Monday, 19 November 2007

Lucy, Jon, The Rabbit Hole

The night before last I had a dream about Lucy Vee, in which I went to her home to admire her recently-completed extension. I told her about it and it turns out that Lucy has only recently consulted an architect about having an extension built. Imagine that! She and Jon Peacey were so impressed by my mystical powers that, in case I have the power to control extensions in dreams as well as foretell them, Jon asked me to dream about his neighbour’s extension and hurry it along a bit.

Jon very kindly arranged a lift home for me from the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival one night last summer, after we had all been sitting around drinking Piers’s whisky, so I was only too happy to accept the task as a way of discharging my debt to him.

I had a restless night last night until at last I fell asleep and dreamed… well, it wasn’t about Jon’s neighbours. I dreamed that I had smuggled myself and my dog Jessie into a rehearsal for David Eldridge’s new play, which turned about to be a musical about the pope, entitled Joseph I. I had to leave early because the dog got thirsty and threatened to give us away but I’m sorry to report that there were no show tunes in the bit that I saw. David Eldridge is a serious playwright – you can read his blog here – so I was quite surprised that (in my dream) he had chosen to write a musical (directed in my dream by Richard Eyre, for those who are interested in such things). No doubt my mental health has been affected by reading The Whingers blog, which is currently awhirl with stories of Broadway musicals and meetings with Mel Brooks.

I did once do quite a lot of research about lucid dreaming – where you try to enter your own dreams and manipulate them and learn from what you see there. I went to two Shamanic Dreaming workshops – one had only one other participant, also called Helen. For a while I tried to put into practice what I had learnt but it’s time consuming and it fucks with your head. And it takes a kind of monastic discipline to do it properly, which I don’t have.

More recently, I have been learning about real world role playing games, where you follow a series of instructions to create a kind of theatre in which you are the star. As concepts, these are really thrilling. But the only problem I can see is that the weak link – in do-it-yourself theatre as in my dreams - would be me.

When I go to the theatre it’s for the acting; to watch others do what I cannot do myself. When it works, some kind of magical transformation takes place on stage which is thrilling and ephemeral and beautiful to watch. It’s hard to put into words but it’s as if two ancient and wise people from different troubled planets had come together and, by joining their hands for ninety minutes, created a hologram that shows you something you could never have imagined by yourself. When their hands break apart, it’s over, and even if they meet at the same theatre at the same time the next night, it will never be quite like that again. That’s what it’s like when it works. The rest of the time, it’s bollocks. The beautiful/bollocks ratio, for me, is about 50/50, although perhaps I don’t always choose carefully enough.

The trouble with creating experiential theatre/alternate reality games/role playing games (whatever you want to call them) is that by nature they are of course fake. Although there are extreme and expensive programmes like semagoediv, where you can arrange to be kidnapped, there are very few games currently around that could match the experience of giving birth, for example, where you star in your own horror film for 24 hours. Or even travelling abroad and stumbling alone through a foreign city late at night, unable to speak the language, swept along in some mad adventure by random strangers.

Once (this is real life, now, not a dream) I went to a party in Australia where everyone was in fancy dress, there were fire eaters, jugglers, stilt-walkers and (as I recall) poodles on bicycles performing on a high wire above us. I had taken half of one of those trippy Es which was playing havoc with my spatial awareness and making me laugh a lot. I went to the toilet and when I went to wash my hands afterwards and stare at my saucer eyes in the bank of mirrors above the wash basins in the middle of the room, something wasn’t right. I moved and the person in the mirror moved. We were the same but we looked different. Then I worked out that there was a gap in the bank of mirrors and the person in front of me was a transvestite repairing his make-up.

Still, the intrigue and excitement of real world adventure games is just around the corner as there are plenty of people working on devising the ultimate experience. (There's some sort of treasure hunt connected to Poe's Goldbug story as part of the Masque of the Red Death at the BAC, for example).

I wondered if I had found a rabbit hole last night when I got two mysterious communications on my mobile phone. One was a text claiming to be from a centre for adults with learning difficulties, the other was a long, chatty phone call from an elderly woman with a Caribbean accent. I had inadvertently invited both to my house for drinks to celebrate my birthday on Saturday. They were wrong numbers. Weren’t they?

8 comments:

Elinor said...

Re: Rabbit hole and wrong numbers. Sounds like it would have been one hell of a party!

Jon Peacey said...

I must thank you for your reverie to reality ability... the neighbour's builders have managed 4 days work in a row which means that they're 4 days nearer completion and presumably getting a shift on so as to finally get it finished! Hoorah!!!

(Now, do you do requests? If so, a pile of tax free money would be nice, preferably on the back seat of an Audi A8.... oh, and I suppose an end to all war and stuff like that... let's not be selfish!)

Helen Smith said...

I will dream of world peace, just for you.

william said...

Helen,
Have you had any chasing dreams? When I was a kid, I had a dream that these four bald guys with chainsaws were chasing me through something like the Epcot Center, but it was made by taking a shitload of opaque glass tubes and hallways and mashing them together into a huge ball.
Bill
lucidblog.com

Helen Smith said...

Bill

That sounds terrifying. My dreams are always rather pleasant, although tending towards the mundane - except the ones where I can fly, of course.

When I was 18 I used to soar and glide but these days I can only get up there by doing a kind of vigorous breast stroke. It's still flying, though, isn't it?

I hope the scary bald men leave you alone these days.

Sal said...

Hoorah! I'm not the only person who dreams they can fly - but like you, I'm not so good at it these days either.

Could you have a go at dreaming one of my plays being directed by Richard Eyre, please? Free seats for you if it ever comes true!

Helen Smith said...

Sal
I will put you on my list - although bringing about world peace is proving to be tougher than expected.

Jon Peacey said...

Do keep trying... I'm sure if it works it'll be worth it! Of course, then unemployment will rise dramatically, a lot of people will be very unhappy and may start to squabble over resources, jobs and money then this will escalate and they may gt violent and.... d'oh!

Oh, my dream, my beautiful unattainable dream!!!

"Oh, what a world, what a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?!"