Working hard for your entertainment

Today was the first full day spent working on the stage show, and I think it will be a good one. ‘The Event’ is holding off until September, the caricature book is being produced somewhere by tiny ladies, and I am left with just the book and the stage show to think about.

The stage show is such an immense pleasure to write, rehearse and above all perform. The physical act of touring is tiring (which is where the word comes from), and may be even more so this year as there are barely any breaks. The days will be spent writing this book, which makes the whole process quite idyllic. No meetings, no surprise deadlines, just wonderful afternoons in coffee joints and evenings showing off on stage. It feels like a break. For those of you in the US, I would hope to be performing the stage shows either on Broadway or Vegas in a couple of years, depending on the economic climate. New York in particular would be very exciting. This may be the last time I write a stage show for the UK for a while, although I’ll be touring with it here next year as well, I would imagine.

With all the writing, I am constantly amazed at my obsessive need to prepare my environment for work. It is not really procrastination, though I suppose it is related to it, as I enjoy the work and have no desire to put it off. But in the same way that back in the day, I could never pick up photos from Boots and look at them in the shop, preferring instead to get them home unopened, make a cup of tea and then look at them in my armchair, I have a similar need for the environment to be just right before starting work. The key factors seem to be:

1. Tea made in my clever glass teapot and by my side: Lapsang or some aniseedy green thing for the evenings, Earl/Lady Grey for the mornings.

2. Bladder perfectly emptied.

3. Music (most likely Bach) at just the right volume – barely audible so as not to distract, but just present.

4. Post-it note placed over the iSight camera on my MacBook Air that I write upon. This is not for fear of being viewed, but rather that the light sensor that decides whether or not to illuminate the keyboard seems to be contained within the camera, and because the lamp behind me tends to trigger it, the keyboard tends to remain unlit. However, the general ambience is fairly dark, so I need it lit. And what I certainly don’t need is it periodically self-illuminating willy-nilly or whenever I shift in the chair. So the post-it cuts out the light to the sensor, and the keyboard glows like a beauty.

On top of this, I have taken the opportunity to re-arrange the Mentalism section of my bookshelves, ordering performers and thinkers into satisfying alphabetised neatness. This has been long overdue, since last year my housekeeper inexplicably took it upon herself to re-order a couple of thousand books based on size and colour rather than subject. This had to be done before sitting down to write up some ideas I had had for Act Two of the show: the logic being that it would aid research, which I’m sure it will.

On the subject of books, I am currently reading and enjoying Performing Dark Arts: A Cultural History of Conjuring by a very nice chap called Mick Mangan. It is what it says on the tin, but it has an engaging tone which is lacking in many books that cover similar topics. Also, I’m finishing Robert McKee’s classic Story, which is an absolute delight. Anyone with an interest in writing will find it invaluable, although he has his detractors.

This weekend, I am being taught how to shave with a cut-throat. Following the blog entry I made some time ago on shaving, the kind ladies and gentlemen at Trumpers offered me the knowledge I mentioned I lacked. I am most excited. Apparently it’s a given I will injure myself doing this for the first time. I am a bit of a coward, so this makes me nervous. (Blaine or Angel would be straight in there).

Finally, it now seems I have someone posing as me on Twitter. This is not me, in case anyone has been thinking otherwise. Same goes for Facebook, MySpace, Facespace, MyFace, SpyMace, BookSpace or Should I ever do anything like that, I’ll let you know immediately. Or at least after I’ve had a wee and turned the music down.



I have been made a Saint. Took this photo yesterday in Bruges.


It’s a little way down from the Bruges Madonna in the Church of Our Lady. I had come to see the Michelangelo piece – one of the few of his works removed from Italy – and spotted this on the way out. Look, they even got the hair right.

Pearls before breakfast

A wonderful experiment conducted in a Washington DC Metro station. Playing some of the greatest music the human race has created, one of the finest violinists in the world anonymously busks: will his art cut through the rush and bustle of the commuters’ morning? Will a crowd form?

I love this article and find it very moving. It’s a splendid modern demonstration of the question of context and presentation in art, and what is required to form aesthetic appreciation. And it’s a fun stunt too. (I’m tempted to try a similar thing in London to see how it works with Europeans.)

At one point, the journalist talks about infants having an innate delight in the rhythms of music and poetry which is ‘choked out of us’ as we grow up. A similar thought has been raised concerning magic by a great magician called Paul Harris: that a baby is constantly surprised at his world, and that as we grow up and learn about our environment, we experience astonishment less and less. Harris sees the work of the magician as a way of taking people back to an almost primal state of wonder. Which may be true, though in both cases, clearly much depends upon the quality of the performance.

Apropos of such things, I recently read a terrific book called This is Your Brain on Music which is an extraordinary insight into music and how it works upon us. Well worth a read – it celebrates all types of music, so there’s no need for specialist classical knowledge.

If any of you were at the filming for the first episode of The Event last night, then thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed yourselves. Good morning.




…for ‘The Event’. The show will consist of a mixture of pre-recorded location pieces and theatre-based bits hanging it all together, and then each one if the four one-hour programmes leads up to a major stunt at the end (which will be done in September when it all goes out). It’s fun and really ambitious (at least compared to what we’re used to. Probably Obama has more on his plate).

Any of you coming to the recordings will be forming a small, on-screen audience for the theatre sections, being taken through the story-so-far and the pieces we’ve already filmed.

And while you have nothing better to do, here are some pictures of Westminster I took in the snow from the office. x