Here’s Ronnie Keane from Indian Summers on Channel 4
Many thanks to Matt Brandon for the photos
I hate Januarys. I like Aprils. I’ve seen a screening of Indian Summers episode 1 and unashamedly think it’s brilliant. If it can find its audience I’ll be very excited to follow its journey. As things stand i could be commuting between Halifax and Penang this summer for return serieses (sic) of Happy Valley and Indian Summers, which will be just great for the work balance and pretty dire for the life balance. Basically i won’t be balanced. But since i’ve been twiddling my thumbs a bit since November i’ll welcome being busy again. Thanks Jon Wright for updating me to a system that means i can more easily update this site. Expect a good deal more News than usual as a result, and heck a new showreel may even emerge it’s been way too long since the last one. I blame having kids. And being lazy.
Workwise i’m on and off to Penang till october to shoot Indian Summers, a 10 part channel 4 series about the British Raj. Great scripts + a great director = high hopes. And i’m looking forward to seeing what the british public make of Happy Valley which airs on bbc1 over the next 6 weeks. I think it’ll be good tv. Shame i’m not watching any of my stuff anymore! But on to more important matters:
Here is ‘Homage’ 2014, something i’ve been working on since 2010.
It’s the culmination of a Koons journey that began generally many years ago when i first encountered his work, and specifically when i saw my first Koons plate in Minneapolis back in 2010. As it was taken from its box i told myself if i ever owned such a thing i would build it a home, and this idea grew into building it a mirrored vitrine, a shrine if you will, to every Koons piece i’ve ever enjoyed. So it’s part ‘One Plate 50/50 Vitrine’ to reference One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank from 1985, part everything reflective from Rabbit 1986 to the mirror of Wishing Well 1988, certainly also some Made in Heaven 1991, particularly in the glass plinth the plate rests on, a load of Balloon Dog, clearly, and its multiple in ceramic form, maybe a touch Moon (Light Blue) 1995-1998, and most obviously Lips itself from the Easyfun Ethereal series 2000, and perhaps even the more recent Antiquity pieces as i shamelessly reference my own hand in the work. It’s all about acceptance, and being part of the conversation, so here’s my offering. I’ve certainly spent more time watching this labour of love than my television of late!
An update, followed by a story.
Television is back in my working life, which after five years is a good thing. Yes i’ve done bits and bobs, but essentially since having kids and a recession i’ve stuck closer to home on longer term gigs, working triple the hours for half the money. That changed this spring with an episode of George Gently, followed by a low budget feature called Pleasure Island, followed by DCI Banks, followed by a BBC3 comedy called Uncle. And i’m waiting for confirmation of 3 episodes in a meaty BBC drama set to shoot in the new year. So that’s all good. So much for the update. Here’s the story.
I am powerless over Koons’s Balloon Dog. There, i’ve said it, I feel better already.
Back in 2000 when i was single and had money at the same time, i went to a very trendy gallery evening, probably stoned, at Eyestorm, invite courtesy of Mr Dave Stewart. I have a vague recollection of meeting Liam Gallagher there and boring him briefly about my love for Man City even though i was a noncy southerner…i’m just name dropping for effect. Anyway in that heady context I also saw, and fell for, and bought Damien Hirst’s ‘Opium’, an affordable piece of contemporary art that i still have and love, and thus a new obsession was born in me. Maybe it’s because if i wanted to buy the same piece now it wouldn’t be so affordable, as it’s accrued far more value than any ISA i’ve ever had. This is not a ratiional thing, addiction never is, and i’m aware there’s a touch of the ‘speculative’ about it, a breed of gambling, my version of stocks and shares if you will. I’ve bought more art since, and if i had a bigger place, and if i had a pile of cash, i’d no doubt try and buy loads more. Fortunately my wife quite regularly and quite rightly gets in my way, but in some sort of mythical future i own a gallery space and exhibit the art, sell some, buy some more etc you get the idea. I’m a little hooked.
The most serious expression of this is the curse of Koons, and i’m writing this in some vague attempt at exorcising him. I clearly am never going to have the stupid money needed to own a Hodgkin oil, or a Koons Balloon Dog. Or am i… I’d been to an exhibition in London and seen a Koons silver rabbit and loved it, my narcissism satisfied by being reflected in it, its damn perfect finish, the weightless and heavy thing simultaneously, it’s quintessentially childish etc, and there were also some of those Ciciollina graphic poses with him on display and i’d laughed long, and hard, and loud. Clearly Koons had got under my skin, but i caught wind of the balloon dog plate whilst on tour in the States in 2010 and all hell broke loose. Yes i was (i invariably am) late to the party, but this thing has made me behave like Gollum ever since.
First i chased one down in Minneapolis. It was being advertised on Ebay and since the seller was local to the theatre i was working in i asked if i could come and see it with a view to maybe possibly yes please buying it. I had this great idea that recession was the perfect time to buy a piece of American pop art, the only stumbling block was my wife not having that great idea. At all. And not taking to Koons one iota…minor concerns i thought. I hired a bicycle and pedalled my way out into the Minneapolis suburbs, a real crisp and sunny adventure i was having, a bold and brave new experience. However any notion i had of being able to ‘make an offer’ that was below asking price was quashed as soon as the owner opened his front door. His place was full of cool art and he knew his shit. He produced the treasure in question, and here is the shot i took of it
If i thought i had a problem with it at a distance, in the flesh the thing was absolutely extraordinary (as i wrote very clearly earlier, this is not a rational obsession) IT’S A SHIFTING VISUAL FEAST FROM EVERY ANGLE IT’S MOREISH BEYOND DESCRIPTION but i obeyed my wife as my vows suggested i should, and didn’t try and buy it for $4000 ((£2500). The dude may well have said no anyway as it was on sale for more if i remember correctly, and to be honest he had plenty of nous and more than likely held onto it. Regardless i would have had to carry it around with me on tour, flying first to San Fran, then hiding it from my wife who was joining me for a road trip around California, then flying onto New York with it blah blah blah bad idea.
In San Fran though the dog bit back, and i was drawn to an open view at Bonhams where another one was on display. A blue one. By now i’d done my homework on these little fuckers and i called out the ‘expert’ to ask a few questions. Why did this one look like it had been taken for a walk? How come it didn’t have a MOCA edition number? It rapidly became clear to the expert that i was unhinged, but not as unhinged as the buyer no doubt was when he/she received delivery of what he/she had bought a few weeks later (the winning bid was a phone bid)..I felt i’d had a lucky excape and resolved to tackle my preposterous Koons addiction, by successfully bidding on a Hodgkin print! Hooray!
Well kind of. Yes i love that print, and trust it, heck even my wife likes it, but i’ve watched as balloon dog fever has gripped the known frickin universe. Even before the minor detail of the sale of his Orange Big Dog at a living artist record price tag of $52,000,000 those little doggies have appreciated month by month since i caught the bug, and now comfortably fetch over $10,000 at auction. As i write there’s a damaged one selling on Ebay at almost £5000 and another with it’s frickin head chopped off with 21 bids already on it they’re bits of porcelain for godssake it’s insane! And my wife STILL doesn’t like the things aaagggh – if i couldn’t (honestly) afford a mint one 3 years ago now i can’t afford a bloody crocked one… it’s never going to happen.
But do you know what?….I wants it…i’ll gets me one…my precioussss..here doggy doggy.
Since my first radio in 2009 i’ve wanted a proper return and actually wrote a couple of letters to try and make it happen. The BBC Radio Drama Company (let’s call it ‘the Rep’ now shall we, since i’m a member!) gave me an audition and offered me a three month contract. I’m midway through my stint and absolutely love it. The people are great and it’s the best leveller of actors i’ve come across. More than that though, there’s a whole new set of toys and tricks to learn and none of the bullshit ‘how’s my hair’ ‘we’ll have to go again there’s a crease in my jacket that wasn’t there in the wide’ etc etc etc. It’s so refreshing, and direct. Just actors and scripts, and people behind the glass creating the illusion of space. And the variety is extraordinary – since joining i’ve given my Fortinbras (how many times do you get to be involved in a production of Hamlet during a career) tackled all sorts of cameos in the massive Cazalets war time drama, put on very silly voices in the comedy series HR, narrated a Terry Pratchett, and even been in an Elmore Leonard western. I can’t take on more than three months at the moment but am fully committed to a return asap. In fact with 6 weeks left on my contract i’m already feeling sad about leaving..
In the spring i chased a job at Shakespeare’s Globe and landed Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew, a difficult role in a play i know well having been in it twice before. He’s kind of badly put together and not quite sure what or who he is. Not funny enough to be a clown, not smart enough to be an effective suitor, and ‘best friend’ to a guy who ultimately uses him. So in short, tough to rehearse, but (certainly at The Globe) great fun to play. I don’t usually go in for this kind of hocus pocus but i honestly believe some sort of magic happens in that open air theatre, plagued by choppers, which even with 1500 people in seems intimate? The audience, and particularly the Groundlings who have paid a fiver, own the work and shape it in a way i have never come across before, and you end up making acting decisions for them as much if not more than for yourself which is very unusual. And utterly addictive. Yes there were times when i was very tired during the run – three hour Shakespeares at breakneck (dare i say farcical in our production) pace in 30 degree heat is hard work, but there were many many occasions during the experience when i voiced to freinds and family that it was the best job i’ve ever had, that given a ten year contract i’d sign it.
The Globe rocks basically, and that Shakespeare bloke can really write. It’s always worth being reminded of that.
I seem to have been ‘in house’ at the Tricycle Theatre for the best part of three years, and have worked out that since 2009 i’ve spent over six months on its stage! It’s as close to rep as i guess an actor can get these days and in familiar Kilburn – i lived there for a decade from 1996 – 2006 – so in many ways i feel very lucky. I’m knackered, because the work is hard (currently “The Bomb – A Partial History, Nick Kent’s final production after 28 years running the place, in which i play five parts in five pieces out of the ten on offer) and since the dreaded recession i’ve earned comfortably half of what i was earning in television drama before, but the truth is the material has required me to raise my game and i’ve fallen in love with live work again after too long periods away. If i have designs on big theatre roles, and i do, it’s no use just thinking they will fall into my lap, i have to get up and show commitment to the cause.
I’ve also managed to fit in a bit of tv which came as a welcome relief after so much theatre, back to the lonely waiting and lunch on the bus and familiar crew faces.
And best of all in some ways i’ve become more involved at Central School of Speech and Drama since teaching Sightreading classes there last term. Now i’m on the auditions panel which is quite the most enjoyable job i’ve done in years. Well, it’s not psycho emotionally draining like acting or art and i get to play at being an X Factor judge with Shakespeare!
The year has turned into a pretty full one in all sorts of ways. My wife just gave birth to our second daughter. And i had the mad idea to get involved in 66 Books at the new Bush Theatre. Great project, amazing piece written and directed by Chris Goode who i knew of at Cambridge but never worked with, but pretty heavy in the context of a newborn’s sleep (or lack of any) pattern. She was born on tech day…i’ll let you do the Maths on how stressful this notoriously stressful monkey has been over the past fortnight. I turned 40 too somewhere in the schedule. The art has continued growing and selling, with a couple of very worthy patrons. I’m pleased i pursued the NostalgicArt cards and stickers mounting and framing as already the sets are becoming very rare, which was my suspicion when the idea kept me up at night three years ago. Right, i’m off to settle the little one before picking up the bigger one from nursery. Time for a shave? Forget it…
More April 2011
Forgot to mention, back in the real world (the one where i earn my living pretending to be other people) i start work on another important project at the Tricycle Theatre in a couple of weeks – the Baha Mousa Inquiry.
And now i’m just going to test out whether i can put up my DigiPics easily on here. Till i can pester Jon to stop being selfish and re-design my website it’s the best i can do.
looks like it works.
I kind of need my mate Jon Wright to help add a whole new section to this website about the art i’ve got immersed in over the last two years, especially since i’m now selling it! But Jon is rather selfishly cutting his second feature film…bugger. I might have to brave it myself…but for now a simple update to explain.
People on Facebook know about my iPhone fingerpaint DigiPics but they’ve taken off a bit in the shape of an exhibition (my first ever) at the Tricycle Gallery on the Kilburn High Road in North London. “NOSTALGICart & DigiPics” has been running for a couple of weeks and sales have already covered the printing and framing costs which is great. It’s on till May 14th so if you’re Kilburn way pop in.
Essentially “NOSTALGICart” is the glorification of the first art collecting any of us ever do – playground stuff you might say, but now up on the wall behind glass rather than thumbed and swapped. It came about as a result of re-acquiring sets of gum cards i’d always dreamt of completing, then realising they’d left indellible imprints on my brain and that i wasn’t done with them yet! Other people are getting me to track down their own versions for them and frame them up to the same spec. It’s costly and time consuming but big time rewarding.
The DigiPics start life as big as the palm of my hand but if they’re strong enough i blow them up to A1 (relishing the pixelation instead of shying away from it – i’m an 80’s kid what do you expect!) then get them dry mounted and framed. They’re good. I like them anyway, and people have bought them so i guess they like them too. A lot of contemporary art is old methods with a clever new twist, but these DigiPics are the oppositie – new technology with the oldest of ideas. I just paint what i see. Yes there are some abstracts but the most effective ones are simple sketches of where i’m at.
I’m looking into how to ‘grow’ the whole operation and have approached a couple of online galleries and art publishers, but at the very least i’ll keep creating them and may well start selling some either via Facebook, or more likely on Ebay. It’s a little freaky to me that i’ve been more relaxed about this whole art project than any acting i’ve ever done, something about approaching 40 and not being on a patronising ‘need to know’ basis creatively but rather having some artistic control for the first time in 20 years. Being an actor can be seriously frustrating – when you’re needed on set you’re treated like royalty. People escort you ten metres and cross roads with you, they bring you food and drinks and call you Sir it does my head in. Particularly as when you’re NOT needed on set you just sit in your trailer and damn well wait. And don’t bother asking questions because that’s not your remit and you’re wasting precious time ‘actor whatever-your-number-is-on-the-cast-list you’re not famous so who cares’ bloke….
I enjoyed that.
I’m headed back to Washington DC in a week to perform The Great Game for private Pentagon audiences. An extraordinary end to an extraordinary job. I still believe that BBC4 have missed a huge trick in not filming it but what do i know… other than the fact that wherever we’ve been people have asked when it’s going to be on television.
Some very big news may be on the horizon but i’m not telling till i’m sure. It will mean a long overdue revamp of this site! A brave new direction..
I have been rubbish at updating my website. And i’ve been told off for it. But alot has happened in two and half years. I’ve had a child! Well my wife has, and i believe the baby to be mine. She certainly looks like me. Anyway i’m rambling. Basically 15 month old Jemima is my excuse for disappearing somewhat.
But now i’m back. Workwise i spent the end of 2007 and most of 2008 shooting a six parter for the bbc called “Apparitions” which somewhat divided opinion. Over 3 million viewers loved it. The press hated it. It started out as a two parter so the fact that we didn’t get a second series is disappointing but besides the point really. I’m very proud of it. And it might just rear its scary head in a culty kind of way.
Last year was mostly about a series of plays at the Tricycle Theatre called “The Great Game” and it’s coming back in the summer, to be followed by a tour of the US. The idea of a tour away from my wife and mini pest seems terrifying, but the project is a rare one i’d be stupid to miss. I’ll post up a proper itinerary anon.
I’ve got quite a fun stint coming up on Holby City from Feb 23rd for a few weeks. The new consultant Toby Geddes, dancing in surgery, insulting every female in the hospital, and generally patronising everyone in sight, was a whole lot of fun to play. I’m hopeful he’ll return to wreak more havoc.
Oh and as a postscript, I’ve developed an addiction for Ebay. Ten years behind the times as usual. Specifically i’ve been buying up (and framing to a pretty high spec) cards i used to buy and swap as a kid. Those horror top trump cards always rocked and they now take pride of place on my wall (albeit tucked away as my wife doesn’t want the baby to see them…bloody spoilsport)
I actually finally started writing! This time last year in fact, and this month will see the second draft of “The Horror – Being the Tale of Sawney Beane and his Diabolical Family” come to fruition.
I wrote the lead part with Viggo Mortensen in mind and as luck would have it i’m shooting a scene with him on a movie called “Good” in a couple of weeks! So he better get ready for me pinning him in a corner (steady ladies!) and pitching it to him. All reports from other actors on the job suggest he’s the nicest actor in Christendom so at the very least I should be able to put it in his hands.
I’m also shooting an episode of “Primeval”, getting chased and mauled by a Sabre Tooth Tiger (!) – nice to be working for Jamie Payne who I haven’t seen since “Shackleton” but who I always liked. It’s a fun little role too so I’m looking forward to it.
The other news is this revamped site and showreel, both the products of Jon Wright’s hard work – ta Jon.