Saturday, 28 March 2020

Journal Of The Plague Year - week two


Look at that diary. It's hard to comprehend how much our lives have changed in just a few days of March 2020. At the end of February we were hearing about this coronavirus spreading in China, and cases popping up in the rest of the world, but hardly anyone was taking it that seriously. Certainly, looking at my schedule, if there was any infection already present in the country, I personally was not doing anything to contain it.

Between Feb 24th and March 14th we see me travelling (driving and flying), teaching in schools, and staying in hotels from County Wicklow in Ireland to Glasgow, to the Lake District, to Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, Worksop in Nottinghamshire, Belgravia Central London, Andover in Hampshire, Staffordshire, Newbury in Berkshire, then my final class (for now) in Baldock in Hertfordshire. In 20 days I'd travelled to and worked in ten different counties, in three different countries, and been in contact with up to 650 school kids. And it wasn't until March 9th, waking up in my hotel room in Boroughbridge that I started thinking, should I be maybe cancelling some things?

Even then, when a first few people online mooted the idea of events like the Edinburgh Fringe in August being cancelled, they were laughed at and shot down in flames (at time of writing Edinburgh is still not cancelled). When (on the 8th or 9th) I contacted Glasgow Comedy Festival about cancelling my shows on March 18th and 19th, I was a rare case and most people were still planning on going ahead.


Keep us apart in Sainsburys, Friday March 27th

All through that week (March 10 - 12), when I was doing three days at the same school in Newbury, there was lots of talk in the staffroom about what was going to happen, but no special precautions other than encouraging extra hand-washing. By the end of the week a couple of future schools had erred on the side of caution and decided it was best not to have visitors (so my school on the 17th postponed of their own volition) but the government had made no decisions on schools closing yet. My three day trip to Hannover was an early casualty, understandably. Even then, they didn't officially cancel till Friday 13th.

As I did my class at Baldock Arts Centre on Saturday 14th, I was still in receipt of an email from the school I was to visit on Monday 23rd confirming that I was definitely still coming.

In the week of the 16th to the 21st I started working on the new book, knowing that things were going to go down, and with Socks shows and schools cancelling in growing numbers (though many at Glasgow Comedy Festival, which I'd pulled out of voluntarily, were still going ahead through that week). It wasn't until Friday 20th that the government announced the closure of schools.

The weekend of March 21/22 was The Phoney War of the lockdown. Though we'd all been told to stay at home and go out as little as possible, Clevedon was one of the seaside towns that looked like it was a Bank Holiday. There were more people on the seafront than usual, with a large cluster of cyclists, and cafes still serving out on their forecourts, even though they weren't allowed to let people inside. We went for our last walk of any distance, and the last visit to the storage unit for a while, then on Monday night Boris Johnson gave his Big Brother/Churchill broadcast about the lockdown, since when it's been serious stay at home time.


The odd sight of 'social distancing', ie keeping at least 6 feet apart, as we queue to get into Sainsburys on Friday 27th.

This is such a change to everyone's lives in such a short period of time it really is hard to get your head around. If I imagine that same period happening during an Edinburgh Fringe month, say. I'd have been arriving in town on Mon March 2nd, ready to do my first show on Weds 4th, the first proper week of shows would start on Saturday 7th, and you'd be looking forward to a sellout weekend for the 14th, then the busy second week would begin on Monday 16th, the quiet third week on Monday 23rd, and you'd be feeling a bit sad about it all being over on Sunday 29th. Edinburgh whizzes by in that period of time and, though it can be unpredictable how it's going to pan out, how can you conceive of the world changing entirely in that same short period of time?

Sorry for rambling, I really am trying to get my head around the situation. Because if things can change so much in these few weeks, how much more can it change in the weeks and months to come?

Onwards and upwards, stay happy everyone.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is out now. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available to order now: 
http://kevfcomicartist.com

ISBN 978-1-5272-5853-2 


Miley Cyrus - unperformed song by the Socks


A week in a pandemic is a long time, so 20 days is an eternity. Which makes this song, that I wrote for the Scottish Falsetto Socks back on May 8th seem positively antiquated. Sung in the style of Chas And Dave, to a tune of my own (not dissimilar to When I'm Cleaning Windows if that helps you imagine it) it's called MILEY CYRUS.

MILEY CYRUS – Chas & Dave Socks

I fancy a giggle and I’m tired of the pub
So me and my old Chinas we’ve gone down the comedy club
Everybody’s happy, they’re laughing and they’re smiley
Then I open up my gob and now I’ve caught a case of Miley

Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus
The dis-ease they talk a-bout on the wireless
It makes people panic buy hand sanitisers
It’s a pathogen, I say it again, and they call it Miley Cyrus

I called NHS Hotline, they said it’s Covid 19
I said what can I do? They said you can self quarantine
It is highly infectious, so to stop it being passed
You wash your hands for 30 seconds, I could not be arsed

Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus
You can’t see it with your bare eye through your iris
So sneeze into a tissue or papyrus
And you’ll lower the rate
We propogate that thing called Miley Cyrus

These days being a Dr is a horrifying job
Because of folks who’ve got this lurgi floating in their flob
I asked my Doctor “Doctor” what’s the worst thing I could do
He said use a microphone in a comedy club that a dozen other people have used

Miley Cyrus Miley Cyrus
If we get a dose then surely it will tire us
But if we are immune it won’t expire us
So thank god we
Make antibodies
That can fight the Miley Cyrus

If you want to save us, just carry a hankie
Then when you need to, sneeze in that, and everyone will thank ‘ee
To stop the virus spreading, just get in the habit
Exhale towards a handkerchief and grabbit grabbit grabbit grabbit
Yap yap / bunny jabber / grabbit

Socks Do Superheroes - full show now online



In response to the whole lockdown scenario, I've put an entire Scottish Falsetto Socks show online. SUPERHEROES, the award-winning 2018 show, is on Youtube as a complete item. Here it is.

Enjoy such classics as Dead Ringer For Superman, the Bechdel Test song, Batman vs The Joker, The Avengers Reel and many many more.

If you'd prefer to watch a selection of individual sketches and songs as stand-alone items, they're all on this Socks Superheroes playlist, which also includes unused material that appeared in previews and didn't make the final show, plus videos of all the songs used in the pre-show music. An extra hour's worth of material is out there to be found.

And that's just for Superheroes, the 2018 show. If there's any interest in this upload, I may be able to do the same for other shows (depending on what video material survives). What would anyone like to see next? 2015's Minging Detectives? 2016's Shakespeare? 2019's Roll Up? Let's see what we can fid in the archives.



Follow the Scottish Falsetto Socks on Facebook and Twitter @falsettosocks

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The New Book - work in progress


(The new Facebook header. Yes, 2020 is a very odd year)

Because coronavirus, I'm writing the second book. Here's a diary of my progress, to keep track of my activity.

Sat March 14th - My final art class before the lockdown, in Baldock. Online I think out loud about writing a new book, but I'm not sure what to write. I start doodling ideas.

Friday March 20th - I've biro-scribbled 13 pages of an adaptation of Hamlet, which has the working title Prince Of Denmark Street. Ideas rejected along the way include The Merchant Of Venice with an Indian Shylock and a corporate King Lear.

Tuesday March 24th - I now have 31 pages of scribble and am coming up to Act 5 already, in what is a very rough first draft with a lot of rewriting ahead.



We're very much in 1977 again, and as I go along we seem to be developing a punk musical. Quite whether this means I have to write and record actual music to go with this thing I don't know. The big thing that is sticking out a mile, comparing Macbeth to Hamlet, is that Shakespeare's Hamlet has way too many words!

Whereas Macbeth has a really taut, action-packed plot that drives on from pivotal scene to pivotal scene, full of visuals, dramatic incidents, and well placed monologues and dialogues, Hamlet is all bloody gab gab gab. To my eye, giving the play a thorough reading possibly for the first time, it seems like the full text of the play comprises different versions of the script, collected together like a Directors Cut. No wonder performing the whole thing would take 4 hours, I don't think it was intended to be that long.



It's no coincidence that the two versions that I've watched this week - Peter Brook's 2000 version starring Adrian Lester, and Laurence Olivier's 1948 film - both present heavily edited versions of the text. Both change the order of key scenes as, I learn, do many performances. And there's no denying the quotable stretches of script contain brilliant brilliant poetry, which one keeps wanting to keep in, it's also impossible to avoid that it's out of proportion to the action.

The excessive verbiage also makes the motivation of characters unclear, suggesting that different swathes of script come from different drafts performed at different times. As I go through it, with my adaptation shifting the action to punk-era London and the music business of Denmark Street, I'm realising I have to do more picking and choosing, and will be going back and doing a hell of a lot of rewriting. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play a bigger part in my story than in some places (Laurence Olivier eliminated them entirely), not overly influenced by Tom Stoppard's R&C Are Dead, which I've also watched this week. I'm finding Guildenstern's role in the Shakespeare text much more worthy of development.



I've written a couple of bits I'm well pleased with, and am lumbered with lots that I find plain boring, because I find those bits of the play boring. But I'm getting my teeth into it and I can see myself getting somewhere.

Working under lockdown is harder than writing Findlay Macbeth was back in December. It's hard to keep away from the constantly updating news on Facebook, Twitter and the paper, and it's undeniably weird being in this situation where everyone has to stay indoors. But onwards and upwards, let us see if these pages of scribble turn into something anyone wants to actually read.

UPDATE: Weds March 25th - page 38 of scribble and I've completed the first draft of the whole thing. Spending the afternoon going over it all again. Two scenes already rewritten. From the blueish light in these snaps you can probably detect that a lot of writing has been done out in the back yard, it having been sunny enough to do so for a couple of hours every day.


Thursday and Friday were the scissors and sellotape stage. That's how I roll. Roll of sellotape.

UPDATE: Fri March 27th - Bish bash bosh, brilliant! Got the script edit and rough panel breakdown finished by 5.30pm, before Friday Night Dinner (new series starts tonight). This script breaks down to 593 panels (compared to Findlay Macbeth's 475 panels, see I told you it had too many words!). Next week it will be time to start laying out some pages.

UPDATE: Sunday March 29th - Page breakdown laid out. Turns out I'd made a cock up on the panel numbering and it's nearer 490 panels, which breaks down into just 114 pages. Actually shorter than Findlay Macbeth's 125 pages. Hoorah. Now I'm ready to start putting words in voice bubbles.

Back in December I noted that 120 pages of script (to the stage I am now) had taken me 9 days. For Denmark Street the same process has taken me 14 days, though there has been a lot more shilly-shallying and distraction. Let's see how my work rate compares to FM's record-breaking production speed.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is out now. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available to order now: 
http://kevfcomicartist.com

ISBN 978-1-5272-5853-2 

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Journal Of The Plague Year - week one

Writing a "ha ha how satirical" title like the above looks like being harder to do as the days progress. A week in a pandemic is a long time, and it's chastening to see how peoples moods have transformed in such a short and eventful time. For my part, I've done this amount of work...



The new book, which I honestly didn't expect to start writing when the first one's only just gone to the printers, is slightly harder to get stuck into writing, what with all that's going on in the world, but I've made a start. I've got the concept, and the 'angle', and have written a dozen scribble pages with some nice visual ideas, some nifty dialogue, a killer twist, and lots more besides, most of which will undoubtedly disappear in the rewriting. As for drawing it, will I still be able to get art supplies I wonder?

For the record, I thought out loud on Facebook on March 14th about writing a book. So we can measure its progress from there.

Also on the 14th we were still joking about gigs and visits being cancelled. But mid week (the 17th) pretty well everything had been. Though one school, an outlier to be sure, emailed asking if I could add some dates in July (with caveats, obviously, assuming there are still schools to teach in by then).

I posted the Socks' Swine Flu video on Facebook on the 14th. Doubt I'd do it today.



March 15th: Some reassuring stats in Dr Phil Hammond's MD column in this week's Private Eye. In winter 2017/18, more than 50,000 excess deaths happened in England & Wales as a result of respiratory infections (ie, the flu) with next to no comment.
That means 379 people a day died, over and above the expected (or usual) figures, predominantly the elderly and those with pre-existing diseases. (According to fullfact.org & Public Health England, on average 17,000 people in England die every year from the flu.)

Well, I found it reassuring. (Again, one week later, this now looks complacent and a bad thing to be saying out loud).


March 17th: Just watched High Society and The Bells Of Saint Mary, and next I'll be watching Road To Morocco.

Who else is Bing watching?
#coronavirus


Today's fun fact: Spanish Flu didn't come from Spain. The 1918 pandemic was kept quiet or played down by the governments in UK, Germany and the USA. But neutral Spain was free to report the true figures.

As a result everyone thought that Spain had a flu pandemic and that they didn't, so it acquired the name 'Spanish Flu'. All because Spain was the only country that didn't lie about having it.

Sorry, I should be changing the subject shouldn't I? As you were.…


March 18th: Thanks to Michelle Baharier for sharing this story, which is very reassuring about the statistics of virus spread. Worth a read if you're panicking about exponential growth.

“The rate of infection of the virus in the Hubei province increased by 30% each day... that is exponential growth. At this rate, the entire world should have been infected within 90 days." But then, the trend changed. The number of new cases reported each day started to fall as of February 7. A week later, the mortality rate started falling as well. (Excerpt from article, the details tell you more).

March 19th: Who else is watching more films than usual at the moment? (Former gigging comedians, I'm guessing). Here are the five we just watched, from Netflix/Amazon, in order of preference. Please share your reviews, we'll be watching a lot more.

1 - Booksmart. Brilliant light comedy by first time director Olivia Wilde, teen-friendly too.

2 - Phantom Thread. Paul Thomas Anderson directing Daniel Day Lewis in his final film. A unique vision with some great images and totally original characters. A bit Marmite, as arthouse films can be. One of us loved it, one of us hated it.

3 - Aeronauts. Very silly, but gripping in the action sequences. Almost based on a true story with some almost plausible science. Fun for the kids, if not for the historians.

4 - Green Book. The sort of film that gets nominated for Oscars. Quite manipulative and formulaic, with a well constructed story buried under the message. Good acting turns, but I think you can spot the join when Mahershala Ali's head is CGI'd onto the real piano player's body. Also whitewashes the true story it's based on.

5 - Marriage Story. Horrible and indulgent. The sort of movie rich actor types make, thinking the rest of the world can in some way relate to them. Reminds me of Woody Allen's later unfunny stuff. But not that good.

So, what would you recommend, or steer us away from?

March 19th: Making up a name for an imaginary band turns out to be harder than you think. My first two names have already been used. Who knew there were band called The Nuns and Nunnery?


March 19th: Cannes canned.

(And suddenly I have a Suzi Quatro song going through my head)


Genius, as always, from Miranda Hyde. Read the article, enjoy the soundbites:

- (Dominic) Cummings is interested in behavioural science in the way I’m interested in Olympic figure skating. Which is to say, I like it, but I’m unbelievably, lethally shit at it.

- His (Johnson's) idea of heroic sacrifice is allowing someone else to raise his offspring.

- “I’m very confident we’ll get this thing done.” Mate … that’s your slogan for the other one? We’re about three days off him telling us we can take back control.

- ...you certainly wouldn’t rule out Donald Trump judging November’s elections to be something that had better be suspended under the circumstances.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is out now. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available to order now: 
http://kevfcomicartist.com

ISBN 978-1-5272-5853-2 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Findlay Macbeth Thankyou Sketches

16 of the Findlay Macbeth Kickstarter supporters went for the option where I drew them a sketch. Today I drew the first 12 of these. Beginning with Peter, who asked for this particular image and wording...

Hazel and Tim are Scottish Falsetto Socks fan, so they got another humorous image with the Socks featured...
Ger wanted the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech, so here's a bit of it...
Rachel & Dylan were happy with whatever I wanted to draw, so I chose a favourite moment from the book (with slightly different dialogue)...
Barth wanted me to reference The Sitcom Trials, a comedy show we've both been part of...
And Steve wanted Findlay sweating over bad sales figures...
Michael was happy with whatever I wanted to draw, so I did a scene that happens out of shot in the book, the killing of Duncan...
James wanted Findlay seeing Banquo's ghost, so here's that scene from a different angle from the book...
Iain had no preference, so he got a variation on "Is this a dagger.."
Clare wasn't picky either, so I based this on a Victorian painting of Macbeth. I then could not find the name of the original artist. Anybody know?
Rick was happy with any image, so I got a bit carried away and did a pastiche of the Michael Fassbender Macbeth movie poster...
Finally (for the moment) Neil was happy with anything, so I had another stab at that hand washing scene that I'd started with (for Peter earlier)...
I still owe four people sketches (Brian, Ben, Boaz and Lee). So as soon as they tell me what they want drawing, I'll get stuck in.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is out now. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available to order now: 
http://kevfcomicartist.com

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Coronavirus - the cancellations begin


May you live in interesting times, they say. And blimey, it's getting interesting right now and no mistake. This week was when the coronavirus pandemic really started to kick in. And while most of the country is busying itself panic-buying bogroll, those of us who make their living travelling nationally and internationally to deliver freelance classes and comedy shows are looking at big gaps opening up in their diaries.

On Monday morning I woke up, in my hotel room in Boroughbridge North Yorkshire, thinking about how the virus spreads, and realising the sweaty venues of the Edinburgh Fringe are probably the worst places to be inviting punters in to in August. As a result of which thoughts, I vacillated for a bit long, and missed Wednesday's "early bird" deadline to put The Socks' show in the programme and get it on sale. At the moment it's unclear how the virus will have spread by August, and the chances are things will be fine by then (thanks to this "herd immunity" all the kids are talking about). But really, who knows? I have a few more weeks before I have to make the decision. So far the biggest looming loss is our Edinburgh flat, on which we're told we can't get the deposit back unless they can re-sell it.

However some decisions were easier to make, and some will be made for me. This coming week's shows in Glasgow are off. Scotland's clamping down on big events, and right now getting in a plane and stirring the pot of Bristol and Glasgow's germs seemed like the wrong thing to do. Also ticket sales had not been going up fast, and I'm reading endless stories of cancelled gigs and no-show audiences, so Glasgow is cancelled for this year.

Full marks to:
parking - refund in 10 seconds
parking - refund in under a minute
flight - refund in about a minute Medium marks to:
- transfer to new flight for £5 But minus marks to
who won't change their 14-day cancellation policy or even let you move your booking to a later date. Boo hiss #PremierInn, today's #villains

(Since I wrote that tweet, Premier Inn have messaged me and it looks like they may be changing their policy, after quite a lot of punters posted similar complaints.)

And my first school cancellation was, not surprisingly, my visit the week after next to Hannover. The German government have closed schools and clamped down on flights, so this was obviously not going to happen. Meanwhile a question mark hangs over my next month's schedule. Lets place our bets shall we? What will become of:

Tues 17 - School in Farnham
Mon 23 - School in Coventry
Fri 27 - Socks show in Preston
Sun 29 - Bath Comic Con (the launch of Findlay Macbeth)
Tues 31 - School in Edinburgh (that'll definitely be cancelled, won't it?)

UPDATE (Mon 16): Farnham school and Preston Socks show cancelled.

Then April has classes and shows that may or may not happen in Salisbury, Bath, Hatfield, Lechlade, Dublin (that'll be cancelled, for sure for sure), Great Yarmouth, Littlehampton and Birmingham.

I am going to be putting my efforts into selling Findlay Macbeth, which goes to the printers tomorrow. And, taking my lead from Shakespeare himself, if I have a month free I might just did what the lad himself did when he was quarantined away from London to avoid the plague. He wrote King Lear, I might just have to write myself another blooming book. (Says the bloke who's flukily raised enough on Kickstarter to cover the printing of his first book, but will need to sell a few hundred more to make it anything approaching a profitable activity).


(Tesco earlier this week. People are idiots.)

Can’t think of a Shakespearean gag about toilet paper. Aye, there’s the rub.

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I'm surprised FlyBe has been brought down by Coronavirus. I thought it was just a carrier.

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Does this virus attack your ability to spell? In the course of a few days we've had #panickbuying - there's no k in panic - and now #coronapocolypse. The word is spelled apocalypse. Morans!

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Looking at a potential raft of cancelled previews, who's thinking of retitling their Edinburgh show "Work Still In Progress"?

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Have I just invented a new conspiracy theory? Covid-19 lives for longer on plastic bank notes than paper ones. There, you can have that one for free.

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Only Connect question for you. What’s the link? (If you know instantly, don’t spoil it by saying. Just prove you do with another example). 98: 3 Bells In A Row 68: 1-30 2-30 3-35 42: Lucky Number 11: Less Than Zero #onlyconnect

(Extra clue: you could Buy them or Seez them)




Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is out now. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available to order now: 
http://kevfcomicartist.com


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