Monthly Archives: December 2012

Invader Zim vs The Lloyd of Dirkness!

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I’ve been reading quite a few children’s books recently. The other day I picked up one called Dark Lord: The Teenage Years and proceeded to devour it over two long train journeys .

I quite enjoyed the book in a easy-to-read pass-time sort of way, but I was more intrigued by the similarities and differences it bore to one of my favourite kid’s TV shows, Invader Zim.DL-ding

The two are relatively similar in story, style and at times, tone. Firstly and most simply is the story. In one, an alien is sent to Earth to conquer it. While there he must disguise himself as a human “worm baby” and attend school whilst finding a way to conquer the planet, enslave the human race and destroy his sworn enemy Dib. The other sees The Dark Lord (AKA Dirk Lloyd) ruler of the Darklands propelled to Earth and trapped inside the body of a “pitiful human child”. He must attend school whilst finding a way to restore himself to his former glory, reclaim his home land and maybe enslave the human race if there is time. The differences are in the details: Zim seeks to disguise who he really is where Dirk seeks to prove himself. Zim makes enemies where Dirk makes friends. Etc.

But the very basic premise is almost identical: ‘An alien Invader/Dark Lord takes on human form, attends school and deal with the mundane day-to-day problems of human life whilst continuing with their evil plans and dark purposes in secret.

The biggest similarity is in character. On the surface Zim and Dirk are very, very alike. So much so, that when reading Dirk’s dialogue I couldn’t help doing so with Zim’s voice. Every cry of “Cower before me pitiful humans!” rang around my head in Richard Horvitz’s wicked tone.1-invader zim-wallpaper

However, surface likeness aside, there is also a huge difference between Dirk and Zim which I found extremely noticeable whilst reading Dark Lord. That difference lies in the level of malicious intent, or ‘evilness’ if you like.

So the big question is; who would win in a fight between Zim and Dirk?

Well, Zim has his advanced technology, but this usually proves to be less than functional, and to counter this, Dirk had his magic, which one can only assume will grow stronger after the close of book one. Also, Dirk is far more intelligent than Zim, who let’s face it, is as thick as two short planks.

So far, the odds are stacked in Dirk’s favour. But there is one more very important factor to consider. When the battle is done, and the victor stands tall over his fallen opponent, what then? Both Dirk and Zim would chant an evil Mwa ha ha! I’m sure. Both would taunt their enemy and proclaim themselves the glorious victor. But I think it is only Zim who would crush his enemy under the heel of his boot. Only Zim who would kill Dirk.I-am-zim-invader-zim-2879951-1023-768

Throughout reading Dark Lord, I have been given no reason to believe that Dirk is actually capable of any sort of evil act. We are told that in the past he has crushed cities, enslaved entire races and driven some creatures to extinction, but we are never given evidence of this. I think the mos evil act Dirk is guilty of in book one is petty theft, gluing someone’s shoes to the floor and sending his unattached arm to shave the beard off of someone’s face.

Zim, on the other hand, constantly gives us examples of just what he is capable of. In one episode he harvests the organs of all his class mates, replacing them with inanimate objects. In another, he brainwashes a child by ripping his eyes out and replacing them with robotic ones, the child is then attacked (and presumably killed) by a squirrel. And the absurd list goes on. All these things may be completely obscure and ridiculous but they are without a doubt, pretty evil. They really do solidify Zim as a particularly nasty character and allows for to be quite scary when he wants to be also.

Dirk unfortunately lacks this. The closest we get to any sort of evidence that he is capable of anything even remotely nasty, is in the first few chapters where he attempts (without any effect) to summon various spells of destruction on people.

Unfortunately, without this evidence, we just can not believe or give any credit to Dirk’s being anything more than a slightly mischievous child.dark-lord--da-gibts-nichts-zu-lach-1

What’s more, the Dark Lord’s evilness is again called into question during the tail end of the book, when he scrys his army of Orcs and Goblins being executed by his enemy’s army of white paladins. He states that even he would not stoop so low, that even he would show mercy, only killing a few of them to set an example, that even the so called Dark Lord, ruler of the Nine Hells  has more honour than the supposed good guys (because remember; Dirk is supposed to be the bad guy! Even if he is the protagonist!) But now, we’re not even following the exploits of the bad guy!

In Zim, it’s always apparent that although stupid and incompetent, Zim is the bad guy. It’s why we love to see him fail and are secretly delighted to see him victorious. It’s also why it’s a genuine surprise if he does anything even vaguely noble. With Dirk, I was never surprised to see him express feelings of happiness or compassion because I’d never really been given any real evidence that all he usually feels is hate and anger.a3ef7b86_htf_imgcache_39698

There is a scene in every James Bond film where we see the bad guy kill somebody who was powerless to save themselves, in Bond, this is usually a woman. This scene exists simply to solidify in our minds that he’s a horrible person, and this is all we actually need to justify James dispatching him as violently as possible.

In any story which features a bad guy who finds redemption, or even becomes the good guy we’ll be shown something similar, so that we have something to compare his new found goodness to. For example, Zuko’s transformation in The Last Airbender, wouldn’t be convincing if he hadn’t hounded the Avatar so ferociously to begin with.

Dirk needed something like this. He needed than one act which makes us think ‘Ah yeah, he is pretty evil actually’. It’s not enough to simply mention something that he did in a former life when he was a giant demon. We need first hand evidence that he is what he says he is, and we need it now, while he is in the form we know him in.

I don’t know exactly what it is Dirk should do to prove this, and Dark Lord isn’t as absurd as Invader Zim, so I doubt it could get away with some of the things Zim does, but even so, we really do need something.

Whole Hog Theatre presents Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke!

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103390Hello all,

I have some super exciting news to tell and a favour to ask!

So as some people will remember, I vaguely mentioned having been to a number of auditions last month for various projects. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve managed to become involved in one of these projects, and what’s more; it’s the most exciting project I could have hoped for!

Whole Hog theatre is a small, young theatre group based in Lemington Spa, near Coventry. The company specializes in adaptation and have previously made versions of Dangerous Liaisons and Five kinds of Silence (for which they won the Festgoer’s Choice Award for Best Production at the National Student Drama Festival in 2010).

This is what the company say about themselves; “Frustrated by the proliferation of ‘safe’ theatre, and the lack of opportunity for young artists to gain the experience in theatre necessary to enter the industry, they decided to go the whole hog and address these issues head on – hence their name.’ The company strive to achieve the highest standard in what they do, and thus far, it looks as though they are doing just that.

The companies next project, and the one I will be joining in with to help develop and perform in, is none other than the extremely ambitious theatrical adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke!images

Now, anyone who has seen this film will know what I mean when I say it’s an ambitious project and a huge undertaking! But I am very confident that these are the right people to take on this project and I’m honoured to be a part of it!

‘Yes, Jack,’ I hear you cry, ‘but how will this tremendous feat of theatrical entertainment be achieved?’ Fear not gentle reader; allow me explain.

First off, people should rest assured that our theatrical version will remain as true to the film as humanly possible. For me personally, Princess Mononoke holds a very special place in my heart, and I know the same is true for the others at Whole Hog Theatre. Therefore, great care will be taken with the characters, plot and message of the film, keeping the feeling and atmosphere of Miyazaki’s masterpiece , which as you know, is so, so important. What Alexandra Rutter (our director, and the artistic and executive director at Whole Hog) has said, is that ‘whilst audiences can expect to see much of the film’s narrative happen onstage, they should also expect the techniques we use to tell the story to be quite different’ and this should be expected seeing as how very different the language used in an animated film is to the language of theatre.

As for practical ideas, the play will implement the use of giant puppets to bring many of the creatures and gods of the world to life. These puppets, in-keeping with the ecological messages in Princess Mononoke, will be made from found and recycled materials.

There will also be many expressive elements to the show, using soundscapes and physical storytelling to invoke the feeling and atmosphere that the film achieves so well.

Another thing well worth mentioning is that an original musical score is being created for the show. Alexandra commented on this saying; ‘I know many fans will be surprised, even shocked at this, but it is actually because we love Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful original score so much that we decided not to attempt to re-create it. Our venue is very small and there is no space for the orchestra necessary to do justice to the score and it would seem a travesty to play it through speakers as opposed to live. So, our wonderful Musical Director, Freya Bryson, has been developing a new score crafted for fewer musicians. It will be very much inspired by the original and make use of innovative soundscaping’.

The script of the show will also be newly written for the show, taking heavy inspiration from both the English dub of the film, as well as the subtitle track. The reason for this is simply a matter of adaptation. It must be said that some of the language, although perfect for the film, does not translate well to the stage. Therefore, new dialogue will be developed to  make sure the entire performance, from form to script works together inside the world of theatre.

It goes without saying that Alexandra can put this all in much finer words than I am able to, so I urge you to read this interview with her; here.

-jigoAlso, to let you know, I have been cast in the role of Jiko, the Monk! How cool is that!? If you’d like to find out more about the casting please check out the Whole Hog website; here.

And one last thing (it’s the favour of course). Whole Hog has been running a kickstarter campaign, of which there is now only ONE AND A HALF HOURS LEFT! Please take a look at it, and if you’d like to donate we’d be very thankful. As it stands Princess Mononoke is running from the 2nd to the 6th of April at the New Diorama Theatre in London. The initial run is now sold out, but with the help of this kickstarter campaign there will be more shows to be announced.

Jack.

NaNoWriMo Volume Two – Now to set our own deadlines

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Winner-180x180Check it out!

My own personal ‘You’re a winner’ badge.

This little thing tells me that I have officially completed the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ goal of hitting 50,000 words in just 30 days! This wonderful little pdf tells me that I can write, and, that I am a writer. It might seem a little pointless because, well you know, I knew I was a writer…right? But actually, that’s not true. I knew I had aspirations to be a writer and that technically, I can write. But I didn’t know what it felt like to actually write as if it was a career. That’s something I learnt a lot about this month.

Right from the first of the month, I knew that I had a target, and a deadline. Then, I made it happen, as if it was a job, making sure I wrote everyday, and if I failed to do that, making sure I made up for whatever time I had lost. The result is that I hit my deadline, and came out of it with a finished story. That’s something else I haven’t done before; actually finished a novel! But now, I know that I can.

Now though, lets face the harsh reality:

What I have written isn’t actually much good. This is because of a few reasons. One, because I didn’t plan it, and I never really had much of an idea what or why I was writing. Two, because it’s all a bit rushed (no surprises there). Three, because I was concentrating more on my word count than the bloody story itself!

So now I’ve revealed these little home truths, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I really enjoyed this month. I loved writing mostly everyday and I loved having a deadline. The only problem, as I have said above is that I was defiantly writing to hit the word count rather than to write the story. This is partially okay, and actually the whole reason I took part was to do this. I wanted to use NaNoWriMo as an exercise in writing everyday, in writing a lot without editing, and in actually finishing something. I was never super concerned with what I was writing, knowing that it wasn’t likely to be something I would try to publish or even give out to people to read. I think also though, it’s something about NaNoWriMo that made me so concerned about the volume of words. I wonder if I would still be like that if I was working on something a little more precious?That’s another negative; as I said, I really enjoyed the month, but there were times I didn’t enjoy writing this particular story. Because I had no real plan or aim, there were certainly times where writing became a real chore. nanowrimoThere’s another blog post about NaNoWriMo here, in which we are asked how we measure our own success. For me, I feel successful because even though I know that what I’ve written isn’t fantastic, I’m still very proud. I’m proud firstly because I did it – I started and ended it without once planning ahead what was going to happen, and did so within a month. I’m proud of some parts of it because I think they’re genuinely good, well written and witty. I’m proud of other parts because they’re absolutely mad – Because I was writing without a plan, and usually without any idea of what I was writing, I often slipped into a sort of NaNoTrance, where my fingers were writing but my brain wasn’t. Through these NaNoTraces I found myself writing things I never would usually. I was able to sort of brain dump things onto the page and then enjoy reading them back.

Mostly I’m proud because now I know I can write a book, and I know I can write a book that’s damn well better than this one!

For anyone who is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo next year, or for anyone who just fancies trying their hand at writing and think this might be the way to go: Do it. It’s a great month and it really helps knowing that you have goal, deadline and most importantly; other people backing you! It’s enough knowing that 300,000 other people are doing it, but the actual communities are great. I was part of a small facebook group, and it helped an awful lot to feel as though I was part of a group of like-minded people working towards the same goal. There are also, from what I understand, actual flesh and blood meet ups between WriMos, who meet and write together.The-writer

But now the question is; where do we go from here? Well, now I guess it’s time to start setting our own deadlines.

My project ‘Sketch’ has taken me about a year and a half of writing haphazardly, now and again, whenever I felt like it. Currently it stands at about 25 thousand words. I just wrote double that in a month. I am now filled with new confidence that I can finish ‘Sketch’ and that I can do so soon. Thus, I am setting myself a goal: I want to finish a first draft of Sketch by New Year. That’s a month to finish another 25/30 thousand words along with all the research that is necessary for this one. It’s a pretty tough goal seeing as how December is a happy, jolly, super-joyful, fun time of year which usually involves a lot of travel and a lot of work. But I do think It’s achievable. Just to add some suspense to the whole thing I have promised that if I fail this, my friend Dom can throw a bucket of paint over me. I will also film and upload this humiliating yet potentially enjoyable experience here, if it comes to it.

And just a final note: November has been a bloody amazing month! I have written a novel, acquired 2 (part-time) jobs, done 2 exciting auditions (results pending) with a 3rd lined up for tomorrow, and performed 2 different shows in different London venues. I was bang on the money when at the beginning of November, I said there were exciting times ahead. November = Excellent.

I hope all your November’s were excellent also, and I’m going to do something I usually try to steer clear of…I’m going to wish you all a fantastic Xmas period! Genuinely, I wish you all the very best of success. Hopefully December will be awesome too.

Now, I shall end the post before my good spirits get the most of me and I start weeping gently onto the keys of my laptop…