The Devil is in the Details
The last few weeks have been interesting. Creatively, I’ve been hammering away on my new show, work-wise, I have had a few gigs and continue to look to generating more work in performance, teaching and hypnotherapy.
I had a great time over the Christmas period working with some of the nicest and most creative people I’ve been around for a while whilst working inside The Imaginarium, which was a theatrical immersive piece staged by Petersham Playhouse and Village Underground. The venue was dressed beautifully and the performers were a real mixed array of amazing cabaret artists. The work was based on the The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the public were treated to Butoh performances, intimate games of chance, a bordello complete with ladies of the night and Toulouse Latrec, a strongman regaining the audience with shows of strength, dark, twisted clowns, aerial artists, a mime, some duellists, burlesque, the strangest argument I have seen to date and my friends The Headhackers. All in all a feast for the senses and a fantastic work to be involved in.
Right now, I am scratching my head and piecing together the backbone of a Kickstarter campaign. The idea is to hopefully bring my newest idea into being.
What is it?
Funny you should ask!
You may need a bit of background: I’ve been a geek long, long before it was ever remotely chic or at least OK to be so. I spent my youth supping tea in a garage playing war games, role playing and hanging out with about five other friends (all teenagers, all male) debating movies, staging epic campaigns for illusory heroes and reading comics. The role playing thing graduated into acting, the hanging out changed as we grew older, went our separate ways and discovered the chops to hang around girls but the comics never really went away. Comics like the X-Men, Judge Dredd/ 2000AD, Daredevil, Captain Britain and Batman proved to be the gateway drug to titles like Hellblazer, Sandman, The Books of Magic, The Invisibles, Marshall Law, Luther Arkwright and The Preacher.
Always been a big fan of Hellblazer though, always loved Constantine. I reckon it’s something to do with Constantine’s laconic, lop-sided, chain-smoking delivery of some of the best lines ever written, drawn by some of the finest artists working in the comic medium coupled with the magic thing that has always had me coming back for more.
So I hit upon an idea.
I have been a bit ‘Constantine’ for the majority of my adult life. What I mean by that is that I’ve been travelling across the planet, picking up skills and getting into and out of scrapes by manipulating the circumstances, being lucky or found charming or on more than one occasion, running away.
In performance when things have gone awry, I’ve winged it, trusted to luck/the universe/the powers/improvised*. (*delete as appropriate to your particular flavour of belief) and has been doing exactly what mentalist comedian or ‘comedium’ Peter Antoniou voiced as his mantra by thinking ‘What Would Constantine Do?’
And I thought, hang on! There’s a show there somewhere!
So I came up with a conceit based around JC, I pitched it to Alan Moore and asked his permission to use the character as he created it. He replied that he didn’t mind at all and didn’t like to look back on work over thirty years in his past. I had his grace but he said he doubted DC Comics would let me do it, as they owned the character. I then wrote to Neil Gaiman, pitching the idea and asking for his help with who to pitch at DC. He wrote back writing of the recent change around at DC, so he didn’t know who to suggest but hoped I got permission. I also wrote to the current guys working on Constantine as part of the New 52, but they were in the same boat. I tweeted Dan Didio (CEO at DC) who retweeted my tweet! But it went no further. So I sent it in to rights and permissions and it got knocked back in a day or so. A solid, fat, unequivocal NO.
That got me thinking.
Maybe a homage to Constantine wasn’t the thing. Surely, the comic and character had influenced my ideas and my approach to magick, but rather than playing Constantine, I started to think about the archetype. Those of you who may have read Neil Gaiman’s wonderful, wonderful Books of Magic will know all about the Trenchcoat Brigade and where Constantine ends up at the end of the universe. I looked back at tarot, I looked at John Dee, Gerald Gardner, Aleister Crowley, Newton, Ashmole and the fictitious sorcerers Prospero and Faust. And it struck me that the theme that kept recurring was one of seeking knowledge, pushing boundaries and in many cases persecution or misfortune.
There is a popular plot in stage magic called the ‘magician in trouble’ ploy. It is an old ruse, the audience believe that the Mage is failing, that the demonstration has gone wrong (as so it appears to have done) and then at the last, our valiant thaumaturge redeems himself. But in the world of ‘real magick’ the magician in trouble seems to really be in trouble. It was at this point I turned to Faust or ‘Doctor Faustus’ the play by Christopher Marlowe based on the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil for twenty four years of everything he wants: knowledge of arcane arts, women, the power to turn invisible, to fly, to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting, in fact, almost anything he desires. He gets what he wants until the contract comes to an end- and so does he- dragged down to Hell by the agents of Lucifer into eternal damnation.
But what if he wasn’t?
What if the knowledge he’d gained was enough to stay a few steps ahead of his infernal pursuers? What if he was still around?
And so ‘What Would Constantine do?’ Became ‘The Devil Without’, a re-imagining of the Faust story.
So here’s what I hope to do: (and hang on to your hats, because its very ambitious)
The conceit is simple, Faust is on the run, he has summoned you (the audience) as you dream, to gather about him a psychic shield. He has holed-up in a secret location riding out a ‘manifest night’ a time when demons can walk the earth. Somewhere outside the sealed room, the servants of Hell search for him. He just has to see out the hour and then he is safe until the next manifest night.
One bare hour to live!
But the Devil Without finds him and it wants to get in.
And if it gets in, some of you won’t be waking up tomorrow.
Next up: who’s involved and what’s happening next.