May 05, 2009

Lost Questions, Dancing with Confusion & The Tea, Coffee, Lasagna Debacle

(Can I just note at this point that any teachers mentioned from my school will be by their initial- at their request)

What would one consider a rather uncanny two days?

Here's my second attempt at writing this jaunty, vivacious bubble of fun. It may be that Tori Amos is playing in the background or that the weather was generally good today but my mind seems unusually free flowing for someone who has spent the last 48 hours, in remote control related accidents, rebel fruit affairs, Network watching, sandwich stealing, Swine Flu Manners, institutional education, rope losing, surprise social photography, theatres in dire need of noiseless air conditioning, complicated racial equality during basketball and finally, a substantial tete-a-tete between my fellow confederates.

For years to come, people will be wondering what exactly happened in the stratosphere that caused such events, what caused the Earth to spin on its axis and for one moment, present an opportune moment for momentous occasion. If any blog post were relevant, in my eyes (being that of bias), this would be the one.

My question is simple and yet complicated at the same time, some may say that is an oxymoron, some may that simply my writing falls into the moronic category (or just sitting wondering who would read this therapeutic sense of the sublime?) but the question I want answered still remains.

(Currently Tori is telling me that I 'Can Bring My Dog'. Euphemism for something? You decide.)

What gives one person or set of people the ability to enjoy and marvel at the wonders of a piece of writing, a music, a film and yet fill another with anguish and fury at the lack of care in the piece. When a piece of music is played, does one person hear the same piece as another, or do our brains translate the piece in different ways, creating different stimulus and therefore creating different reactions to the piece?

Had any day been more relevant to this question, it would be now. The morning started, much like many other before and I am sure many to come, a muesli enthused ascension to some sort of consciousness before leaving for school 'late' (bearing in mind, that I still was the first person in, even though I went to the bank!). The rest is history so they say...

The talk at first was casual, "When is the new 'Lost' on?" "Tomorrow", but then to these unsuspecting talkers, a tyrant of the wing of the upcoming storm voiced his opinion, "'Lost' is (fill in what you expect was said)." Minutes passed. It was tense. Who would say what? Well, never allowing something I like being questioned, it was left to me to fight before being joined by R & R. "It's clever." "You clearly don't understand it." (My rebuttal) "It's amazing." The other side couldn't see the point, "It's unrealistic, a black hole with a hydrogen bomb, travelling in time, what is the point?" "IT's A TELEVISION SHOW, have an imagination!" What was a conversation between friends, became a vigorous discussion between friends which finally turned into a duel, myself, R & R versus, the rest of the sixth form in our house.

(Depeche Mode are telling me about how they are 'In Chains'.)

Apart from laughing at how heated people were getting (myself included), it did give me a chance to question what actually draws a line in entertainment, for example. When these people who didn't like 'Lost' were sitting down and watching wild polar bears have savage fights with black smoke during the few episodes they preserved through, why did they see the absurd instead of the astonishing? How does what they watched on screen translate in their heads differently to what I saw?
When not even our Housemaster could round up the squabble, "It's nothing that I haven't seen before, although I am sure, as Oliver said, if you watch more and more, it becomes more interesting." Which was translated by others like this - "If you watch something more, you get addicted, if you smoke more, you get addicted. Difference? Both bad for you."
It was registration... it seems that the 'Lost' debacle would have to be cleared up another time.

The stories of the afternoon approach farce, was I right in losing track of my team when everyone looked the same? They were fast. I wasn't. Simple as. I suppose, it didn't help that I was late, I was just getting over the fact that a tug-of-war rope couldn't be found... I suppose this is why people actually love my school, it's never fails to entertain.

Fast forward onto the late afternoon. The A Level English Literature classes were due to go to a school trip to London. We were going to The Old Vic Theatre to see 'Dancing at Lughnasa' by Brian Friel which the classes had studied (or were due to study) as dramatic context for our upcoming exams and seen as F was such a large advocate for the play, when he found that a performance was happening, he couldn't let that sort of opportunity pass by. So picture this, a group of about ten teenagers, three teachers and a mini bus, of course seeing it written down looks comical, almost 'Carry On' like. Anyway, F had taken his mini-bus license so that he could take this trip. Yes, each person did get on the coach with a little trepidation, especially seen as within about 30 seconds we had backed up over the curb by the school grounds, nearly onto the grass. Okay, laughing and slightly scared for our lives, F went forward and out of the school gates, we were on our way...
... We arrived... early... well that wasn't going to be a worry. Believe me, I was happy to be out of the bus, my friend had come and sat next to me because he didn't like sitting in front as the row ahead of that had large seats which were making him sick. It was a squeeze, you could say that. But it was a school trip it was fun, the banter especially, "Do you know what I think?" "I think you should be quiet." "Go B, telling him." (Token posh toff laughter) "Well we have comedians here don't we?"
Once we got of the coach, the teachers made a decision en route to Cafe Nero, "Be back by 7.15." So with that, it was decided, we needed to find somewhere to get a drink (hot don't worry). Myself and A coerced the group into finding a Starbucks (commercial whores, I know), we were in London, there had to be one around here somewhere. B looked like a mental escapee, dashing down the streets using his spidy senses to find what turned out to be the Waterloo Station branch of Starbucks. Once inside, we all sat in relative relaxation until another friend sneezed, "SWINE FLU!" Possibly slightly childish... let's get past it...
I haven't mentioned yet, those who had read the play (minus one person) hadn't really had the best experience with this play. The script was short, the characters seemed rather one dimensional, the plot was monotonous but what I had enjoyed was the metaphor for change, social upheaval and bringing in another culture which the traditionalist doesn't want to accept (themes which I feel are just as important today than ever). When my English class had read the play we adapted it ever so slightly with an array of our own characters, Mrs Doubtfire (D), Clint Eastwood (O), Cybill Fawlty (A) and a meercat (the mischievous W). That was a good way to get through the play but we did it for the betterment of others.
So. Here we were. Sitting in The Old Vic, staring down at the staging (which was in the round), a very realistic garden and open plan kitchen (Kirsty Allsop would be pleased). This short play, we found out, before it was due to start had been stretched out for two and a half hours. WE HAD ONLY GOT OURSELVES PSYCHED FOR A TWENTY MINUTE RENDITION!
The first act started... and continued... and still hadn't finished... I didn't have a watch to check... the heat started to rise... the hard board chairs started to get uncomfortable... and down, way down, on the stage, the story of the Mundy sisters was told. Michelle Fairley beautifully suggests the prim and proper nature of schoolmistress Kate, bossy, kind and full of foreboding about the future. Niamh Cusack wonderfully captures the buoyant humour and resilient life-force of the Woodbine-addicted Maggie, and in a notable stage debut Andrea Corr, best known as a pop singer, touchingly conveys the love Chris still feels for the feckless travelling salesman who abandoned her.
Then the interval was called...
F told me what he thought, "They aren't Irish enough!" Outside, people discussed the themes, the performances, the staging and the distinct feature of our seats... the heat. S was telling us that he was waiting for a death, an explosion... I am guessing if The Terminator drove out on his motorcycle, S may have been a little more content. This was my chance, something to cool me down. Oddly I choose a drink which could have done anything but, tomato juice with Tabasco... N looked as if I had ordered a hammer and nails, "I've never seen anyone have anything that exotic at the theatre... does Tabasco even go with a drink?" And then my favourite drink related comment, "Tomato doesn't exist... it can't... tomatoes... juice?" As I followed D back into the theatre, I wasn't even thinking and said, "At last, a drink I can understand." In hindsight, this make me look ever so slightly alcoholic like, considering I was talking to the glass... D laughed... and asked if he could use that quote in the future, he said it sounded like something Noel Coward would have written... I think I'll remember that for the future...
Before Act 2 started, F was struck with fear, "He has builder's bum," I laughed internally, I agree, it's a sight for sore eyes especially when sitting behind it in the theatre, it seemed to sum up the entire experience. It was uplifting to hear and postulate that wasn't the first time he has said that.
Act 2 began... it got hot... quickly... But funnily enough, this second act seemed to sum up the contrast between Catholicism and the pagan ritual which is a constant theme of the play. What Friel’s genre-defining play does beautifully is to hear the rhythms of life around the kitchen table and, by implication, far beyond. This is a community which lives by the church but still raises all sorts of pagan fires in praise of Lugh up in the back hills. In the play’s most celebrated scene the sisters break free from the strict protocol of the eldest, Kate, and dance to their wireless with a wild gusto that smacks of pure lust as much as lust for life.
... Then it finished... but the trip wasn't over yet, we still had to return to school... in the coach... which F said, "Is still there," almost expecting it to have disappeared into the ether of London. The main conversation back, I have aptly titled 'The Tea, Coffee, Lasagna Debacle'. Mainly is self explanatory, are you a Costa, Nero or Starbucks person? The cake or coffee? The beans or the sandwiches? Locality, price, commercialism... believe me it was all covered before suddenly turning down a strange road, who believed their were a lasagna connoisseur...

At the end of the day, this is what I had learnt. Although F was an advocate for the play which many of us were not looking forward to, he still had criticisms and wasn't impressed by the overall effect of the production. But then, how did his reading of the play differ from ours? What was it that caused F to enjoy the writing but was a great repellent for others?
I believe it to be the most interesting question of all, is it down to taste, interpretation, understanding or is there something much more chemical about the entire experience... or for that matter am I making a big deal out of nothing... is the process something much more simple. When I look at my friends, the people I spend my day-to-day life with, I see that my taste very much interprets who my friends are. Is this a microcosm for something much larger, we all have our own belief systems which may be different to someone else's, why are people so opposed to others systems? Does conflict come from this? Is there anyway to turn back? I suppose not, we are not all the same, we never have and never will... but that keeps us on our feet, it's exciting, it's always changing... there is always new stuff to learn about, but remember keep your minds open to others voices, experiences and suggestions (I, one day hope that I can practice what I say). It's fun, that's all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Ollie. Was the whole evening really as much fun as this?
I can barely believe it.