WORD ON THE STREET

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Magazine - - Contents -

Danny DeVito wants to make Triplets and hav­ing a swing at bi­cy­cle polo

To pro­mote my new show I was asked to ap­pear on the Ra­dio 4 show along­side Jeanette Win­ter­son. Mind­ful, as I have to be in my line of work, of the animal rights brigade, I painstak­ingly pre­pared a list of my sources to read out on air lest I be ac­cused of mur­der. Since it was me be­ing touted as the ghoul­ish, fear­less one, I was amused to hear Jeanette mer­rily vol­un­teer­ing her fond­ness for ‘ dis­patch­ing’ squir­rels with an air ri­fle and wring­ing the necks of chick­ens, which are ‘so stupid they al­most de­serve to die’! Killing an animal: that is where I be­come hor­ri­bly squea­mish. Give me a mag­got-rid­den bit of road­kill any day.

Talk­ing of which, I took a gang of dead an­i­mals from my freezer to a cat­tery- cum- cre­ma­to­rium in the heart of Ep­ping For­est the other day. For my next show, End­less Plains, I am at­tempt­ing a se­ries of sketches of liv­ing an­i­mals from the ashes of dead ones. Drawn blind with a fine glue pen, the im­ages ap­pear only once I scat­ter the ashes. It’s a messy busi­ness and I end up with a dan­druff-like coat­ing on my clothes, hair and (mostly) in my lungs. There ain’t no health and safety in my stu­dio – un­less you count the in­haler I’ve con­se­quently had to dig out to keep me from keel­ing over.

I’ve been think­ing about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween hosts and pests and the way one death leads to mul­ti­ple births. This will be re­alised in the cen­tre­piece of my show, which will be a fallen tree – cast in resin and painted real­is­ti­cally – that is be­ing sapped by suck­ling pigs. Phal­lic pink mush­rooms sprout­ing from its re­cesses will be plucked and eaten by birds. For this I’ve been learn­ing to cast in sil­i­cone and plas­tic, un­der the tute­lage of John Schoonraad at Life­cast. For some­one who has spent much of his ca­reer cast­ing Hol­ly­wood film stars, he greets my dead piglets with un­usual en­thu­si­asm. Per­haps they have bet­ter man­ners?

I get tired of the as­so­ci­a­tions be­tween taxi­dermy and Gothic or Vic­to­rian styles. I’m not re­motely in­ter­ested in view­ing it in a dusty old an­tiques shop and why sup­pos­edly for­ward­think­ing stylists turn up to photo shoots with lacy, ‘ boho’ out­fits to put me in I’ll never know. It’s a cliché, and my least favourite mode of dress. I love Mod­ernist build­ings, hi-tech gad­gets and con­tem­po­rary art. It’s this con­text I want to see taxi­dermy in, not through the grubby old nos­tal­gic lens it’s usu­ally peered at. So I’ll try to look as space age as I can for my opening, start­ing with my new sil­ver Acne coat.

A few weeks ago I went to the Is­lamic Fash­ion Festival at the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum. It was ir­rev­er­ently com­pered by Rory Brem­ner and at­tended by an end­less stream of royal Malaysians and our own HRH The Count­ess of Wes­sex. We were re­minded through­out the evening that the theme was ‘di­ver­sity in mod­esty’ and af­ter I’d re­cov­ered from my shock at the dry bar, I amused my­self with how very dif­fer­ently our cul­tures in­ter­pret this word. Datin Seri Ros­mah Man­sor, wife of the Malaysian prime min­is­ter, took to the stage and I couldn’t help but com­pare her to poor old SamCam and their dif­fer­ent lives. Our first lady can have her naked shoul­ders and an­kles just as long as she hol­i­days in a three-star B& B and cy­cles to work. Man­sor, mak­ing up with di­a­monds for what was lack­ing in flesh, ex­plained with a saucy smile that she had to dash home in the morn­ing as ‘my hus­band wants his plane back’.

My sis­ter Emily is a cor­re­spon­dent on ITV News and she oc­ca­sion­ally emails to run her script by me as she writes it. Some­times she’s look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive word to one she’s al­ready used and cred­its me with a lin­guis­tic dex­ter­ity I don’t re­ally have. I do have a the­saurus, though, and usu­ally ping her back some sug­ges­tions. Even greater than the thrill I get from see­ing her on the telly is the smug sat­is­fac­tion I get from know­ing I’ve co-au­thored the news. Re­cently I went to the launch of

at Acne on Dover Street. A pho­tog­ra­pher asked a com­plete stranger if he’d like his pho­to­graph taken with me. He re­fused, leav­ing me to try my best ‘ Isn’t this all fas­ci­nat­ing!’ face as I stared at the pic­tures, re­ally only fo­cus­ing on the reflections in the glass in the hope I’d spot some­one who did know me. I hate hav­ing my pho­to­graph taken. I was once snapped by Lord Snow­don, who would bark the in­struc­tion ‘Friendly!’ at me in an at­tempt to reach the light beyond my dead- eyed stare. It doesn’t mat­ter how great the pho­tog­ra­pher; I al­ways come out with about as much vi­brancy as my own sub­jects. (pol­ly­mor­gan. co.uk; breed lon­don.com)

‘I get sat­is­fac­tion

from know­ing

I’ve coau­thored the news’

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