Monday, 2 August 2010

Underground at the Unearthing

Last Friday night I met up with the lovely Gary Spencer Millidge and we went and saw Alan Moore perform his spoken word piece, Unearthing in the vaults underneath Waterloo station. The appropriately aged and spooky venue set the mood perfectly, as Alan recounted the magical life of his close, long-term friend and collaborator, Steve Moore (no relation).
The ever-affiable Gary Spencer Millidge
Before the show started we had a quick drink in the aptly named Bunker bar and I bumped into my old mate, actor/writer and self-confessed fanboy, Fraser Ayres. You might recognise Fraser from TV shows like The Smoking Room, Thieves Like Us and Noel Clarke’s Adulthood, and he presented the 2008 Eagle Awards. He’s apparently writing a new series for the BBC with Goldie playing his brother.
Goldie's Brother(!) Fraser Ayres in the intermission
The Unearthing show consisted of Alan reading a piece he’d originally created for Ian Sinclair’s anthology London: City of Disaaperances about vanishing areas of London. But rather than picking a place, Alan chose a person, Steve Moore. Steve is as vital and important a part of the British comics scene as Alan, yet has consistently failed to get the kudos his namesake constantly garners—and this was the latter’s way of setting the record straight. Alan recounted the history of Shooter’s Hill in London—Steve’s birthplace and home for over 60 years. The reading was complimented by images created by photographer Mitch Jenkins with a live ambient soundtrack provided by Crook & Flail.

Alan revealed Steve’s influence in setting up British sci-fi and comic book fandom, early fanzines and his role in the very first comic marts and conventions. He talked about the legendary proto-comic shop, Dark They Were and Golden Eyed and Steve working there with Derek “Bram” Stokes. Interestingly, one of my earliest memories was my dad taking me to the shop when it was in Berwick Street, when I was about 5. I guess comics got into my blood at a very early age! Alan then recounted Steve’s fascination with all things bizarre and esoteric and his involvement with the start up of The Fortean Times, along with founding editor, Bob Rickard. The early FT editorial team often used Dark They Were… as their unofficial office.
The whole event was made even more “meta” by the fact that Steve Moore and Bob Rickard were in the audience watching Alan talk about their lives in a semi-fictional piece. Alan’s tonal inflections, emphasis on key words, Northampton accent, and ambient music all meant he was actually performing a mass act of hypnotism—successfully putting the audience into a trance like state.

The show started late and, at 3 hours in length (including 2 intervals), was a mammoth feat of reading. Although I personally thought it could’ve been a bit shorter. Having said that, the whole evening was a fascinating and intriguing event where a new form of performance magic was acted out in an understated, yet powerful manner, whose resonance has stayed with me ever since.

Unfortunately, with the show running so late I didn’t get a chance to catch-up with Alan afterwards and thank him in person for the foreword he did for the 2nd Volume of Erotic Comics: A Graphic History, as I had to dash off to catch the last train home.

The reason Gary and I were there will become clear in the near future; suffice to say that it involves Alan considerably.


Gary Spencer Millidge said...

I think the reading may have seemed a bit overlong as you were worried about missing the train home, mate!
Of course, it was only ever intended as a text piece, but I think it benefits greatly from Alan's delivery.
As for everyone needing an editor, well you would say that I suppose! I'm sure the spelling errors in your report were deliberately inserted to prove your point. ;)

TimTrue said...

You may be right about the time element, but there were points when the trance state I was in almost sent me off to Slumberland - although, admittedly that might have been the excessive consumption of cuba libres! However, I'm a great believer of "less is more" (Moore?) and keep the audience/readers wanting more of what you've got, rather than revealing everything.

I can't imagine anyone else delivering the text the way he did. One thing that never gets highlighted in Alan's work is his great sense of humour. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments and it's a shame that "the funny side of Alan Moore" isn't focussed on nearly enough. When was the last time you saw a newspaper article raving about The Bojeffries Saga or D.R. & Quinch?

And of course everyone needs an editor, and I'm no exception! I can't tell you the amount of times I re-read postings and spot errors I thought I'd caught. No one is infallible.