Sunday, August 30, 2009

One and Other: I Stood On The Plinth And I Liked It

On Sunday 23 August 2009, I was on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square as part of Anthony Gormley's One and Other installation. You can see the video of me enjoying my 8.00am hour-long slot here and read more about my choices for the special occasion in my profile on the page. There are also photos here.

It was absolutely magical being up there. It's quite peaceful at 8 metres high and there weren't many people in the square at that point - but it wasn't so early in the morning that it felt deserted and empty. It felt like the city was just waking up and tottering out to see what was going on while I stood up there. And the bells of St Martin in the Fields marked out the segments of my time, the fountains started up halfway through, the sun shone brightly like a blessing and the beautiful voice of my faithful friend Katy pealed out around the dazzling square as she sang our wedding song again, not once but twice in the hour I was a piece of art.

The ride across the square in the cherry picker and the dizzying rise to the plinth was brilliant. The smiling faces all looking up at me as I stood there, the strangers who pointed their cameras at me and waved back when I waved at them, the mild aura of good will and good cheer as people came and went, glancing up at me smiling with my bouquet and bright dress and big headpiece... it was sublime.

I chose to be a bride again for all sorts of reasons...

... I'm quite small and wanted to be sure to be seen, and as my wedding dress is the brightest thing I own, it seemed a good theme to work with
... brides are treated like sculptures or models on the big day, stared at and admired and talked about. A very good analogy for standing on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of an art installation, I thought

... I wanted to throw my bouquet again as I cocked it up the first time, and I did think that with some height, I could do a good bouquet toss this time

... I love my husband very much and a lot has happened in the three years since we married which has made me want to tell him and the world how much he means to me and how happy, how complete he makes my life

... how often does a woman get to wear her wedding dress again? It's still the nicest and best fitting thing I have in my wardrobe, so it was almost my default choice when I first got news of my slot

The experience was a bit spoiled by the events of the following week - I had been feeling unwell in the run-up to the plinth outing but fought the nausea and dizziness valiantly until I had been up and come down. The same afternoon, when I was lying on the sofa, I felt like the sofa was trying to throw me off itself, or else I was marooned on a paddle boat in a choppy sea and was so motion sick in my own living room that I was vomiting quite severely. So off to the walk-in clinic we went, which then led me to A&E, which then saw me being admitted overnight to the wards so that I could be seen by a surgical consultant, have an ultrasound, a drip and lots of painkillers, anti-nausea pills and pregnancy tests for two days.

Turns out it was nothing worse than a bad case of labyrinthitis, an inner ear problem that causes loss of balance, nausea and a constant feeling of travel sickness. A week off work and lots of sitting very still, clutching my anti-nausea pills to my throbbing head has paid off and I'm cautiously much better now. Lucky I don't suffer from vertigo or else my plinth outing could have been quite spectacularly bad and vomitous. As it is, I think I pulled off my hour as art quite nicely. It's not an experience I'm likely to forget.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bouncers for Boozy West End Theatres

First published on

West End theatres are employing security firms to keep control over rowdy audiences. Overdoing the pre-show and interval drinks, boisterous and obnoxious behaviour and Renaissance-era licentiousness in the stalls are causing great unhappiness to the actors and theatre staff.

Getting sexy when the houselights go down, relieving themselves in the aisles, taking photos and being drunken nuisances is so common now, the security staff already in place at hen night favourites such as Mama Mia! are just resigned to slurring, shouting and boozy misdemeanours.

Ironically, tickets are cheap in order to lure in first time theatre-goers. And package deals for big groups deliberately appeal to hen nights, birthday parties and outings for which the play is just a warm-up for further rowdiness. Theatres need bums on seats – but alas, these bums are turning out to be exactly the kind that need to be kicked out.

Banning alcohol in the auditoriums is one solution offered by playwright Ronald Harwood, but we foresee it could backfire like cheap ticket offers: intervals are usually 15 minutes maximum and for a determined hen party, that’s five tequila shots each before the bell goes. No drinks in auditoriums in these cases would not be taken as a ‘go slow’ suggestion, it would be taken as a challenge.

Perhaps the best solution is for West End shows to just give up after the first half and let audiences run riot all over the seats for the second half. They’re not interested in the ending, the performers already know how it turns out, so while the Bacchanal rages in the stalls and circle, the performers could retreat to well-stocked dressing rooms, Radio 4 and a nice cup of tea until time for curtains, at which point they can bow to the oblivious audience and go home for an early night, and everybody, box office included, is happy. Ish.