Last Sunday night I found myself at the very top of the Eiffel Tower, forcing my way through jostling throngs to get a better view of the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is a large monument in Paris, France, which was made famous by the 1985 film “A View To A Kill” in which Grace Jones jumps off the top with a parachute to escape the clutches of Roger Moore.
The ticket office had clearly admitted far too many tourists. We could barely move up there, and the situation was not improved by the ear-splitting alarm that suddenly reverberated throughout the viewing balcony. There was an audible collective intake of breath from the tourists, who knew full well that if a fire had broken out there would be no chance of survival. Unlike Grace Jones, we had not had the foresight to bring parachutes.
Worse still, there was the very real possibility of a terrorist attack, especially considering that this day marked the one hundredth anniversary of the Titanic disaster. As all educated people know, the sinking of the Titanic was one of Al-Qaeda’s most devastating blows to Western civilisation.
It was at this point that the director of our Vox Pop team, Dan Herd, phoned to inform me of the outcome of the public vote on the nabokov website. The public had voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Spanish Prostitute news story. This, they felt, was more in need of a theatrical response than uranium enrichment in Iran, the victims of rendition to Libya, security concerns at the Olympic Games, or the continued erosion of civil liberties by the coalition government.
This is precisely why I do not believe in democracy.
Dan was annoyed that I had been unable to make the meeting in person, and that I had instead been, as he put it, “gallivanting around the continent”. Over the course of this week I have discovered that this kind of brusque, boorish sentiment is not untypical of Mr Herd. But more of that later.
Now a lesser writer would be daunted by the prospect of writing to such a strict deadline. Thankfully, I am up to the task. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said “any play that takes more than a week to write is not worth writing”. (Well, he may not have said exactly those words, but he’s long dead and unlikely to sue.)
Our team consists of two actors (Rosie Wyatt and Harry McEntire), a group of minstrels known as Jonny and the Baptists, and the aforementioned Mr Herd. I would like to be able to say that the collaborative process has been a pleasure, and that working with such a diverse range of artists has been an intellectually and emotionally stimulating experience. But that would be dishonest. These people really are a lot of hard work.
Against all the odds, I managed to produce a rough draft of a script in time for our first rehearsal on Tuesday. To say that the group failed to appreciate the brilliance of my work is to understate the case enormously. They just didn’t get it. I had written a layered, nuanced, moving piece that defied all known modern conventions of British theatre. It was a kind of mini-masterpiece, a devastating deconstruction of societal norms and sexual rectitude, an extravaganza of blood, bile, and broken dreams. At the risk of sounding arrogant, it was easily as good as anything written by Pinter.
So when Dan suggested that I, in fact, “couldn’t write for shit”, I was most disgruntled.
To be fair, people often find me intimidating, and their reaction is usually one of unmitigated hostility. It’s probably a combination of my artistic prowess and my chiselled good looks. Also, I wonder whether deep down Dan realises that in taking on one of my scripts he is clearly out of his depth.
There’s also undoubtedly a certain degree of sexual tension. I mean, Dan claims to be “straight” but I think if we’re being honest we all know that heterosexuality is a hoax.
By Wednesday, Jonny and the Baptists had written a number of songs and incorporated them into the piece. They have, effectively, sabotaged the whole project. I will not mince my words as they have minced my script. There comes a time when one has to take a stand.
Now I love music as much as the next man. I was once introduced to Adamski at a cocktail party. But music has its place, and that place is about a million miles away from groundbreaking, subversive theatre. (Also, Jonny’s comments about my supposed sexual predilection for crayfish were so wide of the mark that I shan’t waste my breath on a retort.)
And as for the “actor” Harry McEntire, I am not for one moment fooled by his cherubic, embryonic face. Within that tiny chest beats the heart of a spiteful egomaniac, insanely jealous of my superior talents. He has attempted to undermine me at every turn, and has even insisted in delivering his lines in a Scottish accent. It will not do.
But I will not be browbeaten. My parents didn’t spend all those years lashing me with cheese wire for nothing. I am made of stern stuff indeed, and I am confident that this Sunday’s audience will ultimately be able to see through these various attempts to destroy my play. Beneath the vulgar veneer of music, slapstick, and unnecessarily regionalised characterisations, the sensitive viewer will discern the bare bones of a theatrical tour de force.
I know that I am better than this. And, as the only Catholic in the group, I will at least have the consolation of eternal salvation.
Send my regards to Satan, bitches.
22 April 2012 // Time 6pm
Soho Theatre // Dean Street // London // W1D 3NE // Closest Tube: Tottenham Ct Rd / Leicester Sq.
Tickets // Price £10 // 020 7478 0100, www.sohotheatre.com