Blog

I’m in the Laugh Factory Trump Impersonator World Finals
8 April 2017

I’m going to Hollywood!

Laugh Factory Homepage (2).png

I’ve been picked in the WORLD TOP 10 Trump impersonators by the Laugh Factory, and will be performing in the finals in Hollywood on Wednesday April 26 2017. The winner will host Laugh Factory’s new online show, ‘Fake News/Real News’, and headline at all of the Laugh Factory Clubs around the USA.

The official press release came out today, so I can finally start telling people! The release is here:

Laugh Factory.png

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2017

Contact: Patrick Lee
patrick@laughfactory.com
323-848-2800, ext. 235

LAUGH FACTORY ANNOUNCES FINALS FOR GLOBAL PRESIDENT TRUMP IMPERSONATION DAY COMPETITION

(Hollywood, CA) –  The world famous Laugh Factory will present Trump Impersonation Day on April 26th at 2pm. The show will be hosted by the original Trump impersonator and SNL Alum, Darrell Hammond.

“President Trump is not getting the credit he deserves for how much he has truly helped the comedy community since he has taken office,” says Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada. “To honor President Trump for creating this new golden age of comedy, the Laugh Factory has decided to search the world for the best Trump impersonator.”

Following our recent Funniest Person in the World Competition that featured 89 comedians from 56 countries, the Laugh Factory is bringing the global comedy community together again to find the funniest President Trump impersonator on the planet.

The first round of the competition took place online and the 10 finalists will be flying to Los Angeles from around the world. The furthest finalist is from New Zealand. Others are coming from Dubai, Great Britain, Canada and South Korea. One of the finalists is a woman who does a great President Trump impersonation, and one is from Iran—a country that was part of the US travel ban.

The winner will host a new show for Laugh Factory Magazine called “Real News/Fake News.”

ABC’s “The View” held a round of the Trump Impersonator competition and one comic was awarded with a guaranteed spot in the Laugh Factory finals. Click here to view the video: https://vimeo.com/211592232

The View.png

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About the Laugh Factory
Since the launch of its flagship club in Hollywood in 1979, the Laugh Factory has established itself as a global comedy brand. The Laugh Factory YouTube channel has over 229 million views.

To recoup travel costs, I’m putting on a free entry/koha performance of The President next week; details below. Thanks for your support!

https://www.facebook.com/events/296026184143425/

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Post Character Comedy Workshop
3 April 2017

The workshop has finished. It was on yesterday, and ran smoothly.

Workshop 2.4.2017                                                                                   Photo by Carl Anderson

I had anticipated two hours being hard to fill, and it turned out I could have gone for three. Performers of all types went – comics, actors, improvisers, writers – and everyone had different goals. That was one of the best parts. Everyone had a different vision of what they would do with the things they learned.

A personal highlight was seeing multiple people portray convincing characters at the end of the workshop without relying on costume, set, or props of any type.

I won’t post the content – come to one of the workshops and find out for yourself! – but I will say I’m looking forward to doing this again with Nelson locals and other performers at the Nelson Fringe in May.

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Book Reviews 13 and 14
Twilight of the Idols, by Friedrich Nietzsche (trans. R. J. Hollingdale)
The Anti-Christ, by Friedrich Nietzsche (trans. R. J. Hollingdale)
30 March 2017

Twilight of the Idols & The Anti-Christ, Freidrich Nietzsche
Twilight of the Idols (93pp.) was very different to Beyond Good and Evil – my first Nietzsche read. If the latter was a good starter of Nietzsche’s viewpoint on various issues, then this was the concise version. In it, he tries to ‘say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book – what everyone else does not say in a book’. I believe he succeeds. Topics are covered in such an economic way that it’s the closest he gets to the more traditional philosophy I’ve read before (points covered in relatively easily followed persuasive arguments). Style and art were both important to Nietzsche, and the beautiful prose in B&E can at times make the ideas more difficult to understand. In this shorter work, then, descriptions are necessarily briefer, and therefore often more easily followed.

The Anti-Christ (74pp.) is very different to Twilight or B&E. This is because it focuses exclusively on his problems with Christianity and Christian morality. Portions of this seem like pure guesswork, and while they were interesting, the analysis here wasn’t convincing for me. Some new points (to me) dealt with his thoughts on Christianity being a religion for the weak and powerless because it encourages equality and commends those who live deliberately simple lives. Points like these pose problems beyond whether God exists, and comments on reasoning behind the creation of the religion itself.  In a world where anti-Christian/religious arguments are often overly simplistic, this really engages with biblical quotes and explains itself in a thorough way. It manages to avoid being one-note while constantly pushing one point home.

I’m glad I read these following Beyond Good and Evil (which was a good introduction to Nietzsche’s thought). I’m reading Human, All Too Human now, and look forward to getting onto Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Ecce Homo after that – particularly the latter, which is meant to be as close as he got to an autobiography. I’m reading these as research for a play about Nietzsche I’m looking to put on later this year. It’s been a challenge so far, and I’m expecting it to be the most difficult work to complete that I’ve ever started.

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Character Comedy Workshop
29 March 2017

I’m hosting a character comedy workshop this Sunday (2/4/2017).

Character comedy
Here’s the blurb:

Ever thought of creating a new character? Combining acting and stand-up? Writing your own solo show and touring? This koha workshop is for you.

I’ve worked on multiple solo shows – including ‘The President’ – and am looking to help other performers, or complete newcomers, to create a new character for themselves. Come along for two hours and find your next big project!

DETAILS:
Cavern Club, Allen Street
Sunday 2 April
15:00 – 17:00
Koha

It’s the first workshop I’ve hosted, and I’m looking forward to it. It will cover the basics – creating a character, building material, and putting together a solo show – as well as methods/opinions on various facets of performing I’ve developed over the years.

I’m particularly excited to see what effect it has on the newer performers that attend. I see character work as combining acting and comedy, so it tends to result in higher energy performances than normal stand-up. It could give a much-needed energy boost to comics that have only played low-energy so far.

It’s koha (free entry/donations welcome): all funds go towards getting to Nelson Fringe in May, and another big performance I’ve got coming up. This will be announced in the next week or two.

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On Merry Wives (Week Two)
26 March 2017

It’s finished. Here’s the last photo of me in part of the Caius costume:

Doctor Caius
The second performance week was very different to the first. Last week, we were all on a high performing this brand-new work to new audiences every night. The reviewer came and went, a stellar review was published, and we kept the momentum up through all five outings.

We had Monday off before the second week of shows started. We were halfway through the season, and should have come back 100% perfect. One day off meant the pace slowed a little. All actors were saying lines at pace, but the cues seemed stilted in some parts, and the show was slightly longer. That first night back wasn’t a bad show; it just could have been better. It was different – and so was every show across the second week.

Pranks were played, lines were added, adjustments made, and the show became livelier with every performance. While we had to balance carefully between the original version and a potential over-the-top hybrid, we were able to keep the show alive. One scene between Mistress Quickly (Katie) and I was supposed to end like this:

CAIUS: If I have not Anne Page, I shall turn your head out of my door. Come at heels, Rugby.
(CAIUS and RUGBY exit.)
QUICKLY: You shall have a fool’s head of your own!

I had joked about adding an additional line here, and on Thursday, I did. Following my exit and her last line, I walked back in and added:

CAIUS: What did you say?

And Quickly was left to cover for it. It was a little mean – but it kept her on her toes. It also made way for further tricks played on other cast members and me. Later, she arranged for Ford to throw the last sheet directly at my face (and he did, knocking my hat off at the same time). I used an audience member as a hat stand while I dealt with the sheet.  Additions on other nights included throwing a baguette that had been sitting uneaten backstage for two weeks at Rugby, and then him leaping all over me in the final scene on the last night. The audience never picked up on these extra bits as distracting or obvious pranks, and they kept the actors excited about performing.

Then there were covers for line slips. These happened rarely, but were occasionally necessary. On the last night, I trod on Mistress Page’s dress as she turned to talk to me.

MISTRESS PAGE: Doctor Caius –
(Stumbles as her dress is trod on.)
MISTRESS PAGE (cont’d): – pray watch your step.

In one scene, Ford mentions the gathered characters should join him to see a monster. Caius tells Rugby to leave and swats him away over the shoulder without looking at him. One night, Rugby was a little too close . . .

CAIUS: Go you home, Jack Rugby.
(Swats over the shoulder and Rugby is too close. I hit him in the face.)
CAIUS (cont’d): You were standing much closer than I expected.

While sticking to some sort of pattern for shows to ensure they stay at their best is important, I have found that some improvisation in group work – even in the tiniest amounts – can keep the show alive for performers. If the actors are clearly enjoying themselves, audiences pick up on that. Shows are like life: sometimes the best laid plans have unpredictable outcomes. I had a great time, and look forward to working on another Shakespeare in the future.

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On The Merry Wives of Windsor (Week One)
22 March 2017

In my last post, I said Merry Wives was my first group cast and Shakespeare in a long time. It was tough initially working with so many other performers – especially when we all had different ideas of how scenes should play out. I’m glad to write that the first week of the show was superb. It all came together, and has been well-received by reviewers and audiences alike.

Merry Wives poster
One thing that stands out is the audience interaction. We perform on a thrust stage (seating is provided at the front and sides of the performers). This is as close to in-the-round as we could get. Lights are up throughout, and they shine on performers and audience alike. It’s an exciting opportunity to use crowd-work skills I’ve developed in other shows in a brand-new context. There are also multiple scenes where my character has none, or few, lines. Constantly reacting to what is happening without responding verbally has been a lot of fun, and these have become some of my favourite scenes.

Performing with others has pros and cons. Splitting profit and difficulties with rehearsal/tour schedules has always made me stick to solo work. Finding the right tone for group scenes has been hard, though they eventually settled to ones I’m very happy with. As a fun season between solo works, Merry Wives has reminded me of the infinite pros of group work. I’ve met many new people and made great friends, played off a new audience, and done some of my best crowd work by having other actors throwing ideas out there too.

While my focus remains on solo work, this has been a great experience so far, and I look forward to the rest of the season. It runs tonight until Saturday.

—–

Merry Wives opens tomorrow
14 March 2017

Dress rehearsal, Merry Wives
Merry Wives – my first group play in four years, my first Shakespeare in six – opens tomorrow night. It’s been a full-on process, with much more rehearsal than I’m used to. Seven weeks have been spent learning lines, sorting blocking (where we’ll stand/move), rehearsing, and relearning how to work with other performers instead of a crowd.

I’ve spent the time working on playing off other actors, and there was a lot of room to choreograph comedic sequences myself within my scenes. It’s the first show in years where I’ve doubted my ability to perform a role well – and with hard work and encouragement from Katie, it’s the biggest transformation I’ve had throughout a season. Going from pantomime-esque, to understated, and now to a happy medium, has taken some exploration. I’m now really looking forward to taking Doctor Caius, “the renowned French physician,” to the stage.

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Book Reviews 11 and 12
Idiot’s Guide to Ventriloquism, by Taylor Mason
Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche (trans. R. J. Hollingdale)
14 March 2017


Idiot’s Guide to Ventriloquism (288pp.) far exceeded my expectations. Widely considered the top modern guide on the art of ventriloquism (based on multiple online review and book sale sites), it is also one of the best guides on pursuing a career as a solo performer. While ventriloquism has always interested me (and as a child, terrified me!), I learned most from Mason about how to build up a performance CV, progress through the tiers of paid work, and how to make performance a sole source of income. It is an invaluable book for multiple reasons. A belated Christmas present from my sister, and one of the best I’ve had. Highly recommended.

Beyond Good and Evil (223pp.) was my first heavy philosophical work. I did four papers at university, and have dabbled in French philosophy (Sade and Rousseau) – this was a big step up. I’m interested in the idea of a great mind being afflicted with madness; Nietzsche’s bleak end and posthumous philosophical corruption by his Nazi-sympathising sister makes for a great story, and I wanted to find out what he was really about.
In brief, interesting ideas were littered throughout the book. On art, meaning, patriotism, and religion, Nietzsche brings interesting new views (to me, at least), that are well worth considering. It interested me that he comes across as anti-German and pro-Jewish at multiple points in the work, though these may be hyperbole. There is also an enthusiasm for art and life that I hadn’t expected to find – a view that was refreshing for me to read.
I won’t claim to 100% understand every single sentence, but slowing my reading pace allowed me to take in a lot more than I had anticipated. This seems to me to be a good introduction to his thought, and I look forward to following this with Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ.

I would love to say I’m getting through my bookshelf and sticking to my no-new-books policy. I can’t honestly say that. I’ve been reading (and buying) slowly. Progress will be made!

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On Producing
14 March 2017

I’ve produced all my own shows. It’s been an exercise in multi-tasking, and taught me a lot about how the business side of live performance works. I wouldn’t advise producing and writing/performing the same show, unless you really like stress. Some, like me, enjoy it. Producing seems to me to involve the following five jobs:

1. Booking a venue.
This is the main job. Once this is done, you have your venue, dates, times, and most importantly your deadline. You need the show ready to go, and tickets sold, by the start of your season. Now it’s time to really get to work.

2. Arrange ticketing (if the venue doesn’t have their own box office).
Do this before starting to advertise. Once this is done, if anyone finds out about the show, they can immediately buy a ticket. There’s nothing worse than selling a show to a potential audience member and then them forgetting about it before ticket sales begin.

3. Invite reviewers.
This is the one step I see many performers/producers forget. Without good reviews, future seasons of your work will be harder to sell. Invite as many reviewers as you can. Five, six, seven: as many as possible. If the show is great, that’s seven great reviews. If it’s middling, there’s more likely to be a useable quote in seven reviews than just one. (And sometimes reviewers cancel last minute, have multiple back-ups and there’s no problem.)
Remember, without a review, it’s like the show never happened.

4. Write and issue media releases.
Find an angle and sell that show. Mention previous successes, talk about your interests, exploit what is most interesting about you and your show. Any media coverage is free advertising – and it is advertising that people pay attention to. If you make it on TV or a renowned publication, ensure you put As seen on . . . on your posters. Do this at the same time as step five.

5. Arrange print and online advertising.
Good advertising is essential. Good poster artists/designers are worth the price they charge, and are the difference between looking professional or shit. If you don’t pay to look your best, why should people pay $20+ for what looks like an inferior product?
Flyers need to be handed out in person to even be picked up, and they’ll still probably end up in the bin. Stick to Facebook advertising and posters (unless you’re in a flyering town, like Edinburgh).

These jobs are the bare minimum. I don’t see how you can pursue a career in live performance without these tasks being completed for every season/show you put on. Ticket giveaways in newspapers and on Facebook groups, heavily comping opening night, and 2-for-1 ticket deals on midweek slow nights are just some ways to add to word of mouth surrounding your show.

I highly recommend having a separate publicist to take on jobs 3 – 5. You can do the rest and perform while staying sane. Jobs 1 – 5 and performing? You’d have to be mad. (And I have been since 2013.) Good luck!

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On Writing
13 March 2017

I was asked yesterday how I write solo shows. Most writers will have a different method, likely one that is less stressful, but the following works for me.

1. Pick a topic you find interesting.
This is essential. It makes any research needed much more enjoyable, and will leave you with a script you’re passionate about. It also means if you are performing the script yourself, you won’t get bored or sick of it.

2. Set a deadline for opening night.
If your venue and date are locked in months in advance, you know that the script will be completed within a reasonable timeframe. 100% of the shows I have booked have ended up being written. I have had other ideas sitting in notebooks for years because a deadline has never been set. Don’t feel obliged to write each idea in order, push new ideas to the front if they interest you most (see 1).

3. Ensure you understand the subject.
Some subjects won’t require research because you have in depth knowledge of them already. Some will require 2 – 3 months of reading articles and bios and watching videos to get you up to scratch The more you know off the top of your head, or have easily accessible in front of you, the faster you will write.

4. Write the first draft as fast as possible.
All of my scripts have been written in less than a week. That is because research took up the majority of time, I had a deadline coming up, and I knew where I wanted the story to go. To put it in perspective, I spent:
– two months researching de Sade, five nights writing it
– three months researching A Collection of Noises, two days writing it
– three months researching The President, a day and a half writing it.
The better I know the topic, the faster I write. This makes the script flow better, and easier to remember as a result.

5. Edit.
Fix the parts that aren’t working. Do the first few drafts alone. Show it to other writers if needed, though I tend to take the finished script to rehearsals and only make small tweaks suggested by the director.

5a. Be careful about what advice you take on.
Advice often comes in the form of story changes, rather than storytelling changes: for example, ‘the murderer should use a baseball bat instead of an axe’. There’s no reason for that change besides personal preference. It’s not useful, so you can ignore it.
Useful feedback would include grammar and punctuation correction, notes on inconsistencies in story or character, and being made aware of factual inaccuracies.

It’s an efficient process that’s worked well for me. I’ve learned over time it is best to work on one show at a time using this technique, or both plays are less likely to be of the highest standard. Good luck!

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Book Reviews 8, 9, and 10
The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene
Stasi Child,
by David Young
Kill the Father,
by Sandone Dazieri

13 February 2017

the-end-of-the-affair-graham-greene   stasi-child-david-young   kill-the-father-sandrone-dazieri

The End of the Affair (167 pp.) was superb – a quick read about an adulterous relationship that implodes. A tragedy I found particularly moving for its unique take on broken relationships. Instead of just sadness; the anger, frustration, and feeling of impotence that a break-up often entails is fully explored. At times a hard read because of this; it was easy to see my own life in parts of it.

Stasi Child (400pp.) took me a while to get into. It is the story of two East Berlin detectives trying to solve the murder of a young girl near the Berlin Wall. It showed what paranoid living under an overbearing regime is like, but lacked style. It was a debut, and I expect Young will improve in future works – definitely a good starter novel.

Kill the Father (498pp.) was the longest of the lot, at just under 500 pages. It’s about an Italian detective teaming up with an expert in kidnapped children to try solve a murder case. A multi-layered plot with a lot of characters, and a good sense of humour. Highly recommended.

As a side note, I’m trying to get through my bookshelf at the moment – and there’s about 150 unread books there ready to go. It’s a weird mix of bios, memoirs, novels, short stories, plays, poetry, and more. Shorter reviews from now on. Too many to write long reviews about!

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Book Review 7
The Trial, by Franz Kafka
25 January 2017
the-trial-franz-kafka                                                                                            The Trial, 251pp.

The Trial follows Joseph K. as he attempts to defend himself in a trial where the crime is never explicitly stated.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?
 Yes.
2. Highlight(s): The concept and the end.
3. Lowlight:
I didn’t have any problems with the book, I really enjoyed it. 
4. Would I recommend it? To whom?  Yes; to fans of European writers, absurd novels, and satire.

Long review
This was a great book.  I tend to be interested in unique and innovative novels, and this achieved both of those things. It’s an absurd novel with filled with satire on bureaucratic regimes, some good jokes, and a hero fighting to prove his innocence of a crime that hasn’t been named. While it could across as showing the futility of fighting against the status quo, and therefore be depressing, the light touch with jokes and nonsensical scenarios throughout keep it afloat. I really enjoyed it.

As a side note, I became interested in satire when I started work on The President. With my own belief that novels and films/plays should be primarily for entertainment (and not a preaching tool) firmly in place, reading books like this is a good example of how a point can be delivered without becoming tiresome. I can’t comment on what Kafka meant in writing the book, or even if it had a meaning at all (I can’t ask him, so claiming to know for sure seems ridiculous). I can say it came across to me as a story well told that made me think about how we run the world, and whether it is efficient as we would like to believe. Because the story came first, any thinking or discussion that follows was not done begrudgingly, and so I deem it to be a real success.

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Book Review 6
Night of the Living Dummy, by R.L. Stine
25 January 2017
night-of-the-living-dead-r-l-stine                                                                             Night of the Living Dummy, 134pp.

Night of the Living Dummy follows twin sisters Lindy and Kris as they deal with a ventriloquist dummy coming to life and destroying their lives.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?
 Yes, mainly for nostalgia.
2. Highlight(s): It’s a quick read, and the story goes in some dark directions.
3. Lowlight: The writing is poor.
4. Would I recommend it? To whom?  Yes; to children, people with an interest in puppetry and ventriloquism, and anyone who read Goosebumps as a child.

Long review

For years, ventriloquist dummies freaked me out. This story, televised when I was a kid, is the reason why. The best part of this book (which is definitely for readers about 8 years old) is that it contains genuinely scary moments, while still fitting the audience age demographic well. It takes a while to get into the story (maybe the first third of the book), and the writing is especially bad in the beginning – wooden dialogue, terrible character names – but when you do, it’s a good, scary story . Twists throughout keep it interesting.

I really only read this to look back on my childhood and work out what about dummies used to scare me so much. While I’ve moved on from that now, I still probably wouldn’t want one in my room at night – this book did something right. Job well done, Mr Stine.

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The President Inauguration Comeback
18 January 2017

mac-attack

The Inauguration of President-Elect, Donald Trump, is coming up in just a few days. Having started working on my first Trump show, The President, before he had even won the Republican nomination, seeing how far things have gone is insane. Playing the most infamous man in the world has been great fun so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing where I can take the character in the next four – eight years. A sequel to The President is in the works, and likely to be premiering in the South Island in April 2017. Wellington and Auckland shows will follow later in the year.

I am bringing back The President for one-night only: Inauguration Day (Friday 20th January), 8pm, Cavern Club on Allen Street. I will retire the show after that performance. Come celebrate Inauguration Day with Trump himself. It’s gonna be tremendous.

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Merry Wives rehearsals have started!
15 January 2017

dr-caius(This isn’t the Stagecraft performance, this is from the production by Santa Cruz Shakespeare.)

We blocked the entire play today. Almost everyone was there – Fenton has yet to be cast, but is only in around three scenes, so it wasn’t a problem. It’s such a huge group! There’s the production team, costume team, cast . . . approx. 25 people were there today. Compared to my usual two (me and director), this was a huge change. It will take some getting used to; I’m really excited about it.

One interesting thing I noted was that in a group cast, especially one as large as this, people occasionally fight to have their lines heard/characters seen. Blocking will be important here, to ensure nothing is missed, and that there’s not also a constant push towards centrestage for the (perceived) best view of the audience.

Saying my lines naturally as a comedic character (the Frenchman, Dr Caius) was more difficult than I anticipated. Whereas I do almost exclusively solo shows normally, where I can stretch lines for laughs and play with timing in every show, this relies more on me being quick with my cues and being part of a team. It is a challenge, and means I feel less in tune with this character so far than others I have performed. I’m sure this will change as I learn the lines and go through more rehearsals. (Bear in mind, too, that I perform my own scripts, so this doesn’t follow thought processes and writing styles I’m familiar with.)

In addition to this, I’m playing opposite actors, rather than an audience. I still acknowledge the crowd (it’s Shakespeare, and we’re working  with a thrust stage/audience on three sides), but nowhere near as much as I am used to. I don’t think the discomfort of playing off other performers comes from stand-up performances, but from working on my own solo projects so often. This role is a challenge for me in multiple ways: it’s a new accent, it’s Shakespeare, it’s in thrust, and I’m working with a large team. It’s intimidating, but also relatively low-stakes, since the rehearsal period is so long. I’m glad to be involved and working with so many that love what they’re doing. It keeps the passion alive.

It’s my first time in a while working with a foreign accent (excluding American). I’ll be working on it to get it right, though I’m wondering if the melodramatic vibe will make it harder to stay accurate. We’ll see how it goes. I haven’t seen a version of the character that I’ve enjoyed online, so I feel completely free to make-up my own version of the character. There’s no previous Dr Caius I’m worried about emulating. The timing from stand-up will be useful, as will being used to performing with an accent after ENIGMA and The President.

With all the rehearsals scheduled, I’m sure this will be a polished show and performance – it’s just pre-show nerves that I’m unfamiliar with!

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Film Review 8
Nude Nuns with Big Guns, directed by Joseph Guzman
14 January 2017

nude-nuns-with-big-guns                                                                                     Nude Nuns with Big Guns

Nude Nuns with Big Guns is the story of Sister Sarah (Asun Ortega), a nun who seeks revenge on the motorcycle gang and the church that drugged, tortured, and raped her after she took her vows.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  No, not even as a so-bad-it’s-good film.
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  No, Katie ‘strongly disliked it’.
3. Highlight: 
The speech of a televangelist that plays briefly in a scene near the end of the film.
4. Lowlight(s): The cinematography and writing. As a sexpolitation film, this still had a good story – it was just very poorly filmed/written.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? No. This is a terrible movie.

This is going to be a quick one: there are little – no redeeming qualities to this movie. the story of a nun being brainwashed and tortured, and then seeking revenge has a lot of potential . . . and they squandered it on a sensationalist title and lots of boob shots (which, to be fair, should have been expected). The cinematography is bad (it’s poorly framed); the script is repetitive, uninventive, and the characters are almost never motivated to say what they do; the colour correction was never consistent; and a great idea was wasted. It just wasn’t good, even as a blatantly cheap/pulpy film.

Here’s an example of how bizarre this is film is: there’s a character called ‘Kickstand’, a black guy whose only job in the biker gang is to rape women into submission. This obviously isn’t what all viewers are after, but what makes it particularly bad is how often, pointlessly, and ineffectively the act is shown. It’s so nonsensical, pointless, and badly acted that it has no real effect: you just ask why is this happening again? And that’s just one example – there’s another guy who’s verbally abusive to every character, and has no presence to pull it off, nor (more importantly) any reason for acting that way. Many more strange and unexplained characters filter through this choppy storyline. It makes no sense.

My main highlight is the appearance of a televangelist later in the film. It comes late and it’s a very small touch, but the satirical take on that aspect of television was great. If you watch it on DVD, you get the full cut of his performance, easily the best part of the package.

Billed as tribute to Tanantino, Nude Nuns misses the mark. Budget films can definitely be great, you just need to find clever ways to cut costs while keeping the quality high overall. This falls far short. It’s a shame. I think the concept should have made a low-budget classic.

—–

Karaka Cafe
12 January 2017

karaka-cafe
I caught up with a friend today, and we had lunch at Karaka Cafe. It’s near her work, and some of her colleagues like it there, so we gave it a go. We were right up against a window in a little nook by ourselves. The weather wasn’t great, but sometimes it’s nice watching wind and spitting rain hit the window, while knowing you’re safe and warm inside. Catching up after months apart was great. We hadn’t caught up since before The President shows started!

The food was good (I had nachos, Stella had a burrito). Staff were friendly, food was relatively quick to come out, and I had a good time there. While nothing was terrible though, it felt oddly impersonal. Contrary to a lot of Wellington hotspots (like Olive, The Library, or Floriditas), it lacked any unique vibe. The seating arrangement was little odd too; I felt like I had to stretch forward any time I wanted to be heard. I enjoyed my meal, but am unlikely to go back there.

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Show review 1
Summer Star Trek 2017: Journey to Babel, directed by Devon Nuku
11 January 2017

summer-star-trek-2017-journey-to-babel                                                                       Summer Star Trek 2017: Journey to Babel

Summer Star Trek 2017: Journey to Babel is the live stage version of an original Star Trek episode in which the Starship Enterprise crew are loaded with ambassadors from different planets – and one of them is trying to assassinate everyone on board.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  Yes. This is worth noting because I’m not a Star Trek fan and have never seen an episode.
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Yes; and they also turned out in droves. Around 200 people were there the first time I saw, and 350+ the second night.
3. Highlight(s): 
There’s one death scene that stood out (hardly a spoiler, if you look at the synopsis). The fight choreography (by Jett Ranchhod) was also a highlight.
4. Lowlight: Some of the pre-show could have done with more rehearsal. That said, the DIY aesthetic and low-fi vibe of the set/show are part of its appeal.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to fans of comedy, melodrama, sci-fi, and obviously Star Trek. Even if these aren’t your thing, it’s koha (i.e. free if you’re a dick), so you may as well check it out.

Long review
This show was pure entertainment. Based on the turn-out (approx. 200 people first night, 350+ second night) and their enthusiastic response, it was highly successful. I loved it, and this is of particular note considering I don’t like sci-fi, I’ve never watched a Star Trek episode, and pantomimes don’t tend to be my thing. Everyone that went had a good time.

The idea is an old episode of the television programme is performed live outdoors. There’s a pre-show in addition to that. It’s low-fi, the set is cardboard and wood, and everything is done extremely cheaply (that said, I was impressed with quality of the crew uniforms and most of the make-up). This aesthetic wins the crowd over, and the show probably adds to its fan-base every year. I went in 2016 too, and the improvement in terms of performance quality increased hugely. For just an old TV show brought back to life, this team has done very well.

The show is broken into two halves: a pre-show, then the episode (both 30 mins each). The pre-show was a mix of music from ‘The Spacebabes’, some improvised team poetry, a pantomime skit, and a costume competition. The Space Babes were the most polished part of the pre-show, a singing group of five women (Katie Boyle was also on guitar). They had choreography elements that could be more polished, and the timing in the Star Trekking song was often perilously close to being off, but they stood out as having made a real effort, and the crowd appreciated it. The poetry was dire both times (I went to see it twice), and could have been improved with just a few rehearsals. The costume competition was a great way to get the audience onside, as award winners tended to be kids whose parents had dressed them up in crew skivvies. (Though the first winner was a seven year old in a Trump mask . . . so awarding them for best ‘costume’ was generous.) The panto portion was a fight between Captain Kirk (James Bayliss) and a monster (Jett Ranchhod). That was fun to watch, but the choreography was slower than in the rest of the show: though this could have been down to the monster costume including a full lizard head-mask making vision almost impossible. For all the constructive criticism I have about polishing the acts, the informality of the whole thing was part of its charm. The audience expects low-fi, and sometimes they also get under-rehearsed – but they still love it.

The show itself is a treat. Melodramatic and presented with a complete love for the original story, the entire cast goes at it with gusto. The casting is a little uneven at times, but the main crew and aliens all perform admirably; especially in the (often windy) outdoor conditions. Stand-out performances were from Alien (Shauwn Keil), Bayliss, and the doors (which were four people making whoosh sounds as people walked through them). Death scenes, fight scenes, medical scenes – all of these and more were shown, in keeping with the campy TV aesthetic and more than enough jokes for fans and non-fans to enjoy equally.

Summer Star Trek was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it for a cheap, fun start to your evening. Don’t expect too much from the set/props, and enjoy a crowd favourite with hundreds of other hardcore sci-fi fans. It’s worth it.

NOTE
The show is koha, coming from the Te Reo word for ‘gift’. In a performance context, it means paying what you think the show is worth/contributing what you can. As a working writer/performer, koha seems a terrible idea, because it almost guarantees actors aren’t paid anything. It also often implies that the show is of a lower quality – otherwise, why wouldn’t they charge what they’re worth?

That said, in this case it makes sense. Hundreds of people watch, the money goes towards future shows (actors aren’t paid, or they would be breaching copyright), and everyone gets to enjoy the show. This is one of those rare examples where art is done entirely for enjoyment, and the actors get as much out of it as the audience. I’d recommend a note koha ($5/10). This is a gift worth continuing.

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Film Review 7
Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton
10 January 2017

ed-wood                                                                                                   Ed Wood

Ed Wood is the story of Edward D. Wood Jr, widely renowned as the worst director of all time, as he collects a band of misfits to create his magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  Absolutely, it’s one of my favourite movies.
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Yes, I watched it with Katie. 
3. Highlight(s): 
The lighting and cinematography is similar to Universal classic monster movies of the 1930s, and B grade horrors of the 1950s. It works perfectly for the subject. It is superbly cast, and I love the way the script includes small facts in subtle ways (like finding out Wood’s cameraman is colour blind only after he is asked which dress he prefers – and after they’ve worked on several films together).
4. Lowlight: The length, though I don’t notice it personally.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes, to fans of comedies, 1930-50s horror movies, Tim Burton (before he turned bad), and Johnny Depp. It’s a great gamble if you want something completely different to standard biopics.

Long review
This is one of my favourite movies. It’s got Tim Burton at his peak, Johnny Depp at his best, a great cast, superb script, perfect cinematography and lighting; and most importantly it’s got a good story. Ed Wood features a hopelessly optimistic and clueless titular character dead set on achieving his dream of becoming a Hollywood director. It’s bleak at times, and at others a moving film about what can be achieved against apparently insurmountable odds (like lacking any semblance of talent). It’s great.

The story is so bizarre it almost shouldn’t be true – but it almost entirely is. Characters like Ed Wood, Vampira, and Bela Lugosi are all played perfectly. It makes the insane situations they find themselves in even better to watch. Wood’s team are baptised (as part of a funding exercise), Wood himself gives an unknown actress the part he wrote for his wife, Lugosi wrestles with an octopus with a missing motor. There’s so much more to say. Why say it? Just watch it. You should.

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Chilli Masala (Lower Hutt)
10 January 2017

chilli-masala
I’ve been to Chilli Masala twice now: the first time was for a Christmas dinner last year; this time was to celebrate Katie finding a new flat. I brought her here because we rarely spend any time in Lower Hutt, it’s somewhere she hadn’t been before, the service is good, and it makes for a delicious dinner out.

I had the chicken saag, with mango lassi and a cheese naan. All of these were well made, and I think more visits are very likely. They also do takeaway, but this has no effect on the atmosphere of the restaurant – which is medium sized, with comfortable black leather dining chairs. The restaurant itself doesn’t stand out, but the food does. Some of the best Indian in the Wellington region (along with my favourite, Mano’s in Upper Hutt).

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Steampunk NZ Festival
10 January 2017

steampunk-nz-festival
I’m in the Steampunk NZ 2017 Festival! Got the email today that they are currently looking for a venue to host the new solo show I will be taking down there. Looking forward to developing a concept that I’ve had for about a year into a new solo show. New city, new festival, new character, new show – can’t wait!

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The Library
8 January 2017

the-library

I have two favourite Wellington bars, The Library is one of them (Cavern Club is the other). Up some plain stairs through a small door next to Burger King, it doesn’t look great on the way up . . . but as soon as you get to the right floor though, and you see the door covered in a huge photograph of bookshelves,  you know it’s going to be something new. Then you walk in and it’s amazing.

Bars in the Courtney Place area tend to be split into two categories: places to dance, and places to talk. This is definitely the best of the latter, and I wish there were more places like it around. It’s got dark panelled wood, shelves and shelves of books, great (if expensive) drinks and food. The music is jazzy background music – in the background, because in the foreground is the sound of conversation. Set up like a 1940s gentleman’s study, this is the perfect place to really spend time with someone, rather than just drink with them. I love it.

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Film Review 6
La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle
7 January 2017

la-la-land                                                                                                  La La Land

La La Land is a musical that follows an aspiring actress and talented jazz musician as they try to make their career aspirations a reality, and keep their relationship going at the same time.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? Yes. 
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Yes, saw this at the movies – it was nearly full. People loved it. 
3. Highlight(s): 
The writing two thirds of the way through the film. An argument between Stone and Gosling unravels into complete confusion, in the most realistic way. Also, Gosling’s piano-playing is superb.
4. Lowlight(s): The film changes tone abruptly (and jarringly) after the first quarter (becoming more romantic drama than all-out musical). Also, some dream-like sequences weren’t needed.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to fans of romantic dramas rather than musicals. This isn’t as light as the poster and beginning make it appear. This is a good thing for the film, but could be important to potential audiences.

Long review
La La Land was different in multiple ways from what I expected. It being a musical, I expected there to be a lot of singing. There wasn’t. I expected it to be old-fashioned, since it was inspired by old films. It wasn’t. I thought it would be light. It wasn’t. And that’s what made it stand out to me. It was a little too long, cheesy in parts, and in places the characters gave up too easily/were rewarded too quickly. Those aren’t the things that matter. People enjoyed the story, and I enjoyed the representation of a world where things don’t always go right. That’s the real world.

It’s about an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and an out-of-luck jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling). The two meet, they’re interested in each other, they start a relationship – no spoilers here, it’s all on the poster. Alongside this standard (so far) romance, there is the less standard fear (for a romance/musical) that neither of them will be able to achieve their dreams. They’ve worked for years on becoming a movie star, or owning a jazz bar, and they don’t appear to be making progress. They each want to give up, or compromise, and why they reached those decisions and how dealt with them is the most important part of the story.

They have ups and downs, and while the beginning is light, the film darkens throughout. Not into a thriller or horror, but more important things are talked about. For every failed audition or gig there’s another one around the corner . . . but you only get one life. Eventually you realise you’ve made it, or you never will. Watching these two dreamers struggle with that concept is like watching parts of my own life over the last few years up on screen. I’ve been acting as long as Stone’s character, I’ve done solo shows like her character, I’ve had bad auditions like her. I’ve had to compromise to get paid, like Gosling’s character. There are ups and downs in this film like there are in life. It’s not your usual rom-com fare, and it’s better for that.

SPOILERS
It’s difficult to watch this movie without relating to both characters. As an actor, I’ve always seen solo shows as the best way of maximising profit and increasing the chances of being able to live off your art. When Stone’s character writes a solo show to take control of her lack of success, and has just five or six people attend, I knew the feeling. The uncertainty is hard to live with sometimes. While I don’t understand that being her breaking point, I do know how frustrating it is to have little money and work for extended periods of time. Gosling’s character compromises his dream of playing traditional jazz by joining a touring band so he can make money. I see that as a smart move: putting things on hold for just a few years, earning a grand a week, building a fan base, and then starting a club makes sense to me. That said, his motivation for compromise and facing Stone’s disappointment is also true to life. He wants to make money so her parents can see him as a real man. Working out how to make a performing career stand up is difficult. I could see that struggle in both of them.
SPOILERS END

I don’t see La La Land as a genre-defining musical, because I don’t see it as a musical at all, but as an unflinching romantic drama with songs. The world is very rarely fair. It’s not often we achieve our dreams, and if we do, they unfailingly come at a cost. This film makes you consider whether you are OK with settling, or if you demand the most out of life – and it asks you what the cost of that most out of life might be. Escapism is good, but sometimes seeing the world as it actually functions can be a wake-up call. This film is well worth seeing.

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Best Ugly Bagels
7 January 2017

best-ugly-bagels
I visited Best Ugly Bagels on a friend’s recommendation. They’d mentioned it in a conversation a long time ago, and I’d forgotten it. On the way to Ekim (my favourite burger place, run out of a caravan on Cuba Street), I saw Best Ugly Bagels out of the corner of my eye and decided to have a look. I didn’t regret it.

Bagels have always seemed really heavy breads to me, and I very rarely choose them normally. Wandering in to check out the menu, I was greeted with big concrete walls, a huge oven, small jars of honeys/jams/spreads for sale along the right hand wall, and a large menu on the left hand wall. The staff are friendly, and the person at the counter yelled orders to the back of the room – the kitchen, counter, and eating areas are in the same room. There are bagels with spreads, and vegetarian and meat options as well. I went with the ‘Mean Joe Green’, which has avacado, bacon, and tomato. It was superb, and noticeably (to me), a lot less heavy than I expected. This lifted it from bread with great toppings, to a superb all round lunch. It was exactly the right filler for the middle of the day.

I would definitely go back (and already have, on Jan 8th with Katie – who liked the ‘Chickaboom’: chicken, mayo, curry powder, spring onion rocket sauce, and toasted almonds). Highly recommended.

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Book Review 5
The Executioners, by John D. MacDonald
7 January 2017

the-executioners-john-d-macdonald                                                                                    The Executioners, 214pp.

The Executioners follows lawyer and family man, Sam Bowden, as he attempts to keep his family safe from Max Cady, a rapist he helped to convict 14 years ago and who has recently been released from prison.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?
 It was OK.
2. Highlight(s): It’s a quick read. There are moments where he artfully nails the way children speak, or adults talk to each other, that lift it too.
3. Lowlight: It doesn’t deliver on the full potential of its premise.
4. Would I recommend it? To whom?  Yes; to fans of terse thrillers, nostalgic 1950s settings, and quick reads.

Long review
I’ve read two other John D. MacDonald novels (Hurricane and Cry Hard, Cry Fast). The Executioners is my least favourite. I enjoy his work because it’s to the point and exciting. He regularly covers all the important parts of a good thriller: a plot that makes you empathise with the lead, and curious about how you’d act in the same situation; good dialogue; unpredictable storyline; and they’re fast-paced. This book had most of those, but fell down at the end, which is why it’s lower on my MacDonald list.

SPOILERS
It is hinted that the rapist, Cady, is aiming to kidnap, rape, and possibly kill Sam Bowden’s  14 year old daughter to avenge his conviction. This would make for a great thriller because it touches on taboo subjects and becomes genuinely dark. There is so much at stake in that situation. When this is barely touched on and she is never even in real danger, I thought the book fell apart. What had been the point of difference was merely touched on, then thrown away. In addition to that, the ending is weak because Bowden’s actions are indecisive. We never really know if he could have killed a man, and instead of being a point to make you think, it’s frustrating that the opportunity to do so was never really presented.
END OF SPOILERS

In short, it’s an OK read. It has dated badly because of most of the dialogue, but also because it’s afraid to go where modern thrillers go. It relies too much on fear of what may happen in theory to draw you in, instead of what actually could happen within scenarios that actually occur. It’s easier to worry if a child is going to be killed when they have been kidnapped, or a rapist is hiding inside their house waiting for them to get back from school, than when the family is altogether and know someone is after them.  The sense of danger was too weak throughout.

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Stand-up Review 1
Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra, Tim Minchin
4 January 2017

tim-minchin-and-the-heritage-orchestra                                                                        Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  In parts.
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Hugely. Tim Minchin is Katie’s favourite stand-up. Plus, there were 4,500 people in the crowd on the DVD, and they were having a great time.
3. Highlight(s):
His musical and lyrical abilities are impressive.
4. Lowlight:  Three songs on atheism. I don’t find being preached at interesting or fun. (NOTE: I’m not a theist myself.)
5: Would I recommend it? To whom?  Yes; to fans of music, orchestras, and wordplay/poetry/rap.

Long review
Stand-up is difficult to review because it is so subjective. I like my comedy to be thoughtful, interesting, innovative, and informative. Generally, I like comedy shows that present new ideas or ways of thinking that I haven’t encountered before. I like to be persuaded towards viewpoints I originally find counter-intuitive. That said, there are many exceptions to that. Acts like Jimmy Carr just tell jokes that I find well-constructed and funny, so I enjoy them without seeing the world in a different way during/afterwards. Many people enjoy completely different comedy. The audience for this show is into musical comedy (which isn’t my thing), and they have a great deal of respect for Tim Minchin’s abilities and thought process. While he may have earned that from his regular fans, he didn’t have me swayed; I didn’t find the show persuasive, but in some ways coercive. He forced people to agree with him, or he made out they were a fool. This show wasn’t for me, but several thousand other people loved it.

Minchin plays with an orchestra of considerable talent for over two hours, with entirely original music and lyrics. It’s also a touring show. When you combine those two facts, you start to see why he has so many fans around the world. He is doing things that nobody else does. His experiments with appearance (black eyeliner/tails/wild hair/bare feet), lyrics (ranging from missing his family to his love for cheese), and music (touring with an orchestra) have clearly paid off. Playing to four and a half thousand people is a feat worth celebrating, and it’s clear in most parts of the show how hard he has worked to earn the opportunity. I think his non musical stand-up is weak, but nobody is there to see him for his patter anyway. He has the crowd every step of the way, but his dismissive and self-important attitude brings the show down for me.

Tim Minchin is similar in a lot of ways to Russell Brand. Brand uses long words and unnecessarily complicated sentences to put across simple points that don’t hold true, have no proper backing behind them, and that he doesn’t fully understand himself. In one interview, he says that he’s not indifferent to something, just completely apathetic to it. Indifferent and apathetic mean the same thing.  I have no problem with a great vocabulary, I have a problem with misusing it to trick people that don’t understand you into thinking you’re saying something of substance. While Tim Minchin is an infinitely more talented writer, performer, and (obviously) musician, he also falls into this trap of saying less than people think he is saying. Long words don’t stand in place of cohesive arguments. Stand-up should be entertainment that makes you laugh. It doesn’t need to be serious. That said, when you preach about serious topics during stand-up, you should have serious arguments presented in a humorous way. Like Brand, Minchin relies on impressing people with his linguistic ability to prove his point, rather than actually presenting a good argument.

Normally, whether an argument or point of view is presented logically in stand-up shouldn’t matter. Logic can take you to extreme and unexpected (and hilarious) places, but so can non-linear thinking. I think arguments become invalid when they appeal to emotion instead of following a line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. Appeals to emotion tend towards preaching, and as soon as I am told what to think, instead of why to think something, I turn off. I’m no longer interested, because I don’t see myself as being trusted with making my own decisions. It’s like the performer sees me as being incapable of making an educated decision, so they have taken it upon themselves to tell me how I should think/feel. If this were to be typical inconsequential stand-up fare about why I should hate a certain brand of pizza, or something equally unimportant, it wouldn’t matter. When you start shutting down entire groups or systems of belief (i.e. religious groups), you need to have a more thoughtful argument than religion is stupid, look at what this one guy I met thinks. Dismissive and preachy acts make me angry, because they see their viewpoint as worth more than other peoples, but don’t present convincing reasons to agree with them. While poorly presented arguments can be funny, Minchin’s repeated tirade against religion didn’t entertain me.

I did like large portions of this show. He’s an incredible musician, hugely admired for his singing/writing/playing by thousands of fans around the globe, and he’s a massive success with a critically acclaimed show on the West End. He’s won multiple awards and been in the business for over a decade. He does everything I think a good comedian should do, which is entertain crowds, and make them laugh hard and often. The three songs on atheism that I found poorly constructed were spread out over the course of an (approx.) two and a half hour show, so even if you have similar qualms about philosophical/atheist arguments, they may not bother you. As one person who didn’t enjoy this show out of thousands that did, my opinion could be seen as incorrect. Opinions on whether something is funny or not are entirely individual – what’s important is when you have an opinion that you’re presenting to an audience, you can back it up. I hope I have done that.

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Film Review 5
Nymphomaniac, Part I, directed by Lars von Trier
3 January 2017

nymphomaniac-part-i                                                                                        Nymphomaniac Part I

Nymphomaniac Part I is the first half of the sexual history of Joe, a self-confessed nymphomaniac. She tells her story to Seligman, a man who finds her in an alleyway near his house after she has been beaten up and takes Joe back to his home to recuperate. 

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  Yes (although like most of von Trier’s movies, I found it too long).
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Yes; I watched it with Katie. When I watched a shorter version with London flatmates two years ago, they weren’t so keen. 
3. Highlight:
The Sadean storytelling. It’s more a list of Joe’s sexual experiences than a traditional character study.
4. Lowlight: It’s too long. I prefer the abridged version (which I watched without knowing it had been shortened).
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to fans of character studies and French erotic literature (Sade, Bataille, Genet, Réage, etc).

Long review
Every time I watch this film, I’m reminded of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine and Juliette – the two parts of a work about a pair of sisters. In brief, they are orphaned at 12 and 14 years old (from memory), and they depart to live completely different lives. Justine attempts to live her life as virtuously as possible and is punished for it profusely (think tortured and raped multiple times). Juliette gives herself up to vice, and becomes incredibly wealthy and successful. Both feature descriptions at length of their various (unwilling/willing) sexual experiences. Both novels talk more about what the characters think, rather than what they feel. The sisters are shown as perfect examples of virtue and vice. Nymphomaniac Part I combines the two sisters in Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and this list-type storytelling.

I like this style because it’s rare to see it in film. It’s a great for a change, though I wouldn’t want all films to be like it. I couldn’t read Sade, Bataille, Genet, or Réage forever; you never get to know the characters in them beyond their individual philosophies. They list multiple taboo sex acts and justify them. That is often the entire novel. By the end, you know what they think, and what they have done, but rarely how they feel. This film is similar to all of those, because in an almost monotonous way it outlines the first half of Joe’s sexual history. I don’t know how she felt at the time, and suspect she felt nothing. It was all done on impulse: losing her virginity, trying to seduce her boss, sleeping with multiple married men. There were no reasons for it, and none are presented. It shows life as a series of mostly unrelated events with no ulterior motive, which it very often is.

This definitely is not an everyman film. It’s not general entertainment, it’s not light, it’s not brief (two and a half hours), it’s not funny. That said, if you have a lot of time and you’re fully awake, it can show you what entertainment can be when it doesn’t fit the typical blockbuster mould. It experiments with score (largely absent except for heavy metal at the beginning and again in the end credits), colour (changing from colour to black and white, and back again), format (it is broken into chapters – another nod to the bookish background it may have). If you’re willing to take a chance on something entirely new, this could really change the way you look at erotic art and film.

I watched an abridged version when I was in the UK, and preferred it to the original cut I just watched. von Trier’s films are just too long for me. If scenes can be cut without ruining the story, I think for the most part they should be. There’s room for art, but I think art should be in telling the story – if you need to add fat to make it good, maybe the meat isn’t good in the first place. It’s definitely worth a watch. I rarely read or watch anything I know is abridged, but the two hour version of this film is better for cutting the fat. Start with that, if a two and a half hour experiment is too long for you.

—–

Trump 2.0
3 January 2017

trump-research                                                                                          Trump research

Research and writing for the next Trump show has begun. Taking a two week break was great. I spent the time reading novels, getting the blog up to speed, and avoiding any writing or work on shows. The result has been coming back with a lot of energy and motivation, and getting stuck in quickly.

I’m five pages into the first draft of the Trump show, and ideally will have a first draft by the end of this week. It gives me another week to complete the show before rehearsals begin, and it should be touring in April and May. The second half of January will be spent researching and writing a second solo show, which will likely be hitting stages in June.

—–

Book Review 4
How To Get Rich, by Donald J. Trump (with Meredith McIver)
1 January 2017

how-to-get-rich-donald-j-trump                                                                                           How To Get Rich, 227pp.

How To Get Rich is a non-fiction book filled with various tips, tricks, and anecdotes that Donald Trump used to build wealth.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?
 Yes – but for the comedy fodder I amassed, rather than any wisdom I should have learned.
2. Highlight: The section on why Trump hates handshakes is solid gold.
3. Lowlight: The week of diary entries. No-one wants to read that.
4. Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes, to anyone that has an opinion on Trump. Hate him? Know your enemy. Love him? Find out more about what makes him tick. If you’re indifferent, there’s nothing  useful to be gleaned from the book.

Long review
There’s no point pretending I read this to become a successful CEO. I’ve been performing as a Trump impersonator for some time now, and I constantly need to write new material and perform new shows to keep on top of the huge interest in him. This means watching videos of him, but also trying to really understand where he comes from and what he makes of various topics.

I’ve read three of his books: The Art of the DealCrippled America, and this one. How To Get Rich is easily my favourite because it’s the most entertaining, best structured, least serious, and holds the most comedy fodder. If you can see the humour in The Donald, this book is a treat.

—–

Film Review 4
Oliver!, directed by Carol Reed
1 January 2017

oliver                                                                                                      Oliver!

Oliver! is the musical version of the Charles Dickens classic; it follows Oliver Twist as he seeks to leave the work house/orphanage and find a family of his own. Along the way, he meets various characters, including Fagan, the head of a gang of child pickpockets.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?  Yes; much more than I thought I would.
2. Did the audience enjoy it?  Yes; they were Katie and my mum.
3. Highlight(s): 
Fagin (played by Ron Moody) was perfectly cast – and as a result, he was nominated for various awards when the film came out. I recognised some of the music and enjoyed how those songs too.
4. Lowlight: The lengthy music and credits at the top and the intermission scheduled for the middle of a DVD were a pain, but those were trends from that era of film-making.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes, to musical fans, and anyone after a classic family movie with a little adult bite to it.

Long review
I’m not a huge musical fan, and have been seeing more of them over the last year than normal because Katie loves them. This was a film from my mum’s childhood (she picked it), and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was happily surprised when it turned out to be a great musical with some recognisable music (despite being filmed 40ish years ago). It was only after watching it that I found out it had won best film and best director Oscars – both well-deserved.

The music was great, and the cast were well-selected: Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes, Ron Moody as Fagin (my favourite of the cast), Shani Wallis as Nancy, and Jack Wild as Artful Dodger. The only weak link was Mark Lester as Oliver – he was underwhelming, but that comes down to the rest of the characters being played by better actors, and having better lines and songs. (Interestingly, Oliver’s songs were actually dubbed by actress Kathe Green. I would have cast a better child actor that could sing, but maybe there weren’t many choices at the time). The groups of dancing policemen/priests/washerwomen were highlights too. The film has aged well.

I like that in a movie aimed (presumably) at younger audiences, they weren’t afraid to make Sykes a genuinely intimidating character. It gave the film the darkness it needed for the light to  shine through. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

—–

Happy New Year!
1 January 2017

2017
2017 has many exciting projects ahead, and I can’t wait to see how the year pans out. In the pipeline so far:

– A new Trump show (and tour);
– A small North Island tour of A Collection of Noises;
– A brand new comedy character and solo show;
– A new solo or two-hander play to write/direct;
– At least three different festival appearances, and hopefully as many as ten.

And that excludes group collaborations! There’s so much momentum from 2016 that 2017 had to have bigger goals in mind. Happy New Year to all readers, and I hope the year is a successful one for you.

—–

Film Review 3
The Lone Ranger, directed by Gore Verbinski
31 December 2016

the-lone-ranger                                                                                             The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger  is the story of an American and a native American teaming up to get justice for the murder of their families and prevent war between the Comanche and settlers.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? Hugely. 
2. Did the audience enjoy it? Watched it at Katie’s, she loved it. 
3. Highlight(s):
Great script and casting.
4. Lowlight: The use of the framing device with the boy.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Definitely; to fans of action, comedy, and light well-told adventure films.

Long review
I’ve seen this film more than once, and I love it every time. It is a fast-paced script with great jokes, good balance of backstory, and rousing action/music sequences. The cast is superbly picked, especially the titular lead, played by Armie Hammer. He is a severely underrated actor – I saw him in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. a week ago, where he played a Russian, and he was almost unrecognisable here (one sign of a great actor). Both films are superb action/comedy films, and I would happily watch sequels of both; why I didn’t hear more positive things about them when they came out is beyond me.

Johnny Depp played the native American sidekick, Tonto, in The Lone Ranger, and when the film came out, there was critical backlash about Hollywood whitewashing. Seeing as the name Tonto means ‘fool’ in Spanish and Italian, it seems strange to me that that particular character is one they want to claim as their own. The only way I can see around the problem is for these groups to forge ahead with their own stories and films, continue to produce their own quality cinema, and then get picked up by Hollywood once Hollywood finally clicks to the fact all ethnicities have quality actors.

Playing into Hollywood’s stories would be selling themselves short half the time anyway; it wouldn’t be hard to view Tonto as a ‘cowboys vs. Indians’ stereotype, and why would they want to help those stereotypes continue anyway? Companies can cast whoever they want, and that is usually whoever they think will make them the most money. Johnny Depp is a no-brainer for this offbeat role. All that said, I don’t really understand why casting non-whites seems to be such a huge deal for Hollywood, and do recognise various ethnicities are underrepresented.

I suggest you put aside any issues you may have with the above, and just enjoy the film for what it is: a couple of hours of great escapism entertainment.

—–

Film Review 2
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hopedirected by George Lucas
31 December 2016

star-wars-a-new-hope                                                                            Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

A New Hope is the story of Luke Skywalker and Old Ben as they join the Rebel Alliance to attempt to destroy the Death Star, a spaceship with the ability to destroy entire planets.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? In parts, but overall . . . not really.
2. Did the audience enjoy it? Watched it at Katie’s place; she loved it. 
3. Highlight(s): 
The beginning cinematography and pacing.
4. Lowlight: The huge fight scene to end the film (a predictable Star Wars trait).
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes, to children and sci-fi fans that haven’t seen it (probably a non-existent group).

Long review
After watching Rogue One a couple of days ago, I thought it best to finally tick the original trilogy off the to-watch list. I watched all the prequel trilogy and the last two as they came out, but had never got around to watching the originals. I preferred it immensely to Rogue One, but it still just isn’t my kind of film.

Some pros were the practical effects, pacing, and cinematography. I thought these were all much better executed in this film than in the modern films. The creatures were all real (some were CGI, but those were ‘improvements’ made after the original release, and since I don’t have a copy of the original, I’m choosing to ignore those). This made all of the fight scenes and interactions more believable, and therefore more interesting. Instead of being distracted by unnecessary CGI, I was taken into the story.

The advantages of the cinematography and pacing tie in together. The scenes of C3PO and R2D2 wandering through the desert were great because they spent time there. The same applies to Luke and Old Ben’s time in their homes. Giving us some hints as to who these people are, showing us what happened in their lives so far, and letting us know what these planets are like, made caring about what happened to them a lot easier. Han Solo jokes throughout the film, but the jokes don’t come across as forced because the film has everything else under control. The story and characters were developed at a reasonable pace, and so a little laughter to lighten the mood worked well.

I didn’t enjoy it because of the usual reasons action/sci-fi films often don’t work for me: there’s too much fighting, and I don’t care about the outcome. Fantasy worlds are so far removed from our own that they need to really make an effort if you are going to care about their distinctly non-human characters (wookies, droids, etc). I didn’t really get connected to the characters, because their fictional world is so different to mine that I’m not invested in it. That’s often a film-maker’s fault, but this time it was just a matter of taste. While I think there is too much fighting at the end of this film (which has become a Star Wars pattern that gets dull quickly), that’s not the problem. It’s simply the wrong genre for me.

A New Hope is a family sci-fi classic that has had people celebrating it for generations. There must be something to it, since so many people love it so much. I just don’t see what that something is.

—–

Southward Car Museum
30 December 2016

Today Katie and I visited Southward Car Museum. Out in the middle of Otaihanga, it’s a place I visited a handful of times as a kid. I’m far from a car fiend, and have little to no car knowledge whatsoever. When I go there, however, I always have a great time.

southward-car-museum

The best two cars (in my opinion) are right by the front door to the main gallery. Mickey Cohen’s bullet riddled Cadillac ‘Gangster Special’ is the first of these. I’ve always been interested in 1920s-30s gangsters and the paradox of looking so slick and civilised, and being animals and thugs when no-one’s looking. This car has matchbox thick bulletproof glass windows, a hinged windscreen for shooting through, and an armoured bottom for protection from bombs. It’s like the world’s most comfortable (and best looking) tank.

southward-car-museum-mickey-cohens-car

The second car is Marlene Dietrich’s Cadillac Cabriolet. Marlene Dietrich was a German theatre and film star who moved to America following the release of Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 hit, Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), in which she starred. She has always interested me as an actress because of her androgynous look (she was one of the first female stars to wear trousers and pantsuits), and her complete indifference to family and her homeland. Career was everything, and she has been ranked as one of the most important female film stars of all time. Seeing her car was fantastic, especially because it was such a beautiful machine.

marlene-dietrich                                                                                              Marlene Dietrich

southward-car-museum-marlene-dietrichs-car

There are 400+ cars there, and even if cars aren’t your thing, they also have an extensive motorbike collection, a boat, and push bikes too. I wouldn’t consider myself even close to being a car person, but going there  is always a joy because behind every car is a story and a great piece of history. Some of them were used by famous people, some featured in films, and some are the only examples of their type in the entire world. For just 17NZD entry, you can’t really afford to miss it.

If that hasn’t sold it to you, it was a boiling hot day and the hot chocolates/fizzy drinks/ice creams they had at the cafe all perfectly hit the spot. Highly recommended day out.

—–

Film Review 1
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards
30 December 2016

star-wars-rogue-one                                                                                 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is the story of Jyn Erso and the Rebel Alliance as they seek to attain the plans of the Death Star before the Empire can use it to cement their position as dictators of the Galaxy.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? No.
2. Did the audience enjoy it? Yes, but not as vocally as the last Star Wars film I saw, The Force Awakens
3. Highlight(s): 
The aesthetic of multiple alien characters was highly inventive. Also, the nod to kung fu movies through Chirrut Îmwe’s was an entertaining and unexpected addition. (It didn’t make a lot of sense, but neither did the rest of the movie.)
4. Lowlight(s): Lazy storytelling: no planets, and most characters, weren’t examined in depth – meaning any danger they faced seemed inconsequential to me. The comedy was heavy-handed. Battle scenes took up a third of the movie, revealing a thoughtless plot.
5: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; exclusively to dedicated Star Wars fans. This film isn’t an ‘in’ to the series, nor is it a necessary addition to the franchise storyline. It’s like a special feature on a DVD; entertaining at times, but it in no way matches a real movie.

Long review
To put this review in context, I have seen Star Wars Episodes I – III, and Episode VII, when they came out. I haven’t seen Episodes IV – VI.

This is an addition to the key Star Wars films (Episodes I – VII), and fills in gaps that were left open in the series. As such, it is definitely not the best way to start watching the series, as it apparently relies on knowledge of what has been (and what is to come) if you are to care about the characters or story at all. I think series don’t have to be written in such an audience exclusive way, but this definitely was.

My first note is this: the audience liked this film. It held their attention for a couple of hours, they saw the ‘Star Warsy’ things they wanted to see (droids, various aliens, spaceships, battles), and they went home. Fictional films should always aim for entertainment first, or else there is nothing holding the audience’s attention. Entertainment can do multiple things: make you think, make you want to try something new, can keep you on seat-edge for two hours. I won’t argue the film wasn’t entertaining, because a three-quarters full movie theatre would have proved me wrong.

Nor will I say the film was aimed at my demographic (fans of comedy and dark thrillers). It was aimed at the very people that went to see it, Star Wars fans, and millions of them have gone, and millions of them have enjoyed it. Rogue One is being seen by its intended audience, who are leaving happy and entertained. What reason do I have for picking it apart, when it wasn’t meant for me anyway?

I think quality storytelling is important, and if film-makers rest on their laurels, then audiences will get used to poorly told stories, and Hollywood will lose any desire it has to make art as well as money. This film was lazy in multiple ways:
a) locations and characters were not well-established, with the former being changed every five minutes and innumerable characters being introduced and all seeming inconsequential. If I don’t care about the characters, nothing is at stake when they are in danger. The story doesn’t matter to me, or interest me.
b) the humour wasn’t remotely subtle. Everything said by the main droid, K-2SO, always undercut any drama or tension the scene held beforehand, and the tags (additional lines following the main punchline to get a joke) kept hammering points home.
SPOILERS
c) the last third of the film was one huge battle scene. Any remaining interest I had in the characters was lost by the massive obstacles they faced every three minutes, and how easily those obstacles were overcome.
d) the cinematography was all over the place. No tension was developed, no character stood out as particularly evil or memorable, and the cinematography could have changed that.
END OF SPOILERS

The film pleased its audience, but I think it also did them a disservice. There were no tears from the crowd (some characters die – it’s Star Wars, what do you expect?). They laughed less as the film went on; despite the increase in joke count from K-2SO. People didn’t clap at the end, like they did at the end of Episode VII. They wanted more of the same, and that’s what they got. That’s all they got.

In a galaxy that’s filled with so many creatures, alien races, and planets, spending so little time exploring any of them in depth seems a loss to me. It’s a film that tries to fit in everything – jokes, deaths, action scenes, space travel, spaceships, lightsabres, new characters, classic characters, kung fu references, and more – and misses a key thing. It’s missing soul. It’s a forgettable story, with forgettable characters, told in a slapdash way. None of it seems to matter. I don’t care how it ended having watched it, and worse, during the film I didn’t care how it would end. That level of indifference, while watching a film, isn’t a good sign. To have your fans enjoy it, but not as much as the originals, also isn’t great feedback.

I was disappointed to see so much CGI in this film. Ever since Avatar came out, many blockbusters rely on impressing audiences with their technological ability over their storytelling. Part of the reason people love the original is because of the practical effects – the world appears more real because it is. The reliance on CGI has taken away one of the best aspects of the franchise. Once they reinstate it, their character numbers will necessarily decrease, the writing will then improve, and the aesthetic of future Star Wars films will be better.

SPOILERS
Another bizarre choice was using CGI to bring back Peter Cushing (dead) and Carrie Fisher (not dead at the time, but 40ish years older at the time of shooting). Either leave them out (possible with Fisher), or use a different actor (possible with Cushing). Having humans who clearly exist conversing with humans that clearly don’t wasn’t the nostalgia trip the writers thought it would be.
a) it’s distracting. We know one’s been dead for 22 years, and the other’s way older in real life. Instead of watching the film, you’re meant to marvel at how good the CGI is. For me, it was the opposite: hating how obvious the CGI was.
b) it’s a lost opportunity to introduce new characters. The original actors are dead or heavily aged. They’re out of the picture. Stop trying to bring back to life young actors who don’t exist anymore, and be more inventive with your solutions. Write new characters, or use a different actor with prosthetics to play the original.
END OF SPOILERS

If the film had used practical effects, cut the number of planets, focussed on a handful of characters, told a new story, and found a real groove for the the franchise to fall into . . . maybe fans would have enjoyed Star Wars as much as they used to. Some fans will like whatever film-makers put out; I just want to see good stories told well. Rogue One didn’t deliver.

—–

Book Review 3
52 Pick-Up, by Elmore Leonard
29 December 2016

52-pick-up-elmore-leonard                                                                                            52 Pick-Up, 190pp.

52 Pick-Up follows Harry Mitchell, a Detroit businessman, as he tries to prevent his wife finding out about his affair with a younger woman. This is made difficult by a gang of thugs blackmailing him for several thousand dollars to keep his secret.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? Yes, throughout.
2. Highlight: 
The dialogue was excellent, and a key method used for telling the story (which I don’t find happens as often as I would like – the other time this has stood out to me is in James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice).
3. Lowlight: An interesting character (over-enthusiastic union rep) ended up being underused.
4: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to anyone after a quick read with an enticing plot and real pulp fiction roots. Also, to fans of John D. MacDonald, another classic pulp writer.

Long review
I’ve heard of Elmore Leonard multiple times:
a) Stephen King has mentioned him in books/articles as a great writer (my copy of the book has a quote from him on the front, saying: I went out to the bookstore and bought everything else of Elmore Leonard I could find.
b) I watched a short video of Leonard’s a few years ago on YouTube, which had multiple great writing tips that I firmly agree with – the link is here:

c) Lastly, I knew him as a crime writer of a similar standing to John D. MacDonald, another favourite author of King’s and mine. When I found this book for 1NZD at a book fair this year, I had to pick it up.

This is the first book of his I have read. My hope was that Leonard would live up to his reputation as a great crime writer. This book did not disappoint. Guns were in faces by the end of page three.

The first thing that appealed to me about 52 Pick-Up is the length; just 190 pages. Books of this length – particularly crime, horror, or suspense novels – are much more likely to jump immediately into the story. If they don’t, the story never gets to happen. This is good either way. Short books that are poorly-written are finished so quickly, the time invested doesn’t seem such a waste. Short books that are well-written have great word economy, snappy dialogue, a fast-paced plot, and get started immediately. They finish like the perfect meal: they fill you up, but you still want more.

Another advantage of short books is that there is little room for extraneous material. They don’t mess around. Space is a luxury brief works cannot afford, and topics that don’t drive the plot must be cut. There’s no fat. They’re lean, and everything is important. This rule was religiously stuck to, except for one character – an overreaching union rep – who I would have liked to have seen developed and used further. As it stands, he wasn’t needed, and could have been used in a different novel.

Having read so little crime fiction in the last few years, I am limited to comparing it to the two I have recently read: The Treatment and The Murder Bag. All three were different, though this latest one stood as the odd one out. Its brevity and utter dedication to solving the lead’s dilemma at all costs meant that there was (comparatively) very little time for character introspection. It meant the book was faster and arguably more exciting, but it also came across as shallower – especially in comparison to The Treatment, which was exceptionally dark, and focussed in large parts on the mindsets, morals, and values of the characters.

This is not necessarily a disadvantage; it just puts this work in a different league to the other two. It’s hard to argue for which is best, when one is fast-paced escapism (52 Pick-Up), and the other is a slow-to-the-boil, intense moral discussion (The Treatment). The latter appeals more to me in general, though having my afternoon stolen from me by this action-movie-in-a-book was immensely rewarding for different reasons. I want to be transported to a different life when I read, and I was more willing to put myself in this scenario because  it appeared so simple. The Treatment and The Murder Bag both required detectives to solve complicated mysteries: 52 Pick-Up  just needed a normal man to work out how best to deal with some thugs. I could put myself in this blackmail scenario and try to piece together an action plan – in the others I was happy to sit back and let someone else solve it. Arguably this means the scenario itself in this book was the best; how more involved in fiction can you be than imagining yourself in the book?

The dialogue was not only humorous, like The Murder Bag, but also an integral part of getting the story across. Large sections of the chapters were entirely dialogue. This links in with the key Leonard tip: readers often skip ahead in novels, but no-one skips dialogue. This is true, but only if the dialogue is well-executed. Here, it was concise, precise, and full of beautifully colloquial language that showed exactly what type of person was speaking. Being a playwright, this was my favourite element of Leonard’s style.

There were some things I would have liked to see changed: the union rep’s appearing and disappearing act, the slightly underwhelming ending, and some of the detail about the workings of the business were a little dull. That said, none of these ruined the book for me, or even distracted me, and that is again the advantage of a short book: there’s no time for mucking around, you know the story is close to finishing, and you want to get there as soon as you can. You’re willing to overlook any problems because they are so brief as to be inconsequential.

I have written without a wordcount in mind before, and ended up with a grossly obese 680 page tome that could be slimmed down with an axe. Once I wrote with a 50,000 wordcount in mind for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and ended up with a svelte 168 pages. The difference in quality was immense – the shorter work by far having the best dialogue, story, and execution because it contained only what was necessary. I have huge respect for writers like Leonard who are dedicated to entertainment through quality-over-quantity storytelling. He provides only the necessary morsels to satiate that hunger for the unknown. That’s all you can ask for.

—–

Book Review 2
The Murder Bag, by Tony Parsons
28 December 2016

The Murder Bag, Tony Parsons.jpg                                                                                      The Murder Bag, 372pp.

The Murder Bag follows Detective Max Wolfe on his journey to joining the Homicide Division and solving the violent murders of multiple wealthy men.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it? Yes.
2. Highlight:
The black humour present in multiple characters.
3. Lowlight(s): It tended to jump in a disconnected way at the beginning. The potential philosophical dilemma wasn’t addressed as thoughtfully as it could have been.
4: Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to fans of crime novels, and those that like quick-witted, sharp dialogue.

Long review
This was the second book given to me for Christmas, and I read it within 24 hours. There are two reasons for that: a) I’m determined to get through as many books as I can in the holidays, and b) it’s a good read. It isn’t genius, and compared to The Treatment there are significantly fewer boundaries pushed/broken, but I still found it to be a hard to put down, enjoyable holiday read.

The book opens with a preface that puts the reader ahead of the lead, Max Wolfe throughout, then jumps in the first chapter to an interesting philosophical dilemma: if you have the opportunity to achieve good through a bad action, is that action justified? It was never stated like that by Wolfe, but the problem was there. He solved it in the beginning in a way that set him up as a new and interesting protagonist, one that I could still find interesting after the exceptionally complicated Jack Caffery of The Treatment. By taking control of a situation in a dynamic and unexpected way, he achieves promotion to the Homicide Division.

Then follows his first murder investigation (The Murder Bag is the first of a trilogy). A killer in London is dangerously close to becoming a serial killer, and his method is particularly gruesome: a knife to the throat. While the idea isn’t a new one, I did find the intense detail in some of the murders to be refreshing. I say this because I’m accustomed to realistic violence being primarily used in the horror genre – seeing it brought to life in a crime novel as a necessary addition to the story, rather than simply for shock value, gave it grit that kept me interested. Horror tends to aim for disgust, shock, and fear in reaction to the violence portrayed. Crime (in this book at least) uses violence to show that the world is an unfair and dangerous place. The difference is desired effect over desired realism. I found violence in The Murder Bag  to strike a fine balance between the two, despite occasions where it faltered and became too focussed on shock and effect.

Another highly enjoyable trait of the writing was the black comedy throughout. This was not in the situations themselves, which were always portrayed with the gravitas they deserved, but in the dialogue.  All people – police included – are not robots. We can find the light or comedy needed to get us through the darkness. Some of the one-liners in this book were solid gold. I particularly enjoyed the way the lines reflected who they were aimed at, whether they were friends, colleagues, enemies, or people of different socio-economic classes. The tight word economy (words used to get to the punchline) was superb.

(One unimportant side note: I respected Parson’s decision to keep mentioning the names of actual social media domains to a minimum. Mentions of Facebook always take me out of stories, because I’m aware of how quickly tech references date – imagine how dated books written just seven or eight years ago are now if the authors have mentioned Bebo or Myspace.)

What frustrates me is the lost opportunity for philosophical reflection at the end of the book. That sounds pretentious, but listen to what I said at the beginning: if you have the opportunity to achieve good through a bad action, is that action justified? Questions like that cut beyond mere page-turners and give you something more . . . they make you question your beliefs. The front of the book asks, Do some people deserve to die I wanted to see Wolfe struggle with that. I wanted him to confront his own moral standpoint and examine whether they are consistent, or if they change according to the situation. The world is complicated – as established at the start of the novel – and I don’t think the end matched the challenging morality of the start.

In my last review, I said novels should primarily be for entertainment. I stand by that . . . but they can do more. They can have you awake at night, wondering how you would act in any given situation. They can make you ask what you truly believe. They can make you see yourself and others in an entirely new light. The Murder Bag had me entertained, but it could have had me questioning myself too, and I was disappointed when it ended the way it did. The result could have been the same, but some introspection on Wolfe’s part would have made his choices more challenging, engaging, and memorable.

I recommend it as a good thriller, but not as a reflection on morality. It more than does the job as an entertaining read and a class example of good dialogue, but it could also have been a lot more. Not everyone needs multiple layers, but when there are opportunities for them, I’m disappointed to see them unused.

—–

Book Review 1
The Treatment
, by Mo Hayder

27 December 2016

the-treatment-mo-hayder                                                                                       The Treatment, 479pp.

The Treatment follows Detective Inspector Jack Caffery as he fights to find a perpetrator that held a family hostage in their own home and kidnapped their young boy. As links start to appear between this crime and events of his past, he struggles to maintain the detachment  needed to solve the case.

Short review
1. Did I enjoy it?
Yes, immensely.
2. Highlight: It was unafraid to deal with taboos and multiple storylines.
3. Lowlight: One important reveal required me to read back to remember who one of the characters was.
4. Would I recommend it? To whom? Yes; to all fans of crime novels (especially those that like series with a recurring protagonist). More importantly, readers with an interest in darker subject matter would find this a good crossover from the likes of Sade/Bataille/Genet to crime fiction.

Long review
I was given this book for Christmas a couple of days ago, and just finished it. I’m not a fast reader, but a long one – reading for hours at once, on the rare occasions I get the time – and this demanded to be read. I loved it. The darkest of topics were discussed in bold, new, and exciting ways, making this crossover to crime fiction (I usually read French authors, or biographies) very easy and enjoyable for me.

I write plays and stand-up comedy (obviously), though writing for me has always been about novels. Since I was 11, I’ve wanted to be a published author. Multiple manuscripts line my drawers, waiting for third and fourth drafts. These, I hope, will be addressed in the new year. What has become apparent to me over my own time writing is that my shows tend to be comedic, while my novel manuscripts tend to be extremely dark. Maybe this interest in the lowest parts of the human psyche is reflected in my shows in a different way: I’ve played Trump, The Marquis de Sade, Enigma (a pick-up artist). All of these are based on some element of what’s wrong with (or hurting) humanity. It is taking these people with the most despicable ideas, and seeking to understand them, that makes these shows worth writing and performing for me. I only care that the audience enjoys themselves . . . if they think, too, then that is a bonus.

The Treatment embodied what I think entertainment should be. It had my complete attention. I wanted at every point to know what was going to happen next. It had me flitting through different viewpoints, mindsets, beliefs, and experiences, and trying to understand how people could seek to hurt each other in such horrific ways. I wanted to yell at Caffery, I wanted to shake his girlfriend, I wanted to save people – and I wanted to watch them die. That latter emotion drew from my interest in horror films and theatre and our desire to watch them, despite how unpleasant they can be. The voyeuristic nature of the writing – true fly-on-the-wall material – captivated me.

(As a side note, a lot of the book is set in Brockley, London. I was seeing a girl that lived there when I was living in the UK in 2014. It was bizarre and unsettling to be taken back to that place in the context of a thriller.)

I think novels, plays, and films should all be created with one key goal in mind: entertainment. While often they will teach you something, or try to make you think in a certain way, their goal should always be entertainment. If they don’t build interest from the beginning, carry it throughout, and keep you engaged, they are unsuccessful – no matter how many different things they try to teach you, or what different ideas they bring to the table. Their persuasiveness lies solely in their ability to capture and retain the audience’s attention. They achieve that by entertaining them.

Entertainment can be achieved in many ways. A film can make you laugh, a play can make you cry, a book can make you feel like a superhero or a voyeur. Holding your attention and making you feel something is one way of describing entertainment. The emotion – and even the word emotion can be too strong, the feeling can be so subtle – it can be frustration, excitement, fear, happiness. You can be carried into a different world, or you can just laugh at things you recognise from your own.  Because it is such an open-ended goal, it can mean different things to different people; depending on what emotion they are seeking to attain. For me, entertainment is being taken out of my own life. Because so much of my life is based around comedy, seeing darker themes given the serious treatment they deserve is an exciting novelty.

To read a book entirely for enjoyment (and not as research for one of my projects) was a welcome change.  The fun in reading had been leaving me for some time: everything was about notes for the next play. Being pulled into a new (for me) genre, and escaping my own life for two days, made The Treatment a very worthy read.

—–

The Merry Wives of Windsor
22 December 2016

merry-wives-globe-2008                                                                                  The Merry Wives of Windsor 

I’ve been cast in my first Shakespeare play in six years. The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s older comedies, and stars Sir John Falstaff. I am playing Caius, a French Doctor with a lamentable grasp of English.

I’m looking forward to working in a group cast again after three years of solo shows. It will be a challenge bringing the jokes to life for a modern audience; I’m confident the character comedy I’ve done recently will make it easier. It will be a tight fit with de Sade in Auckland and Wellington Fringe Festivals during rehearsals, but worth it.

Staged by Stagecraft at Gryphon Theatre, Wellington. Performances are 15 – 25 March 2017.

—–

On 2016
22 December 2016

It’s been a crazy, busy, hard, stressful, exciting, and rewarding year.

I

1468558_511676138931264_1818164077_n1                                                                                          A Collection of Noises

The previous year was a difficult one. I spent mid 2014 – mid 2015 in London. It wasn’t easy. Getting my show, de Sade, into theatres there was more difficult than I could have imagined. I didn’t want to perform it in a bar, and theatres were either the right size and not interested, or too large and expensive. Eventually, in November, I stopped looking for a venue.

The year was spent writing. I finished the second draft of two novels. I updated scripts for two of my shows (de Sade and A Collection of Noises), and spent a lot of time reading. I worked part time in a shoe shop in Covent Garden. The work was fine, the staff were amiable . . . it was frustrating, though, to be there in that hive of theatre activity, knowing the right people and places and connections were there, and to have not found them.

I returned to New Zealand and met up with an ex-girlfriend of mine. We met for drinks, and then she bought me dinner. We talked for hours. She told me about her life, about the studies she’d done since we split (we met first year at uni and lost touch after we broke up). She confronted me. When we met, I’d talked about leaving uni, becoming an actor, putting on shows; I talked about living the dream, and not putting life on hold. During dinner, I talked about getting a job at a bank so I could save. She listened as I told her about my lack of gigs in the UK, how I had nothing booked now I was back, how I hadn’t given up, but also didn’t know what I was doing.

She told me I wasn’t the guy she remembered. I’d always talked about never settling for the backup plan. What was I talking about? A job at the bank? What the fuck?

I went home that night and wrote a pitch to put A Collection of Noises on at BATS Theatre in November (it was June then). They accepted it. There were four people involved in the show – me, my sister (on make-up), one of my best school friends (sound design/tech), and the actress. We filled less than 50% of seats (in a 40-seat room) . . . but we had 100% positive reviews for our little one woman psychological horror. We brought people to tears.

II

nzh-focus                                                                                             NZ Herald Focus

This year started small. I booked some gigs as me, and then started gigging as my pick-up artist character, Enigma. I only did eight sets in the start of the year, but I had found what worked for me: character comedy. As the Marquis de Sade, or a pick-up artist (and later, Donald Trump), I found an avenue to use multiple skills and build an act that stood out. I was enjoying comedy again.

I decided to do three solo shows: a repeat one-off showing of de Sade, ENIGMA, and The President. My sister’s friend is a great digital artist and poster designer, so I got her onboard for design on all three shows. I produced/wrote/directed/performed the first two shows, and got some of the best reviews I’d ever had.

For The President, I hired a director who had earlier given me an average review. They’d picked de Sade apart, commenting that it could be so much more, if it had an outside eye. He understood what is was meant to be. He got it. I arranged to meet him to discuss that show, and within an hour, he was onboard to direct The President. It was a solid idea, people were likely to be interested.

The NZ media blew up. I was on TV three times – once on TVNZ’s Breakfast, and twice on TV3’s Story. The Wall Street Journal picked me up. I was on radio and TV and papers for about a month. During this time, my first ten-minute play, New Tricks, won best director (me), and best actor at the Short + Sweet Festival. The BATS season was in November, in an 85-seat theatre. We had 58 in first night, 62 the second, and sold out the last three nights. An encore show at Bodega sold out. The Upper Hutt show sold out. It went on a national tour. I was nominated for Best Show Concept and Best Show at the 2016 Wellington Comedy Awards, and won Breakout Performer.

October and November were dream months, the kind of life I’ve always aspired to have. On October 20th, I appeared on TV, had my first corporate gig, New Tricks was on in the Short + Sweet Festival, and I had a spot on a weekly gig. On November 9th, I had two different articles come out on the NZ Herald site, and one on Newswire. It was incredible.

III

de Sade                                                                                                   de Sade

Next year promises to be even bigger.

This year I performed 73 times (77, if you include New Tricks, though I wasn’t onstage for that). Of those, 26 were solo shows (de Sade x1, ENIGMA x6, The President x19).

I’m hoping to nearly double the total performance number for next year, and bring it to 134. For the first time in three years, I will be in a play with other people – and for the first time in six years, I will be in a Shakespeare play. 90 of the 134 shows will be solo performances.

2017 will almost definitely include my first international performances. I’ve penciled in 10 different festivals (pending acceptance to some of them). There will be another Trump show. de Sade is going to Auckland. A Collection of Noises will have a North Island tour. I’ll be directing another full length play in November or December. I may or may not get my first role in a musical – I’m waiting to hear about that now.

I’ve got multiple new things I intend to learn – including instruments, juggling, and how to edit and shoot videos for YouTube.

2014 and 2015 were difficult years. Having projects and shows constantly on my mind – to the point I never think about anything else – is tiring, but it gets me through the day. It’s worth waking up for, and I’m glad that the hard work is finally starting to pay off. 2017 is a year to look forward to.

—–

Mofo

I’m living in a hostel, I have been swapping between them for weeks, and I’m not convinced it’s good for me. Jobs are are not flying through the door, nor are opportunities to do my show anywhere. Pitching to perform in London is harder than I expected, and it seems the reviews from New Zealand – all good – are not counting for as much as I’d hoped they would. Facts need to be addressed – no one knows who I am. This has become more apparent as time has progressed. Some theatres don’t even write back to me, some theatres won’t give me work because I’m too experienced. It’s a city where being good at something is looked down upon.

You know what I look down on? Snoring. Literally. There is a man in my room snoring and I’m on a top bunk, so I’m looking down on him. He snores like a freight train carrying several loudly snoring people. He snores like a mofo.

Mofo is short for motherfucker, and motherfucker is a stupid word. Every biological father is a motherfucker. One day, perhaps, I will be a motherfucker. Why do we look down on these people who are, in part, responsible for our existence? Because the human race is an illogical, braindead species. We must be, if we see human reproduction as an insult.
“You stupid motherfucker.”
“I had sex and produced a child, thereby ensuring the continuation of our species. What have you done?”
“Drugs.”
“Exactly.”

That’s not to say drugs are inherently bad; I believe humans should be able to put what they like into their own bodies. That said, if you put something in your body that’s not good for you, I shouldn’t have to pay to fix it. If I like playing with knives and I cut myself, it’s not your job to pay for my bandages. Likewise, if you get addicted to crack and your nose falls off, I shouldn’t have to pay for your nose reproduction.
Reparation. Whatever.
Nose reproduction isn’t the wrong phrase. A new nose is being produced, isn’t it? It’s just that it’s not being produced by other noses. And if noses had to make baby noses, you wouldn’t call them nosefuckers, would you? Because it sounds stupid. Exactly.

The snoring has stopped, though there is the occasional sound of itching. I guess I know then that I’m not alone in the room, which is nice. When a room becomes available in a flat, I’ll have my own room, but not the friends I’ve made in hostels. It’s an up-downgrade, or a down-upgrade, depending on how you look at it. People won’t be saying, “See you when you’re famous,” when I leave – which at times seems like a long way in the future. I’ll miss it.

~

Mofo is worse than motherfucker because it has the pro and con of being catchy. It’s not really rude, it’s just stupid – but the kind of stupid that is addictive, like Family Guy, or New Zealand politics.

There are more sirens every night I’m here, which makes more sense than there being less – then they’d have to take away some from previous nights, which isn’t possible yet and won’t be until time travel becomes a possibility. I’d like to time travel, but be invisible and not have an effect on anything – then I can’t make changes and become responsible for future atrocities like Ebola outbreaks, or New Zealand politics.

~

I’m in love with Saorise Ronan, even though common sense dictates her name should be spelt Sersha. She can spell her name xyanl0z and pronounce it Bill if she wants to, she’d still be perfect. If I could marry her, or Noomi Rapace, or Scarlett Johansson; I’d become a Mormon, move to Utah, and pick Saorise – then I’d live in Utah where no one has the social skills to take her away from me. (Noomi and Scarlett could be my sexy maids that do my every bidding – and if you think that’s sexist, I’m perfectly willing to be their sexy waiter in their sex dreams too. Gender equality for all of us.)

~

New Zealand is a long way away, though in reality, it’s only a 30 hour journey. It’s a long time if you’re counting the seconds, but it isn’t really that far. Nowhere in the world is weeks or months on a ship anymore, just a flight or two. Puts home sickness (which hasn’t hit) in perspective.

Jim Carrey spent 15 years becoming an overnight success. Seth Rogen wrote Superbad at 14. Louis CK has been doing standup for nearly 30 years. I’m starting young, I have the time to make things happen. It’s all about working hard, playing hard . . . then dreaming of Saooris. Sarsher. Sesher.

Saorise. Stupid motherfucking name.

—–

Sugar Free Mountain Dew
3 October 2014

I’m in the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, but at some point in the future (10am tomorrow), I’ll be back on the road – and not on the road in an exciting, unpredictable sense where I can go anywhere and do anything I want, but more where I have to stay in London to try and make it as a writer and performer. You can understand my hesitating to leave the place I’ve stayed and been more than comfortable for the last ten or so days to venture back out into the real world.

I’m in the hostel bar drinking sugar free mountain dew. Sugar free mountain dew tastes like what I imagine piss would taste like if you took out the good bits.

The hostel has given me a six bed room which I share with only one other person. The woman in my room is from New Zealand. It’s like going back to where I came from, but sharing my room with a woman I’ve never met (which isn’t bad, but less exciting than my ambiguous account may make it sound). We first met when I walked in – thinking she was a friend of mine that’s also staying in the hostel – took off my shirt, and said “It’s just us tonight then,” before getting into my bunk. A minute later I realised I’d changed rooms that morning and had no idea who was sharing the room with me.

~

Yesterday I asked for a smarties mcflurry and was given a sprite. Next time I’ll confuse them by asking for a big mac with no ice. If I was a burger, I’d want to be from McDonald’s – popular and unpretentious, but also not horrible and cheap. Don’t want to be no shitty burger.

I’ve been talking with a feminist, and come to the conclusion that people are harsh on promiscuous women; even harsher than I am on sugar free Mountain Dew. It’s allowed to do what it wants, including being sugar free, and women should be allowed to do what they want without judgement (except murder/theft/obvious exceptions).  All people should be as free as mountain dew to either be sugar free, or sugar generous. That’s all I’m saying. (Seriously, sugar free mountain dew is horrible, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to call people names. I’m starting to doubt the connection between soft drink and equality. Too late now.)

If I was a drink, would I rather be popular like coke, and more likely to go through someone’s intestines; or universally shunned like mountain dew, and destined to be alone forever? I’m glad humans don’t have to make the decision between being universally shunned or turned into piss. Those aren’t good options.

—–

English Theatres

A quick note on London theatres – they’re freaking insane. Caught four shows so far and all the venues have been amazing.

Shakespeare’s Globe
The Comedy of Errors (Shakespearean comedy)
Julius Ceaser (Shakespearean tragedy)

Globe Theatre
It’s around here somewhere. An amazing place, I was very lucky to perform here in 2011.

The Old Vic
Electra (Greek tragedy starring Kristen Scott Thomas; performed in the round)

The Old Vic
My seat is where the stage was last time. Both times seen big names here, last time was Kevin Spacey in Richard III  – which was amazing.

Criterion Theatre
The 39 Steps (Comedy version of a Hitchcock thriller; four actors play 140 characters)

Criterion
I felt like a doll here. (Because it’s pink and white like a dollhouse, not because it made me feel pretty.) I’m also really looking forward to seeing The Massacre at Paris at Rose Theatre tomorrow.

Rose Theatre
This is the stage and also the viewing platform above the remains of the original Rose Theatre. It’s five minutes from Shakespeare’s Globe and a great place to visit if you’re in the area. In short, London’s worth a visit for lots of reasons, but theatre has got to be one of the best parts of the city.

—–

Perry vs. Bond
18 Sept. 2014

I’m sitting alone in a hostel which is blasting Tiger by Katy Perry and playing the James Bond film Live and Let Die on silent. The only way that combo could be more bizarre is if they were blasting the audio of Live and Let Die over the endlessly repeating music video for Tiger. The speaker above my head is deafening. I’m going to lose my hearing in a place that makes no sense.

Business suits, drunk girls, their gay friends, old men. Me with a notebook. Is this the saddest bar ever? Or is this the standard clubbing experience? Undecided. I just know that watching Roger Moore undo a dress zip with a magnet is not making the situation any less bleak. The waitress here is probably 20 but looks 40. All the attractive women here are standing outside, pretending they aren’t drinking here. As a non-drinker, am I worse for looking like I do drink here?

~

It seems weird calling people my age men and women – everyone still seems like boys and girls. There is no clear middle stage where you’re a young man or woman with no responsibility before you have kids or get married or start a career – there’s just being a boy or girl, then having kids and your life being over. That’s right, isn’t it? No one my age is an adult yet, even the ones with degrees and internships at Deloittes.

Coming to terms with being in control of my life is difficult when what I want to do is affected by the decisions of others. I’ve been turned down for both a comedy festival and a theatre job in the last two days. I’m listening to LMFAO and Lil Wayne blasting overhead and feeling like my heart wants to stop beating as a result, breath doesn’t want to come – my body is telling me it wants to die rather than listen to this music.

“If you ain’t getting drunk, get the fuck out the club!”
– Lil Wayne

“Here’s an idea: go fuck yourself Lil Wayne.”
– Me and anyone else with common sense

~

This is 70s James Bond. People are in flares. I’ve worn flares before; velvet ones with a matching jacket. Was I the most comfortable I’ve ever been? Yes. Did I look like a member of the Jackson 5? No, I’m not black and I can’t sing. But I still liked the pants. And am I the only person that thinks Roger Moore should have been shot several times in this film? And who does his hair? There is no way that guy is a spy.

The guy that played Jaws died this week.

~

Thsi place is literally all men. Music’s loud. Lights flashing.

~

Lots of black people in Live and Let Die, and Roger Moore is nowhere near as cool as any of them. Maybe I should be James Bond. Then I can wear my velvet 70s flare suit and me and the cast of James Bond can all party together. That would be fun. I really could be James Bond.
Probably not. I’m not English.
But neither is Sean Connery. I’ll bet Sean Connery never had to deal with shitty youth hostel bars. Maybe I should have been Scottish. Or Sean Connery.

~

Seriously, it’s all men. This sucks really really badly. That’s right, no comma in that last sentence – I wanted you to run it on with no breath to understand how dire the situation is.

I’m not saying women’s role in life is to entertain men by committing to at least a 50/50 ratio of females to males . . . but imagine if they did. It would make Katy Perry’s soundtrack to Live and Let Die acceptable.

Pudding Boy

Today was my first London show . . . as an assistant for escape artist, Tony Roberts!

10649681_10203684128156183_1694914745055116644_n
He didn’t die!

When I first arrived in London, I was drawn to Covent Garden; its atmosphere, its performers and lively crowds, and the fact it was near to where I was staying and free. (The last two facts were big contributors. But so was the atmosphere! Honestly though, the close and free part was a big part of it. But the atmosphere! It’s also free. Free is nice.)

I went there most days for the first week, and I watched many performers. Rather than going to big tourist attractions and waiting in lines, it makes so much more sense to get out £15 – 20 and watch pro performers for a day. If they’re good, I give them a note, if they’re ok, a few gold coins – as long as I’m supporting the show I’m watching, I’m ok. There are jugglers (almost everyone there juggles), balancing acts, gymnastics, escape artists, mimes, impersonators. Almost everyone combines their act with jokes, so there are comedians in the mix too. It’s an amazing place. (And free too, if you’re a cheapskate and don’t pay people – did you know that?)

~

Doing shows like my stand up, or de Sade, where I mercilessly pick on people, I forget what it’s like to be involved as a volunteer (‘volunteer’). Even being called on by a comedian is terrifying – Dan Nightingale (an English comic who regularly comes to New Zealand for the Comedy Festival) ripped on me for being served a blueberry meringue in the front row during the intro of his show. I ordered it 20 minutes before showtime and sat in the front row next to Mike and Ellie – the owner and barmaid at Cavern Club . . . where Dan had his 2013 Comedy Fest show.

10 minutes till showtime, no meringue. Five minutes and I’m sweating a bit. His voice over intro starts; no dessert, palms sweaty. He walks onstage, starts show. Nothing. Ten minutes into the show he’s hitting his groove and up the centre aisle walks the waitress with my food. Dan asks me what it is and I’m stunned into silence.
This is the worst thing ever.
The waitress yells, “It’s a blueberry meringue,” and I offer him some.
“I don’t want any of your bloody blueberry meringue – I’m doing a show!”

He called me pudding boy for the rest of the night.

~

Tony (the escape artist I didn’t kill) is Australian, saw me in the crowd and pulled me up in front of his crowd of hundreds at Covent Garden. For a performer, no problem. For a volunteer, minor problem. For a volunteer then told to chain up a man with the assistance of a German dude from the audience with no sense of humour. . . potentially a big problem.

With clear instructions, Tony told me how to tie him up, and I learned two things.
1. Being personable, and very precise with instructions makes audience participation very easy to manage – or at least it appears that way.
2. Chaining up a nearly naked dude in the middle of a public place with the help of a huge German guy with no social skills isn’t as gay as it sounds. (In this scenario, anyway.)

~

After watching several street performers, I found there are several things that get repeated:
1. Always include juggling.
2. Including a kid makes the crowd happy.
3. Giving the kid money makes the crowd want to give you money.
4. When asking for money, always say “When you’ve got your money out, fold it neatly . . .”
5. Then say, “You’re not laughing now, are you?”
6. Ask people to pay you after the show before your finale.

Once you’ve seen these same things again and again, you wonder why people don’t pick up on it – and it’s because street performers are meant to be watched for 5 – 30 minutes, not one after another for a day at a time. It means they can get away with using each others’ jokes, and the same show structure – in some cases almost the exact same show. This means anyone that watches it regularly will really notice when a performer of any time goes beyond expectations. Tony did this with his incredible escape from chains, and Dan Nightingale does it with his super fast reactions to the environment he’s in. Those names stand out to me and I won’t forget them.

~

I need a name that won’t be forgotten.

How about Pudding Boy?

Kings and Peasants

London is a prohibitively expensive place – I knew that before I moved here but didn’t realise to what extent that would affect me. It means I’m in a scenario where I’m unsure how I can fund surviving, let alone extras like shows. Even travel is expensive, and if I can’t get to gigs, I can’t perform.

On the bright side, I’m not jetlagged.

Moving to London has been a long time coming. There’s so much here to see and do; opportunities to perform. Show seasons here last for three months, not two weeks like in New Zealand.
I nearly said back home, but that would be to admit that New Zealand is the place where I belong. Which option is better when choosing between the place where people know and love you (you hope, anyway), and where you can realistically follow your dream? At this stage, I’ve picked the latter – it’s important to take a gamble while the chance is there. No one will be surprised though if the findings eventually change though. Careers are important, but so are people.

~

I’m in a four bed hostel room about the size of my room in New Zealand. Instead of going up in the world, I’ve gone down (spacewise) by 75%. I have no record player or books; just a pen, paper, and computer. So far it’s been focusing on writing by hand, then transferring it electronically when I have the time. Getting out the events of the day, excitement, despair (not yet) out of my system is nice.

~

The word nice doesn’t mean anything. The problem is few other words get across the simplicity of good feeling in the same way. It’s not a heavily layered positive feeling; just free floating and pleasant. Just nice.

~

Street shows are the ultimate test for a performer because all the conventional barriers stopping audiences from leaving (that also almost force them to make an effort to enjoy themselves) are not there. Price of admission, allocated seating, a room of people to disrupt, a quiet space . . . none of those exist. With a positive outlook, they are restrictions that are lifted. Boundaries for the audience are not there, so they are also lacking for the street performer.
They can do what they want.
Think about how liberating that is. If someone heckles, or interrupts in any way, the retort does not need to be said through a mic. If someone walks through the show, or is talking during it, or in any other way affecting what is going on, the mic is not the only source of reply. Repartee is not necessarily needed. You can get right into peoples’ faces, you can impersonate them, or take the piss, make a fool of them. If done with the right amount of wit, you can win them over and make a friend. The options are yours.

~

I was talking to one guy after his show while another set up and started their own. I turned around in time to watch the new guy, and a crowd was lined up, row after row, from one end of the square to the other. By just being in the right place and having an interesting look, one man was able to stop a market place of people. Being behind him looking towards the crowd made it feel like I was onstage, and to see that amount of people gathered in public to watch must be the best feeling. For the 15 minutes he entertained the crowd, he was a king.

I watched another man crushed today as his show failed to impress, or even to attract, a crowd. The previous performer had hundreds of people watching him; this one had a crowd of tens. Maybe 25 in all (which, for Covent Garden, is atrocious). The crowd was either unimpressed or shy. I’m leaning towards the latter because while I wanted this guy to succeed, I also felt hesitant to be the only one loudly clapping or cheering. My lack of strong response contributed to his failure, but if he couldn’t attract a crowd, perhaps he shouldn’t have been performing in one of the best attended street performance spots in the UK.
He’d waited all day for the spot, and after the fifth trick failed to get a response, he gave up. Before he packed up though, he said something I’ll never forget: “I’m not doing this. I’m proud of this show. I’m proud of my show.” And he left.

His belief in the show, despite how badly it was going, impressed me. Rather than carrying on hopelessly, he maintained his dignity by taking a step back and saying he deserved better than the response he was getting. Whether the move he made was the right one or not, I can’t decide. He should be able to win back the crowd – but I should be able to sell out tours, and you should be a CEO, and our parents should have massive retirement funds. We have to come to terms with fact that we are not perfect. We have little right to step on those who are trying – and not always succeeding – to achieve their goals.

~

People think stand up is scary; doing it well is hard, but it isn’t scary. Scary is having no safety net, no opportunities to guide the audience’s expectations; trying to hold people through the appeal of your act. Having to literally stop people in the street and reel them in, make them stare, and then pay for the privilege of watching you. I think that is scary. That is a true skill, and one I’m looking at developing – potentially another asset to my shows with de Sade. Why not take every opportunity to improve the work I’m already doing, even if it puts me out of my comfort zone? The same question applies to you. Consider what you want and where you’re currently headed, change track if the one you’re on is leading in the wrong direction.

~

I saw a king and a peasant perform today – or that’s how it appeared to me. Everyone wants to be at the top, but the chance of hitting the bottom is there no matter how much we want to ignore it. Maybe we just need to keep looking up.

The New Zealand Helen Keller

In the line for the departure lounge, I asked the Londoner behind me if I could take a soft drink on the plane. He didn’t hear me/understand me/ignored me . . . then looked as though he had the information I needed.

Then he told me how long I’d be in the departure lounge. Everything he said, he read off a sign directly in front of us. Either he thought I was stupid, or he didn’t know the answer. Third option, maybe he thought when I said, ‘can I take a can of soft drink onboard?’ he thought I said, ‘how long till we board the plane?’ It looks as though I’m going to struggle to be understood.

Maybe I should speak louder and he’ll understand my foreign dialect? I’m hoping for two things: being easily understood in the UK, and sitting next to literally anyone other than that guy on the plane. If things continued the way they’ve been going, life would fall apart. This is what it would be like meeting new people.
Me: “What’s your name?”
Guy: “The flight’s heading to London.”
Me: “Ok . . . what part of London are you from?”
Guy: “I’m having a beer, didn’t feel hungry.”
Me: “Oh, fuck off.”
Guy: *punches me in the face*
I will only be understood when I wish I hadn’t been.

~

There ended up being one seat between me and the guy that didn’t understand me. Success.

~

Because I’m arriving at 6am, I’m descending during sunrise. Friends have said they’re worth staying up for, and while I didn’t stay up for it intentionally, it’s still a great way to start a new adventure. As an unrelated sidenote, all the English people on this plane are either red-faced, super pale, or unnaturally tanned. These people have no middle ground. And neither do I. With my accent that renders me impossible to communicate with, I am New Zealand’s Helen Keller. (Admittedly I can see and hear, so it’s a slight exaggeration rendered almost completely false based on the lack of similarities between her and me, but it’s still true.)

Like her, I will be a hero. Like her, I will be a legend. Like her, I will overcome various struggles my disabilities have forced on me to become a renowned political activist and lecturer . . . or a comedian. Probably the latter.

Moving to London: Part Two

Everything I’ve been looking forward to in life – shows, festivals, interesting work, big opportunities – all are waiting in London. This is where I’m made or broken. That’s an intimidating thought because it means that rather than dreaming about making it big, I have to find out if that will actually happen.

In school, I was a winner. Top in drama, arts captain, arts colours. My last year at school was like being a king; I think all of us were, in a way. We’d reached the top of the school, we were all the best in our small pond at whichever talent we were working on. Leaving there meant going where no one knew who I was, working to make a name for myself; being a loser at times. Instead of winning festival awards like I won awards at school, I watched others win them. Its come to a point now where I’ve had to realise that awards are nice, but I have to focus on audiences numbers, and audience enjoyment. Once those two things are sorted, I’m automatically a winner.

~

A friend of mine recommended an ebook that teaches artists how to overcome their financial and time management issues in order to become happier and more successful individuals. If I wasn’t an artist, I wouldn’t have realised how skewed our priorities can become when we’re working towards a project deadline. Everything needs to be done at once, delegation never seems like a good idea, and it’s so easy to burn out. Having performed in many fringe and comedy festivals, I’m aware that goals can lead to trying to do everything and achieving nothing, or less than I’d expected.

With that in mind, it makes sense to set clear goals that allow me the opportunity to focus on what I love. Further, these goals are owned by me. I control the outcome. Rather than ‘I want to win this award’ (which I have no say in), I will focus on an end result I can guarantee . . . if I work hard enough.

1. Finish the Way of St James.
2. Perform 100 stand up gigs in London.
3. Get ‘de Sade’ into an English Theatre.
4. Perform ‘de Sade’ at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
5. Publish my book (first drafted in 2011).

Here are five goals. Each requires an investment of time and effort; each will be rewarding. Most importantly, the results are in my control – while 3 and 5 rely on theatre managers and publishers, there are an infinite number of of them to which I can apply. One day my works will be seen in English theatres and bookshops.

These goals are seperate from other, potentially more ambitious dreams. ‘Dream’ is the word I’ll allocate to desired outcomes outside of my control. If a goal is to do 100 stand up gigs (as a starting point) in London, then a dream would be to appear on Live at the Apollo. The latter is out of my control, decided by the program owners . . . but my goals work towards that dream (amongst others) happening.

The flight is still in progress (of course). So it’s time to settle back and read. Or listen to Moby. Or both. Maybe I’ll write a review of Moby’s latest album, Innocents . . . the point I’ve been working towards and almost forgotten to mention is that I’m going to use this site for multiple blog posts(about my travels, my opinions, or the opinions of my good friend de Sade). If you’d care to join me, we will have one hell of a journey together.

Dude in the Park
12 Sept 2014

I’m in a park writing next to my two bags of possessions and really, this is the high end version of being homeless. If the definition of the word is to be without a home then that is the situation I am in – the other words and ideas associated with the homeless don’t apply, like being dirty, begging, sleeping on a park bench, drinking meth, and so on. I’m not that bad, just in a situation where I can go wherever I want, which would be ideal if I was suited up, super rich, and carrying no bags. (These things are like carting around a dead body (they’re heavy enough) but police won’t take them off my hands like they would a corpse. Maybe I should have packed one of those instead of a laptop.)

Friends gave me a couple of good luck charms before I left – Rachel’s was a St Christopher’s medal/medallion (one sounds like something I don’t deserve, the other something I couldn’t pull off – which is it?), I’ve got it around my neck and almost forgot it’s there. Which makes sense. It would be weird to think investing thought in an object made it more lucky . . . imagine how many people would just sit and stare at their lotto tickets. Or their dicks.

People wear them when they travel (medallions, not dicks); I haven’t looked into the tradition or where it comes from, but it’s nice to know she’s wishing me luck – as opposed to giving me a St Antichristopher’s medallion, which would be really big and bring me bad luck. If I had one of those, I’d end up getting pimped out in an underground cavern in Ukraine. Hopefully the opposite happens since I’ve got the good luck one. (The opposite isn’t me pimping other people out in Ukraine; it’s something more fun/less evil somewhere more fun/less scary.)

~

There’s an old guy across the park that keeps spitting. He has a dark peach top, khaki shorts, walking shoes, and yet another terrible London haircut. People here are either well-dressed or think they’re well-dressed – in terms of haircuts, the difference is astronomical. I hope if I end up with hair like his, people tell me so I can do something about it; like shooting my hairdresser. I had a hairdresser in New Zealand called Vicky, she’s awesome. It would be a shame to shoot her, she’s a good person – but I don’t deserve a haircut like that. Lucky all this is hypothetical, because she’s only ever given me good haircuts and I’m more likely to cry in my room over a bad haircut than carry out any proposed threat involving a firearm. I’m anti firearms anyway, except when people that are pro guns accidentally shoot themselves in a superficial place, like their thumb or foot. Then I’m pro firearms.

The only thing stopping me going for a walk is the two really heavy bags sitting next to – you know the guy with a terrible haircut that kept spitting before? (If I didn’t tell you he keeps spitting: he keeps spitting). He got up, walked around a bit . . . then came sat next to me. My seat is in the sun, so that’s an excuse to move, but he does make me uncomfortable. Is it wrong to think that way, or am I justified because there’s heaps of seats here and he chose the one next to me? What’s going on? I want to read his thoughts so I know if I’m in danger or not.

~

Beefeaters were meant to be poor because they ate beef which was the cheapest animal, and calling someone a neckbeefeater is like calling them super poor because they eat the worst meat on the cheapest animal. It’s like calling someone chicken mcnugget. I think it’s easier to just call someone an arsehole and be done with it.

~

There’s millions of people in this city, including actors, dancers, models, beautiful women, people I look up to, people I’m friends with, people I know, people I wouldn’t mind knowing, and people I’m indifferent to . . . but it has to be this guy sitting next to me. All the pigeons look even more diseased than the ones in New Zealand. Maybe everything that is diseased in the UK is super diseased, like a multiplied version of everything where I’m from. If the guy next to me sneezes, will part of his brain fall out? I hope so, then he’ll stop trying to read my writing. That’s mean, he’s not trying to read my writing. But I bet he would if he could. Isn’t that a compliment to me? Not really. He freaks me out. I don’t want to judge, so I won’t.
Except for this occasion, where I judge and say that is a terrible, terrible haircut. I’ve finished now. No more judging.

I was finished, but then he spat again. Dude, can you just fuck off?

~

It’s another ridiculously hot, sunny day in London. Maybe that’s why people here have tans (some of them anyway), which I was not at all expecting. I should move into shade, and I would . . . if these bags didn’t weigh 27kg. I like them better on the ground than on my back. There are worse places they could be than on my back; like on my eyes. Then they’d pop and I wouldn’t be able to see. That would be worse. Seems unlikely though.

Phone’s out of battery, I have no idea what the time is, where I can charge my phone, which bag the charger is in, where the adapter is, or how long it would take to charge. Sometimes I think the phone would be better crushed underfoot, or thrown at the face of a gang member before quickly turning around so he thought it was thrown by the gang member from the opposing side that’s conveniently standing next to me, who he then attacks and punches in the gut before they grab each others’ lapels and roll into the Thames. I don’t think gang members have lapels, they have tracksuits and no teeth. I can dream though.

~

The guy next to me just took his shirt off. Damn it.

Moby’s Innocents Album Review

Short review
1. Would I recommend it? Yes, with every fibre of my being.
2. Who would I recommend it to? Anyone that needs to relax or that wants to discover the pleasure life can provide.
3. Highlights: Almost Home with Damien Jurado, Going Wrong, The Dogs
4 Low points: Don’t Love Me with Inyang Bassey

Long Review
The day I listened to Innocents for the first time should have been a day to remember. Until that point I had goals, ideas, and visions of what I wanted to do with my life. The drive was always there to entertain, and to a smaller degree to affect people in some way. I found that happening that day. That most important of days was the day I fell in love with Moby. His existence is the reason for mine. I exist only to revel in his excellence, his mastery of the emotions . . . his effect on my humanity.

Moby had never before registered in my life. I’d heard of him, and when I investigated, I found that I recognised one of his songs (Play‘s Honey from the soundtrack of Holes). While playing random albums at my work – while I was also filing photos of antiques – I stumbled across Play as a suggested link. My life changed that day, but the true revelation of Innocents was yet to come blow my metaphorical heart out of my chest and my eyes onto the table.

For my 21st birthday (we must skip now to the key parts of our story) I was given a $50  voucher for Mango Music by imminent book repair specialist Bill Tito and his wife, Jane. I rushed to buy Play (for a ridiculous $25 price tag, which is a lot for an old album – don’t be offended, great Moby, I will sacrifice all money to my passion for you) and the owner said, “you need to spend the whole voucher at once”. Together, reader, we want to beat this absurd man with sticks . . . but wait. At this moment I took a gamble on Moby’s Innocents. If it had not been for a superstar book repairman and his teacher wife – as well as the stupid owner of the (deservedly) now closed Mango Music, I would not have shaved my knees and superglued glasses to them in homage of my spiritual leader, the great Moby.

From the opening tones of Everything That Rises to the closing notes of The Dogs, my brain exploded and rearranged itself  in a hyper-relaxed, contemplative state of mind. My favourite songs (the word ‘song’ is an injustice to these masterpieces of spiritual ejaculation; tossed off at the peak of Moby’s earth shattering mental climax) are the choral Almost Home, the instrumental work Going Wrong, and the moody closing track The Dogs. These are merely personal highlights from a journey begging to be undertaken by the individual – each ear will bring different reactions from each soul. The collection is an immensely effective mixture of choirs, guest singers, the brooding vocals of my Lord Moby, and music that is apparently simple . . . but designed to complete you while also questioning how you possibly survived before this.

The tracks move from smooth number to smooth number with none of the more club like numbers fellow members of the congregation will recall from 1999’s Play. Some have publicly spoken out against the lack of thudding bass, and unto them I share from the words of my Divine Protector: “Why does my heart feel so bad?” Why, you ask? Because you have forsaken our saviour. Purchase Innocents, play it 25 times, and plead for forgiveness.

In short this is the only perfect album. The heights of musical achievement have been reached and there is no purpose in attempting to overtake it. Moby has emerged victorious and all of us must drink from the Innocents cup. Stop playing music and just listen. You hear that? It is perfection in the form of the Divine Moby’s open mouthed sound lick to your ear. (Not your rear.)

This is truly an album to behold (only metaphorically, if you’re holding it, it’s not in the CD player where it should be). Partake, friends, and be absolved of all your fears. Moby is within you.

Moving to London: Part One

Today I left New Zealand – potentially the last time I’ll be back for a good while. I’m flying Malaysia Airlines so I don’t need to worry yet about what will happen in London, I don’t even know if I’ll get there. Armed with a pen, paper, and a copy of the Marquis de Sade’s Juliette, I’m prepared for a long flight (supposedly only ten and a half hours, meaning the flight from Malaysia to London will be even longer).

I read for two hours and now it’s time for a break (it’s 1,195 pages, so it’s justified). The break involves writing, and listening to Michael Bubbly and Moby – the only two real options to listen to on the plane computers. Moby was under ‘clubbing’, and it makes me wonder who is craving thumping bass on a ten hour flight. What’s wrong with people?

The bright side is there are no good movies on the menu either. I’d been hoping The Inbetweeners would be there; alas, my luck was bad. That said, arguing I’ve had bad luck when I nearly missed this flight seems uncalled for.
I’m on my way!

~

There are several reasons behind this move. The number of opportunities for performers in London (compared to Wellington, New Zealand – where I’m from) is huge. Working in McDonald’s in London while working towards the dream makes more sense than doing the same in New Zealand. That’s not to say I’ve ever worked in McDonalds, but that compromising job satisfaction in the UK to chase opportunities that are actually there is better than doing the same anywhere else where the chance to succeed isn’t even there to begin with. I’ll take what I can get in London because there I can gig every day. It took me two and a half years to get to 100 gigs in NZ; that number is possible in a few months in London. When deciding between four gigs a week, or four a month (if you’re lucky), there is really only one choice.

~

People have been asking me how I feel. My standard answer has been ‘80% excited, 20% shitting myself’. Until a day or two before I left, my mind was swerving between anticipation and fear of a future that seemed out of my control.

Now that 20% is concentrating on my burning arse and legs. I’ve been hobbling for two days and I don’t know how it happened. I was at a friend’s house, woke up, and it was like I’d been stabbed in the back and front of each leg with a screwdriver. (I checked and that wasn’t the cause. I wish it had been; I would know the cause and could make sure that it NEVER happened again.)

I’m currently walking like an old man and it may get worse. I’m struggling to get out of chairs and cars. Skipping 50 years and becoming a pensioner would be ok, at least I’d be paid for my pain. But now? Nothing. No wonder old people hate everyone. (That’s not fair; I’ve never met an old person that hates everyone – the ones that do hate everyone are probably chained to a bench in workhouses making bricks and wooden toys for children, which is not a great existence. Basically, you’re only allowed to hate everyone if you hate your life.)

That’s what my physically debilitating old person walk has taught me.

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