Sunday, September 28, 2008

Before The Talkies There Was Torquay

Level of conviction in own genius: 7.5
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Reading / Watching: just finished silly Greek philsophy mystery thing / The Wire Series 2, MOTD 2
Hair Day: Sundayish

It's the start of a fairly packed autumn for me as performer, teacher of note and composer; things kicked off notably at the private launch of King's Place, the fabulous new music and art venue in King's Cross, funded entirely by a tortoiseshell-spectacled businessman called Peter Millican. The credit crunch, as my Junior Trinity boss Marion said, had certainly not hit King's Place: the place was rammed with a thousand musical/arty/architecty/businessy types making the most of the fountains of free champagne and pick-your-own cocktails. juice were there as part of our new artvocal wunderkind BF and male-Bjork, Mikhail, who was commissioned by Peter M to create a piece that showed off the soaring, disorientating acoustic of the atrium space. So Mikhail wrote a beautiful piece for us and singer Claire Wilkinson whilst he did his usual growly extra-vocal thing over the top, all whilst wearing a canary yellow silk top, trousers made up of fat overruffled stuff and a specially-made 1.5 metre-long foam mask, sent from Milan no less. Unfortunately, what with the quaffing and hobnobbing, the guests were in no mood to shut their braying, champagne-guzzling traps for one nanosecond, and our performance was rather reduced to barking our parts out in a vain attempt to be heard. A shame, but still many did hear snippets, and we had plenty of our own shoulder-rubbing to do afterwards with various promoters, agents etc, all the while smiling beatifically and necking our third apple martinis.

The weekend was spent at the Riviera: not the posh French one, alas, but in Torquay, for the (deep breath) English Riviera International Comedy Film Festival 2008, where Bird's Eye View had got juice along for the third time to repeat our live vocals to silent film thang. Whilst the sight of palm trees and a gloriously sunsome sea view from my hotel window was to be wallowed in, there was not much else to celebrate in Torquay, and we all swiftly realised why we live in London, where you can pick up some quick food from 100 different eateries of varying nationalities and the choice of bar is not limited to Mambo's, which our taxi driver had enthusiastically recommended to us, informing us keenly that its rum mix of stag and hen dos, men dressed in togas and cheap booze would sort 'us girls' out a treat. Hhm. I prefer a night sipping melon-y wine whilst perusing a video-installation-cum-contemporary-dance night followed possibly by a late-night beigel, but I don't believe you can find that at Mambo's, even if it does stay open til 4am.

The gig itself was rather calamitous, what with everything technically falling apart and delaying the show for an hour, then only our DVD (and not Zoe Rahman and her drummer partner Pat's main showing) working. So we had to go on first and then entertain the bemused scattered few who weren't at Mambo's with an impromptu performance of 'lullaby for the witching hour' before the other DVD finally worked, albeit on a tiny screen. We were introduced rather flatly by comedienne Shazia Mirza (whose fortnightly column I read in the New Statesman religiously), whose caustic, uncompromising wit - her last show was called 'Fuck Off, I'm A Hairy Woman!' - seemed slightly suicidal in the Palace Theatre, Paignton, especially what with the audience mostly consisting of old ladies in the floral blouses. Ouch. There was more Shazia to come, at the 'Gala Night' afterwards, which was like 'Phoenix Nights' on acid. Torquay's whitest-skinned, ruddiest-cheeked men and most 80's throwbacked (and not in a Star of Bethnal Green way - it was like the Breakfast Club in there) women came dressed in their finest to sit at tables garlanded with balloons and little gold stars and take part in an auction, see some short films and hear some comedy. The strange hunchback local comedian seemed to deliberately not know how to pronounce her name in a racist-tinged way and I wanted to curl up and die, particularly knowing how Shazia's face had dropped when she'd entered. But dang, you have to give her credit: that woman has balls. Her required 30 minutes turned into an hour, and she went for it full pelt, letting them in gently with friendly jokes about Primark and flying before talking about taking it up he ass and how 'WAGS' is a grammatically-incorrect term and it should of course be... you fill in the blanks and watch us whiteys squirm. She was brilliant, and afterwards we Londoners celebrated back in the safety of our thick-carpeted, thickly-upholstered hotel bar. Very fun hanging out with a famous comedienne, a Mercury-nominated pianist, our old York acquaintance and now TV producer Alex and the Bird's Eye Crew. Shazia probably didn't really get our sound (she asked if we'd thought about going on X Factor...) but over breakfast had taken our email address to give to her cabaret promoter friend. Celebs rule!

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