Sunday, 17 April 2016

Blog 20.16 #7: Soundsystem Gonna Bring Me Back Up (right)!

I’ve never arrived to a demo so early that the road’s were still open.

We navigated perplexed taxi drivers as we swarmed into the London street and we steered the Protest Trolley into position.  It slipped past the usual People’s Front of SWP, Socialist Party, Worker’s Liberty, Green Party and Others stalls peppering the route.  We found a spot, stopped and prepared for the march.

This was another People’s Assembly march, the annual leftie outing for the country to descend upon the capital.  I’m always slightly cynical about these marches, the route is generally closed off to the public for most of the way, it’s hardly reported in the news and has no threat to the politicians who are committed heinous crimes against the poorest in society across the UK.  They’re probably having a day off in their second home.  Their second homes with the skins of disabled people for curtains and fine wines infused with the blood of steel workers.  Chateau de Sheffield.

But, it’s always important to feed into these marches.  For your own sanity, it’s a reminder people across the country are feeling the same rage at this oppressive system.

This was the first march I’ve been on where we’ve provided the soundsystem.  The night before, I’d spent all evening carefully calculating a playlist of punk, ska, hip-hop and reggae, only to have my Generic MP3 Device die on me before the march actually started.  Drained of life, like the orphans Osborne keeps plugged into The Mechanism in his basement (read:  dungeon).  Suddenly it became a juggling job of switching between the phone of a marcher from Thirsk (mostly hip-hop) and my phone (a limited array of punk & ska).  But wonderful things can happen when you’re limited, you get creative.  Fight For Your Right To Party was suddenly the perfect crowd-pleaser, whilst the Star Wars Imperial March outside Forbidden Planet dedicated to the Evil Empire totally made sense.  My only regret is I couldn’t play X-Ray Spex, as one woman has a patch on her bag, and it was painfully clear most songs we played were by men.

Playlists is something I’ve always loved creating, but that’s usually to make people entertained between band sets, not necessarily keep them angry on a 90 minute stomp round London!  With help from people lending their phones and suggestions, I’d say we still managed to create a buzzing atmosphere from tracks as diverse as B.Dolan’s Which Side Are You On, The Skints, ONSIND, Operation Ivy, Captain Ska, Akala and Lowkey.

The highlight was playing Dear Mr Cameron by Richie Blitz outside Downing Street.  Who’d have thought that when Richie brought out that song back in June 2011, 5 years later it would be a rallying call.

It was a privilege to march alongside trade Unionists, disabled people, young people, students and folks from across the UK.  It’s empowering to stand (or rather sit) alongside Sisters Uncut and anarcha-feminist black blockers, to listen to the grievances of the National Barge Traveller’s Association.  As much as their chant:

1-2-3-4 where are we supposed to moor?
5-6-7-8 how we going to navigate?

Was amusing, one gentleman said to a Police officer “I’ve had my lifestyle outlawed three times” it shows the diversity of targets the Tories abuse.  There is only one way of life:  Theirs.  Rich, greedy and stinking of a Born To Rule hierarchy so out-dated the calendar needs to be tossed out.

Currently myself and director Natalie Quatermass are making a new show about punk, politics, protest and dinosaurs.  It’s about how music, specially raw DIY music, matters and inspires.  It’s called Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor and ready for touring in 2017

Normally, people chant a bit, but without and audience, it becomes a bit of a trudge.  With a soundsystem, we could create some energy and life in the centre of London and the march.  We got people bouncing, singing and dancing.  That seems a great gift, so thanks to Graham from York People’s Assembly for providing the Protest Trolley and asking me to help put some tunes together.

Without music, the revolution is just trudging.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

20.16 Blog #6: The Pinterverse

The Pinterverse

I can’t remember my first introduction to Pinter, but over the course of my Gap Year I devoured his plays and entered Uni with him as my favourite play-wright.  Thanks to some ace tutors who were experts in the area, I spent a good few modules unpacking Pinter’s famous pauses.

What was it about Pinter I loved?  As a language boff, I loved how power games are played using only words, and little action.  I loved his political undertones, and how in later years his political activism was a beacon for writers and artists everywhere to not only write about, but grapple with, right-ring and tyrannical systems.

In The Caretaker, the figure of Davies is problematic in 2016 as a scrounger.  He’s a down-and-out, his he’s a shirker and manipulator and, sympathetically a lost soul, but it’s also too easy to brand him as lazy against the brothers Aston and Mick.  Worrisome where the government and the press whip up paranoid against the working classes as scroungers (not that many working class folks were in this matinee performance at the Old Vic).  Spall at times cartoon-ished the chracrter, playing for laughs and gibbering, compared with David Bradley’s a few years ago who was a more threatening menacing presence.  There never seemed much danger on stage, and while it was a very funny production, it has the feel of a sitcom rather than a text from the birth of ‘theatre of menace’.

But I think my favourite aspect of Pinter’s writing is the theory that all his characters exist within the same shared universe, just like the shared universes of DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Quentin Tarintino and theoretically Pixar.

Ben and Gus in The Dumb Waiter work as a pair of hitmen just like Goldberg and McCann act as interrogators and kidnappers in The Birthday Party.  There’s no real hint these two are gangsters, or even criminals.  They don’t seem to question the legality of their actions, only Gus is challenged by the morality.  Police are never mentioned.  The organisation is shady, could it be the same organisation that Nicholas works for in One For The Road?  Could Stanley in The Birthday Party end up like Victor in OFTR?  Are the characters in New World Order, Party Time and Celebration also high-ranking officials?  Do their governments institute the camps in Mountain Language?  Do they run The Hothouse?  Was Aston from The Caretaker in The Hothouse?

The fact is, Pinter loves presenting characters in power, and it would be easy to say that his plays all explore the people pulling the strings, but with the exception of Mountain Language and OFTR, we never really see the characters suffering at the bottom.  The inhabitants of the Hothouse are never seen, the to-be-deceased of New World Order have no presence.

Or do we?  His world is littered with tramps, from Davies the tramp to Riley in The RoomThe Birthday Party’s Stanley is something of a person living off-the-radar, the stranger in A Slight Ache.
But the working classes do suffer a total break-down of language and control.  The ruling classes, from day 1, have been twisting language.  How can the working class ever change their world when they don’t understand the language of their world?

Victoria Station features the total failure of a simple day-to-day situation, Last To Go shows total disconnection, The Basement a circular piece of combat, A Slight Ache defining and redefining a stranger, Family Voices shows a home without a heart, in The Homecoming the characters are locked in a struggle with their masculinity, in Precisely the speaker has nothing but bitter memories. 

Where do the ‘memory play’ characters of A Kind of Alaska and Betrayal fit in?  Doctors and publishers.  Doctors who define medical conditions, publishers who define text.

No Man’s Land, though Pinter’s most self-referential play and far from my favourite, is perhaps the greatest insight.  The two writers.  One a great writer, one struggling.  Are they happy? Not really, but that’s not unusual for Pinter’s characters.  But the world is a No Man’s Land of language.  We can’t get anywhere.  We have been trapped by powers who rephrase, rework and retool meanings. It constantly shifts, and yet remains the same.  Pinter’s locations, characters and plots change, and yet remain the same.

Avoidance.  Evasion.  Radical.  Extremist.  Domestic.  Contracts.  Terms & conditions.  Safety.  Scrounger.  Red Tape.  Education.  Value.  Reform.  Ban.  Welfare.  Unemployed.  Modernising.  Nimbyism.  Markets.  Assets.  Worker.  Disabled.  Nationality.  Relevant.  Quality.  Democracy.  Who owns, controls and (re)defines these words?

I’d like to make one further interjection.