Macbeth.

Last night I went to see ‘the Scottish play’ at Trafalgar Studios.
I’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan. I respect his body of work, and his creation of words, and his wordplay therein, and I like the amount of death that seems inherent in his tragedies. That’s quite a lot of things. Maybe I do like Shakespeare.
The reason I was so keen to see this production was the same reason the majority of the audience were drawn in to see this production, James McAvoy.
I don’t know what it says about me, that I was pulled along on a string by the possibility of a Hollywood star spitting on me, maybe I could get Dominic Cooper to watch.

I have been lucky to have seen productions of Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing (thanks Adam) at The Globe but last night was a different creature entirely.
I’m going to assume everyone is aware of the story of Macbeth to a passing degree so will avoid the opening gambit.
The whole thing was established as though it were taking place in a grim post-apocalyptic Scotland, or it might have just been Scotland. The three witches carried workmen’s torches and wore masks, everything was broken and rusting and dripping and decrepit and then in came McAvoy, sliding about on his knees like a child at a wedding, and I was hooked.
In the past I have struggled to ‘get’ McAvoy as a brutal leading man, his performance in Wanted left something to be admired, and I always assumed him to be somewhat foppish. This could be the fault of his excellent portrayal of Brian in Starter For Ten.
As Macbeth however, he was stunning. Bearded and pacing and cut and heaving, he held dominion in the ways Macbeth should. The venom and aggression with which he delivered were incredible. You could have heard a grenade pin drop in the theatre, people were utterly spellbound.

Given how the aim of the Monday night showings in the tiny theatre is to open people to the power of Shakespeare and the theatre, they did a fantastic job. The crowd were full of the kind of people you wouldn’t usually associate with enjoying the work of the great bard.

While I don’t want to just write a piece about how beautiful James McAvoy’s beautiful eyes are (they are beautiful), it was the main draw and the main attraction. The supporting cast were equally spellbinding but people, myself included, love the cult of celebrity.
Jamie Ballard really came into his own in the second act as Macduff and Claire Foy was suitably manipulative and enticing as Lady Macbeth.
Props go to Jamie Lloyd for his production of the play which was visually and audibly one of the greatest things I have seen committed to the stage. The horrorshow violence was fitting to the bleak world created and the minimalist set helped to hone the attention.

I would say go see it, but I know it has completely sold out, and for good reason.

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To the marathon.

I am shattered. I just walked a mile to catch the train to London.
I am going to watch the marathon today, and I am obviously being satirical, although I did have to pace it because I spent far too long lost in my own reflection this morning.
Two very good friends are running today and I’m off to offer my own brand of enthusiastic support.
I’m reminded of when one of them, L, asked me, two other friends and his brother in law, to come with him to the site of a skydive he was doing for the same charity he is running for today, Little Havens. We mercilessly bullied him for two hours, and his parting words were “just fuck off”. If he had died it would have made a fitting epitaph.

As it turns out, both L and my other friend D are running for Little Havens. I wonder if they have met, I wonder if they have worked each other out yet. I wonder if they know they both know me. I assume so.
Little Havens is a great charity. I did some work with them last summer, and wish I could do more. I always wish I could do more. For those who don’t know, they offer a hospice service for terminally ill children and an incredible support network for the families involved. Just describing it that far forms a lump in my throat.

I had every intention of being with them today, although I did have vague hopes of running as well. I applied for a place last October but didn’t make the cut. In hindsight it could be a blessing because to date the furthest I have run is six miles, maybe I’ll be in a better state by next April. I know I’ll apply again later this year.
There is also the issue of splitting my charity donations. This year I am trekking across the Sahara and raising money for The Prince’s Trust. People are reluctant enough to donate money they would otherwise be wasting to one worthwhile cause, let alone two. Next year I’ll have another crack at the marathon thing, and support a different charity. It’s hard to focus on any one when there is so much hardship.

In terms of today though I am already so proud of L and D. They both applied under the assumption I would get a place and we could train and support one another. I’m there to support them, and to show them I am a man of my word. Far too many people I know have flaked today. TAW and I will be there though, screaming and waving like a right pair of cotton-headed ninny muggins.

I went with L to register for the marathon on Thursday evening when I finished work. Registration was held at the Excel centre (“BACK ON THE DLR!” as I like to scream to the tune of Back In The USSR). There was a real buzz to the place as proper athletes sauntered about with the kind of prowess only superheroes should be able to exhibit when dressed solely in Lycra. There were stalls for specialist clothing, stalls for specialist dietary requirements, stalls for supplements, stalls for footwear. We stood about like a couple of comfy airsoles!

As soon as registration was complete and we got outside, L asked me if I fancied a beer. I wondered ever so briefly if he should be drinking three days before the marathon. As soon as we got inside he asked the barmaid if they had a cigarette machine. He thinks he is the Sid Vicious of the marathon. I just don’t want him to become a statistic.

I hope I get a good look at them today, and I hope they’ve vaseline’d every square inch of their bodies, and they should know everyone is supporting them.
It’ll be like the end of Return Of The Jedi when Obi Wan, Yoda and Anakin/Darth are stood grinning at Luke.
I’m talking Guinness Obi Wan and Shaw Anakin, I’m not buying all this CGI booster pack addition. Leave it be Lucas, leave it be.

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Good luck today guys, and to everyone else taking part, and may the force be with you!

Project 333.

Last night I went through my wardrobe and chest of drawers, packed up two thirds of their contents into two suitcases and put them in the loft.
Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. It’s an experiment in the minimalist lifestyle.

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For the last couple of months I have been harping on at people about the benefits of clearing out the junk and clutter which make up our lives. I haven’t done anything entirely foolish, I’ve stuck to an ethos to help me work out what to keep, and what to discard.
It’s in part thanks to reading about The Minimalists. I haven’t reached the zen levels they continue to aspire to, but I do feel better without quite so much junk around.

I have noticed it helps if I keep my work space free of items when I’m writing. They serve not only to distract me from what I should be doing but as a reminder that there are other things going on beside the world I am typing out.
There are some things I still can’t let go of. My shelves are full of books and DVDS, despite having made several attempts to clear out stuff I don’t read or watch.

My rule is, if I use it or I derive enjoyment from it, it can stay.

So what is Project 333 and what has it got to do with the fresh luggage in the loft?
The best description can be found on their website. As I said, it is an experiment. From my own point of view I have noticed there are items I don’t wear but don’t seem capable of throwing away like I have with everything else which adds nothing to my life.
I read about Project 333 on Wednesday and knew straight away it was something I needed to do.
The idea is you reduce your clothing (including shoes, jewellery and outerwear but not including sleepwear/loungewear or gym clothes) down to just 33 items, and use only those for 3 months.

When I first read about it, I wasn’t sure how 33 items of clothing would look, and whether people would notice I always seemed to be in the same thing but having spoken to my brother about it last night he described it as being ‘ten outfits’ which makes sense, and is probably essentially what I wear anyway. Within that there are a number of combinations. The point is to take the things you like wearing, and only wear those items.
It has the potential to be beneficial.
If you buy any new clothes during the period you have to wait until the time is up to wear them so you weigh up whether it is worth the money and the wait. If anything gets damaged you can replace it but the aim is to be imaginative and work with what you have got.

I mentioned the concept to my Sahara buddy Terri and she didn’t seem keen on the idea of limiting things off in such a way although she concluded she probably only wore 33 items in her wardrobe (not including jewellery, shoes or outerwear).
To be honest I can appreciate the whole idea may be easier for men than it would be for woman. There isn’t quite as much focus on men’s fashion, or it doesn’t seem to hit me anyway. I think it is entirely doable for anyone if you think through your choices.
This is Terri’s wardrobe:

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I had to think about what would be happening in the next three months and what needs I would have, clothing wise, between now and then. I am fortunate in that I can wear what I like to ‘the office’ so I don’t have to worry about Burton suits and comedy ties and smart shoes and fake Barbour jackets and whatever else people who work in offices seem to wear.
The only thing I have extensively planned for the next three months is when I go to Glastonbury in June. I will probably be wearing t-shirts and jeans, and surprise, surprise, that’s what my 33 are composed of.

So here’s what I have to work with for the next 91 days.
7 t-shirts
4 jumpers
4 cardigans
7 shirts
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of shorts (because I’m hoping for a summer at some point this year)
2 coats
1 jacket
1 blazer
1 necklace
1 earring
2 pairs of shoes

Unless I have made a massive oversight I think this is all I ever wear, and all I should need for the time being.
If the combination doesn’t work after a month I may jiggle a couple of items, but try to keep on the magic 33.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress and if you are interested I recommend you visit Project 333 for more information and support.

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‘David Bowie Is…’ Exhibition – V&A Museum.

The three albums which define my early childhood are REM’s Monster, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory and Jason Donavan’s Ten Good Reasons. Luckily for all concerned I became disenfranchised with the latter before I was ever asked what my favourite albums were.
The first two, meanwhile, are entirely down to my parents, who would permeate bathtime with glam rock hits by The Sweet, T-Rex and David Bowie.
They saw Bowie on his Glass Spiders tour. Being that I was busy being a baby they didn’t take me with them, a gripe I have kicked up with them ever since. The reason I mention all this is to show how deep the lightening bolt runs, how indebted I am to David Robert Jones, and how much it meant to me when my own Lady Stardust managed to get us tickets for the exhibition of his extensive work and wardrobe at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington.

The first two things to be aware of about the exhibit are as follows; the audio guide was put together by Tony Visconti and is like aural sex, and you aren’t allowed to take photos. If you were then it would have taken us five hours to get around rather than the two and a half hour lap time we managed.

The exhibition covers Bowie’s career from his fledgling performances as Davie Jones and the King Bees right the way through to The Next Day. Along the way the provided headphones pick up sensors linked to particular events, videos or interviews and play them through. It’s amazing to think it is all the product of one man’s imagination and the literary depths he pulled from. Beforehand I was unaware Diamond Dogs was Bowie’s attempt to create his own dystopian landscape after being refused the rights to make a musical based on Orwell’s 1984.

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There are so many aspects to Bowie both as a performer and as a man. It’s incredible to see it all collated, and to wonder where it has been hiding for all of these years. Why the cocaine spoon he used during his Ziggy phase isn’t on a revolving plinth in the British Museum is beyond me.
I think one of the nicest things to see was the range of people drawn in, admiring his work, his art, his prowess. It’s not something many are able to do. Everything the man has ever done has been with nothing but self respect and grace, he’s never said to much, he’s never been in it for the money and it shows because a decade on from Reality, people were ripping each other apart to get hold of the new Bowie album.
I read a review in The Guardian which claimed the exhibit was in some ways a way of cashing in or was just a promotional tool for the album but if the exhibition were to open anywhere and at any time it would receive exactly the same reaction. The same could be said for the album.

One of my favourite pieces was the room dedicated to Bowie in film. There’s a small cinema area screening scenes from his various on screen appearances; as Tesla, as Warhol, as Jareth. There’s a handwritten note from Jim Henson which accompanied the first draft of Labyrinth, for which Bowie was always in mind for, plus his crystal ball.

The exhibition is one of the most startling and encompassing things I have experienced and it was made all the more powerful by the fact it felt so exclusive within my own headphone world.
Within us all are those separate parts, the characters who want to glam up, and those who want to shy away. Bowie managed to cross back and forth between the two, teaching people it was okay to dress up, to want to look and feel and be different. It’s in part inspired a movement and a realisation and I’m so glad to have felt the bolt strike me.
It seems a million miles from BBC reports of the time addressing Bowie as some kind of (space) oddity and questioning his popularity, sexuality and performance.

We all need those small acts of rebellion and Bowie helped a lot of people to accept theirs.
Today I am wearing my girlfriend’s earring. It will mostly go unnoticed but to me, I’m a rebel rebel.

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