Tag Archives: Red Dwarf

From Page to Stage (via Rage) – a GIF Guide to get to the Fringe

Hello, lovely reader.  How’s everything with you?

I must apologise for my prolonged absence – this is about 20% due to a bit of a confidence crisis, 10% due to laziness and 70% due to being completely brain-swamped by Tumbling After, the fabulously physical show that I’m taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with RedBellyBlack Productions.

It’s a gorgeous show that combines all kinds of ideas and disciplines, but as a devised piece it’s been an enormous (and welcome) challenge.  Everyone’s journey from page to stage is different, and the great thing about the Fringe is that you can take almost any performance genre imaginable up there and find a receptive audience.  Comedy, theatre, spoken word and performance art (and every other sub-genre and hybrid of those) show up on the Fringe programme every year.  Isn’t it amazing that the arts hold so much variety and such a wide range of skills?  (I’M TALKING TO YOU, CAMERON, YOU UNCULTURED SWINE.)

Ahem.  Sorry.  Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about getting ready for the Fringe this year is that, no matter which genre or sub-heading you’ve picked for your show, you go through a lot of the same stages:

Realising that your show idea is actually pretty darn good

Realising how much work this great idea is going to need

Refusing to acknowledge the huge amount of stress on the horizon

Getting into the swing of it

The first time you really and truly force yourself to look at the budget

The second, third and fourth time you look at the budget

The amazing moment when you can see how it’s all going to work

When the first cast/production team member cracks up

When it’s YOUR turn to crack up

Realising that you’ve only got a few weeks left

Still knowing, even after all the stress, that your show really is a great idea.

If you’d like to know more about Tumbling After and the magical mischief we’re getting up to, search #TumblingAfter on Twitter – there are lots of ridiculous photos and short videos to enjoy.

Have a cracking Wednesday!

Face Value

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Hello, and a very happy May Day to you!  Did you know that 1st May used to be considered the first day of summer?  Yeah.  Apparently that’s why the summer solstice (25th June) is known as midsummer, even though we all know that it will still be cold and rainy at that point.  Ah well.

Also, this day always makes me think of an episode of Red Dwarf when two of the main characters get marooned and are discussing the distress signal:

Rimmer: I wonder why they call it ‘May Day’.
Lister: Eh?
Rimmer: The distress call.  I wonder why it’s May Day…it’s only a bank holiday.  Why not Shrove Tuesday or Ascension Sunday?

I digress before I’ve even begun.  ANYWAY, one of the slightly surprising side-effects of writing a blog has been my friends’ reactions to it.  If I’m being ambiguous about certain situations or what have you (mainly due to respect for others, privacy and suchlike), my friends tend to ask “was that post about such-and-such?” or “were you talking about so-and-so?”  Sometimes the answer is yes, but to be honest I’m not sure that it matters.  If it’s really important I’ll talk to my friends about it in real life, anyway.  We’re supposed to be going to the pub in about five hours, after all.  Plus it’s your round.

This is something that lots of people (not just girls, before you think I’m stereotyping) find difficult: accepting a statement at face value and not trying to find hidden meaning.  I am terrible for this, so please excuse the blatant hypocrisy.  (I’ll make it up to you with biscuits.  D’you like chocolate digestives?)  I over-think like it’s going out of fashion, so I am constantly asking in wretched tones “but what does that MEAN?”, and trying to determine people’s exact feelings about life, the universe and everything based on sentences as simple as “I’ll see you later”.  I’m a lot better than I used to be about this, but I think a lot of us are constantly dissatisfied with transparency and longing to find some obscure meaning in a bit of opacity.

Why do we do that?  Is it because we are genuinely convinced that every sentence spoken or written has an ulterior motive, a deeper meaning or a secretive subtext?  We do it with everything: text messages from the person we’re enamoured with, oddly formal emails from colleagues, passive-aggressive messages from friends with whom we’ve sort of fallen out.  Why can’t we accept things for what they are, and trust that what people say to us is usually what they mean to say?

I’ll tell you why: because we’re British.  We hardly ever say what we mean out of a neurotic fear of seeming impolite.  This is the nation that can make “sorry” sound like anything from a sincere apology to a vicious death threat, for crying out loud.  So I have a challenge for you, lovely people of this United Kingdom: cry God for Harry, England and St. George, and try to be a bit more open with people.  If you want to be able to take statements at face value then you have to start with the man (or lady) in the mirror.  Michael Jackson would be proper chuffed.

Have the kind of Thursday that would make an excellent movie

Red Dwarf Fixes Everything

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Hello, lovely reader.  I hope you’re having a beautiful weekend.

I had a wonderful evening yesterday with some of my favourite people on the planet, which I then went and ruined by drinking far too much and behaving like a prat.  I am now deep in the throes of PASH (Post-Alcohol Self-Hatred) and I woke up fairly convinced that everyone hates me and that I have utterly destroyed my own life.

Being the incredible and lovely human being that she is, my best friend gave me a massive cuddle as soon as I was properly awake and said all sorts of nice things that I definitely didn’t deserve to hear.  Our other friend was similarly lovely, and on the way home we had a very interesting conversation which I’d like to share with you.

When that whole “time to talk” thing came up a few months ago, I paid lip service to it.  So many friends of mine had the courage and dignity to speak about their mental health issues, and I was (and still am) incredibly proud of them.  I did not follow suit.  I should have, but I didn’t.  I was a wuss about it.

Mental health is a very tricky thing, because in so many people’s eyes (including your own, sometimes), it defines an enormous part of your identity.  It’s so easy to look at yourself in a purely one-dimensional fashion, and to focus on one big, bad thing about yourself.  Odds are that nobody else sees you that way, and that you are a lot less crazy in the eyes of your loved ones than you are in your own.

Ok, so here we go: I have manic depression.  It’s why I tend to overreact to stupid stuff and obsess over trivia.  It’s why I say dumbass things when I’m drunk (and also why I get drunk in the first place), and letting out the crazy when I’ve had a few glasses of wine means that I don’t have to remember it the next day.  That’s not an excuse, by the way: no one forces me to get drunk or behave like an eejit.  I make that (dreadful) decision entirely on my own.

Assuming I manage to sort my self out and stop making terrible choices, will I automatically like myself more?  I don’t really know.  On the way home my friend Vince and I were talking about how difficult it is to like yourself, and wondering whether it’s something that you can change.  Some people seem to be born assured, mature and self-aware, while others (i.e. me and some of my friends) spend a lot of time worrying about who we are and what on earth we think we’re doing.  Emotionally speaking, we are three million years into deep space and we’ve woken up with a traffic cone.

Essentially, it would be lovely to be emotionally self-sufficient and be able to comfort myself when I’m feeling low, but I’m not sure how to do that.  In the meantime, I’ve got an amazing group of friends who forgive me when I’m badly behaved, and cuddle me when I’m feeling guilty/hungover/completely lost.  I also have the Red Dwarf box set, which is a godsend on days like this.

I am very proud of my friends and loved ones who are open about their mental health issues, and I hope that they can forgive me for having been a coward about it.  If you live with metal health difficulties or love someone who does, then you are a wonderful human being who deserves first dibs on all the Quality Street tins from here to eternity.

Sorry this post was a bit more serious than t’others; I promise tomorrow’s will be full of whimsy.  Have a fantastic rest of your weekend.

Television Teaches Us

Good morning, reader!  Did you enjoy the sunshine this weekend?  Oh good, me too.

As those of you who read yesterday’s slightly frantic blog post will know, my house mate and I have cause to revise our general knowledge in the next, er…twenty five hours.  I’m sure we can manage that.  You will also know that I have a fondness for the television show Dad’s Army.

It might seem strange that a television show from the seventies about the forties resonates so strongly with someone who arrived in the world right at the end of the eighties, but I love the show because I think it’s taught me quite a lot.  In general, television shows have given me an education that rivals my A Levels in terms of relevance to the world, and definitely overtakes my degree in terms of practicality.  Here are a few examples:

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1) Dad’s Army

Community is important.  Life is full of people with idiosyncrasies, funny foibles and general oddities, and they all matter as human beings.  However bizarre your colleagues, friends and family may be, you are stronger united than you are on your own.  Also, don’t panic (especially if your name is Mr. Mainwaring).

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2) Blackadder

This show is responsible for about ninety percent of my historical knowledge.  My sincere apologies to anyone who taught me History at school, but if you want me to retain information I need to hear it with a massive dose of sarcasm, preferably from Rowan Atkinson.

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3) How I Met Your Mother

Oh, so many things: nothing good happens after 2am; bros before hos (or sisters before misters, I suppose); the Hot/Crazy scale is scarily accurate; never invite an ex to your wedding.  Also, the best thing you can ask for from life is an evening in your favourite pub with your best friends.

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4) Red Dwarf

Similarly to the Dad’s Army ethos, when you’re stuck in a space ship three million years from Earth, you need to be a team.  Even if that team is made up of a robot, a dead hologram, a genetic mesh of cat and human and a Liverpudlian layabout.

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5) Friends

Of course Friends made the list.  There are many good lessons to learn from the show, but in my opinion the main one is that you can know someone for years and still be surprised by them.  You never know how your heart might change: Ross got the girl after more than a decade, and Monica and Chandler didn’t fall in love until they went to London.  (This raises some questions about London being the new Capital of Romance, but we can come back to that another time.)

Obviously it would be nice to think that the lion’s share of my knowledge comes from books, lectures and academia in general, but I don’t think that it does.  I’m not convinced that that’s such a bad thing, though: surely as long as we are learning something, the source is not too important.

That’s what I’ll tell myself while I stick BBC iPlayer on, anyway.  Have a great Monday.

The Polymath Problem

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Hello and happy Tuesday, lovely reader!

This morning I met up with an old friend from university.  We don’t get to see each other often enough, so inevitably our coffee mornings consist of work updates, living situation discussions, frank bemusement at the behaviour of men and excessive giggling.

Sometimes (not always), we get around to discussing our mutual passion: the arts.  This friend of mine has a lifelong passion for the arts in all its forms: she is a wonderful baker of lovely cakes, she dances, makes amazing craft stuff and is, of course, a fellow Drama graduate.  She co-runs a charity called Ingeenium which does beautiful and inspiring work with vulnerable people, she is a nanny and she currently works for the government in a top-secret, slightly scary capacity.  Oh, and she’s also studying for her PhD.  Superwoman?  I think so, but I’ve never seen her wear a cape, so it’s hard to tell.  The posh term for this friend of mine is a polymath, which sounds like something out of Red Dwarf, but is actually a real thing.  I like that word, don’t you?

This morning she and I were discussing the problem with being a polymath, although the terms we actually couched it in were more along the lines of “What are we actually DOING with our lives?”  The answer is, currently at least, loads of stuff: we are both trying to pursue careers which support as financially as well as challenge and inspire us, we feel very strongly about a lot of things but are not sure what exactly to do about them, and on top of everything the spectre of George Osborne looms menacingly, reminding us that whatever we choose to do, we will still never be able to afford a mortgage.  Do shut up, George, there’s a dear.

My friend was saying that she wishes she could just have one job and pursue one goal, but I had two concerns about this:

1) Sure, it would be amazing to know from an early age exactly what you want to do with your life, but what happens if that dream fails?  What if your one ambition in life is to become a footballer, and you contract Motor Neurone Disease?  What happens if an aspiring doctor fails their exams?  How does a person recover from the abolition of a life-long dream?

2) Pursuing more than one ambition is not only practical in terms of personal investment; it’s a really, really good idea.  Being good at lots of things is something to be proud of, and caring about lots of things makes you a more rounded human being.  Working in several domains can actually improve your skills in certain areas: having acted (a bit), I consider myself to be a more empathetic director.  Besides, there are many awesome people who can be referred to as polymaths.

Here are a few examples:

1) Mark Watson

An excellent stand-up comedian, Mark Watson has also written some brilliant books.  His writing style is engaging, unbelievably touching in some places and (predictably) very funny.  The stories are completely unique, but the characters are very true to life (terrible phrase, that, but it’s the best I can think of).  His books are novels with little or no relation to his comedy career, so much so that it took me quite a while to twig that the author of some of my favourite books was the same person I’d seen on Mock the Week.

2) Kenneth Branagh

The man can act and direct simultaneously.  I have no idea how he does it (especially given that I can barely walk and talk at the same time), but his adaptations of Shakespearean plays into films are intelligent, moving and spectacularly performed.  Since acting and directing technically fall under the same sector I suppose he’s not technically a polymath, but I think he should get bonus points for being able to realise his artistic vision (ANOTHER terrible phrase – sorry, I’ve no idea what’s happened to my cliché filter today!) within two separate roles.

3) Laura Lexx

Another friend of mine from uni, Laura is excellent at pretty much everything she puts her mind to.  It’s mildly sickening.  A formidable academic success, Laura is also an excellent writer (of blogs, plays and more), an hysterically funny stand-up comedian, a queen bee of baking and “one of those” actors.  By “one of those”, I mean those people that you see on stage and wonder how on earth other performers can bear to compete.  She’s also a very lovely person with an excellent impersonation of a dinosaur in her repertoire.

4) Hannah Barnett

Yet another superwoman that I am lucky enough to be friends with, Hannah is *deep breath* a producer, actress, stage manager, unbelievably talented guitarist and singer with the voice of a particularly well-behaved angel.  Hannah is simultaneously the most organised and most easily distracted person I know.  That takes a lot of skill.  Why do I surround myself with these sickeningly talented people?  Oh, yeah – because they’re awesome.

5) Josh Widdicombe

Putting aside the fact that I love Josh Widdicombe quite a lot anyway, he is a brilliant example of why it’s good to have many talents.  Well-known as a stand-up comedian, he is also a talented DJ who hosts a weekly show on Xfm, which he uses as a platform to promote his friends and colleagues in the comedy world.  I am a massive fan of “paying it forward”, i.e. using your experience and opportunities to help others in similar situations.  (One of my favourite things about my university year group is that even now, we still tell each other when we see jobs or opportunities on IdeasTap that we think others in the group would be interested in.)  Josh Widdicombe is substantially more successful than any of my lot are right now, but he still uses his multiple roles to help out his mates.  I think that’s brilliant.

There are dozens if not hundreds of other examples of polymaths around, including national treasures like Stephen Fry and Michael Palin, and they are all to be congratulated on their ability to pursue many dreams.  It’s wonderful to have a passion in life, but I think that being good at and enjoying several activities is a more realistic and open-minded way to live.

By the way, actors turned models and anyone turned reality television “star” (please read enormous sarcasm into the speech marks around the word star, there), do not count.  Being pretty, greedy for money or desperate for attention cannot in any way be classed as a skill.  That’s just sad, and those people need a hug/slap/stern talking to.

Have a glorious afternoon!