Posts Tagged ‘New York’

I’m going to New York the week after next where I’m going to combine some lecturing on Advertising Planning (something which is filling me with so much dread it is only really now that I am confronting the fact that I am doing it – SHITTING HELL!) with an interview at another agency.

It’s a more famous agency than the one that I currently work at, but no better (worse in many areas); and the money is a lot better, but I am almost certain that I don’t want to work there. My work situation at the moment is pretty perfect: I’ve been promoted to the Board, given a pay rise to go with it, and they are really good about my home situation (basically letting me work from home as and when I need to in order to accommodate the children) – so I don’t really know why I’d leave. On the other hand, Old Friend at Work is right when she says that I may as well turn up, specifically if I don’t want the job (which is when I tend to perform at my best), and see it as ego-stroking and practice if nothing else.

Anyway: that’s half the gig. The bulk of it is this lecturing that I am doing (largely in the spirit of “Run towards what makes you scared – and given that, as I run towards this, I can almost feel myself shitting myself, I think I’m embracing the spirit of that dictum pretty well), and that’s three days of lecturing, leading workshops, Q&As and all that stuff that makes me feel like self-harming. The other speakers are all from different areas (screenwriters, film producers, TV executives, journalists) and we’re all speaking on the theme of “Engagement through Story-Telling”, so I am under no illusion that my slot will be the point at which people make their phone calls and grapple with their iPads.

Ah well: “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” as terrifying, proto-Nazi Nietzsche coined it. We shall see.

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My first emotion was exhilaration.

Virtual Friend and Theatre Twin alerted me to the fact that Fiona Shaw was going to be appearing alongside Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman”. She is something of a theatre insider and so this knowledge was shared way before it became public knowledge – so my excitement was very real, tempered only by the desire to get on and book some tickets. “Where would it play?”, I wondered. A cast like that has got Almeida, West End or National Theatre possibilities – but which? Could it be that the brilliant Nick Hytner was going to use this production to follow the flawless Paul Schofield, Eileen Atkins and Vanessa Redgrave “Borkman” of some years previous (a production I can still remember, almost minute by minute – can you even imagine how brilliant it was: well CAN YOU?)? WHERE?


And then New York.


This was going to be difficult: I had to get to see it. It was Fiona Shaw in Ibsen (and her “Hedda Gabler” is still the greatest thing I have ever seen in a theatre) – and the rest of the cast weren’t exactly slouches either. It was designed by Tom Pye, whose brilliant work on “Medea” and “Happy Days” had been so impressive, Finally, Virtual Friend and Theatre Twin got herself off to Ireland and gorged on it. Ireland would have been cheaper and easier – so I went to New York to see it.

Now, I am a Fiona Shaw enthusiast – but I am not a blind disciple. I, for example, found her performance in “Black Dahlia” (loved by many) to be so embarrassing that I could scarcely keep my eyes open – so I am capable of seeing where she has strayed from brave to ludicrous. That said, this performance was miraculous. It was up there with Hedda and Medea, largely because her danger zone (letting rip in quivering tones and going the FUCK FOR IT) was so well reined in that the audience could feel the pressure in her. And when she finally did let rip, it was like a glacier exploding: it was absolutely spellbinding, and most crucial of all, it felt like the result of years lived in torment and quiet fury, not like the outburst born of a couple of hours of theatrical adrenaline.

Lindsay Duncan was also magnificent. A much warmer presence than Shaw, and with a voluptuous quality that has served her throughout her career and is as much a mark of her interpretation as it is of her physical presence, they were magnificently paired. It’s always good to see two actors absolutely matched, but with contrasting qualities and styles (think of Brando and Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire”) and with this script it was very heaven.

I have to confess that the disappointment for me was Rickman. Maybe it’s because I saw Schofield in the role (and I truly can’t imagine it being done better), but I also think that Rickman was too slight a character to scale the part and to crash down into its depths: it felt as though he was picking round the edges of the part a little, rather than immersing himself in it. It is a mountain of a part and perhaps it was simply too much but (on the night that I saw it, at least) he was subdued, rather than destroyed; miffed, rather than devastated – though I should add that plenty of people disagree with me as violently as it’s possible to do without falling over.

It was a trip worth taking in every way – and I cannot but hope (though Virtual Friend and Theatre Twin thinks it highly unlikely) that there may be a London transfer at some point this year. I would gladly go again, and again, and again.

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There are some things that I would do almost anything to avoid. Chief amongst these would be seeing “Cyrano de Bergerac” performed by amateurs under the age of 15, trying to learn how to fill in SAP time sheets, or doing my “I think you’ve really found the beginning of something brilliant here” face for more than five minutes at a stretch. All of these things, however, I HAVE done – but there is one thing that I have not done (and to be fair, was not invited to do): a “Disco Break” in the gay bars of Manhattan for six days.

Wife, however, could not have been happier at the prospect, and so she flew over to see Talented Photographer for six days and nights in Manhattan, while I took the week off work to look after the children. Were I to record all of Wife’s exploits here, they’d be hard to credit: the night where the cabaret consisted of a woman dressed as a vagina, rubbing a glitter-speckled plastic tongue up the length of “her” labia; the mid-op transsexual who sodomised himself with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s (as Jude Law inter alia looked on); the pool party to which the wearing of a gold bikini and an Afro wig was (apparently) “de rigueur” – these are but the tip of the iceberg. But – fuck me: childcare is hard work!

Thankfully, Wife (who vanished in a flurry of tears and luggage late on Friday) had left me notes of such regimented precision that there was no way that I could slip up. But I (who had, naively been anticipating a slacking off in the pace of the workplace) was absolutely staggered at the amount of effort, energy and organisation it takes to get three children to school, after school clubs, playdates and then bed, without forgetting to wash and iron their clothes, or buy and cook them food. No wonder Wife is as thin as she is: I can’t imagine when she gets time to eat…

Any full-time carers reading this will no doubt be rolling their eyes and shouting “Well…DUHHHH!” at their screens: but this isn’t a tale of “Professional Guy Takes On The Childcare And Through A Series Of Hilarious Fuck Ups Learns Real Life Lessons” – I did a sterling job, with the children on time, on best manners and well turned out wherever they had to be – but it was a real eye-opener in what should be a mainstay of my professional skills: the ability to walk a mile in someone very different’s shoes (even if the person in question was my wife and the mother of my children).

Anyway: she’s back now, thank God – utterly exhausted and Disco’ed out, needing a holiday to get over her holiday – and so life will resume its usual pattern: and I, for one, will be glad of the rest.

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This is Acclaimed Photographer Friend’s view of the weather in New York at the moment. Wife and I are off there next weekend, and so were keen to understand just how relevant the mutterings of “100% humidity” proved to be – and it sounds like we’re going to be in for the kind of weather that we have been craving (and missing) in London this summer.

We’re both very excited: there are friends and family in New York (most particularly, Sister, who returns there today after a five week stay over here with Nephew) and the dollar is still weak enough (though strengthening slowly) to leave Wife with sleepless nights about the amount of shopping that it’s going to be possible to cram into the 200 hours that we are there for.

We’re back in The London – which is equidistant from everyone that we want to see, and opposite MoMA (which somehow, I always think I want to visit, and am, somehow always disappointed by) – but which (most splendidly) has suites instead of rooms, and so there is room for Nephew to come and run around, and for Wife to do catwalk style parading in whatever new wares she has purchased that day.

I find it such an exciting city to visit, no matter how many times I go back, when we drive in from the airport and see that clustered skyline of buildings jockeying for position, I get a feeling in my stomach comparable to the one when the lights go down in a theatre… I can’t wait.

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Wife and I have been given carte blanche by my parents to inflict the children on them for a week, so that Wife can find something she has not yet bought, and I can go and see my sister.

This enables me to use the free ticket that Virgin Atlantic compensated me with when they bumped me into Premium Economy (which was pretty fantastic) from Upper Class, as well as to try and understand how my Virgin Air Miles work: so the plan is to go there in late August or early September, if that’s feasible, and if New York isn’t too repulsive at that time of year. I shall ‘phone and check…

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The first time that Wife became pregnant, we invited our parents, Sister and Brother in Law around to the house for “drinks” (I daresay some of them had guessed why they had been invited). Apparently, Brother in Law had not guessed.

Wife (in an atypically oblique way) made her announcement by asking our guests: “What have Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie and I got in common?” to a genuinely uncomprehending crowd, so adding “I’m pregnant.” Amidst the whoops and the tears of joy, was Brother-in-Law’s surprised question “Is Kate Moss pregnant?”

Anyway: his wife, my sister is now pregnant for the second time, which is fantastic – so there will be a companion to my three year-old nephew born in February/March. This has necessitated a move of quarters: they have now moved two whole floors up in their Manhattan apartment block, to get themselves four bedrooms, all of which was done by their apartment staff, without the hideousness of removal men. They are now echoing around in this big space, waiting for their beautiful new arrival.

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