Tuesday, 28 February 2006

UK Poverty

I've been meaning to get round to posting on UK poverty since Old Man Rich asked me about it here.

It was a good question and to be honest I never post enough on British matters, such is the intrinsic pull of US politics but the findings are worth publishing...

No surprise that us Brits have no right to be smug: 1 in 4 people in the UK are living in poverty, that's about 13 million people with 4 million of them children. But what does poverty mean in the UK?

Well it ranges from not being able to afford clothing, to not being able to save money, or not being able to afford heating and for children it often means only one sqaure meal a day (at school usually). And being born into poverty means that you're more likely to die young, be unempoyed and have low skill levels/level of education.

The number of people living in poverty in the UK frankly shocked me and for more info on what you can do or what the government should be doing visit Oxfam.

Monday, 27 February 2006

The Narrow Road

I think things are going to be getting better after a rough start to 2006.

Obviously the interest and excitement around Our Style is Legendary has been great, a real fillip, but at the end of the day I want to act more than I want to write and 2006 has not been good for acting and thus 2006 has been a nightmare for money and self-esteem. A real nightmare.

But things seem to be taking a new course.

I did a showcase for agents and casting directors last week, to be truthful I was a little embarrassed about it so didn't mention it; I was kinda selling myself all over again. I felt a bit of a failure. Failure is such an intrinsic part of acting it beggars belief, since the success of Bouncers I've had 6 auditions and whether it be that I'm the wrong colour, wrong height, live in the wrong place or simply not good enough, I've not worked since then.

However, the interest generated from that showcase has been amazing and by this week I should have secured representation with a major company that has access to the highest quality of acting work and then it's just down to me to be good enough...

Acting is a narrow road.

Sunday, 26 February 2006

"I Can't Leave Victor Behind"

Those were the words of my good friends Mike Thomas, who, along with myself and the good lady Marie, went to see my acting buddy Trevor White in his one man show (playing the aforementioned Victor) House at the Finborough Theatre. I have to agree with Mike utterly...

Fucking hell it was good and I mean really fucking good.

As a veteran of one man shows I have some understanding of the crushing pressure, total commitment and utter consumption that is involved in putting yourself out there for the audience to inspect. But I only did it for 35 mins and Trev is Victor for a whole 80 damn minutes. Not once did he flag, not once did he lose us and not once did he relent in giving the very best he could and I hope we made him feel loved up there; that he could take a flight with us and enjoy Victor for one last time. Even if Victor did try and set fire to my hair...

I could go on for ages about Trevor's performance but I don't have time for that story...The attention to detail and physical commitment were outstanding, a real lesson to Marie and I as actors; it felt as if Trevor via Victor was consumed by thousands of ticks and bursts of expression; exposing and concealing simultaneously the depth of the character.

Mr Trevor White, I salute you!

Friday, 24 February 2006

The Laramie Project (You Heard!)

My good friend Wendy emails me on a regular basis, mostly her emails are an explosion of madness, of scatter-gun phrases mixed with terrifying political truths; a typical one goes a bit like this:

"Do you recall Wolverhampton? Glorious days. It's amazing what can be achieved with a megaphone and a jar of swarfega. They won't see me now, of course. They've never gotten over my bottom. I was paralytic. But you couldn't say it now. Not any more. Those days are gone. Long gone. My notices are dreadful. They liken me to an ostrich with projectile diarrhea. Kind words I fear. Churchill wasn't black. Fuck you. Winnie Mandela x"

You get the picture?

Good.

But then a few hours ago she sent me one about the story of Matthew Shepard and it blew my mind, here is an excerpt from the email and if you don't know about this young man, click on the link and discover more...

Matthew Sheperd was 21. He died on Monday 12th October 1998 due to severe injuries from a brutal beating and torture. He was found tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere. He was so badly beaten that the man who found him first thought he was a scarecrow. His face was caked in blood, except for the clean lines where his tears had fallen. He was suffering from severe hypothermia, as he wasn't discovered for 18 hours after he was beaten. He clung onto life for six days. His killers had gone into a bar where he was drinking, and posed as gay to lure him away with them. They took him into the back of beyond and brutally murdered him. Here is some of what his Dad had to say in court:

"My son. A gentle, caring soul. Proved that he was as tough as, if not tougher than, anyone I have ever heard of or known. On October the 6th 1998, my son tried to show the world that he could win again. On October 12th 1998, my first born son, and my hero, lost. He died 50 days before his 22nd birthday. He died quietly, surrounded by his family and friends, with his mother and brother holding his hands.

My son actually died on the outskirts of Laramie, tied to a fence, when you beat him. You. Mr McKinney. With your friend Mr Henderson. You killed my son. By the end of that beating, his body was just trying to survive. You left him out there, all by himself. But he wasn't alone. There were lifelong friends with him. Friends that he had grown up with. He had the beautiful night sky, with the same moon and stars that we used to look at together, through a telescope, when he was a kid. Then he had the sun to shine on him one more time. And the cool wonderful Autumn breeze. And through it all, he was breathing in for the last time the scent of the Wyoming pine trees. I feel better knowing he wasn't alone.

Matt's beating, hospitalisation and funeral have focused worldwide attention on hate. Good is coming out of evil. People have said 'Enough is enough' You screwed up Mr McKinney. You made the world realise that a persons lifestyle is not a reason for discrimination, intolerance, persecution or violence. This is not Nazi Germany. My son died because of your ignorance and intolerance. I can't bring him back. But I can do my best to see that this never ever happens to another person, or another family again. My son has become a symbol against hate and people like you. A symbol for encouraging respect and individuality. For appreciating that somebody is different.

I miss my son. But I am so proud to say that he is my son. I would like nothing better than to see you die Mr McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt. Mr McKinney, I am going to grant you life. As hard as that is for me to do, but because of Matthew. You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that Mr McKinney. I give you life in memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life. And may you thank Matthew every day for it."

Thursday, 23 February 2006

Our Style is Legendary: Let's Push Things Forward

As you can imagine, the last few days have been really, really hectic, what with the reading and the fact I took part in a showcase to improve my acting fortunes; time has been short, many phonecalls have needed to be made, much chatting has been done and interviews set-up. I can only hope that this will lead to a turn for the better...

The reading itself, on Tuesday, couldn't have been more fucking brilliant; the actors hit there stride (thanks to Jonny, Ralph, James and Mark, who also had the awful job of playing me and of course massive thanks to the lovely director Ken for showing the faith, having the passion and knowing the score; I hope we remain in contact bled!) and as the reading ended and the audience applauded, I folded over the lighting board (where I was nervously watching from) and had a bloody good cry.

Perhaps it was seeing my youth played out in front of me all over again, or perhaps it was the love shown by the audience to the characters and how they followed them on their journey and kept faith even when the kids lose theirs. I don't know where you are Michael but I just hope you heard them clapping my beautiful brother...

My biggest fear is that all that this is where Our Style is Legendary will end, that it's content is too unfashionable, to blunt, to heart on sleeve, to full of the word cunt, to ever be where it belongs: on it's feet, in a theatre, playing to full houses!

Let's push things forward...

Monday, 20 February 2006

American Poverty and Ralph Ineson


Please note the two things are in no way connected, I am not holding Ralph Ineson responsible for 37 million Americans living below the poverty line (a figure that has increased by 5 million under junior), or for the fact that a quarter of all black Americans lives below the poverty line, 22% of all Hispanic people and 8.6% of whiteys.

Ralph Ineson is also not responsible for the fact that 46 million Americans are without health insurance and that the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has unemployment at over 80% with a male life expectancy of 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.

Ralph Ineson is responsible for playing The Swinging Man in Our Style is Legendary and is very fucking good indeed. He was in The Office but I don't watch tele so this means very little to me, all I know is he has a voice like treacle and a mighty presence.

The reading takes place tomorrow.

COME ON!

Sunday, 19 February 2006

Inspired by Horses

On Friday I went back to my old drama school to do a workshop, where I and other actors worked with movement directors to devise a piece of theatre in 2 and a bit hours.

It was great.

Not only was the brilliant John there but also Hari and my stimulus was a picture of horses. It's amazing what a good stimulus can do and a tight deadline when it comes to creating art and we made a nice bit of theatre.

Saturday bought a free night out (sponsored by Jack Daniels, so I had 8 of them) to see a friend's band, called Tomboy, who were a lot better than I'd thought they'd be. That might sound harsh but I'm a picky bastard when it comes to music and I thought they'd be a bit too fey for me but it turned out they were jolly urgent and had some fine riffs; imagine disco drums, determined bass parts, Damon Albarn on vox with new wave guitars and some trilling Stranglers style keyboards. Listen to Tomboy music here if you fancy and see if my description was correct.

What I think they're missing is some horse...

Thursday, 16 February 2006

New Abu Ghraib Photos








Oh God.

Here we go again, more photos, more violence, more de-humanising, more cruelty and more torture.

I have very little to say, except to let the images do all the talking and just remind yourself why we are there and what we are trying to achieve and what makes men and women do these things to others and what these images will do to feed the righteous sense of injustice in Iraq and the Arab world.

Like conquering hunters we pose with our bloodied and feces-smeared prey and gloat at their weakness and rejoice in our victory!

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

BLOGCODE MY ASS!

You may recall that I mentioned a lovely thing called BlogCode?

You know, that wonderful website that enables you to find other bloggers like you and saves you time trolling blogrolls and other such nonsense?

This is a shout out to all my readers to not only review my blog here but to also enter their own into the BlogCode service and thus increase traffic and general happiness. If you do enter your own blog (and why not, you've nothing to lose?) leave me a comment and I'll go and review it.

Smashing!

Monday, 13 February 2006

Our Style is Legendary: Casting

I wish casting was this exciting and sexy. Having said that it is very exciting and a little bit sexy but not as sexy as that.

Much of last week and the start of this, has been dedicated to trying to find the actors to play the parts in the performance of Our Style is Legendary at the Tristan Bastes theatre on the 21st of February.

You'll be glad to know that we have Danny, Michael and Stone (just click on the links to see the actors) but are still missing The Swinging Man, so it may be that this twat has to do it...

I had to write the bit that'll go in the program today and I was typing away and thinking about what the play meant and I had to stop and have a little cry, it still makes me sad to think about those boys that became men and those of us that didn't make it.

I also have an alert for all my fellow bloggers, a great new website called BlogCode. It's a wonderful resource for bloggers, basically it enables you to find blogs like yours and expand your blog circle in an easy and efficient manner; as well as promote your own blog and attract new readers. So hop along when you've time and input your own blog and then rate other blogs, for instance (hint, hint) mine.

Got an audition tomorrow in Leeds so have to be up at the crack of dawn and also it's Valentine's Day so I'll be busy romancing the lovely Marie so bloggage may be light.

Peace.

Sunday, 12 February 2006

The Big Adventure

The visitors keep flooding in but I don't want to get bogged down in a political swamp just yet (but if people think attacking Iran is a good thing they'll have to do so over my dead body) so I'd thought I'd share with you what my good friend Mark is going to be up to for his next theatre project.

It is called 'The Big Adventure' and I'll let Mark explain...

Ever since I was a child I've wanted to be a travelling minstrel, walking the country telling stories and entertaining people. This spring we at Hard Graft Theatre Company are attempting to walk coast to coast from Bangor to Boston. Myself (Mark Whiteley) and another (I still haven't found anyone yet) will walk 20 miles a day and perform every evening. To make it more adventurous we'll have no money, food or place to stay, everything we live on and from will be sought on route.

The route could take us through Caernarfonshire, Denbighshire, Merioneth, Flintshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Rutland.
Each evening we will literally "sing for our supper" (not really sing, but tell stories about great adventures). If you know Hard Graft Theatre Companies work you will know that we strive to be the first in most things, first national tour of living rooms, charity shops and the first to sell a performance on eBay etc. We are looking for venues from Bangor to the coast of Lincolnshire, theatres, village halls, fields, living rooms, boats, caravans, barns, sheds, gardens if you come up with a venue and the audience we'll consider it.


We open on May 4th 2006 somewhere in Wales the rest is up to you. if you have a venue you'd like us to play Contact us.

How cool is that? So if you live in the UK and fancy making your home into a theatre then drop Mark an email (and I hope to be the other person involved but we'll see...)

Saturday, 11 February 2006

If It All Goes Wrong, Blame Me

Well punch me in the arm and call me Billy.

I was making a casual check on the level of unique visitors I've had of late and my jaw hit the flaw when today I discovered some 304 people has been coming to see me. I usually get around 50 unique readers a day.

Any guesses why?

Such attention is welcome if it helps put the current events into better perspective but I'm still seeing too much knee jerk bigotry in the blog world, too many lazy ideas that Islam=Terror and that they should get over it and that Christians, Sikhs, Hindu and Jews never behave in such a way.

Which is such a fucking lie. This is all tied in to terrible racial stereotyping, that is only a hop skip and jump away from the view of Jews as hook nosed hoarders of wealth and power.

It's important that we don't let Muslim people be marginalised and de-humanised as aggressive, retrograde fundamentalists; for this will make their persecution all the easier.

I'll leave you with a letter to the American left.

Peace.

Thursday, 9 February 2006

Pictures of the Prophet

I've been too busy to deal with this shit but now I am on it because it annoys me but not for the reasons you'll think. But before I do, some facts for ya'll, it's not forbidden in the Qur'an to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad (praise be unto him) only idolatry. The Hadith (the second text in Islam, rather like the Talmud in the Jewish faith), does forbid representations of the Prophet Muhammad (praise be unto him).

Having said that, representations of the Prophet Muhammad (praise be unto him) are common place in Muslim nations and also have a great history in Christian literature. Never mind the fact that in the US Supreme Court there is a statue of him...

These cartoons where first published on the 30th September 2005.

Please read that again and then ask yourself why it all exploded last week?

Nevermind the fact that some of them are racist and some of them just badly drawn, why has it taken till last week for people to start rioting over images that are 4 months old? When the pictures first came out there was barely a squeak of anger at them and it all passed away.

For the scenes we now have popping up across the globe in one of the worst moments of over-reacting I've seen for a while, we have Saudi Arabia to thank. Come with me on a journey of adventure and I'll explain why...

In January of this year the most important Muslim religious festival took place in Saudi Arabia, it's called the Hajj and every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say "tragedies" in quotation marks because there have been similar "tragedies" during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

This was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on the 12th January and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Feel angry now at being manipulated? I hope so.

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

A Little Bit of Arson Never Hurt Anyone...

But it doesn't help you write a play.

Trust me. I've set fire to enough buildings and people (is it possible to commit arson with a human?Perhaps a dead human? Answers in the comments please) in my time to know that it does little for your editing skills.

The music of Matson Jones (who I stole the post title from) however, is helping me a lot, it's a heady, urgent mix of cellos, bass and drums making new wave, punk rock. Unlikely I know but try it.

Here is the proof that I'm not making all these playwriting stuff up, the actual flyers in web form...

I'm on the 21st if you haven't already noticed.

I'm so proud.

Time for bed.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Gladiator Games

Re-writing a play is a time consuming business.

Hence the lack of blogging.

Still have much to do so forgive me for being brief and not talking about people setting fire to buildings due to really bad cartoons.

Apart from writing plays I went to see one that moved me and angered me in equal measure, read the story of Zahid Mubarek here.

I wonder if Zahid ever thought that a play would be written about his death? I suppose my best mate Michael would think the same, could he ever have thought that our friendship would become words to be spoken by actors?

Weird.

Speaking of weird, my favourite caption competition is seeking fresh entries, so go do what you have to...

Friday, 3 February 2006

Our Style is Legendary: Update

As you may recall, I finished writing my 15th play not so long ago and have been in the process of trying to promote the bastard to all and sundry, in an effort to get it produced and/or feedback to make it better.

Operating Theatre Company took an interest in it and accepted it onto their intense feedback program, from there it is making the leap to a rehearsed reading on the 21st February 2006 at 7.30pm at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Writer's Block event.

Fucking brilliant. I am so happy.

If you can make it along, please do so, as it is free and the director is great and a lovely chap who is funny and shares a passion in the story. It will also have a great cast, which we are currently in the process of getting and it is very exciting indeed but more on that when we have the actors.

In the meantime, I have to knock the play into shape and get ready as I'm going out to have it large (just beer and Chinese food, no smack rocks) with my friend Wendy whose birthday it is.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Your Moral High Ground is Made From Quicksand (and the Blood of Dead Children)

The moral high ground is so subjective. What's yours made of?

Some people spend a life time trying to regain it from people who've stolen it off of them (the accurate term might be knocked them off the moral highground), how an earth it can be taken off you in the first place, when you decide its content?

Even politicians have been known to fight over this mystical moral high ground, not wanting to languish at the foot of the mountain where all the immoral people are, trying to get to the top, trying to get a foothold.

Before I go on can you please make sure you're wearing your tin foil hat...


Is it on? Good, let's continue...

Daily Kos have an excellent list of 20 reasons to question the official story of 9/11 and I urge you to read them, all backed up with links to news stories and let us remember that it was 11/9 (please note correct formatting of date) that got us all into this mess called the War on Terror.

You'll all be glad to know that Blair's 12 point plan to combat terrorism now lies in tatters, it makes me feel a lot safer to be honest and finally a lovely video reminder that anyone can be the President of the United States, no matter how serious the learning disability...