Yup, dust off your headphones*, get out your rocking chair and sit back to digest the musings of the RCs (myself and Rebecca Cassar). We will talk about life, about comedy, about distopian futures and recommended events. But mostly we will discuss crisis aversion for the almost-30s and the 30-somethings. Well for everyone really. x
* listen - why are your headphones so dusty? I mean seriously. You should be listening to more podcasts. Good thing we're here. x
Thanks Fando! Awesome job.
Hi there, so in case you were wondering what I was doing out in that there Congo, it was a little bit of this:
Yup, yup - that right there is essentially a spontaneous piece of theatre created by people from across three continents speaking about 7 languages between them (on this particular occasion - most of our friends speak about 8 languages each anyway!). Of course, Pygmy culture is steeped in a tradition of theatricality, so it's no surprise that our friends there took little persuasion to get into character! But I'm still very proud that we managed to convey so much so collectively in such a short space of time.
I am even more proud of the fact that we then went on to the much larger village of Nyanga, and actually created a theatre space in the forest (good old 'Mequisa Swag'* as it became known) and performed Alain's play to an invited audience.
Hard though my trip was at times, and strewn with dilemmas, looking back at this footage makes me understand what a remarkable experience any collaborative theatre piece is, but especially when it involves people from such markedly different backgrounds with such varied references. It sort of proves that the essentials of human life are universal - something we all knew anyway, but it's good to see it played out.
* yes I have no idea how to actually spell this, but it means 'theatre in the forest
Finally gang - the moment you've all not realised you were waiting for is finally here.
Yes - Rob and I did it, we made the leap, we jumped off the cliff, and went home to our parents house where we recorded a podcast.
Here is what blurb I wrote about it:
In this podcast, siblings Rob and Rachael Castell get together over some Indian food to discuss Brad Pitt's face, Carey Mulligan's eyebrows, Vergil and Homer, Madonna, and the complex beauty of the English language. It gets very silly in places and very adroit in others.
Recording it made us laugh very much, and we wish it to do the same for you. You may also learn whether perplexion is a word and other handy tidbits of informations like that.
You can listen to it below or access it at: http://podcastell.podomatic.com/ Please do so.
I thank you.
Filming for their event two years ago was some of the most inspiring and informative work I've had the priviledge to do and I got to meet so many fabulously talented people from the theatre industry. Merci le craft du theatre. Merci.
In fact, all those videos are now featured in the TheatreCraft Digital Lab - most exciting.
This week, I've been looking back at one of my favourite moments in Congo. We had arrived in Ipini, a neighbouring village, the night before. Jeanne and Aaron had visited Nyanga two years ago during their first trip to Congo, and formed a bond with the people there. This is the celebration of their reunion:
Ok. When last I left off, I was still in Point Noire (first visit) and we had yet to leave for the 'Big Rainforest Adventure' (quotation marks for a reason, read on), and our friends had started to sing. As I rushed out of the internet cafe, I thought I had posted the video of that singing. But I hadn't. So here it is now:
[In this video: Alain's hands, Mise's voice, Wilfred singing, and the rest of the team: Aaron, Jeanne, Kate, Nicole, Mr. Bienvenue, Raoul, Jean Leopold. Driving through the streets of Pointe Noire]
Gosh - that was ages ago.
As you've probably reaslised by now I'm home. I'm alive and well, and I've been home for some time now - over two weeks.* Therefore, it is also readily apparent that I have been procrastinating. Indeed. Procrastinating, avoiding, commencing and abandoning - all that sort of thing. Basically, not updating my blog.
"But for why?" I hear you cry (and I don't know why you're using that antiquated linguistic style, but you are). Well, for many reasons I suppose.
Of course, naturally, there is the classic 'how was your holiday? / oh where do I start' conundrum - particularly seeing as I was so unable to keep anything of this blog up to date whilst in Congo. It seemed such an inordinately long period to recall and recap that I just didn't want to have to swallow that particularly large mouthful of condensed time and then regurgitate it all back up again as some kind of cheery splurge of a blog. However, that's barely an excuse. When you're overflowing with positivity and enthusiasm for said hypothectical holiday, you just plough right on in and shove your photos or your flickr account in someone's face and race around all over the shop telling tales and getting in a tangle about what happened when but it was all so fabulous that it just doesn't matter.
For me, Congo wasn't all 'and then we..., and it was amazing...., oh and that was the first night, no the second night, or was it the first anyway it was brilliant'. Actually, Congo was really really hard. It was amazing (or at least it often amazed me), it was a once in a lifetime experience, I did see things that people don't often get to see, and it did teach me things. But... I didn't love it, I was often very very bored, I was often very frustrated, I missed my home and my friends and London (and weirdly, museums?!) A LOT, and ultimately I found the philosophical challenges of being in such an extremely different culture very troubling. I would also say that I came home with less hope than I went with, which is a difficult thing to deal with, especially if you're me. It's difficult to deal with, it's difficult to articulate and it's difficult to want to share. It feels like a failure to answer people's anticipation of my 'fantastic trip' with a whole mess of unresolved anthropological, sociological thought processes. But there you go. I promised myself I would be honest with this blog, and so I am. I feel a bit better now. It's always good to write things down.
And so, let me recommence with something positive and reaffirmative - and I'll get down to the nitty gritty of social consciousness in the next few days - whilst also sharing some film and photos and a lot of things that actually were quite wonderful.
One of the things that most struck me, both whilst I was out in Congo, and even more so since I've been home, is the absolute luxury that we have here regards access to information. And how - even more than ever - I feel absolutely compelled to make informed choices because I CAN. That's an enourmous gift! I absolutely do not have an excuse to ignore climate change, or the effects of monocultural farming, or the opportunity to grow my own food. Because I know about these things, I can investigate these things and I can make balanced decisions about these things. Books, the internet, magazines - these are not easy to find or afford in many places in the world, and they are so so vital. We need to cherish and celebrate our steady stream of data! Revel in it! It is not for taking for granted.
And finally, getting back to the purposes of being in Congo (to document a theatre project) here is a little teaser for what is to come from a selection of photos by my treasured friend and colleague Kate Sutton-Johnson (featuring my other treasured friends and colleagues from the Congo team!):
I just watched a video that really moved me and in it, the voiceover says: "Wake up! Because nothing comes to the sleeper but a dream". Somehow this resonates with what I was saying earlier, and - more because I don't want to lose the video and because I think it deserves to be seen, here it is:
*(If you didn't realise I was home and were using this blog as a guide to my wellbeing, then - apologies. I have slacked.)
I am quite proud of it and also it is important to read if you are a cinema because it concerns you. Do comment if you are actually a cinema, because that's amazing.
It starts like this:
It's not often that the specialised film exhibition sector gets the opportunity to talk directly to policy-makers. So yesterday's Independent Cultural Cinema Exhibition Conference hosted by SylC partner and field leader Watershed in Bristol, was a welcome opening for cinemas, film societies, higher education and research bodies, and funders to share feedback and strategy with DCMS representatives. Rachael Castell attended on behalf of SylC to note down some of the emerging headlines from an industry both in flux, and - according to many of the attendees - on the brink of an exciting new era...
and you can read the rest here:
thank you and goodnight. x
Last night we went to visit a painter. He lived in a tiny room in a shanty community on the outskirts of Pointe Noire. His art was breathtaking, emerging from the shadows of his tiny gallery shack on the corner of a courtyard community where an amorphous amount of children played and giggled and tumbled and posed for photographs. I loved his art with an inner reaction of truth-beauty. They spoke to me directly. So we have his details and he has our promises to return once we’ve been on our epic journey through the rainforest.
On the way back, as headlights beamed through the dusty windows of our van, our friends started to sing:
The last post was a couple of days ago and I haven’t had time to catch up so I posted some photos on Facebook as a little insight to some of the sights of Pointe Noire. Check out: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150749753715514.723365.888350513&l=b35d3a84c7&type=1
Aaron was incensed because Alain and Raoul and Nicole and Jean Leopold and Jeanne were all sitting around reading the play line by line whilst Alain interpreted his feelings at the situation after each break in speech. The play is 60 pages long. And Aaron was as exasperated and confused and concerned as I was and struggling with money worries and earth worries and our words of doubt tumbled forward and somehow it was all very cleansing and positive and yet there was so much more and so I set up the camera and we did an interview. Aaron spoke very measuredly about the situation and was very camera-aware and then it turned out that I hadn’t recorded the sound, so he did it again with far more truth and bile and love and feeling. Then we took the camera and filmed the play reading and discussion. And then I filmed he and Jeanne having a fight and resolving a fight and it was all very juicy and satisfying and suddenly I felt like a filmmaker and Aaron felt like an interviewee with something to say and whilst it was all going on, Jeanne had had a breakthrough with the play and with Alain and with Jean Leopold who has taken the role of dramaturge.
And then we all felt better and we wanted a beer and so we walked around the block and discovered the Bling Bling nightclub that played Madonna and George Benson and hip hop that I didn’t know but knew I liked and we danced around and shared beer and a cigarette and felt much better after all.
So yes, everything came to a head. At dusk on Sunday, we’d driven to Pointe Noire beach, on a sandy road beleaguered with bumps and dunes and troughs and all kinds of obstacles for Mr. Bienvenue our driver to get around – which of course he did with no problem. The sun was setting pink and disc-like in the groggy sky and the earth was luminescent with evening light. The beach seemed like the perfect destination. But when we arrived the horizon was like a nightmare – plagued by oil tankers, stinking of petroleum, the sand tar-ish beneath our feet. It was dream-breaking: it was all our dreadful knowledge of human disaster and disrespect and greed and wickedness stenciled out across the landscape. We were the only ones on the beach. And no one even dared to go near the water.
That was Sunday night.
On Monday, we woke up and headed directly to our newfound haven / den of iniquity – the Café de Paris – where they charge £4 for a real espresso and who knows how much for a croissant, but they know people with money will pay for a fix. It’s light and welcoming and they have Wi-Fi, so we went there to work on the play. Jean Leopold got stuck dealing with some official about his papers, there was a traffic jam because there was a strike by the transport people so traffic prevented everyone else from reaching us, and so it was that we set out in high spirits, putting last night’s atrocity out of mind momentarily, to see the chimps.
Of course, the chimp sanctuary was closed. And there was no one to call or consult. Just a poor lone guy at an unsignposted outpost, hanging out with some chickens and a few army-looking dudes who passed by and concurred that yes, the sanctuary was closed, and no, there was no number to call. Unless we knew the manager of the camp personally – Rebecca. But none of us did, of course and the numbers that mum and Nick found for me online were off or not working or who knows what.
So we headed out to a village by the ocean. Over more sandy obstacle courses and past weird plains where Raoul said the original slaves were taken from or perhaps sold from and sent from the port there. I couldn’t quite tell. But there was a melancholy in the air so heavy that you could almost brush it off your face and arms or try to. It would only return. There was a strange feeling there in that place we came to. A small bar ‘welcomed’ us, but it was a menacing welcome – suspicious or weighted down itself perhaps. I felt uneasy with my camera, seen as exploitative somehow. And only the tiniest of the children smiled and hazarded a wave.
Walking to the sea, the road lined with what looked like more upscale huts, sardines drying in the sun on large tarpaulins - even those people regarded us with lowered heads and serious eyes. Not like in the Grand Marché or in the nightclub or in the streets or anywhere else I’ve been here where smiles are barely contained. But of course, when we got to the beach, I could sense perhaps why, for there were the empty, large stone houses of the Lebanese and the French and the authorities and the ministers. Large, empty, posh white sentries overlooking yet another empty beach.
Aaron and Nicole wanted to go running and we did, and Jeanne joined us, but I didn’t feel in the least bit energized. Only sad and confused and like I couldn’t properly swallow, or capture on film the filth that was screened by the natural beauty of the place. The filth of human inequity and greed and disregard.
And so we went back to the menacing bar and sat drinking beers under the scrutiny of the other customers and didn’t work on the play.
By the time we were back at the Swedish Hotel, we were somewhat downbeat and tired and over dinner we sat searching for things to say – not because we had nothing to talk about but because the day felt like a defeat. I came upstairs afterwards whilst Aaron and Jeanne worked on the play with Alain and Raoul and whoever else turned up. And I lay on my bed wondering what on earth I’m going to be doing for the next month, and if it’s at all justifiable for me to be here for so long, and how to manage being seen as a filmmaker when there hadn’t yet been very much of relevance to film. And I was just beginning to feel a bit lost, when Aaron appeared at the door and everything came to a head.--
m. 07939 040 836 rachaelcastell
Keyboard; french and arabic mixed. Punctuation: limited
Favourite quote of the days so far: but really, can you actually plant a roasted cashew? (Aaron Gabriel)
Well, Ive made it as far as Morocco without much misadventure or accident save the perpetual fear that I completely misunderstood the woman at Heathrow who told me that my bags were checked through to Pointe Noire and that Ive abandonded most of my next 30 days supplies at Casablanca airport... That and the pressing suspicion that any so called plans that have been made may or may not come to pass and that that is just that. Oh, and the enormous potential for miscommunication when working in two and sometimes more languages. ENORMOUS - apparently. Dont ask. Its been resolved. we think...
Oh well, Aaron and Jeanne managed to find me with only one one-hour pit stop at the wrong hotel, and we have so far only instigated one enormous argument between a taxi driver and A and Js hotel manager - dont worry, theyre sitting together right now drinking tea. Aparently tempers are high and nerves are frayed because when its Ramadan nobody can smoke during the day. And as far as I can gather, everyone here is tobacco crazy. And therefore non-tobacco crazy. It makes for some lively debates.
The enormous new mosque was debate free, however. It is overwhelmingly impressive and the labour and money required of the Moroccan people to build it is anxiety inducing. It is majesterial and immense and sits on a promontary into the sea so it converges with the waves and the sky and seems somehow in spite of its height to be falling perpetually backwards into blue. It was serene and empty when we were there but later today 20000 people will descend upon it to pray. I cant imagine the impact of that many people filling that space in body and sound. We were all remarking on the peace and tranquility when we got back to the taxi. Which was of course blaring out Katy Perrys I kissed a girl and I liked it. Yes.
In eleven hours time i will be in Pointe Noire. Just a thought that crossed my mind.
So gang, Congo beckons. Im going to try to update this as often as I can but I make no promises on regularity, quality or length. The next month is truly as a blank page to me so watch this space...
In the meantime, I have the most fabulous camera to indulge my new passion of stills photography, and a fabulous Kindle to indulge my old passion of just plain old reading. Yesterday I started Into Africa; a biography of Livigstone and Stanley and its fabulous. Livingstone is a great benchmark for this trip. He crossed Africa when it was uncharted in the 1850s, delighting in its wildernesses, its energy, its luscious diversity. Hopefully we too will find that some of that remains.
Yes. It's been another one of those days. A wonderful day but various. Very various.
The nice men from Currys woke me up at 6.55am to tell me that they would be with me by 10am which was both kind and inconsiderate. You can see why. Anyway, they couldn't install the damn washing machine until tomorrow anyway. Why I am starting with this? It definitely gets more interesting. Wait til you hear about my gong bath.
Anyway, my morning was pretty average (but my afternoon was amaze - read on please thank you). Although my current workload is actually quite inspiring which is always a good thing. The Docs 360 project is literally brilliant. I've been listening agog (not really agog but I like that word* - more like 'intently') to the interviews that the lovely Rob Alexander** had already recorded with the likes of Michael Norton OBE and the people from Distribber and Distrify and Chargeplay and so on. Check them all out - the sites, not the interviews. Sadly, they are only available to people on the course. And me. See - nice work.
I'm also loving the work I'm doing with and RIBA and dear old Arts Inform - a client for several years now on and off depending on when they need me. This time I am making a film about architecture. It might sound dry but when you think about it:
"architecture is one of the only forms of human endeavor which effects each and every one of us and yet, no one teaches the language of architecture. If we cannot understand how to speak about it, how can we ever hope to improve it for the good of everybody?"
This is a good quote isn't it? I wrote it for the proposal that I made to Arts Inform and sort of pretended that it might be by somebody famous because I hadn't had time to find an actual quote. Catherine Sutton even asked me where it was from. I was very proud and decided that I like making up genius quotes.
I met with RIBA and Arts Inform and Catherine Sutton this very afternoon which was great, but before that something very exciting happened: I got my visa for Congo. I was going to post a photo of it but then I worried that someone could forge my passport or pretend to be me. Is that silly? Or wise? I often ask these two questions of myself and the things I do. Hmmm. Anyway, so now that I've got my jabs and my tickets and my visa and everything, I guess that means that I'm DEFINITELY GOING. Woo! I might take this moment to say: a) Woo! (yes, but I'm excited), b) I can't believe how lucky and privileged I am to be a part of this project and that I actually get to fulfill several of my life long dreams and work with some of the people I most admire and respect... IN AFRICA!, c) thank you very much to Gareth from the Flight Centre who has been generally quite brilliant, d) woo!
Just quickly, isn't it fascinating how parsely just keeps regenerating? I've completely cut this all, three times! Nature. Amaze.
Also, can I just say, I'm well into taking hand-written notes at the moment. I think I'm having an anti-digital backlash. She says as she writes a blog... But don't they look nice?
And finally, can I just say a massive thank you to Jasmine Dawson. First of all, anyone who's noticed that I'm wearing more colour these days - that's thanks to Jas. She gets disapproving when I wear all black. Secondly and more importantly, Jasmine gave me a gong bath tonight. Yes, no, it doesn't involve water or armitage shanks. It involves lying comfortably in a serene room, and allowing the amazing amazing multifarious sounds of three gongs played expertly to wash over you. I had outer body experiences, my mind wondered joyfully, I saw strange and beautiful colours, my every atom vibrated. And I absolutely loved it. Again please Jas :)
If you want a gong bath, please talk to Jas: www.beingsound.com / @beingsound
This is my friend Jasmine who gave me my gong bath.
And these are some of the amazing instruments in the room where the gongs are. Jas's shop Being Sound in Leytonstone is like an Aladdin's Cave. It's basically my go-to destination for jewellery, health, gifts, gong baths... :)
Then I came home and did things like more work and write blogs. I decided that to support these endeavours some chocolate was in order. I was working in bed. I carelessly tossed the chocolate package onto the duvet. It rested on the charger for my mac... I ate it with a spoon. Mmmm yum.
*I just thought of the word agog as I was writing that sentence above. Who says agog?! Let's revive it. Please be agog at something today. Yes? Thank you.
** Can I just give 'mad props' or some other kind of big up to Rob. I only met him in Cannes and since then he has literally been a total champion. Rob rocks. Please check out his intriguing Bow Project film about the history of the violin.
... woke up. Helped Belle pack a bag containing a hand printed hand-made hammock and a sign that offered 'Free Time'. Showered, ate breakfast (you know, morning things) and set off to Paddington Station to do this:
This involved a lot of analysing distances between posts and also negotiation of pavement space. Predicatably, it also engendered a mini argument with an irate estate agent. Barely had we pulled a metre of rope from Belle's lovely red polka dot bag, but he popped his head out of the door of his (empty) office and shouted 'not outside our shop'. 'Oh, sorry, are these your lamposts?' I replied. He got very puffy and explained (agressively) that he was 'trying to sell houses' (obviously, house hunters are massively put off by hammocks). We persisted anyway much to his shagrin. His company is called Gordon and Co. I think he might be Gordon. Please don't go there to buy a house unless you are particularly anti-hammock, in which case, that's the store for you.
After we offered the passers-by of Paddington a rest stop, and had some lovely exchanges, Belle had to leave to go back to Falmouth. She will be back in a week though for the same project, and you will be able to see it (and sample a hammock) here: www.shp.org.uk. I'm sure more details will also be on her website which is here: www.bellebenfield.com
I would just like to say that I am so enormously inspired by Belle and really proud to know her. I admire how her art is so considered and touches on subjects that are so meaningful to me. I am lucky to have a friend like Belle. Lucky old me.
After hanging hammocks in Praed Street, I set off for a meeting with Geoff Andrew, programmer of the BFI. We drank coffee, talked blogs and discussed the merits of Lars Von Trier (I am for, Geoff is against). Then it was a beautiful day, so I looked at big poems on the Queen Elizabeth Hall exterior walls and admired this large straw fox:
I got the bus home, worked a bit on my business plan, drafted this blog, went for dinner with my dad, high-tailed it up to Kings Cross to meet Nick and watch Caitlin Rose, had a mini-crisis about my own singing, and went home to bed.
Funny old life this.
In some truly excellent news though, look at my sprouts. They have well grown:
Please note that what looks like mould is in fact 'fibrous roots' - it says this on the 'bio-snacky' packets (providers of the seeds). Just to put your mind at rest. I know you worry about these things. x