HG Wells & the Spiders From Mars was a one man play which was to star Oliver Senton as Wells. He was to act alongside an invisible man, or possibly a ghost, or possibly a figment of his imagination. Or – just possibly – alongside the transgressive liberating spirit of Ziggy Stardust, who fell to earth 70 years too early and found the wrong boy genius from Bromley.
The play was due to be directed by Daisy Campbell and performed at the Cockpit Theater in London in April. But the pandemic happened and, as you can imagine, all plans were scuppered.
Composer Tim Arnold, however, had already written music to my lyrics, and the song ‘Life on Venus’ was recorded before the whole thing was cancelled.
In the play, Wells has come up with a brand new idea, one never before put to paper – an invasion from an alien planet. The invisible spirit of Ziggy, however, knows that the first story of inter-planetary contact will frame mankind’s thinking about such things for centuries to come. As such he is adamant that Wells’s aliens should not come from Mars, the planet of war, but from Venus, the planet of love. The sexually-liberated Wells is tempted, but he ultimately doesn’t think his late-Victorian readership could accept an encounter with a planet of love, and all that entails. For the sake of decency and his career, he chooses fear over love, and the split with his muse begins.
That’s the background for the song ‘Life on Venus’. So you can imagine how hearing evidence of alien life from Venus rather than Mars, in this context, sounded like a positive omen of… well, something or other. It was welcome, put it that way. To celebrate our cloud-based Venusian neighbours Tim Arnold is putting the song Life on Venus online. You can stream it now on his Bandcamp page. We’ll leave it up for 23 days, and if you do want a permanent copy, there’s a Pay What You Want option available.
you’re in London and want a more unofficial way to mark the end of the
Tate’s William Blake exhibition, the South London Arts Lab are
organising a ‘Blake Off’ tomorrow (Feb 2nd). Billed as a day of ‘music,
poetry, drones and ceremony’, the plan is to meet in the free Blake
legacy room (not the exhibition) at Tate Britain at 4pm, before moving
to upstairs at the Morpeth Arms from 5pm. Hope to see you there!
that the Tate event is done, my plan is to take a bit of a breather
from doing talks this year, although I fully expect to be all over the
shop in 2021. That said, I have agreed to do a talk on Blake at
Sheffield Library on March 9th because (a) Sheffield, (b) libraries, (c)
Blake and (d) full moon. The event is free and I’d advise registering for a ticket sooner rather than later.
I’ve also agreed to an ‘in conversation’ event with Robin Ince at Berkhamsted Book Festival on May 10th because no one can say no to Robin Ince, it is not physically possible. But that should be it for talks this year.
That said – I do have one date you might want to put in your diaries.
written a play called HG Wells & the Spiders From Mars. It’s a
one-man play (well, one visible man) and it stars Oliver Senton, who
played Robert Anton Wilson in the Cosmic Trigger play. It’s being
directed by Daisy Campbell.
Here’s the blurb:
collide when an invisible muse ‘Ziggy’ crash lands into the Edwardian
living room reality of the ‘Godfather of Science Fiction’ HG Wells,
inspiring him to write his greatest works: but can H.G. surrender to his
muse and help provoke an evolutionary leap in the collective
imagination? What can myth-making genius teach us about the urgent need
to alter our cultural narrative. Could we be heroes?
A time-traveling one-man fusion of theatre, music-hall magic & Bowie-inspired songs, with razor sharp digital sets.
It’s still in development, but it will be presented as a
work-in-progress at the Cockpit Theatre on April 3rd. This will be
partly fully staged and partly a readthrough, and I’ll be doing a
Q&A. More on this next time but for now, if you’re likely to be
around London on Friday April 3rd, keep the date free.
Speaking of Daisy Campbell, I’m hella proud to have written the introduction to the book edition of her one-woman show Pigspurt’s Daughter.
This presents as being an examination of her relationship with her late
father Ken Campbell but is, of course, considerably more than that.
If you heard Conor Garrett’s terrific Radio 4 documentary
on the attempts of the KLF/JAMMs to become undertakers and wondered how
this came to be, then Pigspurt’s Daughter will explain a lot. You can
think of it as the missing link between the story detailed in my KLF
book and what’s going on now.
Here’s how my introduction begins:
are two types of magical people. The first group are those who want to
be magical. They feel drawn to the magical life and they read plenty of
books to find out about it. They study hard and discuss arcane subjects
with like-minded wizards and witches. Magic is a vocation and something
to be nurtured, and they apply themselves.
The second type are
people who just are magical and there’s not a damn thing that they can
do about it. Their lives are a constant parade of unbelievable and
impossible situations. Synchronicities compete for their attention. The
world bends itself into unnatural positions in order to better reflect
their own mental landscape. Their lives are constantly, intensely
magical, and they just put up with it as best they can.
The author of this play, Daisy Campbell, is this second type of person.
is happening and the year, as you’ve no doubt noticed, has got off to a
determined start. That strange nameless decade we’ve left behind was a
vague, unsettled thing where probabilities were malleable and
certainties vulnerable. We were able to imagine wonderful ways forward,
but the shifting ground underneath our feet did not want to be built on.
have landed on settled ground now. It is not an ideal world, to put it
mildly, but at least we no longer fool ourselves about its true
character. We know the score and there is much to do, but our decade in
the mists has orientated us well. It is time – to quote Tom Waits – to
get behind the mule, and plough.
Good luck! I’ll write again further down the road. jhx