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Embracing the Groupie Within

Ant & Ronnie Greer
Ask anyone who knows me - no better yet, phone Cathy Broda, one-time yoga teacher to Madonna, currently living in bendy bliss in Hawaii, but really TRULY best known for her stint as my grade 11 classmate at Jakarata International School, and ask her - what single activity would be most likely to make my skin crawl, and the answer would be "assuming the role of a groupie".  Nothing else is so much at odds with directorial control-freakery.  After all, what is any director but yes yes, a control freak channelling their nature through what they hope is enough talent to make it sellable?  And I'm a director by nature, by inclination, by circumstance and by George! So the pink budgerigar of groupieness does not lightly settle upon my shoulder, but there I was this weekend, watching my sweetie on stage, a groupie par excellence.  I was taking photos (groan).  Chatting with fans (arrhggh).  811677-843497-thumbnail.jpg
Ant & Whitey Johnson
Cooking nibbles for the band (jaysus lord!)  And even at one point, was caught saying: "no I don't work here, I'm just with the band. I'm Anthony's girlfriend." (La la no responsibility! Oh God, I shouldn't be enjoying this so much - shoot me now!)

Please please someone save me.  Give me a sign to hang around my neck that says: "YES OK, I share bed and board with one of the men on that stage who chooses to showcase his (undeniable if I do say so) talent playing a stringed instrument, but I'd like you to know that I am an artist in my own right with an excellent - excellent - thingy of my own - excellent. Yes!"  But when you arrive with the guy who plays the guitar NO ONE ever asks you what YOU do. Pah! Quoi?  Nul points! You're. With. The. Band. End of Story. ARRGJGHDHfk!!!!! No! No! I like it too much - I can't take it!!!!!

Well.  Ahem.  That's better now. I feel better for having - vented.  Yes.  Thank you for listening.  Very helpful.


Before you go, there's one more little picture you might like. He's the handsome one on the left - the appears to be looking down though - did I tell you he's gigging next week at -





BBC Comedy Commission

Nuala McKeever and I have received our first comedy commission as a duo from BBC Radio Ulster.  Small. Friendly. A great little start.  What's it going to be about? Well I had script, character and episode ideas, but just now it's a bit of a blur really.  I knew that the imaginary man in the bottom right hand corner of the imaginary image in the white knickerbockers was doing something extremely funny in my own little imagination, but once someone has said :"Yes, it could quite possibly BE funny" I find it increasingly difficult to see him.


Let me check.  He appears to be STRANGLING the man in the  blue knickerbockers.  Maybe it is all a hideous dream.  Maybe this is my wiser self strangling me, while shouting: "your ...mother ...always ...thought ...should ...a ...teacher!" As he bangs my head against the floor to knock some sense into me. "The...B....B...C?!?  What were you thinking of??!!"  I immediately become convinced that everyone who hasn't been commissioned is funny than I am, and everyone who has is more successful.  Secretly I hope that someone has brought distracting crunchy snacks to this imaginary world, and that shortly there will be a break for tea and buns.  I will hide under the napkins when no one else is looking.



Paying With Your Wristwatch and Other Life Changing Opportunities

I'm just sitting here, quietly, grabbing a few moments at the close of what I think may have been a life changing week, but it's been too much of a whirlwind for me to really be able to tell.  I've just finished an 8 day stint in Hong Kong.  Just pause and think about that for a moment.  Courtesy of international air travel (yes I feel guilty, and cancelled a planned holiday to Bangkok to make up for it).... anyway, in less than 18 hours I found myself transported from a quiet beach in County Antrim to downtown Wan Chai.  And that was only the start.  Eight days in Hong Kong is... Hong Kong is... Eight... Blflezzchmbbub...

Yes.  It does.  Reduce one to. Incoherence.

What struck me?  What reduced moi, la belle dame sans silence, to this??  Its a cacophony, a smorgasbord,'s:

  • being able to buy groceries anywhere in the country with your watch.  Your watch, for heaven's sake!
  • More handbags than I knew existed in the entire world, let alone on one island
  • Little old ladies sitting playing mahjong by a fish pond in the shade of a container storage port towering above them like a high rise building
  • Enough escalators to take you to the moon and back 3 times
  • The New Territories phenomenon of 7001s, 70 year old men with young Chinese wives and 1 year old children.  All of whom are likely to be widowed in the next 10 years.
  • An entire town composed solely of high rise blocks, perhaps 70, 80 or 100 of them, built on what was a paddy field until 5 years ago
  • Market stalls piled high with fish so fresh the prawns jump out at you as you walk by
  • Mangrove swamps and perfect limpid water
  • A city so clean you could eat off the streets
  • A city with air pollution from mainland industries so heavy that they only saw the sun once in the 8 days I was there
  • Dogs whose toenails are painted the same colour as their owners' fingernails
  • Lift doors that close three seconds faster than anywhere else in the world
  • Vending machines that sell books instead of chocolate in the subway
  • Eating chicken elbows as a delicacy - delicious yes, but oh so crunchy
  • Trendy girls who wear boots in the 26 degree centigrade spring weather
  • The largest collection of urban butterflies I've ever seen
  • Mobile phones that allow you to watch DVDs
  • Poets composing verse on park benches...using their laptops
  • Smart cards for parking meters so you don't have to fumble for the change
  • Rules that oblige everyone with a cold to wear a mask and gloves so they don't infect anyone else - how sensible is that!
  • Thousands of unique bloom-covered  trees that are completely sterile, and were all propagated from a single mutation discovered by a missionary in the 17th century
  • Pork buns decorated with chocolate sprinkles on sale in the bakeries
  • Paper ghettoblasters to burn for dead relatives so that they may listen to music in the next world
And that's just the start.  Colleagues and new friends in Hong Kong were amongst the kindest, most generous, most hospitable I have ever met.  Anywere.  For coherent thoughts, tune in later....

Now Some Serious Talk, About Money & the Olympics

I arrived in Hong Kong about 48 hours ago, to meet colleagues and pan-Asian promoters, courtesy of the British Council, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  It's already proving to be more than I could have hoped for with chances to work together in the future leaping out of the woodwork thanks to colleagues like Koo Tin Lung of Chung Ying Theatre and Grace Kwok, School Principal from the Tin Shui Wai district, and just about the most amazing woman in Asia.

 But that's not what I want to talk about right now.  Right now I want to talk about money.

We all know that China is hosting the 2008 Olympics, and then Britain is following suit in 2012.  We've just heard that the cost of Britain's turn has jumped from about £2.3 billion, to over £9 billion.  Where is the money going to come from?  Lottery good causes, including the Arts. 

How will this hit in Northern Ireland?  Particularly badly says our Arts Council who has just released a statement.  Arts funding was at an all time high in 1997-98 when it sat at £ 10.3 million spend for all of Northern Ireland.  Now 9 financial years later, the ACNI say that it sits at £ 7.2 million, never mind inflation and all that.  The estimate for 2011-2012, when the Olympics take place?  A drop to £5.1 million spend.  For ALL of Northern Ireland.

As I arrived at my hotel for the conference, a lovely little pack with welcome info was waiting for me.  It contained a leaflet detailing the Hong Kong SAR Government's commitment to the Arts, and their annual spend.  They allocate $ 2.4 billion HKD per year - you'll have to divide that by 15 of course to get British pounds, but it makes you think, doesn't it?  Pretty impressive.  And the Chinese Olympics are a lot closer than the British ones.


Single & Alone, with Dan Gordon in a Dress

Last night did something I don’t normally do.  I went to the Theatre alone.  You’d think that in this day and age all the old taboos would be broken and eating in a restaurant, going to the movies, seeing a play as a SINGLE WOMAN ALONE wouldn’t be a particularly big issue.  I must be more conditioned than I thought, because the closer I got to the Theatre door the more the word ALONE loomed in my mind.

I was seeing a political farce, with an audience full of men, which was interesting, because research and experience shows that most theatre bookings are made by women on the behalf of couples or groups.  We’re not afraid of booking theatre tickets, we just prefer to turn up with at least one other person to protect us from the stigma of ALONE-ness.  These men were in groups, and they gave the impression of not being regular theatre goers, but they certainly seemed comfortable, and there they were, out with one, two or three of their buddies (they don’t like being SINGLE AND ALONE any more than we do, obviously) to see Dan Gordon die expertly 4 different times, including once in a little black dress.

As an aside, Dan Gordon in drag giving it the full man-on-man-4-stars-in-the-Guardian snog with another actor nearly brought the house down, but that’s another story…

So how was it in the end?  Pretty good.  Aside from the slightly increased stress of impressively holding in my stomach for the entire interval (when you’re with your partner, stomachs can relax into companionable plumpness), there were a lot of ups.  I had detailed conversations with the three men on my right and the two on my left, something that would never have happened otherwise, and the illicit pleasure of a little measure of baileys at half time, and quietly poking a finger into the glass to get the last bit stuck in the ice cubes while pretending to admire the photographs on the Lyric walls of the adolescent Liam Neison.  

But I noticed there wasn’t another single woman in the house.  What do widows and divorcees do?  Books as couples or groups, I guess.

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