Bliss

It’s all we can do
To hold the world together.
An explosion of life
An eruption of love
Then fill the void
With anger.

A gunmetal sky hangs
Over restless waters.
A tsunami of need
Of restlessness
Of want
Stirs below the surface.

The maelstrom boils
And we ignore;
Occupy our time
With fripperies
Baubles
Well dressed celebrity.

Where will you be
When it ends?

Force of Nature

Fierce as a maelstrom

locked up in a jar.

Like lightning strikes

upon the sea;

the thunder of a heart.

 

It stirred a storm

Inside the soul.

Spans whirlwinds

through the mind.

 

Shook the foundations,

cracked to the core.

Surged like lava

through quivering vines,

twisted into veins.

 

It stalked like a predator,

hunted prey.

An early bird

who catches the worm;

spirits him away.

Seconds Out

In the red corner,

pensive.

Staring across a ring

a thousand

miles

wide.

Her adversary

only grins.

 

In the black corner,

weighing in

at the totality of life,

the grim reaper

flexes his bones.

A dry, ancient crackle

shivers her spine.

 

She wears

sorrow,

a dark veil,

a tartan skirt.

 

The reaper wears sequined shorts,

brazenly.

Emblazoned with his name.

Hanging

like

rags

from bony hips,

he shadow boxes;

queensbury rules.

 

The seconds are out.

She stands,

Bumps leather gloves

Together.

Wonders idly,

why the reaper

gets to use a scythe?

Negative Space – A Review

This is a review of a play that we went to see and was submitted as part of an assignment in my first year at Edge Hill University.

 

Negative Space is a stage production from the Reckless Sleepers, a UK/Belgium based theatre group.  The Reckless Sleepers have a philosophy about their work in which they embrace mistakes and accidents as part of the performance in the hope that it will add to the piece or help describe it in a way not thought of before.

This latest production is something of an oddity.  For a start, there’s no dialogue at all, the whole thing is pure physical theatre.  It takes place on a stage where, it’s fair to say, the real star of the show is a plasterboard cube in (and through) which the actors perform.  The performance begins with a single actor stood alone in the cube.  Not long after, another actor drops in from over the top of the wall and pretty soon there are actors everywhere, pulling and pushing at each other, leaving through holes in the floor or using ladders to climb out of the cube.  The whole thing was a little confusing, but I think it was meant to be some kind of love story.

Things started to become a little more interesting when one of the actors came crashing through one of the plasterboard walls and onto the stage.  From that point on, the whole performance became an orgy of destruction, slapstick and comedy violence.  From a fairly underwhelming start, the performance suddenly found some life.  Unfortunately, once you get over the initial surprise and delight of them smashing up the set, it loses its ability to hold the audience.

I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Reckless Sleepers were trying too hard to make art for art’s’ sake.  The performance just didn’t seem to have any direction and if there was supposed to be a plot, I couldn’t figure one out.  Overall I was left with the feeling that, yes, watching a group of people smash up a plasterboard room is quite cathartic, for a little bit at least, but ultimately I was expecting a little more substance with my style.

If you like your theatre to feel avant-garde while not really innovating at all, then perhaps Negative Space will be the show for you, but if you’d prefer something with a lot less pretension and a lot more plot, then I think you would be disappointed with this one.  It’s an interesting idea in theory, but in practice it turns out to be the equivalent of paying good money to watch plasterers work.  Now if they’d all been dressed as plasterers and the pseudo love story unfolded from that, it might have been a little more interesting.  As it stands right now though, Negative Space was disappointing, underwhelming and ultimately as flimsy as the plasterboard walls themselves.

Shopping and F**cking – A Review

Written as part of an assignment in my first year at Edge Hill University

Warning: Contains swearing.

 

Mark Ravenhill is a British playwright whose second play, Shopping and Fucking, propelled him into the forefront of contemporary theatre in the 1990’s.  He has since gone on to great success in the theatre, due in no small part to the popularity of this play.

Shopping and Fucking is a shocking and cynical look at the disposable world of 90’s England.  It opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1996 and was a major part of the Nineties movement known as ‘in-yer-face theatre’.  Despite the play now being 20 years old, it still manages to resonate the shock factor that put it in the forefront of the movement.  However it has to be said that a modern audience may not be as shocked with the complexities of the relationships between the characters in the play (who are, amusingly, named after members of the boyband Take That).  It’s a testament to a (little) more enlightened age that the relationship between Lulu, Robbie and Mark doesn’t seem as shocking or strange in 2016 as I imagine it did to a theatre audience in a time when homosexuality and pansexuality were not as accepted as they are today.

The plot of the play revolves around four characters; Mark, who used to work in the city but is now a recovering drug addict, Robbie, Mark’s jealous and insecure lover, their girlfriend Lulu and a sexually abused teenage prostitute called Gary.  Mark meets Gary and pays him for sex which serves up one of the plays many shocking scenes.  An unforgettable bedroom scene which includes analingus and blood.  This play is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Lulu goes for a job interview at a tv shopping channel where her sleazy boss gets her to audition topless before convincing her to sell Ecstasy for him.  Lulu agrees and involves Robbie in the dealing too, but when Robbie practically gives all of the pills away, they find themselves in trouble to the tune of £3,000.  After trying to set up a phone sex line, Mark introduces them to Gary and the four of them are faced with a life altering choice.

The themes behind the play, those of the disposable nature of the world and the fact that everything is treated as a commodity, still have relevance in the world today.  Perhaps even more so, as the slightly far fetched world in which the play is set resonates uncomfortably in the even more throwaway and commodity rich world of today.

Perhaps then, the most shocking thing about Shopping and Fucking is not the ‘in-your-face’ sexuality of its characters, or the pints of blood and sadomasochism.  Maybe it’s the fact that Ravenhill was onto something twenty years ago, he tried to warn us and we didn’t listen?  Whatever the answer, the play is hard hitting and darkly humorous, so if you’re not easily shocked and you have a strong stomach, I’d recommend watching Shopping and Fucking.

Kids – A Review

Written as part of an assignment in my first year at Edge Hill University

 

In 1995, Larry Clark arrived on the film scene with his directorial debut, the controversial film Kids.  Written by Harmony Korine, the film, styled as a documentary, explores the lives of a group of teenagers in New York City.  Hard hitting and challenging to watch, showing an unflinching view of teenage life in the mid 90’s, Kids has the feel of a dogme film about it.  

The film opens with a long and graphic kissing scene involving Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), the unforgivable and irredeemable fulcrum on which the whole movie turns, and a young girl in her bedroom.  The stuffed animals and juvenile quality of her room isn’t lost on the camera, despite the tight angle it’s constrained to.  Telly is trying to get the girl to sleep with him, having set himself the task of deflowering as many virgins as he can.  He says all of the right lines to make her feel special and convinces her to sleep with him.  We next see him on the street, boasting about his conquest and allowing his idiotic, sycophantic friend Casper (Justin Pierce) smell his fingers as proof of the deed.

This type of vulgarity is rife throughout the film, as the boys and their friends talk about drugs and sex almost constantly.  The roughness and frankness of the script is what gives the film its biggest impact.  Much of the script, though written by Korine, seems improvised which adds to the documentary feel of the film.  Leo Fitzpatrick says of Korine’s writing “Harmony was such a good writer and it was so natural…A lot of what we talked about in the movies we talked about in real life.”

Across town, Jennie (Chloë Sevigny) and her friend, Ruby (Rosario Dawson) are getting tested for STD’s at a clinic.  It’s here that Jennie is told that she’s HIV Positive and since Telly is the only boy she’s ever slept with, it could have only been contracted from him.

So begins the basic plot line on which everything else in Kids hangs.  It’s not an overly complicated plot; Jennie spends the whole film trying to track down Telly to tell him the bad news, but the film doesn’t require a complicated plot.  Instead it serves as a skeleton on which Clark and Korine hang their uncomfortably realistic cautionary tale.  Sevigny, in her debut role is just as powerful an actress as she always is.  Her portrayal of the naive and scared Jennie is brilliant, compelling the audience to feel both sympathetic and protective for her as she travels New York City in an ever desperate hunt for Telly.  

Ultimately though, despite her central part in the plot, even Jennie is just another tool that Clark and Korine use to show the disregard the boys have for everything around them.  Despite Sevigny’s acting prowess, Jennie is never more than a victim.  She is given drugs by a boy at one party and when she finally tracks down Telly, only to find him in bed with another young virgin, she falls into desolated unconsciousness in an armchair, where she is raped by a drunk and high Casper.

It is a testament to Korine’s writing and Clark’s refusal to pull punches that Kids still manages to shock nearly twenty years after its release.  It is never an easy watch at any stage and it feels purposely hard to feel any sympathy for the characters.  While the film will surely be in very bad taste for some viewers, there is no doubt that the hand held camera work and the punchy, hyper-realistic script provide a bleak and horribly reflective view of youth in 90’s New York.  

The God In My Head

We live in temporary spaces,
Our lives are turned corners of a page.
We breathe at the whim of a body
Over which we have only rudimentary control.
Love is fleeting,
Ephemeral.
Like a joke told a thousand years ago
That still echoes faintly in the room.
And here, now, when sex and intimacy
Are as legitimate and real
As Heaven and Hell to an atheist,
Is where I exist.
I exist at the whim of a mad god
Who lives inside my brain,
Who commands my body
And distributes my pain.
Like all atheists, I believed in him once,
And that was my mistake

Where does the time go?

Wow.  What a journey that first year at university was!  I’m so sorry you didn’t really get to experience it with me, I think I misjudged the volume of work when I said I’d keep this blog updated.  Still, I’m here now with plenty of time on my hands over the summer, so I’m going to try to keep it updated a little better.

Edge-Hill-University-Campus-Images-John-Johnson-34

Our amazing library.  This place saved my life more than once!

First things first, let me tell you how I felt my first year went; it went great.  It surpassed all of my expectations and managed to blow a few of my fears out of the water.  I’ve done well in the majority of the assessments that have already been marked, including an absolutely mind blowing 80% in one of them.  I still can’t believe that 80% mark is actually right!  The classes were all interesting and while sometimes it felt like we were feeling around in the dark without much guidance, I guess that’s just how universities operate.  A lot of the stuff you have to work out or decide on for yourself; it’s not like the less advanced kinds of further education, where you’re spoon fed the information you need.  The tutors seem to give you just enough to get you thinking and then the rest is really up to you.  It takes some getting used to, but I think I worked it out fine in the end.

The other thing I want to mention in this blog post is that I will be putting my assessment submissions up here on the website in the future, but in order to avoid the university’s plagiarism filter, I have to leave them off until they’ve been marked.  Look for them at the beginning of June, if you’re interested in how they turned out.

Other than that, thanks for sticking with me, those of you who still read these things!  I PROMISE I will try to keep this thing updated and will hopefully be adding new work and stuff as I keep my skills up over summer.  Unless I become world famous in the meantime, of course!

Be Excellent To Each Other!

Steven

 

Downtime/The Nexus

The two short exercises below were created as part of a homework assignment to create a ritual and describe it from the point of view of a native familiar with the ritual and then the point of view of an unseen observer who was unfamiliar with the same ritual.

 

Downtime

It’s funny how it’s always the same people who go into Downtime at the same time as me.  There’s the ‘office guy’, the grungy ‘alternative’ girl, the bookish student who always seems unsure of what she’s doing and of course, the ‘big dumb jock’.  I guess in our private little Breakfast Club, I’d be the loner, the guy who never quite fits in.  ‘Fitting in’ is a thing of the past now though, of course.

We all arrive at the booth at more or less the same time.  Dumb Jock is always last, dragging his feet in reluctantly.  He always has some smart mouthed comment for one of us, we always ignore him.  I like the booths, the beds are comfy, the sheer white of the walls makes me feel kind of pure, like after every Downtime I’m born again.  There’s still no better way of connecting to the Link.  This way has worked for years, with only a few neural overloads to speak of.  Acceptable losses.

It happens, as it always does, when we lie down on the beds.  The ‘trodes snake their way out of the underside of the bed and slide gracefully into the ports on our collarbones.  I love the tingly feeling you get as the connection is made and the reassuring click of the ‘trode into the port.  Office Guy doesn’t seem to like it much.  I guess he was an Original, he’s old enough to be one.

I can feel a woozy grin on my face as I slip down into the Dream, like I’m the happiest drunk in the world.  Everything goes dark for a moment as I close my eyes and feel the data begin to stream out of me.  Nothing else matters except the Stream now.  I feel the grin widen as I remember the TV ads; ‘Stream into the Dream, because caring is sharing!’

I’m dimly aware that something is wrong in the room, Bookish Student is convulsing.  There’s something wrong with her Stream.  Her gurgling and choking is the last thing I hear before the Dream hits.  Acceptable losses.

 

The Nexus

As I watch the feed on the camera, four people enter the small pod, followed a little later by a fifth.  They all seem like ordinary people; there’s an office worker, three students and another guy who thinks he’s a student or some kind of non-conformist anyway.  They don’t have much interaction with each other, aside from the male student saying something off colour to the girl in the ripped cardigan.  She flips him the finger before settling down on her cot.

That’s when it gets strange.  All five of them lie down, each one like the limb of a five pointed star, their heads close together in the centre of the structure.  I watch in confusion as wires seem to move from under the cots, as if they were alive and aware somehow.  These wires then move with purpose until they are pressed into the collarbone of each person.  At first I thought they had stabbed their way into the body, in the manner of a needle, but I was wrong.  In fact the wires entered the body through what appeared to be an access port on the bone.  I had no idea what to make of this.  Were these people actually machines?  Some kind of cyborg?

I continue to watch, fascinated and horrified at the same time by this spectacle in front of me.  This connection to the wires doesn’t seem to be harming the five of them, in fact they all look happy, peaceful almost, as the wires settled against their bodies, like a snake resting on a branch.  Then something begins to happen to one of the girls.  She tenses up, her whole body held tight for a few seconds before she begins to flail around, her hands unconsciously pulling at the wire.  She begins to foam at the mouth, and the foam begins to turn bloody as she bites into her tongue.  None of the others move or show any awareness.  No alarms sound.  While I’m still trying to take in what I’m seeing, the feed goes dark.

After the Crowd Have Gone/After the Crowd Have Gone – Unreliable Narrator

Written as part of an exercise in my Building the World class, the work below experiments with building a single room based on the stereotype of a faded sports star.  The work below the line is the same room, described by an unreliable narrator (Someone who is biased in some way and cannot be trusted to give a truthful description).

The room was a shrine to nostalgia.  Through afternoon light, dust motes danced in the shafts of sunlight breaching the hallowed place, reaching in like adoring fans used to do; begging for an autograph, a chance to touch the champ.  The floor, wooden and once polished to a spectacular sheen, was now rough and coarse in places, years of varnish peeled away in others like ancient skin on decaying bones.

The air was musty, smelling faintly of Mentholatum.  It lingered, recalling days gone by, when aching muscles were a consequence of action and competition, instead of a cold wind or sleeping uncomfortably in a chair.  Accompanying that bitter smell was the hushed smell of dust.  It whirled through the sunlight, infecting every corner of the room with forlorn memories.

Along the wall hung posters, each heralding a triumphant clash of wills.  All faded by time and neglect, their colours muted, the bombastic boasts silenced by the weight of years.  They were joined by a punching bag.  Heavy, leather and old, worn down through use.  It now hung limply from its bracket, useless to the arthritic hands of the one who owned it.

A shelf graced the other wall, gathering dust like everything else in the room and displaying trophies and statuettes, all covered in an ever present blanket of neglect.  They resonated with a melancholy that reached back from a better time.  Even the newspaper clippings, tacked so lovingly underneath the shelf, were yellowed and curled but spoke of fitness and youth and vitality.

In the middle of it all, he dozed; a relic in a reliquary of his own making.  A small, faded man.  His face worn and wrinkled by time and a thousand punches.  His hands, once strong and powerful, now nothing more than claws, warped by arthritis.  He sat and he slept, dreaming of a boxing ring long ago and a young man who was somebody.


This room smelled old.  As soon as I walked through the door, all I could smell was stale old, muscle gel.  The light was very dim, as if this whole place was from an old movie or one of those vintage photographs.  Everything was covered in dust, it coated all of the trophies and shelves like an old jacket.  Posters lined the wall, ranging in age from really old to just plain old.  They advertised fights and fighters I’ve never even heard of, much less care about.  The old guys trophies sat on a shelf, I think they might have been golden once, but now they were the colour of weak piss and not very impressive.

He even had a punching bag in here, a huge one that looked black, but I think might have been brown.  It looked like heavy leather.  It hadn’t been touched for decades, I was tempted to go over and give it a smack, but I was pretty sure it would fall off if I did.  Under the trophies, the old guy had newspaper clippings from his glory days.  Catchy headlines that told of his wins and the power of his punches.  Didn’t have any relevance to me, this guy couldn’t teach me anything anymore.

Speaking of which, there was the old guy himself.  He was sat in the middle of all this crap, like a crusty king on a throne of dust.  His hands were all twisted and looked like claws and his breath wheezed out of him as he dozed.  He was tiny, not the guy I’d seen in those old film clips.  It was as if someone had dropped him in a washing machine and shrunk him.  The champ?  Once, maybe.  Now though, he was just a lonely old has been.