Unease and excitement made me sleepless the eve of the big show. I spent the wee hours before the dawn exploring the distorted topologies of cerebration like a good insomnaut. At some point I must have stumbled into sleep, and there stumbled upon a lucid dream:
As if in scenes from a nineteen-teens sped-up projector film, like some Keystone Cops flick, I found myself running and weaving through dense crowds of billionaire banksters and industrialist tycoons in an urban streetscape. I thus found myself in medias res, in the midst of fleeing the scene of a bank heist. Complicated were the routes of my escape through twisted pipes and pneumatic subways tunnels, elevator shafts, escalators. Somehow the escalator installed me, in instalments (I sectioned off like an insect, with thorax, abdomen, etc) in a period piece getaway car, which was decomposing by the moment. I thought of driving into a ditch as a last ditch effort to avoid complete disintegration. But at the moment of embankment with the bank bags bulging and with bullion aplenty, I awoke, penniless, in my swank Hampstead flat. Lars, my fellow insomnaut, was calling on my mobile, informing me he was on his way to help lug our props to The Serpentine.
When he arrives we call a black cab and load it up with all the Sound Moneyfesto props—wicker baskets, a coat stand, and ironing board and iron, large boxes on which pompous rococo gilt dollar and pound signs were majestically emblazoned, maypole ribbons, a tenor recorder, laptop with a silly power-point, a gong, a guitar—and drove through the morning’s gold-lit streets, down along the west side of Regents Park, and around Hyde Park to The Serpentine’s front doorstep.
Already the Manifesto Marathon was underway, and I kept my eye on the proceedings, though I was more than a little anxious to rehearse as much as possible with the entire cast. We were taken to a large though cluttered room that we had booked for our rehearsal until about 4 pm, at which point the space would be required by someone by the name of Ono.
Nervous chaos. People coming and going. Actors (Lars, Shenna, Frederick) and musicians (Milo, Katie, Sarah) all came up to the rehearsal chamber in dribs and drabs and worked themselves and their parts into the dramatic Sound Moneyfesto tapestry, thread by thread, until it began to finally take shape. I don’t know whether this is from just being a natural procrastinator, or whether it is some kind of arts practice modus, or maybe a bit of both, but the last-minute-ness of the whole affair gave the whole affair a rough-edged, though honest and energized vibe.
There’s nothing worse than watching a play that has been rendered stale by being rehearsed into the ground, until the performers are “comfortable” with their parts.
Even this last-minute attempt at rehearsal was cut short and frantically moved into another room by the stressed-out though kindly accommodating Serpentine staff. We rehearsed a few more times in an admin office, huddling next to staff trying to use faxes and whatnot.
Tiring of this, and feeling like we were imposing, we decided to take a break, which allowed us all some time to stroll around and watch some of the other manifesto makers. I watched Tom McCarthy’s necronautical manifesto with a bit of pride of affiliation. Was it some childish feeling of loyalty, then, (or was it my recent insomnia?) that made me yawn under the influence of Gilbert and George? Art, I know, is no place for petty rivalries—so maybe they just deserved it!
I started setting up some of our props behind the stage just as Yoko Ono was back there getting ready to go on. I thought of what a cliché it would be if I should give her a mean look, in response to her (likely overstated or sensationalized) role in the Beatles break-up. Ha ha. That would have been silly. Instead I just smiled at her as I handed her tech a mic stand.
As Yoko Ono took the stage, we insomnauts met one last time for one final go-through, once again amid the Serpentine admins who were still trying to run an office. We ran the whole thing straight through for the first time without stopping. Lars got to go through his banking bail out routine which, we determined, was hilarious.
Just as Ms. Ono was ending her semaphore appeal for love, we moved the rest of the props and the musical instruments into place backstage. From there we could tell that the manifesto that was supposed to go on next was having some technical trouble, so one of the tech directors came up and asked us if we could go on straightaway, which we did. We began. Everything hit the stage within a few moments: The power point, cello, violin, props, words in the right order. And then the performers themselves—The Insomnautical Theatre for the Ridiculous.
And with that, our new guise, The Sound Moneyfesto was under way. Frannie at her laundary; Freddie making his masterwork manifesto, announcing:
A manifesto should have entertainment
value and food for thought for hungry throngs,
be revolutionary… yet fitting.
A manifesto should assure investments
of our precious short attention spans stay sound,
by seeking funding from the town council.
It should be a peerless document,
on gold foil on velum, be well advertised,
with carousel orchestras of epic machinery,
conveyor belts, gears, cranes
to divvy out research-grant enlightenment
on railroad ties with ties to industry,
a model on which to build
a model society.
But how… in this Disaster.
The town council’s spectacular collapse.
Funds dried up from over-speculation.
Too like these two lips. Speculative:
Every word I say.
The first scene was flawless, but my ‘Mission from Mars’ song got marred by my megalomaniaphone, which shorted out once or twice, just as I was singing about Greenspan and his so-called wife. Fannie and Freddie were their well-intentioned but sadly inept selves. Llarsy-loo was brill as bail out man, Prof. Baylor.
The final scene went really well and I was told by Milo afterwards that the song ‘The Charge of the Bald Crediteers’ sounded smooth, like a studio recording, with a well-balanced mix.
The maypole dance at the very end, coinciding with ‘The Charge of the Bald Crediteers’, seemed to have its intended surreal effect. Applause. Afterwards I was on cloud nine and a half and hardly remember helping to dismantle things. Almost left my precious recorder, but went back for it, and hugged it. It is that precious to me.
A lovely after-party at swank upscale night club in Covent Garden. I was even able to get my cast in the doors, as well as some friends of mine whom I grabbed out of the audience. Free drinxxx. Always nice. We schmoosed and caroused. We got to chatting with Agnès Varda, who compared our performance to Eugene Ionesco…or some kind of high school rendition thereof. Really? Oh cruel. A hit. A palpable hit.