Reading: Iain Banks — Complicity (4th-ish Time)

A little short of good new reading at the moment, so ever-reliable Uncle Iain it is. I first read Complicity in Zürich, 2005, when I was working with Nigel Charnock and staying up up up the hill from Tanzhaus Wasserwerk. The woman I was staying with had a copy on her shelf, a mass market edition with the pulpy red and black portrait cover, the same one I just read.

This isn’t going to be one of those 3000-word essays like I did on Feersum Endjinn, Whit, or The Business, but I did notice a couple of things in this early-’90s Scotland novel of Iain without-the-M Banks. The main character, journalist Cameron Colley is a thinly disguised Banks, who does a deliberately lazy job of pointing this out by having the first person Cameron meets be another journalist called Iain. Haw haw. The other main character, murderous literalist Andy, is a childhood friend of Cameron, with whom the following happens during a phone conversation:

“You ever go the other way these days?”
“You know, with guys.”
“What? Good grief, no. I mean …” I look at the receiver in my hand. “No,” I say.
“Hey, I just wondered.”
“Why, do you?” I ask, and then regret the tone because it sounds like I’m at least disapproving if not actually homophobic.
“Na,” Andy says. “Na, I don’t … I kind of … you know, I lost interest in all that stuff.” He chuckles, and I imagine again that I hear the noise echoing in the dark hotel. “It’s just, you know; old habits die hard.”

Maybe it was because I was just coming off watching Sense8, but I pretty much went, “Oh, that makes sense, he was bi.” Like much of his not-even-bothering-to-pretend insertions of self as characters, much in his novels is rooted in Banks himself. His love of hoonage and drugs, how he relates to the landscape of Scotland, his politics and imagining of a kind of trans queer multi-ethnic utopia in the Culture, imply writing Cameron and Andy (who is a tooled-up variation on himself) as bi isn’t a throwaway — especially for a nominally straight white guy who came of age in Scotland in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s a clear note to himself and his readers that carries across time.

The other thing which occurred to me is to do with a particular billionaire who has based his career around stealing the work of Kate Telman from The Business, names ships after Culture novels, loudly imagines himself on Twitter to be some kind of living embodiment of very early pre-Culture civilisation, and who recently proclaimed, “If you must know, I am a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks”. Yeah, nah mate. You’re so fucking wrong the needle on your tank of correct is pinned to E.

There is one character in the many Banks novels who in fact is Elon Musk, and he’s in Complicity. William. Greed is Good William, unethical investments William, buying a knighthood, “putting respectable amounts into Tory coffers,” trading in his wife “for a more up-market, user-friendly model, preferably one with her own title” William. William, “strapped to the internal bracing of the [garage] door with tape and twine around his wrists and ankles, his head covered with a black rubbish bag, tied tight around his throat with more black tape, his body limp,” dealt to by Andy. That’s what Banks thinks of the likes of Musk, he made it clear 25 years ago. At the end of Complicity, Cameron finds he has lung cancer; Banks himself only made it another twenty years. But Andy, Banks never sold him out, sent him off in an inflatable from Inchmickery in the Firth of Forth, “I might retire now, while I’m ahead. But on the other hand, there are still a lot of bastards out there.”


No Limits Festival: Das Helmi Theater HORA — American Beauty

Thursday night. No Limits Festival. Two of my favourite theatre groups get together for one night of three productions: Berlin’s Das Helmi and Zürich’s Theater HORA. Together, they are a force for theatre equal to Castorf in the Volksbühne. Nah, seriously, if I was Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien I’d kick out the illiterate appointment of the Dercon-Charmatz clique, keep Castorf and add the Helmi-HORA supergroup. That’s how good they are.

A little (hopefully correct) backstory: After their first collaboration in Zürich, Mars Attacks! they came together again for two this past summer for Ding Dong Dom in Berlin’s Holzmarkt, creating and performing five new works. Now it’s November, and the awesome No Limits Festival, so they’re back together for Schlafe kann ich, wenn ich Tot bin, three “anarchic theatre seances”: American Beauty, Hunger Games, and Ein Bett mit 1000 Kerzen. (And if Jennifer Lawrence ever reads this, Gianni, who directed Hunger Games and plays Katniss, was kinda upset your crew was so slack when you were in town.)

I was also slack, only staying for American Beauty. Which has a priceless insert of Dasniya Sommer doing Nijinski’s L’Après-midi d’un faune—about the only thing my poor camera managed to make look half-decent (one day I’ll blow some euros on a proper rig that laughs at fast movement and theatre light). Matthias Grandjean is there, also Gianni Blumer, Julia Häusermann, and Tiziana Pagliaro plus the Helmi mob, Cora Frost, Solène Garnier, Brian Morrow, Felix and Florian Loycke. Total supergroup.

What else? Mars Attacks! is on tonight in Balhaus Ost, it’s fucking legendary; the HORAs have shows on almost every night—a retrospective of their work since Jérôme Bel made Disabled Theater with them they’ve called Jérôme doesn’t ask the actors anymore (burn much?); and No Limits Festival runs ’til the 15th. Go to all of it. Berlin’s festivals are small and it’s easy for one to be over before you’re aware it exists, but they are gems, especially this one.

Yoga + Shibari November 2014

For those of you in Berlin, Yoga + Shibari with Dasniya is on Tuesday, 25th November. And more performances of MARS ATTACKS! in Frankfurt and Zürich!

Dear Friends, Bondagisti and Dance People!

This month, Yoga & Shibari in Berlin takes place: Tuesday, November 25th.
End of November das Helmi und Theatr Hora revive Mars Attacks! in Frankfurt at Mousonturm

Come, see and rope with us!

Dasniya & Frances

  1. Yoga & Shibari Berlin, Tuesday 25th November
  2. 22+23 November Mars Attacks! at Mousonturm Frankfurt

1. Yoga & Shibari Berlin, Tuesday November 25th, 2014

Hours: 7-11 pm at:
Teatris/Alte Kantine Wedding
Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt
Entrance B/C
Uferstraße 8-11
13357 Berlin
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr

Please call when you are in the courtyard, in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.

Please register beforehand, then we send you the details!
General class description: Deutsch + English
Yoga can be done separately from the Shibari part. Hours: 7-8.45 pm. Info here.

2. Mars Attacks! Theater Hora & das Helmi

When: SA+SO 22/23 November 2014
Time: 8 pm
Location: Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt, Waldschmidtstraße 4, 60316 Frankfurt am Main

When: SO 30 November 19.15 / MO 01December 20.15
Location: Schauspielhaus Zürich, Schiffbaustrasse 4, 8005 Zürich

Nasty Martians attack to torment, torture, destroy humanity in this brutal Sci-Fi classic from the 1950’s. This repeatedly censored and banned material full of (un)canny projections now forms the foundation for a surreal performance about desire, dark longings and the end of humankind.

Performance: Remo Beuggert, Gianni Blumer, Matthias Brücker, Cora Frost, Solène Garnier, Nikolai Gralak, Matthias Grandjean, Julia Häusermann, Florian Loycke, Tiziana Pagliaro, Dasniya Sommer.


Mars Attacks! The Fourth Performance

Friday night’s performance of Mars Attacks! had a new ending. It’s a bit of a hidden track and may or may not appear in subsequent performances (or at least that’s how I understood it). Also the last night I was taking photos. I’d extended my time in Zürich – flying back to Berlin Sunday instead of Friday – so I could film a couple more nights and make sure I got everything. Funny that even with around 180 gigabytes of images and video, I’ll be sure to have missed something. For the moment, back in Berlin, certainly missing the Horas and the Helmis.


Mars Attacks! The Third Performance

Some photos from last night’s third performance of Mars Attacks! in Rote Fabrik. The Helmis and Horas are all in the theatre now, and it’s almost time for rehearsals. “Wir versammeln uns in den Innenkreis…”


Mars Attacks! The First Performance (after the Premiere)

Last night Cora, Solène, Burkhard, Florian, Dasniya, and I sat down at 1am for a dinner of fresh white asparagus, potatoes, ham, and general post-show lateness. Now it’s Friday early-afternoon, and here’s some photos from the second night of Das Helmi and Theater Hora’s Mars Attacks!.


Das Helmi & Theater Hora: Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! opens tonight at Rote Fabrik in Zürich. Here are some photos of Berlin’s Das Helmi puppet theatre and Zürich’s Theater Hora from Friday and Saturday’s dress rehearsals. It’s a very good work and you should come to Zürich to see it (or Bern next week).


Uetliberg above Zürich

A day off. Not a day off. My morning wander up the steep Uetliberg hill behind the house didn’t begin until dinner-time. The sun was lighting the gold coast of Lake Zürich by the time I’d reached the radio antenna, the silver coast side already in shadow. Above, paragliders rode the updrafts; to the south, mountains hung like billowing clouds, throwing shadows eastwards, slanting upwards into the sky from the sun already below them. I walked down and home in darkness.


The Helmis live and work together. We work now in Rote Fabrik, beside the lake, and live in a house up the hill, a 15 minute walk or so. Behind us is the Uetliberg and forest. A shard of the lake is just visible off to one side of an apartment tower from my attic room. It has rained every day, wreathing the hills in scraggy mist and cloud. Late last night we ate fondue in the turquoise kitchen.


Das Helmi & Theater Hora’s Mars Attacks! rehearsals

Morning taxi to Tegel, Swiss Air croissants & chocolate to Zürich, rainy pickup in the Hora tractor, through the Zentrum and to Rote Fabrik. The walk to the Helmi house is the same route I used to go to where I once stayed. Oh yes, back in all the old places. Doppel-Bürli and Alpikoner Käse, Lindt chocolate. Some photos from today’s rehearsals.