Saturday, 26 July 2008

This Week: Dead Guitarists, David Tennant, Shakespeare, Stratford and Gordon Brown

It’s been an odd kind of week. On Monday, whilst I was in Manchester, I went over to see Gunter Von Hagen’s ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibition. Now, paying ten quid to go and stand in an old warehouse full of dead bodies may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there was something amazing about it all. It really makes you realise what an incredible thing the human body is, and how scientifically sophisticated we are; like an incredibly well built machine. It also brings you face to face with your own mortality, which could be seen as an unsettling experience if not thought provoking.

As a guitar player, I found this chap particularly amazing:

Keith Richards if he gave up the drink?

Later on, I went down to Stratford to go and watch the opening night of ‘Hamlet’.

Discovering that parts of Birmingham are actually pretty nice wasn’t the strangest element of the day. Indeed, that whole evening felt kind of surreal. When I was stood at the bar, I heard a couple of guys talking about having just seen Gordon Brown: I turned round and saw him heading off, unhindered, to sit in the circle. The play itself began eerily, and managed to keep up a high level of suspense throughout, thanks to the high energy and fantastic performances of the acting company. As an avid fan of both Shakespeare and ‘Doctor Who’, I was interested to see how David Tennant would come across on stage, and the night only served to confirm my feelings about what a brilliant actor he is. Supported well by such a strong cast, Tennant brought an unpredictable spontaneity to the play which added a whole new dimension. Furthermore, the use of lighting and props lent a vividly realistic tone to the whole production.

Afterwards, hundreds of people lurked by the stage door to try and get the actors’ signatures. When David Tennant appeared, the wonderful Patrick Stewart by his side, he was completely swamped by people. Although I was unsuccessful in getting any actors to sign my programme, I did manage to slip Tennant a copy of my book. In the ‘Cox’s Yard’ bar afterwards, I was thinking about how weird it must be to have people hounding you everywhere you go. Although the attention would be flattering, it must be hard not to be able to go shopping or drink in a pub with any anonymity. I also noticed that whilst the Prime Minster had attracted relatively little attention earlier on, Tennant had a huge audience. I was glad to see that, in their privileging of The Doctor over the Prime Minister, the country have their priorities right!

With being at home very little this week, I haven’t had a great deal of time to work on book promotion, but I have been writing for the next one. I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote last week, whilst listening to a news report on the radio…

The English Executioners

They marched on through the streets
with bayonets and sharpened teeth:
the English executioners,
with ill intent, lurk in the trees.
Attack from every side
then cordon off the land and sea,
taking slaves and soldiers strong
whilst shooting dead the infirm weak.

Seize what you want – this is the hunt –
the western way, so follow me
in spreading pestilence,
death, famine, pain, war and disease.
If they’re not human – just collateral –
targets lost to righteous hands;
why do they bleed like you and me
when crimson stains the murky sands?

And when they’re dead, trading knife for axe,
you scour the earth of plants and trees,
constructing brand new colonies
for another fallen century.
If this injustice feels familiar –
watching the news as history repeats,
we’ve seen the empire’s fall and rise:
a bureaucratic war machine.

This world is run by western rule
and we know how to cheat.

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