So, I woke up this morning with an unappealing and vaguely aromatic mixture of wine, woodsmoke, chapel dust and mud in my hair. I washed it out - and proceeded to get drenched in an unexpected rainstorm - but I feel lots better now. And I love OULES, both people and concept, and mostly, love everybody, and am also suddenly aware that my journal has most likely been incomprehensible to out-of-Oxford people for a while now.
OULES is the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society. Its defining characteristic is the fact it's lots of fun. Unlike most Oxford thesping, which tends to be serious, overwrought and for people with, um, talent (which isn't to say there aren't lots of talented people in OULES, but does explain why I'm involved). I've been to several cast parties - last term I was presented with one of the flamingoes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
, despite not having been in the play - and at the end of Hilary Maria came to visit me one evening to tell me about her research project for this term. After two years as an overworked medic, she said, she was going to have a quite a bit more free time, and it was time to do something fun and extracurricular.
"OULES," I said blithely, and accordingly she and I and jacinthsong
presented ourselves at the auditions at the start of this term.
I'm aware that there is an explanatory gap between this and, er, red wine and mud stuck to my head, but, well. The play, yes! The play, which was on three nights this week in various locations - sometimes various locations within the same performance - was a product of the pleasantly twisted comic stylings of darwinian_woman
(I quote directly from the programme here) and was called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Inanimate Body
, and it was, of course, marvellous. The plot features a murder at a manor house in the English countryside, Holmes
, Watson and Oscar Wilde
, a butler called Fetish
, a Narrator (who has a secret identity
), various domestic staff, silly jokes and and ridiculous goings-on.
I was the corpse. Well, initially, I wasn't; I was supposed to be one of the bebusbied guards of Buckingham Palace, but in a rehearsal taking place sans the original corpse, it was discovered that I was probably the lightest member of the assembled company. And one might wonder why this is a relevant fact, but, um, it was. Holmes does a reconstruction of the murder in the middle of the play - a play within a play - and, according to the script, "any residual good taste should be expelled from the scene at this point – from now on, this needs to be utterly sick."
Cue several increasingly-bizarre rehearsals where I was carried on stage, dropped, animated from behind (as it were), and hit, punched, slapped and kicked. Except, of course, not, and much as I have complained about foulds
' abuse of me, he did it all very well and only actually hit me once. (This was the second performance, which we were doing in the chapel because of rain and it wasn't until too late that I realised that I was going to have be knocked onto a stone floor. Ouch.)
I was, of course, having to screw my eyes shut and take a lot of deep breaths throughout to try and stop myself from laughing (cue heckling, "The corpse is corpsing!") and I just about managed it during the ordinary run of things, but it was the ad libs that got to me. On the first night, I initially got placed too far away from the audience, and there's a scene where Watson gave me a push and I, well-trained, rolled over; however, that night, they didn't stop rolling
, happily ad libbing - "A well-rolled corpse yields more clues!" / "Gadzooks! We didn't see that
the third time we rolled her over!" - and I just... argh. I was face down, but people tell me that they could see me shaking with giggles.
By the third performance, I thought we were getting quite good at it. So there I was, cloaked during the interval (I had to hide under it while the audience filed into the gardens; it was curiously relaxing, lying on the grass listening to people talk about me), when suddenly - trouble. Matt, whose job it was to animate me and indeed, carry me on and off, was AWOL. Cue panic. Some brief consultation led to the decision that osymandias
learn all the lines in ten minutes and step in. And he was utterly marvellous - people later professed to having no idea that he'd been substituted in, and the only bits he read from the script were in the play-within-the-play, which was thematically appropriate - but we had a hiccup at the point where I get carried off.
Oh, they tried
. They tried. Alas, I got dropped on my head. Oh dear. I wish I'd seen it. I also wish I'd got a record of the moment where foulds
came up to me backstage (i.e., under a tree), in cape and deerstalker, and said, "I'm sorry. Just for... everything
I still think it was a wonderful role to play, because, well, I can't act. I have no thespian, artistic or creative talent whatsoever; playing dead is clearly my forte. Argh, it was so much fun
. And afterwards, fun was had at the cast party, which was something of a farce - after wandering around Oxford for about an hour looking for a venue for dozens of people to have a party at the last minute, we ended up on Port Meadow at midnight, with the Flosscar ceremony happening around a hastily constructed fire. Despite the fact it was wet and muddy and ridiculous o'clock, it was actually idyllic. It wasn't raining, it was lightly warm and the sky was not dark but a curious grey-purple colour, and you could see people as dim impressions of themselves, which led to glorious reunions every few minutes ("Oh, it's you
!"), and the fire was deliciously warm if very smoky, and
, watching the sparks fly off into the night sky, I got to use the line "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards" to groans from all present.
And also, I was drunk. Looking back, yesterday I ate two slices of bread with honey, some brie, some grapes, chocolate fingers and an apple. No wonder I got so thoroughly inebriated very quickly, and correspondingly maudlin. In an attempt to cheer me up, someone - I'm not sure who, but would like to be reminded - suggested that jacinthsong
and I, as new OULES, be cocktailed. Cocktailing is a ritual that I have only recently discovered the existence of, and did I mention I was really drunk? Cocktailing requires you to be adopted, and darwinian_woman
stepped up the plate to be mine and Laura's new OULES parents. And so. I got on the ground in the mud, looking up into the still curiously livid sky, aware of the fact I was lying on Port Meadow at two in the morning, and foulds
said, "It'll all be over in a minute..."
It's quite interesting, having red wine tipped on your head in the dark. Some of it got in my mouth, but more of it into my hair and eyes. And it was at this point that someone pointed out the familiarity of a scenario in which I'm on the floor and foulds
gets to abuse me. (This would be the third such context this week - corpsing, cocktailing, and an unrelated performance mnenomic on Christ Church Meadow where he hit me with a baguette.)
There is now a ridiculous quantity of photographic evidence of him abusing me. The thing is, though, I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss all of this. I leave Oxford tomorrow, before Doctor Who
, and I won't be back until September at the earliest. But oh, it was so much fun and I'm going to miss everyone so much.
About two weeks ago, my Mind tutor was trying to get me to talk intelligently about externalist theories of mind. We'd got onto proper names, and how there's a difference between an externalist rendering of my name by someone who's met me, who knows the individual in the world which my name refers to, and the people at the passport office, who have my name as a convenient label.
"What about fictional characters?" I asked. "Are they all like the second case?"
He thought about that, and finally said that no, perhaps the author knows the character in the same way as we know real people, and that Conan Doyle perhaps knew Sherlock Holmes in that way when no one else did. "Although," he said, "there's a spectrum of canonical knowledge here - for example, I believe some people write Sherlock Holmes pastiches..."
Yesterday morning, I had my Tutors' Handshaking, and my Mind tutor has sent me a lovely, lovely report, which finishes, "She maintained a splendid standard despite, perhaps, the calls of student drama..."
Trying to think about OULES and "student drama" in the same sentence is, perhaps, more than my cognitive function is quite capable of; Sky tried to convince me that what I really wanted to do now was get involved in, or get OULES involved in, "real" drama - but I maintain he's missing the point. I don't quite know what the point is, but I think it's something to do with lying on Port Meadow in the middle of the night, safe in the warmth and mud and wine.
It's time to go.