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Cast Notes: James McArdle/Louis

Ah Louis. Ah James. Where to start? How do you start with an actor who essentially re-writes what it is to be the most difficult roles in the play? What I actually started with was a blog about how hard this was to write, and my personal relationship with Louis which is here. Short version I love, and am a bit in love with this messed up jumper wearing mess of a man, and for me he’s always been the heart of the play. In this version what James McArdle did was at once wonderful and heart stoppingly difficult to watch. 
Louis for me then, is also the most important character in the play- he divides people. He’s a brave character for Kushner to write- he was Kushner’s response to the ‘assumption’ that people went from ‘disco bunnies to Florence Nightingale’, the idea that everyone is naturally able to care for sick loved ones, and that everyone copes. And for young men unused to caring responsibilities, that was often a big ask. Louis as written doesn’t ever act out of malice, selfishness sure, immaturity, definitely and fear most of all.  He’s overbearing, overwrought but he gets unfairly labelled as cruel, unfeeling when in fact Louis’ problem is exactly the opposite- he feels far too much about everything and doesn’t know what to do with it. There’s a little bit of Louis in all us-whether it’s the neurotic insecure side, the side that has a mouth that runs away from them or frequently a foot in it, and the side that doesn’t hold up under pressure. But more terrifying perhaps for some audiences that Louis, in McArdle’s hands becomes very relatable, and understandable. And that is the skill that McArdle makes that decision honest, real and awfully relatable, deep down that if we all took a long hard honest look at ourselves, there are very few of us who don’t understand why Louis does what he does.
McArdle builds Louis again from the ground up. I find his version of the character at once unrecognisable from anything else I’ve seen but also the very essence of what I feel like I’ve been banging on about regarding Louis for ten years or more. Louis is a very vulnerable, insecure and complicated character. His actions are terrible, he isn’t, another mistake to make is the idea that he doesn’t or never really loved Prior. His love for Prior is utterly, devastatingly at the heart of what he does. Everything he does stems from that- at the start of the play he’s a young man who hasn’t worked out a lot of his place in the world. McArdle himself has said that through what happens he works out what it is to love and what it is to be a man. And that’s the crux of him in many ways, he’s figuring out life, just as life falls apart- and so does he.
He said that for Louis, Prior is his ‘Goddess’ and that sense of sheer worship and an overwhelming love for him still comes through in everything he does. There’s a sense in terms of their wider relationship of him not quite believing his luck- to him Prior is this shinning beautiful being that he’s somehow ended up with and he’s not sure how. He plays the insecurity of that but also the overwhelming nature of it. He seems to be playing the first great love of Louis’ life (given they got together when he was probably 27 this seems logical) and possibly (in my own theories anyway) the only great love of his life. And for a young man, a young Gay man, that as much as ensuing events seem to overwhelm him- and Louis is a man easily overwhelmed. McArdle plays his love for Prior with a puppy-dog sweetness and a vulnerability, that we don’t see from Garfield’s Prior as easily. But Garfield is playing a Prior with defences sky-high because of the situation they’re whereas McArdle plays Louis with everything crumbling. Louis as written can read as hard, spiky full of politics and anger and not a lot else. But that isn’t the Louis we meet in this production, this Louis is a young man desperately in love and desperately scared of life, the world and what it is throwing at him.  McArdle’s playing Louis’ insecurities as in part borne out of a sheer overwhelming kind of fear of the love he’s found himself embroiled in with Prior. The way it comes over is that Louis isn’t quite dealing with this idea of a big love, a real relationship anyway, but it’s easy enough to carry on when everything is fine. When something big comes along- as Prior says- he can’t handle it. He’s a young man struggling with what it means to be a man, and what it means to love. It’s a simple thing, that normally young men get to work out with little harm than a broken heart or two. It’s unfortunate for Louis that the reason it falls apart is more serious than that.  But I never doubt for a second through McArdle’s version that he utterly loves Prior.
A credit also to the costume department for ‘designing’ a Louis that fits around McArdle’s incarnation- he’s scruffy and rumpled. None of his clothes fit properly, and have all seen better days (except perhaps the Tux for ‘spectral’ Louis) The battered trainers he wears everywhere including to work are a nice touch in that- Louis is nowhere near getting himself together in any way shape or form and his attire everywhere from his Grandmother’s funeral, to work to everyday casual is indistinguishable. It reflects a few things- the not-particularly well-off office temp, the young guy who hasn’t discovered a sense of style, and the cerebral nerdy guy who has never really thought of that side of things. Next to Prior and Belize’s fabulous ‘put-together’ looks, or Joe’s buttoned up straight-man look, it’s an important distinction personality wise, and within the gay community- where looks tell a lot about a person. Again, we look at Louis, as he probably does himself, and wonder how such a fabulous Queen as Prior ends up with the scruffy looking boy. It’s a great touch, and the scruffy yet soft look reflects perfectly McArdle’s take on him. Despite all that he does there are no hard edges, and much like his oversized clothes he often feels like a little boy lost in some else’s world.  
And maybe at the start he’s a bit lost in Prior’s world. But McArdle is clearly playing a Louis who is devastatingly in love with Prior. Their first scene plays out some of the parameters of their ‘normal’ relationship- the only sort of glimpse we get into it before Prior’s news rips into what they know. When Prior bitches about the cat at Louis, McArdle plays it with a well-worn resignation of this is how their relationship goes. A slight sense of the power-play of their relationship at work- Louis’ need to be right offset slightly by the fact Prior is clearly in charge of this- and we later learn-probably many a debate but playing it, as affable and endearing McArdle creates a charm to Louis that will also be integral to the other side of his coin- the political animal- but in the relationship, even when goading Prior to debate, he’s sweet and funny.
We see this again in their scene in bed together when McArdle delivers Louis’ speeches on Justice are again, sweet endearing Garfield plays Prior as the boyfriend who enjoys winding up his easily led partner. The picture they create-sat in bed, with smaller, slighter Garfield curled up against McArdle- physically larger and stronger it’s a great momentary image of a Louis that could be- the one that is there steadfast and strong and supporting (literally in the staging) his boyfriend. The taller, heavier set McAdle with the slighter more delicate looking Garfield curled up against him makes Louis look like someone who in another life would have protected his vulnerable other half to the death. And that’s a good image, considering things to come.  A very tactile scene, Garfield is curled around McArdle who ‘pets’ (for want of a better description) him throughout the scene-they’re rarely not touching. And there’s a look from McArdle, that Louis when watching Prior is somewhere between territorial and in awe. It’s an incredibly sweet scene and one that shows aspects of the relationship, dynamics clearly worked out between the two- from whose side of the bed is which (and why they’re in the ‘wrong’ side to begin with). But above all things, the end to that scene shows the heart of McArdle’s Louis and the heart of why what he does gives us so much more of him.
 After Prior has given his latest litany of bad news, Louis begins to fall apart again. Scared of what is to come, scared for Prior. The lines themselves can be read as cold, unfeeling, selfish. He asks the very worst thing a person could ‘what if I walked out on this’. And it’s still a terrible thing to say, there’s no letting Louis off on that one, but in McArdle’s hands it comes from a place of absolute fear. The moment when he leaps down the bed to embrace Prior fiercely from behind has this sense of raw urgency to it, particularly as he clings on as if for dear life of them both.  Much is made of Louis’ actions in the play- and rightly so. But what McArdle teaches us about Louis is the humanity with which we need to view what he’s going through. He has managed to capture with a real empathy, what a person goes through when a loved one is (potentially) dying. For his Louis it starts innocently enough, in not being able to cope with the news itself.
The scene on the bench really encapsulates their relationship- bickering which covers a deep-seated love and affection on both sides. A well-worn established relationship, couched in domesticity. The conversation that rips apart Louis’ world comes out of nowhere, out of an ordinary not-quite-fight over the cat. And it comes off the back of his Grandmother’s funeral. It can be played understated, but I think McArdle’s reaction- the great heaving sobs and the inability to contain that wave of shock and grief pitches right- not everyone would react that way, but Louis, one who cries too easily, is prone to hyperbole would. It blindsides him and he has no time to prepare a reaction and McArdle gives us that, raw and honest. When he hears this news, and when he finds Prior on the floor covered in blood. The screams and sobs he gives out in that moment are frighteningly accurate for anyone who has ever come across a loved one in any kind of state like that. The raw grief of those two moments tell us so much about McArdle’s understanding of Louis’ reactions. It’s one of fear and love.  
His crying obviously is a feature of the play McArdle taking the line ‘I cry way too easily’ at its word. Perhaps if I’m, a little too much at times though it works as an excellent punchline when he seems to realise this fact- mid-cry in fact, there is something to be said for holding it back a little for the moments that matter. But that his Louis cries as frequently out of anger as grief is incredibly humanising. It might be Garfield that does pretty-crier better but in McArdle’s hands tears are something of a deadly acting weapon. His tears of frustration when Belize challenges him about Joe are all too real too. He plays that sense of overwhelming frustration that results in tears that the criers among us will all recognise. 
Underneath that physical/emotional tic there’s also an element of the brewing constant emotional battle that goes on underneath. Another example being the scene with Joe in the toilet which is beautifully played. Who among us hasn’t done that thing of sobbing our heart out in the work toilet only to pull it together when a colleague walks in and pretend everything is fine (while snot runs down our face). He does a perfect switch flicking moment there, distracting himself with Joe while half his brain is still clearly sobbing over that sink. We also see a little of sassy, fun Louis as well. It’s a perfect response once again to that ‘rabbit in headlines’ moment of being caught vulnerable like that, to flip instead to funny and flirty. And in an instance, we get a moment of the other Louis, the one before all this and perhaps the version of him that Prior fell for as Joe starts to. 
It’s easy to dismiss what Louis does as cold, unfeeling but McArdle shows us just the depth of the feeling. His ‘failing in love’ is indeed a failing, of himself, of action, but it’s far from unfeeling. And when he tells Prior he is bruised inside, he means it. The emotions that mostly come out in tears from Louis reflect the depth of his feeling for everything- that is his failing, really, the over-feeling of everything, from anger at politics to his love for Prior to his inability to deal with his illness. All of it is consuming and overwhelming- and so he cries way too easily.
Away from Prior directly there are two scenes for Louis that are mountains for an actor to climb- the ‘Angels in America’ scene and the ‘Have you no decency’ scene. Fairly similar scenes in that they are Louis using politics and philosophy to direct and deflect personal feeling. But McArdle plays them so contrastingly we get a real insight into Louis. Angels in America which is essentially a 15-minute monologue from Louis, is cleverly constructed and directed here to be a dialogue without Belize having many lines. As noted in the comments on Nathan Stewart-Jarret he turns the monologue into a dialogue but some brilliantly timed non-verbal acting and this helps McArdle fly with that scene. It’s a speech that could be dry and offensive and frankly dull if delivered wrongly. It’s shorter in the film version, probably with good reason. But McArdle makes it one of the funniest scenes in the play. Becoming at once that friend we all have and the friend we’ve all been in full flight of rant, he embodies the comments section on a blog post or Guardian article. The skill however, in sounding like this nonsense is this minute occurring to him is an incredible thing to watch. It’s also an infuriating thing about his performance- McArdle has affected a halting-half stutter to his speech patterns as Louis, punctuating much of what he says- particularly in these long speeches with pauses, um and hesitations. So convincing is he that there were times I seriously worried he’d forgotten his lines (I’m sure this particular approach came in useful early on where there was a distinct possibility this had happened). He halts he wavers, he stops mid-thought and seems to turn around, back up or go in a different direction. It’s an utter masterclass in making the speech sound as if he’s just thought of it. Oh, and he also sounds a little like Kushner himself. Make of that what you will…
The importance of how he plays the ‘Angels in America’ scene is that he makes Louis funny, endearing and in that relatable in that moment. And that with it he conveys why Louis is like he is-indeed why he has spent 20 minutes talking about politics. And what he doesn’t talk about. Firstly, if you don’t make Louis likeable at this point as an actor you’re digging a hole for your character that it’s impossible to dig out of- the audience is already against Louis, if you bore them for 20 minutes they aren’t going to come back. McArdle has already won half that battle in that his Louis is infinitely more likeable than many, but it’s still a risk that played wrong this scene can tip people over. What works is that McArdle doesn’t rest on the words or the theories Louis says- but why he’s saying any of it to begin with. He’s saying everything that comes into his head the moment it does, to avoid talking about the one thing he can’t- Prior. And as much as these ramblings do come from the depths of Louis’ political mind somewhere, McArdle plays it as if his mind is a runaway train, talking about anything, everything else but the thing looming large at the front of his mind. Again, pulling it back to the love and depth of emotion for Prior- and that he can’t actually deal with it. If I’m offering notes/thoughts I’d say for all that he plays it too funny, too nice. There is a slightly viscous undertone to Louis’ politics- a defence mechanism at work in which being the cleverest in the room is a way to ‘win’ and when he does that it shows a different side of his vulnerability. His game of one-upmanship on Belize, which stems from a rivalry for Prior’s attention or affections, is a part of this long-winded rant, and it’s a balance of a need for ‘victory’ and a need to deflect anything and everything in the ‘real world’ by way of politics. McArdle gets that and it’s a joy to watch. 
The absolute tour-de-force of McArdle’s performance is the ‘Have you no decency’ scene. Arguably one of the best scenes written in modern drama, McArdle runs at it and rips it apart, it’s utterly exhausting to witness and Russell Tovey almost runs to catch up behind him for the entire scene. This scene embodies Kushner’s personal/political dialogue, which of course is so often distilled into Louis. It’s a masterclass in a slow burn of a scene. McArdle’s Louis is already burning with anger at Joe when he arrives, but it’s quietly contained to the point that Joe doesn’t notice, and gives Tovey a chance to continue playing the innocence of a naïve Joe. From his cool ‘You’re in’ almost a little resigned to the fact this is a fight he’s going to have- for all Louis’ bluster McArdle plays him as conflict averse and there’s a hesitance to fully unleash the rage he’s feeling that holds him back in this scene and makes the anger he builds to even more forceful. What he plays on for most of the scene is the man driven mad by what he loves- in every sense. He’s rumpled, dishevelled from two days holed up researching and plotting his confrontation. When he delivers the first ‘Have you no decency?’ it’s unmistakably the tone of a betrayed lover confronting the cheating party. He delivers is lying down, not looking in Joe’s direction, and he stays there. His feigned indifference to Joe himself, makes him almost cat-like luring his soon to be ex-lover in and placing him exactly where he wants him.
McArdle plays a lot of Louis’ insecurities up in his performance, and the manifest physically, but here he switches this almost entirely.  
Physicality has been a key element of how McArdle’s Louis relates to other character- he’s bigger and seems physically stronger than Prior, their relative sizes add a certain dynamic to their relationship. While to Joe, while better matched in height and stature, Tovey’s Joe is clearly physically stronger. But in this scene McArdle squares up to him face on, and blocks him. It’s a confident and dominant gesture, and you believe that he’d go through with the threat of violence at that moment (is that the Glasgow in him?). But he also plays it as visibility and physically repulsed by Joe, well matched physically it also comes off as both frightening and faintly ridiculous at once. Grown men fighting but without real intent to hurt each other, there’s still a lingering sexual tension and a desire to exorcise something but not really to hurt one another. McArdle plays it- I struggle with ‘child-like’ but it is like when a toddler isn’t getting his way and resorts to physical means, Joe isn’t listening so he physically pulls him back to where he wants him to make him- or try to make him. He maneuverers him into place and then his pushes and shoves become like a wordless expression of the exasperation he’s feeling. Most importantly, there’s never any real desire to hurt Joe physically. It’s Joe’s temper that snaps first and he lands a punch with violence and it’s shocking. And whatever in the broader sense we feel about Louis’ behaviour in that moment he doesn’t deserve it, and McArdle gives us a knowing expression that says simply ‘this confirms everything I thought about you’ it’s dark and dangerous and is McArdle’s perfect punctuation to the scene.
This scene really demonstrates McArdle’s understanding of how Louis’ mind works- the parallel lines of politics and personal finally merge and he delivers it with fire and precision. All along Louis’ political and philosophical rantings act as a mask to deflect personal feelings or insecurities. McArdle has said that what Louis goes through teaches him about love, and about being a man. Louis goes through everything he goes through, does what he does both for love, and because he’s not yet sure what it means to be a man (or an adult). When he says the Kaddish for Roy he says, ‘I’m 32 years old and I’ve never been in a room with a dead body’ and although he says it flippantly (and pokes Roy’s face) this is the watershed moment for Louis, being in the room with a dead body, finding forgiveness which his immature self perhaps would stubbornly dig his heels in a rile against, something happens to Louis in that moment and that’s the ‘journey’ for him McArdle articulates so clearly. 
And what of Louis in the Epilogue?  A brilliant level of detail in his costume tells us something of where this version of Louis might be. Wearing ‘proper’ shoes for the first time for a start, and a shirt and trousers that are smart, appear newer and fit, and a smart coat, again that fits. The message seems clear that Louis has got himself together in those five years. McArdle plays him confidently in the Epilogue, with a self-assurance that is missing earlier, and ease in his skin that we previously don’t see. Some interesting body language around Belize and Prior lends itself to numerus theories of those years, and beyond. Notably the night McArdle and Stewart-Jarret started a play-fight in the background during the epilogue. But most of all there’s that quiet ease that leaves you feeling, whatever the ‘theory’ around Louis’ own life things seem peaceful, settled and he is at ease with wherever or whoever he might be.
I call this ‘James McArdle deliberately disproves my point by not dressing properly at the curtain call’ 
Having covered a lot of ground here on McArdle it feels like a barely scratching of the surface. That’s because there is simply that much going on with him. Louis is probably the most difficult and complex character in the play. McArdle gets under the skin of Louis in a way that hasn’t been done before. He’s utterly different and yet at the heart of Louis as written. He’s also an actor with an eye for the details, and there are probably hundreds of little gestures of brilliance across the performance. But he’s also an actor with an eye for the bigger picture, and this is a Louis we we see evolve and grow and even if he’s not fully realised at the end, that’s really the beauty of McArdle’s interpretation- not everyone is left fully changed so visibly. Perhaps some audiences need to see Louis as a real terrible person, to believe he does it out of selfishness or spite, perhaps that’s the only way they can reconcile the part of themselves that understands. But as an actor McArdle seems to have fully reconciled that part of him, in order to play him this sympathetically I think you have to really feel that understanding of why Louis does what he does. And in McArdle’s Louis that does all stem from his frightening somewhat overwhelming love of Prior. And the very real fear that comes with dealing with the reality of life and death for the first time that happens to come along with his love.
Much like Louis I could talk for days about McArdle’s version. I could praise and pick apart almost any gesutre. I’m dying to know how he got to that place as an actor and what he thinks of the character. He’s created something new and something so familiar and even months on I’m utterly fascinated. I’ve strayed away from making judgement of ‘ranking’ on ‘my’ actors here, but if you’re asking me (nobody is) James McArdle is the one that deserves all the awards in this ensemble. And if I continue living with this play for another 10 or 20 years I won’t see a better Louis. And as I said in my other blog, I have a lot of gratitude for what he did on stage too- on a personal note it’s rare something you know that well can move you that much, and still change you so much. Bloody James McArdle, you managed it.

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Louis and Me…

I’ve spent a long time writing the blog posts about Andrew Garfield and James McArdle’s portrayal of Prior and Louis. They’ve taken an age because they’re long and there’s a lot to say. But I really struggled with Louis. I struggled because I realised James McArdle’s performance had really tapped into some personal things around Louis for me. It’s a really difficult thing to articulate when an actor gets so deeply to the heart of a character you feel both an affinity for and a great love for. And even now there is something deeply visceral about what his version of the character did to me and for me that I can’t quite articulate. But in trying to work that out I thought it was time to talk honestly about what Louis means to me, and why he’s so important to me in the play.
I am Louis, and Louis has always been where my heart lays in this play. It’s more complex than this perhaps, but while Prior is at the heart of the play no doubt, it’s Louis for me that’s always driven it. And on a basic level of analysing the play McArdle’s interpretation makes me simply want to shout ‘THAT, THAT IS WHAT I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT.’ He builds Louis again from the ground up and comes at him with the attitude of an actor who is making no judgment about the character- which is really the only way to play him, and understand him. His Louis is softer, and as many have said more understandable. But I think that’s because McArdle understands him too. For an actor approaching the role it’s too easy to look at what Louis does, combine that with the political rantings, and come out with a cold, uncaring version of the character. McArdle gives us the opposite- a Louis who cares so much he falls apart.
But still Louis is a character who causes a lot of division. There’s a bit of a sense of ‘Team Louis’ and ‘Team Prior’ perhaps, and a sense that you can’t ever see both sides, you fall with one or the other. Perhaps Kushner has given us two sides of a coin to argue for infinity. I will always fall on Louis’ side, although I feel desperately for Prior. Because I simply feel a part of Louis.
Why Louis then? People ask ‘Why this play?’ ask me ‘why spend so much of your life on it?’ or ‘what is it about it?’ often.  The answer now is ‘many things’ and ‘too many to mention’ I’ve fallen in love with the play (and out of love) so many times I can’t remember anymore, or pull out one thing. But actually the thing that drew me in initially was Louis, an at the time inexplicable pull towards him.  
I tell the story of finding Angels often. I lived in Canada, we had no TV but we’d rent DVDs from the Dollar movie store around the corner. The part I don’t tell often (and this goes for my discovery of Rent around that time) is that at that point my Father was either dying or had just died. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact timelines but finding this play (and Rent) fell around then. The part I leave out, but is at least implicit, was I’d run away too.
It’s fitting that I’m getting to writing this today, which is Canadian Thanksgiving. My memories of the period are so fuzzy in fact, and I am such a terrible Louis-like person that I don’t know the exact date he died. I do know it was Canadian Thanksgiving that weekend. So that’s the marker in my brain. (This was 2004 for anyone interested in chronology). I’d lived there for three months and done a pretty effective Louis-ing of hiding away and being slightly oblivious to the reality I’d left behind. It wasn’t entirely as deliberate or conscious as Louis. I was there to study, and with my parent’s blessing. But I’d still run, I was still (like Prior) ‘Dancing as fast as I can’. My ‘Louis’ part of this is that I both wanted to go, and wasn’t coping particularly well. In my defence I was 20 years old, and coping with a life in a foreign country, and the death of a parent. But let’s just say I didn’t handle it well.
So that, like Louis is my dirty little secret about it. I rarely say it because people find it difficult to understand but I understand because in my own way I did it. I was young, unable to cope with the reality of someone I was close to dying. And so I ran.
When people call Louis cold, or a terrible person it really does cut to the core of me. Because he’s not. It doesn’t mean what he did was right, but humans don’t act in the right way all the time, a lot of the time. Not all of us hold up well under pressure. Not all of us are emotionally equipped to deal with everything life throws at us.
Later, in relationships, I admit I didn’t deal well with illness again. When I partner was suffering with mental health issues, I wasn’t good, I didn’t cope well and in part it drove us apart. And I was again ready to run. I was younger, I was more ignorant of these issues. And frankly I was (and am) dealing with my own mental health issues. These aren’t excuses, like Louis I’m not excusable in my inability to cope. But they are reasons. And they are things I understand about him. We aren’t all built that way, we aren’t all wired that way.  And what of sexuality in Louis? It’s not something we talk about as we do with Joe. But I believe Louis struggled with his sexuality more than the self- assured ‘Queens’ Prior and Belize.  His quips about his parents being disappointed, his previous ‘sleeping around’ his self-destructive relationship with Joe. We don’t talk about the potential for internalised homophobia but we should. Louis is at times uncomfortable in his own skin. And I admit I’ve felt the same about my own sexuality. I feel his awkwardness in me too.
And yes, I see a lot of myself in Louis. Not just ‘the boy who ran away’ but the boy who is confused, a bit lost. The boy who gives a 20-minute political monologue rather than address his true feelings. The boy who is just so angry at everything in the world because he can’t address the real issues within himself. Some of us are Prior, some of us fight in the face of the worst possible adversary. Some of us are Belize, cool and calm and oh so together in life. Some of us are Harper, managing to rebuild ourselves out of dust and ashes. And some of us are Louis-we fall apart and it takes us a long while to put ourselves back together again. 
But Louis isn’t without redeeming qualities. He loves, and acts fiercely and with conviction. And I’m proud to see that trait in myself too. I feel everything at extremes (yes, I too cry way too easily). I throw myself at the things I believe in with passion and an almost blind conviction (as well, this blog might well indicate). I’m knowledgeable to the extreme on the things I love and will share that information (others might not see that as the greatest trait thinking about it…). And I also love with loyalty and dedication. In all that he does Louis loves Prior completely, and I share that ‘all in’ attitude as well.
Seeing the play this time was surprisingly emotional on realising that I’m now the same age as Louis. More so than I’d anticipated. Perhaps because I still find myself very much in Louis’ position – the office temp, a bit directionless, a bit friendless at times, a disaster when it comes to relationships. Basically, just being a person who hasn’t quite got their shit together yet. In some respects, the Louis of the Epilogue, in this version of it, gives me hope for 37, because that Louis did seem like a man who finally did have his shit together. So, we live in hope. So maybe come back to me in five years and see?
I get fiercely defensive of ‘my’ Louis, as a character and now of McArdle’s interpretation of him. For the character I ask honestly of anyone who loathes him, or accuses him of being a terrible person (there’s a difference in doing terrible things to being terrible) I ask, have you been there? Do you know how you’d cope? And can you not understand that not everyone does, or can handle things in the same or ‘correct’ way. And maybe this blog and admitting these things will make people dislike me as passionately as they do Louis. But maybe it’ll also help them understand. 
The reason I found it difficult to articulate my feelings on McArdle’s performance is that he gave me everything I’ve had in my head about this character for 10 years or more. All the things I thought only I was seeing about him, he brought out. And it’s wonderful, but also heart-searingly painful to watch, and live through again and again. He gave me things about Louis I didn’t know existed, and things that I was forced to reflect on myself again. He gave me a love for the character and an increasingly complicated ‘I feel like this character but I’m also in love with this character’ type feeling.  Louis has been a part of my heart for as long as I’ve loved this play. And quite simply James McArdle gave me a version of him that I’d been waiting for, he made real everything I almost thought I’d imagined about the character. Like having a part of you ripped out but also put back together at the same time. I’d kind of like to thank him for that.
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Louis and Me…

I’ve spent a long time writing the blog posts about Andrew Garfield and James McArdle’s portrayal of Prior and Louis. They’ve taken an age because they’re long and there’s a lot to say. But I really struggled with Louis. I struggled because I realised James McArdle’s performance had really tapped into some personal things around Louis for me. It’s a really difficult thing to articulate when an actor gets so deeply to the heart of a character you feel both an affinity for and a great love for. And even now there is something deeply visceral about what his version of the character did to me and for me that I can’t quite articulate. But in trying to work that out I thought it was time to talk honestly about what Louis means to me, and why he’s so important to me in the play.
I am Louis, and Louis has always been where my heart lays in this play. It’s more complex than this perhaps, but while Prior is at the heart of the play no doubt, it’s Louis for me that’s always driven it. And on a basic level of analysing the play McArdle’s interpretation makes me simply want to shout ‘THAT, THAT IS WHAT I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT.’ He builds Louis again from the ground up and comes at him with the attitude of an actor who is making no judgment about the character- which is really the only way to play him, and understand him. His Louis is softer, and as many have said more understandable. But I think that’s because McArdle understands him too. For an actor approaching the role it’s too easy to look at what Louis does, combine that with the political rantings, and come out with a cold, uncaring version of the character. McArdle gives us the opposite- a Louis who cares so much he falls apart.
But still Louis is a character who causes a lot of division. There’s a bit of a sense of ‘Team Louis’ and ‘Team Prior’ perhaps, and a sense that you can’t ever see both sides, you fall with one or the other. Perhaps Kushner has given us two sides of a coin to argue for infinity. I will always fall on Louis’ side, although I feel desperately for Prior. Because I simply feel a part of Louis.
Why Louis then? People ask ‘Why this play?’ ask me ‘why spend so much of your life on it?’ or ‘what is it about it?’ often.  The answer now is ‘many things’ and ‘too many to mention’ I’ve fallen in love with the play (and out of love) so many times I can’t remember anymore, or pull out one thing. But actually the thing that drew me in initially was Louis, an at the time inexplicable pull towards him.  
I tell the story of finding Angels often. I lived in Canada, we had no TV but we’d rent DVDs from the Dollar movie store around the corner. The part I don’t tell often (and this goes for my discovery of Rent around that time) is that at that point my Father was either dying or had just died. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact timelines but finding this play (and Rent) fell around then. The part I leave out, but is at least implicit, was I’d run away too.
It’s fitting that I’m getting to writing this today, which is Canadian Thanksgiving. My memories of the period are so fuzzy in fact, and I am such a terrible Louis-like person that I don’t know the exact date he died. I do know it was Canadian Thanksgiving that weekend. So that’s the marker in my brain. (This was 2004 for anyone interested in chronology). I’d lived there for three months and done a pretty effective Louis-ing of hiding away and being slightly oblivious to the reality I’d left behind. It wasn’t entirely as deliberate or conscious as Louis. I was there to study, and with my parent’s blessing. But I’d still run, I was still (like Prior) ‘Dancing as fast as I can’. My ‘Louis’ part of this is that I both wanted to go, and wasn’t coping particularly well. In my defence I was 20 years old, and coping with a life in a foreign country, and the death of a parent. But let’s just say I didn’t handle it well.
So that, like Louis is my dirty little secret about it. I rarely say it because people find it difficult to understand but I understand because in my own way I did it. I was young, unable to cope with the reality of someone I was close to dying. And so I ran.
When people call Louis cold, or a terrible person it really does cut to the core of me. Because he’s not. It doesn’t mean what he did was right, but humans don’t act in the right way all the time, a lot of the time. Not all of us hold up well under pressure. Not all of us are emotionally equipped to deal with everything life throws at us.
Later, in relationships, I admit I didn’t deal well with illness again. When I partner was suffering with mental health issues, I wasn’t good, I didn’t cope well and in part it drove us apart. And I was again ready to run. I was younger, I was more ignorant of these issues. And frankly I was (and am) dealing with my own mental health issues. These aren’t excuses, like Louis I’m not excusable in my inability to cope. But they are reasons. And they are things I understand about him. We aren’t all built that way, we aren’t all wired that way.  And what of sexuality in Louis? It’s not something we talk about as we do with Joe. But I believe Louis struggled with his sexuality more than the self- assured ‘Queens’ Prior and Belize.  His quips about his parents being disappointed, his previous ‘sleeping around’ his self-destructive relationship with Joe. We don’t talk about the potential for internalised homophobia but we should. Louis is at times uncomfortable in his own skin. And I admit I’ve felt the same about my own sexuality. I feel his awkwardness in me too.
And yes, I see a lot of myself in Louis. Not just ‘the boy who ran away’ but the boy who is confused, a bit lost. The boy who gives a 20-minute political monologue rather than address his true feelings. The boy who is just so angry at everything in the world because he can’t address the real issues within himself. Some of us are Prior, some of us fight in the face of the worst possible adversary. Some of us are Belize, cool and calm and oh so together in life. Some of us are Harper, managing to rebuild ourselves out of dust and ashes. And some of us are Louis-we fall apart and it takes us a long while to put ourselves back together again. 
But Louis isn’t without redeeming qualities. He loves, and acts fiercely and with conviction. And I’m proud to see that trait in myself too. I feel everything at extremes (yes, I too cry way too easily). I throw myself at the things I believe in with passion and an almost blind conviction (as well, this blog might well indicate). I’m knowledgeable to the extreme on the things I love and will share that information (others might not see that as the greatest trait thinking about it…). And I also love with loyalty and dedication. In all that he does Louis loves Prior completely, and I share that ‘all in’ attitude as well.
Seeing the play this time was surprisingly emotional on realising that I’m now the same age as Louis. More so than I’d anticipated. Perhaps because I still find myself very much in Louis’ position – the office temp, a bit directionless, a bit friendless at times, a disaster when it comes to relationships. Basically, just being a person who hasn’t quite got their shit together yet. In some respects, the Louis of the Epilogue, in this version of it, gives me hope for 37, because that Louis did seem like a man who finally did have his shit together. So, we live in hope. So maybe come back to me in five years and see?
I get fiercely defensive of ‘my’ Louis, as a character and now of McArdle’s interpretation of him. For the character I ask honestly of anyone who loathes him, or accuses him of being a terrible person (there’s a difference in doing terrible things to being terrible) I ask, have you been there? Do you know how you’d cope? And can you not understand that not everyone does, or can handle things in the same or ‘correct’ way. And maybe this blog and admitting these things will make people dislike me as passionately as they do Louis. But maybe it’ll also help them understand. 
The reason I found it difficult to articulate my feelings on McArdle’s performance is that he gave me everything I’ve had in my head about this character for 10 years or more. All the things I thought only I was seeing about him, he brought out. And it’s wonderful, but also heart-searingly painful to watch, and live through again and again. He gave me things about Louis I didn’t know existed, and things that I was forced to reflect on myself again. He gave me a love for the character and an increasingly complicated ‘I feel like this character but I’m also in love with this character’ type feeling.  Louis has been a part of my heart for as long as I’ve loved this play. And quite simply James McArdle gave me a version of him that I’d been waiting for, he made real everything I almost thought I’d imagined about the character. Like having a part of you ripped out but also put back together at the same time. I’d kind of like to thank him for that.
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Why Elliott & Harper is the company I’ve been waiting for

 I can never resist a good (bad) pun in a title. As the first production from Elliott & Harper opens its doors for previews tonight, it’s worth pausing to think what this new production company means and why indeed we need more like it. Something of a ‘power house’ company formed of Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper. Both coming from the National Theatre- as Director and Producer respectively- there’s a real understanding of both the craft of theatre and the audiences that do- and don’t- come to it there. And theatre made by and produced by theatre people, in the commercial realm. That’s potentially very exciting.

Firstly, the act of two theatre people who really love theatre, really understand theatre both from an audience point of view and an artistic point of view. Secondly, one of the UK’s best directors striking out on her own to make theatre on her own terms. Thirdly, and you bet it’s an important factor, a woman artistic director. It’s all exciting, and has the potential, we already know to produce exciting work. A company that is starting with a new Simon Stephens play starring Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham is obviously a pretty strong start. When your second play is a radically re-imagined Company, with Rosalie Craig in the starring role, and a small matter of Patti LuPone also starring. Even in the most unforgiving critic’s eyes that’s a bold and strong start.
Why then is Elliott & Harper both such a good idea and an important one for theatre? Firstly, then theatre people making theatre. As loathe as some critics are to admit it, we do have a lot of great theatre happening in London and beyond (and can we pause to note that already Elliot& Harper are working beyond London with their collaboration with West Yorkshire playhouse, this gives me great hope for a regional outlook in the future) The London fringes, subsidised sector and indeed a lot of regional work are brilliant, daring and pushing boundaries and audiences to the limits. And that is wonderful work. I love the West End, I love a big musical and a classic play. I even firmly believe there’s a place for Mama Mia in this world, but what we need is a balance.  Theatre that challenges audiences, gives something new, twists those classics but is also accessible to casual and seasoned theatre goers alike.
And you know what, I think Elliott Harper are the ones to brings us that. Theatre people who understand both theatre as a craft, and audiences. That’s what our theatre needs an intelligent alliance at the head of a production company, one that understands and wants to challenge but excite audiences. The Harper in ‘Elliott&Harper’ will drive a production company that’s business savvy, but also doesn’t lose sight of the- at the risk of sounding artsy, and yes, a bit wanky- the art in theatre. We have a lot of business savvy producers, and we have business savvy producers who do I’m sure care about the work. But I fear a lot of them have lost touch with that. In a difficult market, when a proven commodity or safe bet is easier it feels like ‘why?’ is a question only answered by ‘money’. We need money in theatre, we all know that but a producer relationship with an artistic director that drives that question ‘Why?’ with a more complicated answer is far better for us all in the theatrical world. And having a director like Elliott then answering those questions for you with the productions is possibly a recipe for theatrical gold in every sense.
Elliott’s directing work has always been both risk taking and accessible. Proof that you don’t have to alienate an audience to challenge them, that you can be bold to engage an audience not put them off. Proof also that visuals and spectacle and turning theatre on its head work only when engaged with the heart of the matter: human storytelling. The National, where Elliott &Harper have both honed their craft, is as a rule good at this kind of risk taking. Of pushing boundaries with form or taking a risk on the kinds of stories told.  Any of Elliott’s ‘big hits’ could have ended in disaster, and in interviews she’s far too modest to say so, but in other hands they likely would have. From the ‘let’s tell this children’s story but with puppets, giant horse puppets’ to the Scottish fairy tale with a floating princess and Tori Amos music, to the inside of an Autistic boy’s mind to, yes, Angels crashing through ceilings. These were pushing theatrical boundaries in one way or another. But in their final execution were so well put together that it becomes almost too easy to forget that element. As a personal example, the most vicious argument I had with my PhD supervisor was about War Horse as an innovative piece of theatrical storytelling, because it’s so easy to miss just how clever, innovative and important it was. (Given my PhD itself was 3 years of arguing that Angels in Americais an important theatrical work I can’t help but be amused, and wonder if I could now persuade Elliott to shout at my supervisor for me)
Honestly I think I’ll go to my grave arguing about this damn horse. 
Elliott’s work is big and risk taking, but the thing that always guides it back is an innate instinct at her heart as a director for stories. That she’s also one of the most conscientious and through directors working today also helps. Too many productions seem a little ‘thrown together’ a ‘best fit’ or ‘will do’ which leaves glaring gaps obvious to, and ultimately off putting and insulting to audiences. Not in Elliott’s work- no research stone, or exploration of staging or performance seems unturned until it fits together. The work always feels like it gives credit to the audience’s intelligence and investment, and repays that with a sense of authenticity to the work.
Known for big storytelling, and big visuals- from Angels crashing to Rosalie Craig floating for an entire performance, to yes, those horses again. But what perhaps goes unnoticed in the bigger picture is that all of Elliott’s work is at its heart about people, the human stories. And that’s what makes her directing not just good, but something special. Anyone can throw together big visuals with the right team, and the right budget. What distinguishes Elliott’s work is that underneath all those big images is a story driving it. Angels in America proved that once and for all, the biggest most sweeping spiraling narrative you could ask for, writ large on the Lyttleton stage and some full on Brechtian Epic staging, but what came through are the people. In ten years, while the Angel crashing to the stage will be a memory, it’ll be how you cried for Prior or the affinity you felt with Harper (or Louis….no just me?) that you’ll remember.  When I think of Curious Incident I have a general memory of the slick, brilliantly realised staging. But really, I think about Christopher and his story (ok and the dog).
And yes, it’s important that it’s a woman at the artistic helm. Not just because we need more women visible in what is a male-dominated industry. But we need more women visibility taking charge and running things. That Elliott has used the status and freedom that being at the helm of the National Theatre’s biggest hitters not just to pick and choose what she directs, but to take more artistic charge with a production company, is exactly the steer the industry needs. Elliott could well have gone on directing for the National, or the Old Vic or frankly any other major theatre company who would a) be lucky to have her b) probably bite her arm off to have her direct for them. But in choosing to break out alone Elliott has taken back control, and is able to steer not only her career but in a broader sense the theatrical landscape in directions she chooses. And my goodness does it make a nice change to write ‘she’ in all these sentences.
This isn’t about quotas, or a numbers game. It is also about getting women’s voices heard. And that is on stage and off. Off stage it’s about the sense of hope a woman in charge brings, the idea that the person running this show (in the literal and figurative sense) understands the challenges women face- firstly to get a foothold in a room of noisy men, but then as we get older and it gets harder to be heard, as we juggle children with career, still playing catch up from before and often fade further into the background. And it’s not about saying women will automatically give other women opportunities (though that’s what men have been doing since the dawn of time) it’s saying women will recognise those struggles. The women who end up working with Elliott will still be the best of the best, because they’ll need to be, but the difference is that elsewhere those women might have been overlooked.
And then there’s telling women’s stories. Putting women’s stories at the forefront. That doesn’t mean telling only stories about women or written by women (though obviously that is something we all need to keep pushing for) but it means not pushing the women to the back in the stories we have. Looking at how Elliott directed Angels we already see that- in a story that is filled with men, the voices of the women still rang out strong and for once I felt Harper’s story was as much at the centre. Now in Heisenberg we have a woman in Simon Stephen’s play sharing equal footing with the male character- that’s a woman’s story on stage. We aren’t asking for it to all be about women, we just need stories, and directors who get that voice heard.
And a part of that of course is Company. That deserves its own analysis just for existing. But the fact that people (men) are already complaining that it won’t work, exactly proves why it’s a story begging to be told. As a 33-year-old single woman, honestly the thought of Company told through a woman’s lens makes me want to cry- because it feels like my voice is being heard. Because I’ve heard all the things thrown at Bobby a hundred times, and because as a musical theatre nerd I want a woman at the heart of something not just to fall in love with the man. And because well who doesn’t cry a bit at the thought of Rosalie Craig in anything right? But in all seriousness, maybe the piece has started to age with Bobby as a man but put a woman’s voice at the heart and it feels like that answer to a question I hadn’t thought to ask. And that’s why, that’s why we need women like Marianne Elliott taking charge, making work.

And if your opening move involves re-writing Sondheim…well I can’t wait to see where you go from there. So, Elliott & Harper, break a leg as Heisenberg opens its doors. And from there…who knows but it looks like it’s going to be something worth watching in every sense. 
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Welcome to Night Vale ‘All Hail’ (Tour)

For those unfamiliar with it, Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, starring Cecil Baldwin as Cecil Palmer, the voice of Night Vale’s community radio show. Night Vale is a scenic little desert community where all of the weird things that have ever happened. Think the love child of X Files and Radio 4. A world of forbidden dog parks, hooded figures, floating cats, and mysterious lights in the sky (mostly void, partially stars). In a way completely inexplicable but makes perfect sense upon listening. The show began in 2012 and releases twice a month, alongside numerous live performances, books and of course various merchandise. It’s a very ‘Millennial’ experience- released into the wild for free, crowdfunded and supported by a loyal and growing audience. But it also marks a success story of that very ‘Millennial’ approach to doing things.
I confess I’ve not listened to Night Vale in probably a year. Nothing to do with their work I am just not a podcast person. I think my dyslexia makes listening to spoken word difficult if I’m trying to do anyting else, and I rarely have time to sit and simply listen. So through no fault of their own Night Vale had fallen off my radar. But actually coming to the live show fresh, was a real advantage and treat.
The beauty of a radio show of course is that you don’t have to ‘perform’ it and if it goes wrong, you can re-record. So there’s a little worry that this won’t translate to ‘live’ performance. But Night Vale know how to pitch their work- they don’t over-perform or try and inject a ‘stagey’ element to it. It’s as if you were watching them record the podcast, which is exactly the right way to pitch it.
The show includes a musical element (The Weather on a Night Vale broadcast is always a musical guest, again it makes sense if you hear it) and on this tour it was the brilliant Erin McKeown. A great mix of soft-rock love songs and political anthems. McKeown worked the crowd well, sensing a Welsh crowd enjoys a sing-along got everyone involved. I highly recommend seeking out her music as well, particularly those fond of Queer love songs and anti-Trump anthems (I strongly suspect those categories overlap somewhat). Her song ‘The Queer Gospel’ is the actual ‘weather’ segment in the middle of the show and is the perfect addition to the world of Night Vale.
It is difficult to explain or review Welcome to Night Vale. It is very much a ‘cult following’ and the demographic- Millennials with interesting hair- are devoted. It also feels like a welcoming audience, the kind of crowd you look around and figure if you were on your own, you could find someone to chat to at the bar based on their cool T Shirt or a pin badge on their bag. And that nerd-space experience is as much a part of what Night Vale offer their audiences as much as the performance itself.
Being a bit out of the loop with happenings in the Vale I worried I’d feel left out. And while there were a few jokes that no doubt passed me by, it really doesn’t matter as Night Vale is a world weird enough that you can dip in and out of at any time. There does seem to be a fair bit of fan-service going on in the live shows, which is to be expected and doesn’t detract from the excellent writing and overall is a fun experience in which you’re carried away by the fan’s excitement and enthusiasm. Though, being a slightly grumpy person in this respect, I could have lived without the amount of audience interaction in this show. Amid the strange comings and goings of the town that are par for the course, this show ‘All Hail’ also had a strong message at its core. Based around the town’s blind worship of the now infamous ‘glow cloud’ there was at its heart a message against blind following and an invocation to action. It’s not a subtle message by any means, but it doesn’t have to be, and in the world we live in maybe it shouldn’t be.
The performers, are as brilliant live as they are in the recording. They include Meg Bashwiner as our compare and Haze-cloud Deb and others that are best left as a surprise on the night. But at it’s heart of course is voice of Night Vale Ceil Baldwin. As funny, engaging and with a voice that could sooth Tigers or politicians, Ceil really does embody Night Vale. He spins the narrative with such ease (well except when he nearly sent a microphone flying) and weaves together the strange world with such nonchalance you’d think the was reading the weather for real. It’s a sweet and funny performance and he clearly relishes the audience reactions. He’s funny, engaging and brings a real heart to this sweeping and surreal world.

Night Vale is big on a sense of activism under the weirdness. It’s an inclusive, LGBTQ supportive, and political group of people. And that comes through in the writing. And good for them. Not only does it create work with a message, but it brings people together on that message. It’s full of Queer performers and people of colour and although they don’t name names in the fictional world the trajectory of the statements is clear. But at its heart it’s sweet and hopeful and inclusive and kind. And you know what, that’s kind of lovely. 
Welcome to Night Vale ‘All Hail’ is on tour worldwide: 
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Have you no decency? A month into Project Book

The above image has come to symbolize my last month: slightly unhinged in two day old clothes waving research at people who don’t give a damn or understand. Actually that might be a good image to represent my entire academic career.

As much as this blog is being used to throw around ideas for the work I’m working on, I figure I should also use it to talk about the process. And the process is…well the above.

In the spirit of thinking about things positively here are things I have done in the last month:

  • 20, 000 or so new words on paper
  • About 60, 000 words (ok 58, 527 to be exact) pulled from drafts, the PhD and other sources in various states of editing. 
  • Vague structure
  • Interviewed Daniel Kramer and Tony Kushner and lined up a couple of actor interviews. 
(I also had a couple of creative projects that needed groundwork this month, and job applications so it hasn’t been all Angels book all the time)
The rest of the time working on the book has been taken up with emailing, searching and generally crying about the fact that nobody wants to publish it. Hence the above, waving research in two-day-old clothes. 
I never expected it to be easy. Hell I’m a failed academic with no institutional affiliation it was always going to take work. 
The thing is when I speak to people outside the academic bubble they think just the act of attempting this thing is impressive. Sadly inside it I’m the only academic who can’t find a publisher willing to touch her PhD. Everyone manages that. 
And I don’t mean to sound either mean, or conceited but I see far, far more niche things than this work getting published every day. I’m not going to give examples there because everyone’s research is important to someone, and valuable. But what I’m saying is things with a far narrower field of interest get, well interest. 
I’m fairly resistant to the Big Academic Publisher route. Partly because I know it’ll be a long road with a likelihood of failure. But I also don’t have any route into trade publishers either. So where does that leave me? Self-Publishing as an e-book is an option, but if I’m honest, as nice as it would be to have total control, that feels like a final failure in what has been a litany of failures. Couldn’t even get her PhD published what a joke. 
I have such passion for this project- and the wider work that goes with it. And I believe it’s something worth doing. I wouldn’t have kept on this long if I didn’t. But when all I get are road block after road block it’s hard not to believe I won’t always be Louis, throwing papers at a Mormon who doesn’t understand him, or what he’s saying, forever. 
And that’s a bit what I feel. You know when Louis reels off why his parents are disappointed ‘He’s a fag, he’s an office temp, oh look he’s saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn’ Let’s just all agree I feel like Louis a lot of the time. And that’s the other issue, I gave myself a month off before temping. I’m managing to eek that out a little longer. But as another dead-end admin job, a ‘for now’ retail job and temping loom once more, it’s hard not to feel like a failure. I look around and see people advancing in their careers and I seem to be back at square one, yet again. It’s hard to keep momentum. I let myself think, when I walked out of my last admin job that maybe, just maybe this was the last time and things would start to happen. I might finally make progress again. But a month on it’s hard to keep that optimism. 
So what do I want? I want a sense that this IS publishable work, that is is worth carrying on with. I’m not afraid to work hard on it, but if it’s all a pointless exercise when do I give up? 
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Have you no decency? A month into Project Book

The above image has come to symbolize my last month: slightly unhinged in two day old clothes waving research at people who don’t give a damn or understand. Actually that might be a good image to represent my entire academic career.

As much as this blog is being used to throw around ideas for the work I’m working on, I figure I should also use it to talk about the process. And the process is…well the above.

In the spirit of thinking about things positively here are things I have done in the last month:

  • 20, 000 or so new words on paper
  • About 60, 000 words (ok 58, 527 to be exact) pulled from drafts, the PhD and other sources in various states of editing. 
  • Vague structure
  • Interviewed Daniel Kramer and Tony Kushner and lined up a couple of actor interviews. 
(I also had a couple of creative projects that needed groundwork this month, and job applications so it hasn’t been all Angels book all the time)
The rest of the time working on the book has been taken up with emailing, searching and generally crying about the fact that nobody wants to publish it. Hence the above, waving research in two-day-old clothes. 
I never expected it to be easy. Hell I’m a failed academic with no institutional affiliation it was always going to take work. 
The thing is when I speak to people outside the academic bubble they think just the act of attempting this thing is impressive. Sadly inside it I’m the only academic who can’t find a publisher willing to touch her PhD. Everyone manages that. 
And I don’t mean to sound either mean, or conceited but I see far, far more niche things than this work getting published every day. I’m not going to give examples there because everyone’s research is important to someone, and valuable. But what I’m saying is things with a far narrower field of interest get, well interest. 
I’m fairly resistant to the Big Academic Publisher route. Partly because I know it’ll be a long road with a likelihood of failure. But I also don’t have any route into trade publishers either. So where does that leave me? Self-Publishing as an e-book is an option, but if I’m honest, as nice as it would be to have total control, that feels like a final failure in what has been a litany of failures. Couldn’t even get her PhD published what a joke. 
I have such passion for this project- and the wider work that goes with it. And I believe it’s something worth doing. I wouldn’t have kept on this long if I didn’t. But when all I get are road block after road block it’s hard not to believe I won’t always be Louis, throwing papers at a Mormon who doesn’t understand him, or what he’s saying, forever. 
And that’s a bit what I feel. You know when Louis reels off why his parents are disappointed ‘He’s a fag, he’s an office temp, oh look he’s saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn’ Let’s just all agree I feel like Louis a lot of the time. And that’s the other issue, I gave myself a month off before temping. I’m managing to eek that out a little longer. But as another dead-end admin job, a ‘for now’ retail job and temping loom once more, it’s hard not to feel like a failure. I look around and see people advancing in their careers and I seem to be back at square one, yet again. It’s hard to keep momentum. I let myself think, when I walked out of my last admin job that maybe, just maybe this was the last time and things would start to happen. I might finally make progress again. But a month on it’s hard to keep that optimism. 
So what do I want? I want a sense that this IS publishable work, that is is worth carrying on with. I’m not afraid to work hard on it, but if it’s all a pointless exercise when do I give up?