And there goes my attempt to recap my shows chronologically. I will write up my notes on Badlands Jack’s loop from when I followed him just after Christmas at some point, but I want to get these snapshots done now. It’s the final part of the grieving process for me, I think.
* Giving a goodbye nod to Ace in the elevator, and making a mental note to drop by later to see him rocking out in Studio Three. We’re all friends here, right? Right.
* Walking quickly through the town to the trailer park, wanting to find Jack as soon as possible, wondering what sort of mood he’ll be in. He’s sat in his darkened trailer, agitated, mumbling and cursing to himself. I sigh in relief; for Jack, that’s normal.
* Seeing him pull a girl into his trailer for a one-to-one, snarling at her to get inside and practically throwing her over the threshold. I loiter outside until the door opens, and he peers out and beckons me over. As I draw close he grabs my arm and drags me inside, leaving the door open but looming over me, trapping me in a corner.
"Seen you followin’ me, boy… and I don’t *like* bein’ followed…" There’s a dangerous moment of silence as he eyeballs me.
"…but I like you…" He pulls out his whiskey, takes a belt and gives me a shot.
"I’ll see you later, boy… Salute!"
* Walking into town, we pass Sonya Cullingford’s Seamstress at work in her shop. Jack peers through the window, watching her making a lucky necklace charm. She stares out at him, all wide-eyed innocence as she loops the necklace cord tight around her long elegant neck, then deliberately cuts the cord short with a sharp snap of her shears. Jack flinches; this has all sorts of bad associations for him. Unsettled, he moves on…
* The hoedown and ensuing bar fight, Jack not involved in the violence but appreciative of it. Bohren’s Texas Keller blaring out of the jukebox, Jack restlessly slapping the bar in time with the discordant organ stabs, a rapid one-two-three.
* Remembering that I have a date with Ace in Studio Three, I make my way down there and leave Jack for later…
* And it seems Ace was bang on the money earlier — he’s very much among friends here tonight. Studio Three is packed with appreciative well-wishers who’ve come to say goodbye and to enjoy a final dose of his trademark swinging Gloomy Sunday. Lexie Fortune’s introduction to her wingman is so heartfelt and touching that more than a few of us are choking up a little even before he gets on stage… but when that boy starts to swing, the bittersweet sadness all blows away and what’s left is a lovely celebration of everything he’s given us for the past few months, and we’re all on our feet giving him the standing ovation he so richly deserves. Bon voyage, Ace.
* Emerging from Studio Three, I wander back to find Jack for a different farewell. As I head over there, the contrast between Ace’s fond farewell in Studio Three and the bleak fate that awaits Jack starts to prey on my mind and I start feeling more than a little nervous. I hope he’s still hanging in there…
* By the time I catch up with him it’s coming up to the end of the second loop, and I reach him just as he vanishes into his trailer with a mask for the reset. As I wait outside, I notice for the first time that someone has daubed graffiti on the wall by his trailer: [HIT THE JACK]. It raises a little smile, but I don’t quite get it; maybe it’s an in-joke, or poker slang, or something.
* The third loop begins. All evening I’ve been feeling the tension and momentum building and building, and now it just *explodes*. It feels like we’re barrelling out of control, like a train tearing free of the tracks…
* The trailer door *slams* open and Jack bursts out, fury incarnate. He stalks into town, his drunken swagger no longer threatening violence but now promising it, the universally recognisable walk of the righteously pissed-the-fuck-off, fists clenched by his side, itching for an excuse to use them.
* In the town square an oblivious mask doesn’t see Jack coming and they bang shoulders. Jack freezes, tensing every muscle in his body, restraining his instinct to lash out. Excruciatingly slowly, he turns to eyeball the mask, a growl rising deep in his throat. The mask hightails it, and Jack untenses slightly and carries on…
* As we pass the window of Seamstress’ shop she repeats her cute little dance with the noose and the scissors. But this time Jack feels like the more dangerous of the two. He sneers through the window, a thin, ever-so-breakable sheet of glass which is all that is between him and the Seamstress right now. He stares her out for so long that she starts to look nervous, but then he turns away and moves on. She’s damn lucky that she’s not worth his time.
* In the center of town, we catch up with Harry as he leaves the drugstore. I brace myself for Jack’s reaction when he discovers that Harry can’t pay his debt, worried that Harry won’t escape with just a little humiliation this time around. Harry apologises over and over, wringing his hat in his hands in nervousness. Jack shows his teeth in a savage grin that has little to do with humour… then to my surprise slaps Harry on the shoulder, snarls at him to keep the money, and good luck to him. Harry can’t his believe his luck but he has no idea just how fortunate he is right now.
* Inside the store, Isabelle’s Drugstore Girl finally concedes to Jack’s request for a dance. It’s under duress, and she’s clearly not happy, but it’s a gesture at least.
* Out in the woods, Jack catches up with Andy. My heart is in my mouth; Jack is at boiling point and itching for an excuse for a fight, and here it comes… They circle each other like stags about to butt antlers, hands clenching and unclenching, sizing each other up, then lunge forward with terrifying speed… and grab in a tight bear-hug, clapping each other on the back and laughing in pleasure. They loosen their grips slightly, walk to the bar grinning, their arms tight around each other’s shoulders, their differences forgotten for one night.
* A little male bonding time in the bar. A shot each becomes two shots each, becomes a row of a dozen or more as they drain the bottle dry. Andy takes to the ceiling for his breathtaking bar dance, beaming back at Jack as he swings effortlessly from the rafters. Jack reclines on the bar with a bottle, toasting and cheering him on, honest admiration and affection practically shining out of his face. Guy friendships are so, so beautiful. Seeing them like this… man, it gets you right there, brings a lump right to your throat. So much unsaid, but you know it runs so deep that words just aren’t needed.
* The hoedown, and despite being spurned by Drugstore Girl and Faye, Jack isn’t content to dance by himself tonight. He grabs a lady from the crowd and spins her around. When she drops out, dizzy and exhausted, he grabs another girl and gives her the same treatment. C’mon… dance wth Jack…
* Back to the tiny motel room with his mystery package. Jack’s reaction to opening it is always explosive as he bounces off the walls trying to escape. Tonight his crowd of followers is so large that he barely has room to move, and as he throws himself back and forth we gently catch him in our hands to stop him slamming into us. It feels almost like we’re comforting him, protecting him from himself in his moment of agony.
* His fate revealed, he bursts out of the room and back to his trailer, and we run after him…
* We catch up to him looking at the graffiti on the wall by his trailer, the cryptic message whose meaning was lost on me earlier. He pulls out a piece of chalk and adds the missing word in the middle to complete it: [HIT THE ROAD JACK]
* He’s snarling like a dog, cursing himself, damning the world to hell. He rips off his leather waistcoat and throws it to the floor, then his shirt, and then the wife-beater vest. The belt and knife follow, then the jeans, until he’s stood there in his underwear. A quick foray into his trailer and he emerges with a bottle of liquor. He raises it to his lips and tilts his head back to gulp down a final shot, then just pours the remainder all over his body, splashing it on his trailer, ready to send it all sky-high.
* Wild-eyed, staring into the ring of surrounding masks. “Who’s got a light? Who’s got a fuckin’ light? Someone show me the goddamn light!”
* Terrified silence, then someone tentatively holds out a lighter. He grabs for it, sparks it, and tries to light himself up…
* Mercifully it doesn’t take, and he throws it away. ”Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck them all…” He curses as he strides towards the bar, almost at a run, the huge crowd of masks bursting unprompted into heartfelt appreciative cheers and applause.
We do our best to run after him but there are way, way too many of us to cram into the bar, and for most of us that’s the last we see of him: striding furiously towards the finale, clad only his underwear, coated in liquor, and swearing fit to make a sergeant blush. But as final images go, that’s pretty goddamn hard to beat.
Very glad that at least Jack went out with a bang!
I recently spent my first loop inside Temple Studios in the desert for no other reason than I had an uber-geeky desire to watch a series of resets fall like dominoes.
In a perfect world, this would be a gentle, elegiac recap full of shadows and sadness and renewal, but in the real world…well, you’ll see.
* That night was my last chance to catch Laura Harding as the Dust Witch. Unless you’re a 1:1 hunter, the only thing that matters to me when it comes to following Dusty is an arresting walk and a pair of magnetic hands. Laura Harding’s Dust Witch has a still, enigmatic presence that calmly draws white masks towards her with an effortless grace. Standing on the periphery of the desert, hearing the soft twinkling chimes as the lights beam from behind those tiny pinpricks in the tin chapel - as her Dust Witch stands, hands outstretched - I feel the tiniest, deepest of pangs. Between you, me and the rest of the internet, Laura Harding was one of my favourite performers, and I miss her already.
* Luke Murphy’s Dwayne enters to our far right, tearing off his socks, his shoes, his shirt, unaware of the cluster of masks following him and our little congregation by the scarecrows. He is closed off, trance-like, as the audience pours after him. Meanwhile we desert rats wait with the Dust Witch as she collects his clothes. A white mask hands her a black handkerchief, and as she takes it and proceeds to follow Dwayne, I realise how little I still understand of the desert and the Dust Witch and this strange sandswept space.
* Seeing Ygal Jerome Tsur (yey! he’s back!) as William, paired with Laure Bachelot’s Mary - a match made in heaven/hell as they tug you in opposing directions, both equally sympathetic, both equally reprehensible.
* William’s face is stark, immobile, as his arm tightens around Mary’s neck. Jerome Ygal Tsur’s huge eyes glaze over, a chilling, fleeting shutdown of all senses. In his arms, Mary struggles in the vice of his embrace, grimacing and panicking, her anguish turning her placid face ugly and desperate…
* It’s the same murder, give or take, every night. But the way it’s experienced by us white masks is different each time. I am struck by the brutality of William’s behaviour, paired with his complete lack of comprehension as he realises Mary has disappeared once he is left clutching her nightgown.
*William, tumbling down the sand. William, scrambling back up, staring at us. William - falling. William. Lost.
* Later, seeing Mary, crouched in the sand, as if spat out by the shrine.
* Then Andy - Tomislav English, his last bloody show - encountering Kath Duggan’s Lila - a confused, enchanted fleeting crossover…
Now, the die-hards of you will know that the next recap is out of sequence, and should strictly fit between the Dust Witch and William. But it is so different in tone from the above, I think it deserves it’s own segment. I don’t know if Carl Harrison is still around? I hope so, I think he’s brilliant…but this little memory made him godlike for a solid five minutes.
* I spy Miguel over in the corner office, crowded by white masks. Hovering in the doorway, I see Carl Harrison’s wise man is almost in his scarecrow costume, and from the charge in the room I could put a tenner down on who’ll be staying - a timid, blind-terrified girl skulking in the corner whose only hope of escape is an epic dash to the door, unless Miguel lets her off the hook. If I were a Punchdrunk performer, I’d be having Miss scaredy-cat in a heartbeat.
* A front-line of 1:1 hopefuls are queuing up in front of Miguel, but he turns his back on the lot of them and extends his hand to the shy girl in the corner. Her entire body language shifts; she is startled, alert - she stands taller, but even from where I am, I can see she’s trembling as she takes his hand. What we’re seeing, if it’s anything like what happened to me on my first show, could be a subtle but significant life-altering moment. For the sake of her sleep, her credit rating, and her sanity - I hope not. For the sake of her dreams and her joy and her imagination, I kind of hope it’s only the beginning…
For your enjoyment, I advise you imagine the Benny Hill theme tune playing while reading from hereon in…
* Miguel begins the slow, firm progress towards all other audience members, gently pushing them out of the room in advance of his 1:1.
* But one girl - she will. not. move. Seriously. Ain’t no mountain high enough. Whatever Miguel tries, she refuses to budge.
* I should say that I don’t think this girl was gunning for a 1:1. I think she was doing precisely what I did on my first show, which goes a little something like this..
I’m allowed to go anywhere-dum-di-dum…hey…open this drawer….rummage through this…nick this prop…get drunk…la-di-dah….is that a naked man??…oops….shove me aside, don’t mind me!…hey….why can’t I come in?? Wait, you locked the door? I’m not allowed to go in….oooh….interesting….Why is this random lady washing this dude’s chest….and…..argh….why are they fighting? why…why…why….oh…hang on…oh, he’s taking my hand…oh, what big eyes you have….oh…uh-oh, what’s happening…yes…whatever you want…oh my god…oh, and now you’re taking my hand again…and we’re dancing…and.. (language escapes/no words/normal service still not resumed several months on)
* Anyway, Miguel won’t be distracted, and so he leads the girl who he now has gripped by the hand, and brings her outside the room, pressed against the wall.
* Every single white mask follows them out, and soon a line leans against the wall listening for some signal that will not come as Miguel waits for the room to clear.
* At last! Everybody is out! The lot of them. Quickly, Miguel edges back in, pushing the girl behind him to ensure she is firmly inside the room while he shoves everyone else away. Still, they linger in the doorway, and it’s like he has to deliver the message to each and every one of them…suddenly no one is prepared to leave that damn room.
* Then…success at last. An empty room, save for one very confused white mask…
* Miguel turns his back to the door and in that instant, a portly white mask bimbles out of nowhere - probably from the gents - and ambles innocently inside like he’s taking an after-dinner stroll before the croquet starts up.
* We’ve all seen him enter. Miguel hasn’t.
* The door closes.
* The door opens. Bimbling white mask is ejected.
That moment is adorable. :)
I was unpacking my Summer clothes over the weekend and I came across my white dresses and fond memories of last year’s Green Man (and of course all the regrets that I wasn’t here for the legendary May Fair 2012). Has anyone heard any mumblings about a spring party this year? Or do you think the Herb Festival was it?
May 22 is open on the calendar…
Can’t imagine they’ll ever pull off anything as strange and wonderful as Mayfair again, though. (But I would like for them to try.)