Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hand & Star

Working hard these last few days before Christmas? Need to take the edge off a little? Then look no further. Pay a visit to ‘Hand & Star’ for all your literary needs! In its own words:

Hand + Star offers intelligent, fresh perspectives, open to the interplay between text, technology and popular culture. Hand + Star combines the speed and energy of blogging with the authority of the traditional literary journal, and is committed to seeking out new, independent and lesser-known voices in poetry and fiction.

Go on, seek some literary juices this holiday season, and whilst you're there check out my reviews on Abi Curtis’s Unexpected Weather, and Ryan Kamstra’s Late Capitalist Sublime.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Status Games

Following the Keith Johnson ‘Impro’ tradition, I’ve been playing some ‘status’ games recently. I can’t help but inject these little natural techniques into the workplace to gage reactions. Most are pretty normal day to day things that you probably do all the time, but when you’re aware of the way you’re behaving then you realise you can affect it. Like holding your head still when you speak. In certain situations like meetings this seems to make you appear more authoritative, where as jittery head movements come across as ‘the fool.’ Give it a try and see what reaction you get.

For Johnson, status games are a way to make improvisation amongst actors seem more realistic. His methods in ‘Impro’ encourage us to look at the way we react to certain situations and individuals in real life and use this to make acting on stage far more natural. If an actor knows his status in relation to the other characters upon entering a scene, then that scene is easier to improvise.

This makes sense really, using the office example again; we always play the inferior role to bosses, or those with director in their title. Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage’ quote rings a bell here, as I ask, are we naturally prone to status decisions, or are we acting a part based on our title? Try looking at the way shop assistants are treated. Lower status individuals will admire and ask for the assistant’s expertise, where as a higher status player might order them around like a servant. And then there’s the other form of high status where the individual plays low in order to hide their status, and only reveals it if vital to succeed dominance – a sort of flattery of the assistant you know is below you.

Johnson states that when a high status player is wiped out, then everyone experiences as if they are moving up a step. Wiping out could be as simple as talking about a culturally higher film watched than your fellow converser, thus confirming them as a lower status player. In the office space, you might notice a raise in everyone’s status when someone’s idea is shot down in a business meeting. Everyone becomes higher because they weren’t the ones shot down. In theatrical terms, the person who had the drop in status could be used to create sympathy in the audience, or to make them feel higher also.

Another trick in ‘Impro’ is to regularly modify status to keep up audience attention and the pace of a scene. So an example here could be two people having an argument where each character keeps getting one over the other. In office terms perhaps it’s something like:

Person A: Have you had a chance to finish that report yet?
Person B: Not yet, I’ve been too busy. Did you take a look at those costs though?
Person A: I can’t look at the costs until I’ve seen the report.
Person B: But the costs will help inform the report. I need them first.

There’s a wee bit of see-sawing that takes place next, but that can be used to comic effect, a sort of ‘he’s behind you,’ ‘oh no he’s not’ thing.

I’m only scratching the surface here, but if you’re interested in more, Johnson explains this a lot clearer than I.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Digital Priest

Recently I found myself on the way to a murder mystery evening in Richmond. I was late, frantically folding A4 paper to fit under by black collar to form what was to be the crux of my outfit. Yes, I was the priest, the saint, the holy father, the dirty beast, and I was the one that did it, but on the way I realized I’d forgotten my bible. Emails flew around the company, ‘has anyone got a bible laying around? Client has had a crisis of faith….’ and still no word. Until, that was, I remembered how we were in the digital age. Lo and behold, I saw a light, I reached for my IPhone knocked up the app store and downloaded the Bible app in seconds. I was now the bionic priest, a 21st century preacher with a digital reader. I could punch up any psalm, genesis, exodus, old or new testament in seconds. It was a revelation.

A while back I had this idea for the Catholic Church. It was an idea for a new business model, a way to cut costs by laying off staff. I figured, why not start a digital online confession booth? You’d get far more converts anonymously online than you would in church, and people could do it in the comfort of their own home. They could even set up online donations via paypal. ‘Absolve your sins – donate today’. In fact check out 'Group Hug’ which is an non-religion affiliated confession website.

If you’d like satire, EA have produced 'Mass We Pray' a sickeningly smug viral to secretly promote the video game interpretation of Dante’s Inferno.

Three days after the murder mystery LOVE and HATE were still stained on my knuckles. A sign perhaps?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Carry On Thought Criminals

It’s been a busy week. Long days and late nights punctuated by theatre. Let’s have a recap, in fact lets do a montage, turn up the stereo, radio, cassette player or iTunes depending on the era you’re living in and prepare for short snappy reviews. Let me start with last Saturday’s trip to Rich Mix over Brick Lane way to see Hardgraft's Poles Apart. A clever Brecht-infused take on the immigration issue where two Brits tried their hand at finding jobs in Warsaw. What followed was a comical tale of their endeavors, nods to Polish culture, and with just a ball of string Hard Graft demonstrated that no matter where we’re from we can all be joined together.

Come Tuesday I was at the BAC to see Amanda Lawrence's Charles Hawtrey biopic Jiggery Pokery.
In fact ‘biopic’ doesn’t do justice to what Lawrence created. Playing a plethora of diverse roles, she explored Hawtrey’s life on and off stage, shedding light on the infamous alcoholic made famous by the Carry On films. Lawrence’s performance had more energy than an entire X Factor audience as she darted around the stage in one scene playing a young Hawtrey, his mother as well as various actors and agents. A truly fantastic play.

The next day I found myself in a stormy Vauxhall at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) for The Festive Happening featuring cabaret artists Bourgeois & Maurice, Johnny Woo and Scottee who made the traditional Xmas Knit look more glamorous than a night out at The Birdcage. Laugh’s a plenty as they rip-roared through a Barack Obama mime of Beyonce’s Halo, breast bursting performance poetry, and B&M’s 21st century dilemma Don’t Google Me Mother.

I polished off the week with a preview showing of Blind Summit's version of the classic Orwell novel 1984. If you’re expecting the serious intelligent tension of the book then think again. Blind Summit’s take turned what’s become a popular critique of society on its head. Borrowing the Brechtian style of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Blind Summit began the show with a squad of thought police on the way to the BAC to perform the story of Winston and Julia, the thought criminals. Sets were words on paper cards and The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism was creatively performed as a complete puppet show with paper words and pictures. It begs the thought, if only all politics could be taught in this way?