Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Revolution Will Be Televised: ‘you have to laugh at politics otherwise you will kill yourself’

Jolyon Rubinstein is one half of the, as he wryly puts it, ‘not so dynamic’ duo behind The Revolution Will Be Televised (the other half being Heydon Prowse, a friend from childhood). This satirical sketch show is something of an underground gem, showing late on Sundays on BBC Three.

The Revolution Will Be Televised is richly comic, borrowing much from the anarchistic free-flowing style of Sacha Baron-Cohen, but with an altogether darker political edge. On Monday Rubinstein gave a highly entertaining free talk at the Drama Centre, University of the Arts.

Delivering ‘bullshit’ to Parliament

Rubinstein described the show as ‘repackaging news’ as ‘you have to laugh at politics otherwise you’ll kill yourself.’ He was also quick to point out that ‘this is the first entertainment show to argue public interest’, so has much more to it than your average entertainment programme.

Although the focus of the programme is largely on bringing the hypocrisy and greed of multinational corporations and governments to light, Rubinstein was careful to emphasise that he doesn’t try to be didactic. Instead, the viewer is shown a plethora of different issues and given the freedom to make up their own minds.

Poking fun at Amazon’s tax evasion

I was especially fascinated by Rubinstein’s views on what he expected to happen over the next few years in politics. He drew attention to the fact that a lot of anger and frustration is building across the world which has, in many cases, been quelled – the Occupy movement was crushed, the Arab Spring lost momentum. But this anger remains and hasn’t been addressed.

In the next few years, he argued, some form of social movement is likely to start with the possibility to genuinely effect change. He highlighted the power of art forms in bringing people together. As long as we recognise we can have true power as a collective, and don’t see ourselves as atomised individuals, we can make a difference.

If there was one overriding message I took away from this talk, it was to start debating the political landscape with those around us more openly, to engage with each other over the things we see as wrong and corrupt. We need to make use of our power to speak out – if we don’t, then nothing will improve.

Join the debate. Catch The Revolution Will Be Televised on BBC Three at 10.25pm.

‘Listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox’ – Howl 2.0 at the Roundhouse

HOWL-2.0_H‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
hysterical naked’

One hell of an intro for a poem.

One thing you have to say about Ginsberg – he knew how to get your attention.

The Howl 2.0 reading I attended at the Roundhouse consisted of a full-length recitation of the poem and some modern poets’ own reimaginings of Howl (they were great, incidentally, particularly Kareem Parkins Brown – his gritty transposition of Howl into a London ‘gangland’ setting in turns funny and shocking). There was also a very illuminating Q&A panel with university lecturers, which gave me a few intriguing new insights into Ginsberg as man and poet.

It is easy to hold Ginsberg up as an idealistic prophet and venerate him, as many do – Ginsberg, the great pacifist, protesting against the Vietnam War, the practicing Buddhist who saw with damning clarity the evils of capitalism. But the Q&A opened up some more shady sides to his character, such as his involvement in NAMBLA – The North American Man/Boy Love Association, which is still around today and claims to be ‘concerned about the scapegoating of man/boy love’ (if you don’t believe me, check out their website – it’s quite dodgy stuff, to say the least).

This raised an important point – to never hold your heroes up in too high a regard. Even those who seem morally beyond reproach are, upon closer inspection, not always such paragons of virtue as you may think.

Charlie Chaplin's silent films were the greatest influence on Howl - who woulda thunk it?

Charlie Chaplin’s silent films were the greatest influence on Howl – who would’ve thunk it?

Surprisingly, the greatest influence on Howl was the comedy of Charlie Chaplin. It’s easy to overlook the humour of many parts of the poem, as it’s fuelled by such extraordinary vitriolic imagery.

I for one have always been drawn to the anti-capitalist and anti-conformist messages of Howl (especially the furiously powerful lines: ‘who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism’ and ‘the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising’).

But the unusual fact that Chaplin strongly influenced the creation of Howl made me want to reread the poem, paying greater attention to where Ginsberg was specifically fishing for laughs.

The question inevitably arose: can Howl be regarded as a classic?

The university lecturers were in consensus – they said that calling this particular poem, so subversive and countercultural in its time, a classic takes away from its power. After all, Ginsberg was prosecuted for obscenity for writing Howl.

I doubt Ginsberg would ever have wanted his satirical, vehement, darkly prophetic outpouring to be seen as a classic. Giving it ‘classic’ status is an attempt to place it in a predefined, orthodox space that doesn’t suit the anarchy of the poem.

What can be said about Howl is that there is nothing quite like it. It’s influence on performance poetry reverberates to this day.

Read/listen to Howl in its entirety – if you dare

Any paranoids in the theatre tonight?

This is just a very quick post to let you know that my review of Roger Waters’ stage performance of The Wall (which I attended in Wembley in September and is, without question, one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen) is now live on Litro’s website.

It went through many painstaking revisions and I hope it catches the fancy of some of you.

In it I talk about the dystopian narrative of The Wall (after all, I love my dystopias) and analyse the ways in which it still relates to a modern audience.

The key question for me was why Waters chose to return to The Wall at this particular moment in time, and the answers I found in my research were fruitful, in a quite terrifying, ‘the world’s become more and more of a terrible place’ kind of way.

For those of you crying out, ‘but where, oh where, is Ana’s post on the Howl 2.0 reading she went to yesterday?’ (and I’m sure that’s very many of you) – don’t fall over in sheer panic, it’s underway.