There's a built-in imbalance to this space, too. I still don't know who impressed in my mind the notion that the ideal relationship to have with one's writing (or creative work of whatever kind) is that you take everything to it -- your sadness, your happiness, your inspirations, your frustrations; perhaps most importantly, your doubt in relation to your work, and your inability to write what you want to write: but, at any rate, it feels more and more that Thompson's is functioning lopsidedly in that respect. That I turn to it only with doubt and unhappiness; that when things are full-on Tony-the-Tiger grrrreat -- as they sometimes are, I promise you -- I'm much too busy playing on the swings and generally pretending to be in an early Housemartins video to come here and tell you all about it. Maybe I come here to say the things I can't say to anyone: which, given that these words consistently reach the biggest audience I have, is manifestly bizarre, practically psychotic. But, oh, whatever, it's a thing to do, isn't it. Whereas sitting scrolling through the names on my phone and discovering all the reasons why I can't call that person or that person or that person and be sad while they listen feels like a thing to not do, or not even a thing really. Anyway, you get the picture. Skip it if you want. It's not like I don't apprehend the tendency towards monotonousness. I feel like very early Philip Glass, sitting in an abandoned downtown loft sounding the same E minor chord for nine days without a break.
Notwithstanding a truly bleak Monday morning rush hour experience -- over two torturous hours in the rain (falling mainly on the train) to get from home to Sidcup, which is hardly a kneetrembler of a destination at the best of times -- I'm mostly gloomy tonight because Jonny's gone, and that basically sucks. We've been together for most of every day for the past seven weeks and it's been an extraordinarily intense friendship, as well as an exceptionally intrepid and challenging working relationship; I'm sure the work and the friendship will persist but to not be around him for the next few weeks will be painful in itself from day to day, but also compounded by a miserable suspicion that, despite our mutual reassurances to the contrary, we won't ever quite recover the space we've been in, at least not its emotional charge. And, no, ok, something else will replace it, and that will be good too. But, fuck, I've felt more alive in the past two months than in the last ten years put together, and all my very real (and completely exhausted) gratitude for that is inevitably shaded by the desire to live always like that. Which would kill me: and I dare say that's partly what I mean -- that unhinged but not meaningless desire to actually be the carcrash I feel like I'm endlessly implying.
This is not just the [Edward] Lear-ish turn towards (specifically, and quite carefully) self-defeating nostalgia -- in the very midst of what's brilliant and beautiful, the anguish that nothing else can ever possibly be so brilliant and beautiful again. Though I am a bit susceptible to that. Nor is it [Walter] Pater's boggle-eyed anti-entropic fantasy about (is this right?) "burn[ing] always with a hard, gem-like flame". I think mostly what this speaks to is the incredible loneliness of theatre-making, a loneliness that has almost entirely consumed me many times, and which feels wretchedly, and rather abusively, paradoxical, given the insistence of theatre -- and my quite militant endorsement of that insistence, in the face of certain (previously?) entrenched models of playwriting etc. as dependent on or powered by seclusion and individuality -- on its social aspect as the most profound element in its various contracts.
What is that loneliness? It's the signal, I suppose: which will always be broken in transit, and the sacrifice of which is itself ineluctably and bountifully theatrical. But the impulse that begins within me, as a vision -- often tremblingly indistinct or inchoate or literally impossible to hold: but a vision, if we can say that, if that's not too histrionic. A vision of the work. In the early days, that really was about stage pictures, and it still quite often is. Now more often though it's a vision to do with the social, the civic and political contexts of theatre-making: talking about which, even (or perhaps especially) among fellow practitioners, is sometimes like describing a dream: elusive in the mind, banal on the lips, boring as it arrives in the other's ears. Even among my closest peers, those I most admire for their work and their sense of their work, when I talk about the specifically anticapitalist basis for my conception -- my vision -- of my own practice, I feel like a Scientologist or something: that if I'm lucky there will be polite nodding... Well, I don't need to be agreed with, but don't I crave to be argued with? Will someone please reject the premises of the question? Something?
Well, no; and, fine, except -- and perhaps this indicates how little I actually want to be argued with -- as people have started coming through with more developed, or at least more confidently stated, responses to Hey Mathew, I become more and more aware of how the piece may have failed in some of its objectives, and of how among even pretty sophisticated audiences there is still deep hostility to certain kinds of display or behaviour or apparent challenges to propriety -- that perhaps we took too much on, or set it up in a way that indicated a profound and in some ways terrible underestimation of the amount of travel that the piece would require an audience to be willing to undertake. I mean it's all right for me, I sit with these ideas all day and most of the night.
So what's devastating about this is not so much having been (perhaps) wrong in some important ways about what the piece could do, or aspire to do, but that by misjudging the level of noise around spectators' perceptual and phenomenological relation to the piece, we, I, seriously misrepresented our argument for it, our sense not only of the necessity of the work and the importance of its scope, but of the distance between those things and an audience coming cold to the room, which seems in some cases to have produced not merely a caricature of our intention but actually its direct antithesis. So that some people in talking about the work have used words like shock, and pornography, and self-indulgence, all of which are categories of experience that the work was seeking quite concertedly to eliminate. Add to this the harm that I seem to have done by managing the project badly -- and how excruciating, to be given (by Alan Lane and Theatre in the Mill) this incredible opportunity to "make the work you want to make, that you can't make anywhere else", and to set about doing so, only to find that in making that work one has still failed to make the work one wants to make, exactly because it has, however inadvertently, caused harm and distress, even (and/or albeit) at the most basic administrative level.
So this obviously terminates in a question like what the fuck am I doing?, and what makes that spiky right now is that, miraculously, I've found in Jonny someone with whom, at worst, the gap is very small, so the noise is very small, and the visions seem to arrive intact and shareably and in open-source formats; at best, we dream the same things, period. Not least because of the public performances of Hey Mathew, our relationship seems to be quite misunderstood and even mistrusted, which is a shame, because it only overheats our tendencies to Whitmanesque self-involvement. (I'm thinking, not least, of "We two boys together clinging", which we can now chalk up on the already uncontainable list of things that are exciting when I think them but turn out to be fucking creepy when I say them out loud.) But it has been incredibly reassuring to feel, sounded in the various proximities of Jonny, that there's something true and dependable and shareable in what I envision, which is, after all, the greater and by far the more decent and potentially worthwhile part of who I am.
Well, screw it, what's all this for. I wasn't lonely for a while, in my work, and now I am again, tonight at 00.34, and what do I expect to do about that. Go to bed, presumably.
This will all be OK. There's lots of stuff to be excited about. I have my new batch of MA students at Rose Bruford -- met them for the first time today -- only three, this year, but all smart and capable; I'm going to take them to the (really thrilling, I thought) Warhol show at the Hayward on Wednesday and see if I can't spoil their minds. There's a new home show starting to come together, with Lucy Ellinson, which I think will be beautiful. I'm still reeling from a design meeting at the weekend on King Pelican -- my eyes literally fell out of my head like wilted deely-boppers and I had to put them back in with a warm teaspoon. It turns out that ...Sisters won't, after all, tour in the summer, which is a shame; but Wound Man and Shirley continues to murmur at the edge of my field of vision: the other night, feeling seriously wibbly, almost Mahlerianly so, I stupidly -- the kind of stupidity that's actually weirdly optimistic in its effects -- sank a bottle of wine and performed the script to myself, with some carelessly selected hand movements, and loudly pronounced myself a genius, before tumbling into the kind of sleep that I really ought to be delivering myself unto at this precise moment.
So that's all good. Right? ...Except my fear is that what I'm describing is partly about sustaining a way of life (at least through until next summer) that seems also to require levels of self-examination and engagement that make me, or reveal me to be, unhappy and self-doubting to a degree that seems unsustainable. And, no, it wouldn't be any better chucking all this in and becoming, er, something else. (The careers aptitude test at school suggested 'road haulage manager' -- for which, perhaps, it really is never too late; but, no.)
Well. Enough, no more. It may be -- I begin to wonder -- that my therapy over the summer left me unable, or unwilling at least (or not bothered enough), to lie; well, OK; but perhaps I've also wound up too compelled to speak, or not knowing when to shut up. This is all really, really self-defeating, isn't it? I mean I make these jokes about shooting myself in the foot and other organs but, Xt, my career trajectory, such as it is, has taken me from 'promising' to 'maverick' (yeah, me & McCain) to 'underused' in about five years. We know how that arc ends, don't we? 'Embarrassing', next (or now, maybe); then 'troubled'; then 'who?' ...Dot dot dot... Then finally 'Ding, fries are done', and, as the sainted Gore taught us to say, meretricious and a happy new year.
Apple pie, anyone?