg lamps, think Mathmos and then up the coolometer a few notches, and you’re just about there. USA readers: Get Oggz offa Mal.
Nobody does diagnosis like The Doctor. American politics, as observed by Hunter S Thompson. Like the man says, where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?
So, farewell then Lynda Lee-Potter. You evil hate-filled old hag. Good fucking riddance. It is said that her column personified the Daily Mail; that alone should have been reason enough to have had her killed off years ago.
Problem is, this leaves me in something of a bind. Whenever I’ve uttered the sentence “I could never hate another human being” I’ve had to hurriedly postfix it with “except for Lynda Lee-Potter, of course”. Who is there left to hate now? (No answers on postcards, please. I can already see a long list forming in my mind).
But, let’s not dwell on the bad things. If it weren’t for Lynda’s peculiar brand of two-faced vitriol (excuse the mixed metaphors) then we would probably have never had Glenda Slagg. Anyway, let’s commemorate the old windbag by paying tribute to some of her fine and heartfelt journalism, published around the time of another, somewhat more famous, woman:
“The sight of a paunchy playboy groping a scantily-dressed Diana must appal and humiliate Prince William.,. As the mother of two young sons she ought to have more decorum and sense. She has for many years criticised Prince Charles for being a distant, undemonstrative father. In the long run he’s been the more responsible parent and certainly inflicted less damage, anguish and hurt.”
– Lynda Lee-Potter, Daily Mail, 27 Aug. 1997
“Throughout their childhood she gave her sons endless loving cuddles… She adored her children.”
– Lynda Lee-Potter, Daily Mail, 1 Sept. 1997
Right, I’ve posted what may be a slightly provocative comment on the Daily Mail’s chat site (scroll down, search for “dansumption”). Sit back and see what happens.
Update: the freedom-lovin’ Daily Mail have removed my comment (which wasn’t exactly offensive, I just said something like “she’s a vitriol-filled, self-contradicting, woman-hating… what? she’s dead? She was an angel, gawd bless ‘er, an angel!”) and in its place they have this. Gak! Farewell then Lynda, the friend I never met.
Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction, orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.
At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man’s penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.
I just discovered that Sea Oak by George Saunders is available online! Go read it now. Then buy the book, and everything else he has ever written. This is the funniest, saddest, most realistically surreal thing I have read in recent years, imagine Will Self, Alexei Sayle and Magnus Mills multiplied together and then doubled a few more times, this is fucking excellent shit. Erm, freaking excellent shoot, I mean.
At Sea Oak there’s no sea and no oak, just a hundred subsidized apartments and a rear view of FedEx. Min and Jade are feeding their babies while watching How My Child Died Violently. Min’s my sister. Jade’s our cousin. How My Child Died Violently is hosted by Matt Merton, a six-foot-five blond who’s always giving the parents shoulder rubs and telling them they’ve been sainted by pain. Today’s show features a ten-year-old who killed a five-year-old for refusing to join his gang. The ten-year-old strangled the five-year-old with a jump rope, filled his mouth with baseball cards, then locked himself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out until his parents agreed to take him to FunTimeZone, where he confessed, then dove screaming into a mesh cage full of plastic balls. The audience is shrieking threats at the parents of the killer while the parents of the victim urge restraint and forgiveness to such an extent that finally the audience starts shrieking threats at them too. Then it’s a commercial. Min and Jade put down the babies and light cigarettes and pace the room while studying aloud for their GEDs. It doesn’t look good. Jade says “regicide” is a virus. Min locates Biafra one planet from Saturn. I offer to help and they start yelling at me for condescending.
“You’re lucky, man!” my sister says. “You did high school. You got your frigging diploma. We don’t. That’s why we have to do this GED shit. If we had our diplomas we could just watch TV and not be all distracted.”
“Really,” says Jade. “Now shut it, chick! We got to study. Show’s almost on.”