Sunday, 14 February 2016



I went to Complicite’s show, “The Encounter” tonight. Which is largely based around using relation to/within a tribe as a lens for purpose, self-reflection, mortality, and the like. But I’ve been thinking about tribes for a while now.

Ponyboy Curtis is a tribe. We’re a group of people in their 20’s. Members can come and go, but the basis of being together is one of love - for each other, for what we do. So, mostly, people visit and leave, or they stay. Sometimes, I’m astonished at how little we know about each other’s lives and data outside of our work together. But we know each other very well, in other ways.  I can look at a boy across a rectangle of LX tape on a cement floor, and know what he wants and visa versa. He can look at me and be ready to put our naked bodies on the line in a way that surprises everyone, but leaves no one beyond repair, even if they fall, even if they run, full-throttle, into a brick wall; we both get at least a taste of what we want after those three seconds of locked gaze.

Simon Stephens writes a lot about tribes. (So does Nina Raine in her show of that exact title, which is worth a read and a decent production, if you can get to one.) He writes about people who rely on others for their process of self-reflection and identification, while fighting for their own corner of the world, with everything they’ve got.

My housemates have been watching Louis Theroux’s Netflix series about the US prison system. Which features lots of tribes. Theroux (and, jovially, my housemates) critique this system of codes and reliance. How can things get like this, they ask. How do people build such an ordered system for themselves in order to prove they are the best at breaking down the lines?

And I think about family. A couple days ago, I talked with Maddy Costa about family, about how sentimentality in family is the thing that keeps it together, that propels us into dangerous territory. If we can love our family even when we struggle with what they say or do, then we know what it is we value. What it is we love the most.

And, so, I think tribes are important. I wonder sometimes if queerness, if the rebellion and the fracturing of rigidity and systems negates any kind of group unit. But, I know that the families built by self-proclaimed queers - however fleeting or strong or large or small or imagined or signed-lease-literal - those can hold intention and pain and desire in ways nothing else quite does. They are a lubrication to food, bed, conversation, exercise, empathy, and the other things we need to get by.

There is harm. There is always harm when we work together. There are tribes in a rehearsal room and on the street and on a subway carriage. We are complicit in it all, even when we least want to be. Out of the jolts and the disappearance and the changes and the uncertainty, we learn. To be better with ourselves, in the world. To know how to become the person we want to be with others. To build trust. To build a trust that has room for everything  - for betrayal and concrete and anger and ruin and void and desire and selfishness and quiet giving, loud love. 

“Asking”. I want you to fall. I want to test you. I want us both to struggle, and then learn how I catch you, how we go into the ground together. “Falling”. I am calling to you to go down with me. I am rendering you immobile for a moment. To mediate my own self harm. To show me something new about yourself. Under strain.

For a visit to Ponyboy, Simon Stephens wrote, “…lie behind your lover with your arm over theirs in the nighttime. You will fail at all these things.”  You will try in the night, at your most vulnerable, at your best attempt to harness something beyond your conscious power. And so you are doing it, you are succeeding, and also you are failing yourself and someone else and your dream about who you can be together. It is this reaching with all your might to others in one moment, impossibly, in which we take our own strides and obstacles to task, in which we are so, so very alive.

Other People's Things

The Encounter, Complicite - a long, rapturous story that knows exactly where it’s dimensions are and where they might be crossed. Excellent performance by Simon McBurney, and just an immensely satisfying piece of theatre overall (which is a very rare thing for me to find, here and now).

God, Jr. by Dennis Cooper - I’ve been thinking about video gaming and death a lot this week, mainly because both those themes run heavy in Every One (the show I’m currently SM’ing). I read this a few months ago, and it’s been hanging around persistently since.There are some things about accountability, trauma, family definition, and many varieties and tenors of escape that this novel handles with a skill and aplomb I can only envy and delight in at the back of my mind on delayed trains.


Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh   -   Bright Eyes   -   Fevers & Mirrors

Black Cadillacs   -   Modest Mouse   -   Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Guerrilla Radio   -   Rage Against the Machine   -    The Battle of Los Angeles
Keys (It’s All Right)   -   Stew   -   Passing Strange (Original Cast Recording)
Out of My Mind   -   James Blunt   -   Back to Bedlam
Satellite   -   Guster   -   Ganging Up on the Sun
The Keep Teen Skip   -  cLOUDDEAD
Watch (involves flame throwing!)

Something in Progress

The world will end and
there won't be an algori-
thm to predict dreams.

(15 November 2012,
from my nightmare haiku series)

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