Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nobody wants you around here and that's for sure

I went to bed with a fever last night. I was shaking and sweating, first hot and then cold. Oddly, I took this to be a positive sign. The good guys in my immune system had obviously realised there was a problem and had finally started attacking the bad guys. I slept like a log, and sure enough, woke in the morning feeling a tiny bit better. I’m still not well. I’m still coughing like a tubercular child. I probably won’t be as right as rain for some days yet, but I feel a very small corner has been turned.

Today I’ve been revisiting the music I wrote for The Busker Symphony, specifically the third movement, which I’ve been arranging for a choir. I think when the shit hits the fan, the only option you have is to work harder. This thought occurs every time I have a set-back in my life. Of course, a career in the arts is more to do with luck than anything else, but the one thing we, as creative people, can do to help ourselves is learn to do stuff better. I’ve never seen myself as a man with a great deal of natural talent. My musical skills were never prodigious, and I’ve always considered myself to be more of a grafter. “Must work harder” has therefore been my mantra for many years now.

This evening we went to see a Fringe production of Honk! The Ugly Duckling, at the Hidden Theatre. A friend of Nathan’s has sunk his life savings into the piece, and we went to give him moral support. I’m therefore hugely relieved to report that the show is both charming, and beautifully staged. It’s well worth a visit, if you want to smile for a couple of hours on a rainy September night. The little boy on the end of our row was watching with a look of wonder plastered across his face. Kids like him make the very concept of live theatre worthwhile.

I was horrified, however, to hear quite how much money the show seems to be losing Nathan’s friend. It’s just not fair. It’s not getting large enough audiences, which is really upsetting because it should. Perhaps it’s because the theatre is tucked away in the back end of beyond. I can’t imagine why anyone would chose to journey to the fringes of Wandsworth to check out a musical. Surely you go to Wandsworth to riot and steal trainers.

Nathan’s friend’s experience instantly took me back to 1997, when I haemorrhaged my Grandmother’s will on a production of an opera I’d written called Someone Whistled. The £10,000 I spent – and lost – on the show, was probably money that should have gone towards a deposit for a house. The experience of staging a show, that on some evenings, NO ONE saw, was an incredibly demoralising experience. The piece actually did even worse than our worse-case scenario predictions! I think the pasting we got in Time Out even put off some of our friends who otherwise might have come. I was relatively new to London, which meant I was still suffering from that invisible sensation that the Big Smoke offers to all of its recent inmates.

I remember Fiona and Philippa sitting me down in the bar of the theatre and letting me have it gently, but firmly; “if we pull this show a week early, we won’t have to pay the musicians, or the theatre, and we could save ourselves a thousand pounds which we simply can’t afford to lose.” It was that dreadful sinking feeling. It was like losing all of my Christmas presents in a terrible fire caused by a faulty fairy light that I’d bought on the cheap. Of course I’d convinced myself that the world and his wife were biding their time and would turn up en masse to see the show during the last week, and was hoping against hope that all our problems would be miraculously cured by a glorious review. But deep down I knew that no such review was on the cards, and that the girls were right. So, with a quivering bottom lip, I pulled the show, and limped back home to lick my wounds.

Friday 20th September 1661, and Pepys, very strangely, spent the day in a provincial East Midlands court surrounded by “country rogues” who “betrayed him.” Pepys lost the case – no doubt because he was seen as a hot-shot city type by these simple country folk; who included a smattering of faux intellectual types, no doubt the "bottom of the barrel" graduates from Cambridge University whose life could only be legitimised by lording it over a few villagers. The case itself was to do with a row over one of the finer points of Pepys’ Uncle’s Will – and Pepys lost property as a result. Life and art and all that... Or in this case life and life.

"Get out.. get out... get out of town!"

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