Peachy: the Backstory

I read about pecha kucha somewhere and felt that it could be fruitfully appropriated. It had been conceived in 2003 by two architects working in Tokyo, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, who had been trying to find ways to curtail a tendency in young architects to speak for an intolerably long time when pitching a scheme for the new library or whatever.

Klein-Dytham decided to restrict all candidates to a slide show comprising 20 slides, each of which would be projected for 20 seconds whilst being explained or described by the presenter. In the course of this 6 minutes and 40 seconds long presentation the presenter should aim for utter precision – if, for example, you consistently spoke for 19 seconds per slide then one of two things would happen. You’d stand, albeit briefly but in this context unattractively, in silence until the slide transitioned or, if you moved on to the next speech without a break, you’d start to go into overdraft i.e. the next time round you’d finish a little earlier, eventually leading, in theory, to the catastrophe that is Talking-Mostly-About-Slide 17-While-Slide 16-Still-Occupies-the-Screen. Or, of course, you could stand speechless at regular intervals. This takes nerve but in those silences resides the possibility, if you remain calm, of recovering the synchronisation.

Conversely, if you spoke too slowly or had consistently underestimated the length of a speech then you would find yourself describing the past while the present awaited your attention, its duration being steadily reduced but separated from its carefully crafted commentary. It’s only natural at this point to speed up but this inevitably involves an unseemly gabbling.

Surely, one might imagine, the slide operator could accommodate such all too human wavering with a succession of benign adjustments. But where’s the fun in that? A counter-empathetic dimension was added to the setup, ensuring that a cold, dispassionate, machinically fixed set of timings would proceed at the click of the mouse that launched the PowerPoint display. From Tokyo to London, pecha kucha presenters whose puppy had died earlier that day would not be favoured in the least. The playing field was now, like a billiard table, level. PowerPoint is not indifferent to puppies – it doesn’t know what they are.

Audiences sense these presentational challenges, especially when they are alerted to them by the compère, who happens to be me. Such disclosures endear the compère to the audience and introduce the latter to an athletic dimension not generally found in your average lecture.

I learned that ‘pecha kucha’, as used and pronounced by the Japanese, has an onomatopeic quality that resembles ‘the sound of chatter’. I also learned, having determined to use the format as the basis for a series of live public shows, that if I called these occasions ‘Pecha Kucha Nights’ I might be sued for breach of copyright. Thus it was, on January 31st 2008, that ‘David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites’ opened in the bar at ArtsAdmin in London. Months later, when the Nites were well under way, a lawyer told me that the copyright threat was nonsense – it had no legal basis at all. Anyway ‘Peachy Coochy’ was much better.

Thanks to the welcoming enthusiasm of Judy Knight and Gill Lloyd, the directors of ArtsAdmin; Chief Dawethi, the head technician and Toby Saunders, the free-lance projection tech, the bar, set with tables and chairs, proved to be an ideal location for the show. It was one of those venues that look gratifyingly full when they are not at capacity and pleasingly packed when rammed.

Each Nite comprised six presentations – three either side of an interval. I aspired to bring together on each monthly occasion as diverse a selection of presenters as possible. It would, I felt, be tremendous if, on a typical bill, we could offer a policeman, a surgeon, a criminal, a taxidermist and a quantum physicist. My own background was arty – I knew lots of performers, playwrights, directors, film-makers, writers, journalists, designers, dancers etc. It came to pass that these dominated the line ups because they were rather easier to recruit than, say, members of the police force.

We did, however, succeed in presenting a quantum physicist and our arty colleagues proved, more often than not, to be daring in their bending of the stern Peachy Coochy rules and thoroughly unpredictable in terms of topics and styles.

My perk as curator of the cultish events was to install myself as master of ceremonies and to compose my own presentations, which I inserted in the first slot after the interval. Whereas the five guests were, with some exceptions (Wendy Houstoun and Ursula Martinez, for example, were audience favourites) presenting for the first and last time, I decided to link my own presentations so that they had a degree of thematic and narrative continuity. They are assembled here, in the order in which they were presented.

I should point out that I was hardly the first person to notice the potential of the Klein-Dytham pecha kucha format – it is regularly presented in over 1000 cities around the world and, I imagine, tweaked and stretched on every occasion.

Our press information pack, assembled with producer Amber Massie-Blomfield sometime in 2010 (slightly updated 2019), dramatised us as follows:

David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites is the perfectly shaped art form for the new decade: a celebration of artistic expression that is concise, precise and fleet of foot. In its brevity artists feel liberated to explore challenging subject matters and take risks with new material, whilst audiences thrill in the creative tension between the improvised compèring and the highly formalised, almost athletic presentations. The show prompts reflection in audience and artists alike on the way in which we consume media; specifically, images and words.

Past Coocheurs have included: Oreet Ashery, Mark Borkowski, Duncan Campbell, Marisa Carnesky, Robin Deacon, Richard DeDomenici, Tania El Khoury, Tim Etchells, Marcia Farquhar, Gareth Brierley, Ant Hampton, John Hegley, Wendy Houstoun, Alex Kelly, Lois Keidan, Keith Khan, Richard Layzell, Brian Lobel, Jeff McMillan, Ursula Martinez, Nic Rawling, John Smith, Julian Maynard Smith, Trevor Stewart, Gary Stevens and Hilary Westlake.

Past topics have included: My 20 Favourite Fonts; The Dangers of Health & Safety; Lustful Emails Sent Subsequent to my Nude Cabaret Act being Illegally Released on YouTube; Criminal Gangs of 50s London; My Family Photo Album used as Evidence of my Precocity as a Live Artist; An Introduction to Quantum Physics; Public Art in Poundbury, Dorset; An Enquiry into the Origins of Compressed Chewing Gum Found on Pavements; Art on Roundabouts; My Life and Art in Bombed Beirut.

David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites has run monthly at the Toynbee Studios since 2008; it has also played at the National Review of Live Art, the Riverside Studios, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Battersea Arts Centre, Cambridge The City Wakes, Poole Lighthouse, The Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The show works particularly well in a festival context, as an alternative, arty end-of-evening entertainment. It prompts dialogue between artists and audiences around their work, offers a platform for fledgling ideas and encourages audiences to experience the work of artists they may not typically take a risk on. It also goes down very well with a drink.

David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #21

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 4: PC#21

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had gone to Tibet and learned the art of concretised visualisation in which a mental image is gradually made into a real object by intense and protracted concentration. On my return I lived with a beautiful pale woman but she faded away to the point where she was no more than an idea.

I realised I had made a fundamental error and determined to concentrate instead upon the human body as a means of pulling myself together. I’d had enough of abstraction and concepts, I decided to wholeheartedly throw myself into things. First I needed to stand out more. I needed an outfit.

I looked good and I felt good. I could really get involved now. The world was just a place and I was a person. I laughed at the idea that there were things that you couldn’t do. What could go wrong? If your body was hard there would be no harm. I decided to assess my body in terms of its suitability for my intentions.

I was disappointed to see that the inside of the body could be detected from the outside. I felt alright about the mouth and eyes being, respectively, a hole and an organ that was half in and half out but there were far too many signs of the way the body worked that you could see quite clearly and that did not need to be so obvious.

If I was to throw myself thoughtlessly into things it was possible that some of these things could pierce me. What particularly unsettled me was the prospect of a situation in which purely personal matters might be revealed to those with whom I was not on intimate terms. Imagine lying on the ground while people stared into your open body!

I decided to ignore my misgivings and get stuck in. The tube carriage was extremely crowded and I realised that I actually had no idea of what all the people touching me were like. Right in front of me was a woman wearing a rucksack that jutted straight into my chest, making me lean backwards.

As I fell I grabbed randomly at a suitcase held by another traveller. I found myself tumbling to the floor, effectively using someone else’s luggage as a battering ram. There was a number of bags piled by the carriage door and I brought them all down around me. The noise was considerable.

It was good to be back in Hampshire. Nothing much had changed. There were odd pieces of clothing strewn along the side of the road and some of the bushes had male and female toiletries jumbled up in them. I found some Jo Malone fragrance – suitable for both men and women.

When I looked up I thought at first that she was looking down on me. Certainly her movements were very deft and skilful. It became apparent that she was, in fact, staring at the ground beyond me. I could not tell whether she was emptying me out or filling me up. I hoped that my fragrance would make her wish to fill me.

If I found that she was emptying me I could run away and find my own straw. I would carry my bale with me and whenever I faltered I would stuff myself. In that way I could cross and recross the border between life and death. Such a journey would not only strengthen me but invigorate the community.

It was difficult to discern whether my visits to the shadowlands were states of mind or experiences. Sometimes I went down and down and other times up and up. Wherever I ended up, I was always aware of objects. Most of these tended to float but some were tethered. I even came across books but it was usually too dark to read.

With a great effort of concentration I was able to remember  that despite my disorientation I was still in Hampshire. I was shocked to realise that I had, once again , confused an everyday activity, such as the stuffing of a child’s toy, with an invitation to the transcendent. I shook my head briskly and was in Petersfield.

The town was clean but almost entirely depressing. There was, however, little that threatened to be confusing. The few citizens that I saw seemed purposeful. The streets were largely empty but the shops had assistants in them and my search for a café and restaurant was fruitful. I ordered a flat white.

To my great surprise I found myself sitting opposite the actor Christian Bale. He told me that he had a small flat in the town. I said to him “But Christian, this place is amazingly fucking boring!”  He explained that as much of his professional life was spent playing deranged  individuals, small town life was the perfect antidote.

“With respect, Christian,” I said, “Is it not the case that in the protracted absence of meaning sociopathic tendencies will incubate, giving rise to random and explosive acts of destruction much like popcorn in an uncovered pan?” He did not answer me directly but seemed instead to be studying the package I was carrying.

“What do you call that?” he asked. “It’s my straw,” I said, “It’s in a bundle.” His face darkened. “Do you believe in the Christ, David?” “I have no faith, Christian,” I replied. “Did you see my movie ‘American Psycho’, David?” “I loved it,” I said. “There are things in that movie you don’t want in your mind,” he said.

In the dark there were the usual children but Christian was keen to keep moving. “There’s someone who can help us,” he kept saying. The girl said “Take me with you, Mister Christian.” Christian said “Nothing must leave this place.” The girl said “I’m somebody’s daughter.” But he was resolute. He would not deviate.

Then I realised who it was. Christian hugged Heath and started crying. “I love you, man,” he sobbed. Heath seemed very pure. “Heath, why are you so pure?” I asked. “Whatever you were when you took off, that’s what you take with you,” he explained. “You had nothing, you had no skin,” I stuttered.

“I went through my skin. I stepped outside. Thousands supported me. Thousands stood aside as I swept past,” Heath said. “I was one of them, man,” Christian sobbed. “But I couldn’t make the final journey.” Heath gripped Christian by the shoulders. “It’s not a journey. You don’t start. You finish.”

The two film stars turned to me. “There’s more to life than Hampshire, David,” they said. “And there’s more to life than life. Be like a dog now. What can you smell?” I lifted my head. I started to run. I got to the edge. It was no longer dark. It was pure. I could see a boat.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nights #20

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 4: #PC20

I had hitched a ride from Lord Alan Sugar to the border of Essex and Middlesex. We got on well. Lord Sugar invited me to stay in his bungalow. He was quite pleasant. But it was time to move on. We could chat amiably enough but there were sharp ideological differences.

Lord Sugar gave me some sandwiches and an old Morris. With time on my hands, I decided to drive at random. There was an old eight-track cartridge, the precursor to the tape cassette, under the seat. I recognised the feel of the plastic casing before I pulled the thing out. This meant nobody had felt beneath the seat since the 80s.

I was startled by what I saw. The Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits cartridge was the last one ever to be released, by Warner Brothers, in November, 1988. This was a collector’s item! I had to sell it as soon as possible then I could finance my new in-car lifestyle and travel widely throughout the United Kingdom.

I picked up some triplets, who are normally considered very lucky. Not lucky as people but for the person who collects them. I had Tom in the front and Rob and Bob in the back. I asked them what they were up to. Each spoke one word at a time but in perfect sequence.

They said “We find it difficult to get work because we do not like to be apart.” I said “There must be work for you on television.” “That’s no good,” they replied, “everyone has seen triplets. We’re more interested in deals.” “What? Contracts?” “No. Three pairs of socks in a pack.”

The brothers seemed to have quite modest ambitions. I was still curious about something though. “Do you find,” I asked “that your sense of identity is three times stronger or three times weaker?” Their response was depressing. “We cannot tell you. We have never experienced ourselves in the solitary state.” I wanted them to go away.

I stopped the car to eat my sandwiches. Another car pulled up behind us with steam billowing from under the bonnet. As luck would have it, the driver and her passengers were also triplets: Lorna, Dawn and Vaughny. Tom and Rob and Bob turned to me: “Sometimes you have the chance. Other times it’s just a curtain of shit.”

I was glad to see the triplets leave. There was something just a little too symmetrical going on. What I needed now was a collector who would buy my rare 8 track cartridge. It seemed to me there were two sorts of collector: those who actually liked what they collected and those that didn’t.

The second group sounds pointless. Why would you bother? The thing is, I suppose, that it enables you to control the world. It gives you a platform. You are the explorer. The detective. You go out and bring back the goods. You have personally accumulated the entire contents of a category. It doesn’t matter what. Now you are free.

Perhaps in seeking a buyer for the 8 track I was passing up a grander opportunity. What would I do with the money? Live the life of Lord Alan Sugar? Surely there was more to it. I went to the Record Collector’s Fair in Ipswich Corn Exchange and sold the Fleetwood Mac for several thousand pounds.

I then purchased copies of all the 8 tracks released in 1988. I had two boxes full. Most of them were shit. I was mindful, nevertheless, of Baudrillard’s essay ‘The System of Collecting’ in which the gifted French thinker had described  ‘a powerful anal-sadistic impulse that tends to confine beauty in order to savour it in isolation.’

Fuck. I wasn’t into that. The 8 tracks were really ugly. I’d never stick them up my arse. I preferred it when he compared the collection to a harem. He said it was a series bounded by intimacy and an intimacy bounded by seriality. That didn’t sound too bad. Anyway, I was king of the world now. I needed the Fleetwood Mac to complete the set but it could wait.

Everything felt light but deep. The objects in the world were like  weights on a diver’s belt – and now I had left them behind. I drove the Morris to Ramsgate and took the ferry to Ostend. I caught the train to Tibet with minutes to spare. I knew exactly what I wanted. I was free but I had no power.

Thondup said if you concentrate hard enough, and I mean really hard, the mind can be brought to create any particular object desired. The Tibetans call this concretized visualization a Tulpa, meaning a magically produced illusion or creation. At first it’s a purely mental image but it gradually takes material form.

They were a simple people. Clear and straight. They wore no watches and knew nothing of glamour. They carried old lager cans full of sparkling river water and they came down the street from the houses and they came down from the hills above the houses. They sang as they walked along and everyone knew that their hearts were open and joyous.

Osma was their leader. Where the others were pleasant but not obtrusive, Osma stood out. She was firmer and more impressive than her lighthearted companions. When she spoke she would touch me lightly, which the others did not. When they came towards me, she was at the forefront and the others, joyful as they were, were not as radiant as she.

I walked beside Osma and slowly we moved ahead of the others and their soft laughter. Her hand lay lightly on my forearm and her wonderful dress with its flowers swirled around her legs. We didn’t need to talk much – she would breath and hum and nod her head very slightly and I knew she knew my thoughts.

I found I could look through her eyes and I could see with her delicacy and I understood how she let the world run through her and I smiled and she saw me and looked at me with care and I knew that she liked that I looked and she looked like she saw what I was which was so pleased.

We walked through the night and the ones without names fell away, hanging back, their murmurs and whispers fainter and fainter but Osma was stronger without them, she grew by the moment, the more that I opened myself to her presence her presence grew bolder and sharper, she slipped like a snake from old skin to new skin

We lived where we could in woods or flat places sometimes for months sometimes for days. If she was, at times, distant, then I would bring her back, bring her down to earth. I would set aside my mementoes and gaze at her and back she came. She had only gone while my mind was elsewhere. When my mind was there she was there.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #19

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 4: PC#19

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had been embroiled in an attempt to determine whether or not my unconscious had been turned off. There’s an obvious difficulty here: if it’s unconscious how would you know if it was turned off? You couldn’t expect to suddenly notice the absence of something that you couldn’t notice.

One thing to look for was mistakes. I’d read Freud’s ‘Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ and I knew about the significance of ‘slips of the tongue’. If I found myself making slips, or indeed so-called ‘inadvertent actions’ – doing things that were a mistake but seemed to have hidden meaning – then I would know that my unconscious was still there, in working order.

In 1968 the racist Shadow Defence Secretary Enoch Powell visited Birmingham and gave a notorious speech about immigration in which he said ‘As I look ahead, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’ Revisiting the city a few years later he made a  classic Freudian slip with his comment ‘It’s good to be black in Birmingham.’

With these things in mind, I set off to Huntingdonshire, which I had always seen as unattractive. I had never been able to understand why anyone would wish to visit it, let alone live in it. I assumed that it was only inhabited by people who had been born there and knew no better.

As I neared the border from the Cambridgeshire side I found myself in the village of Papworth Everard. I had no idea what I was doing. The place looked like shit. The kind of place you go to hang yourself. Trousers with comfortable waistbands. A set of false teeth in a hedge. A kind of biscuit made from a kind of oats.

Then the dog came. “Hello.” That was me speaking. “Just come, just come,” the dog said. Fuck. They don’t usually speak. Fuck! They never speak. I have never heard a black dog speak. They don’t have proper lips. They have a harelip, like a hare. “Just come, just come.” I kind of went with it.

We passed through Papworth. I couldn’t bear to look at it. I went into the shop to ask for a saddle “We don’t have saddles. This is a convenience store.” “Not so convenient for me, motherfucker!” I realised that these pricks were living in a dream. Every time one of them woke up they went on a shotgun rampage until the police took them down in a wet field.

The dog had gone on ahead. I found it just by the border. It was lying on the ground with Ari Up of The Slits, a kickarse 70s Punk girl group. They were both dead. Ari died of cancer a few days ago at the age of 48. I guess she’d been trying to make it to Huntingdonshire. Why the fuck she would do that I had no idea.

I stepped across, expecting the worst. I missed the black dog but I felt that I had somehow moved him inside me. He had wanted me to keep going and I had to respect that. I hadn’t realised that Huntingdonshire was actually empty. That was why people never thought about it. What happened to people who went to live there?

Then there came plenty of houses. I think what had happened was that the people that ran Huntingdonshire had made just one road through it and this road had all the houses and the shops and the general infrastructural apparatus essential to the maintenance of civil society. It was an interesting variation on conventional town planning.

When I went in the house was empty. Just a few belongings here and there. I thought about moving in but what would you do all day? There was no television. I wondered if there were any celebrities in any of the rooms so I investigated them pretty thoroughly. They wouldn’t have to be current celebrities. They could be Dido or a sport personality.

I wondered what the man in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ would do. He did have a kid with him, mind you. There were three of them. I said to them “Where are your parents?” The one with his finger up put it down. He said “They are hunting and gathering.” “What?” I said, “Hunting and gathering what?” “I didn’t gather,” he said.

I said “I don’t understand the layout here. There’s just this one road that runs right through the county.” The kid with the two fingers up moved them to another position. “It’s just woods everywhere else,” he said. “It’s not,” I said. “You should look at Hertfordshire. It’s shit but it’s quite open.”

“Whatever,” said the kid. “Let’s fuck off,” said the kid who hadn’t said anything yet. The kids fucked off. I crossed the street and took a look at the wood. I heard barking. I went deeper in. There was a clearing. The light was lavender. It was Ari and the Black Dog. I thought they were dead. I coughed discreetly to signal my presence.

It was not the act that I had imagined. They were, in fact, merging. Before my eyes this took place. The creature ran around screaming, trying to find its voice. I waited for it to stabilise. Then I said “Is it possible to have babies?” It said “They will always be hairy but yes.” I warmed to the prospect. 

The oracle had spoke good. I thought I saw an antelope by a mandolin. But it was an ant-hill opened by a pangolin. My hands were full of little creatures. I couldn’t stop them seething. I wanted to help them but their tongues smoothed away my fingertips. I drank steadily the milk. I easily had chocolate in my hands.

Then the oracle said Barking. Look out for Barking. If I was going to go there I needed to shave. I’d been in Huntingdonshire for several days, sleeping in abandoned houses, none of which had contained abandoned toiletries. I wanted to look my best as I crossed the Essex border on my way south. I stuck out my thumb.

The driver had a maroon mid-70s Jaguar XJ12 – an impressive classic saloon with a gorgeous walnut dashboard. To my surprise the driver was Lord Alan Sugar. I told him about what the oracle said, and I mentioned shaving.  He was characteristically outspoken. “You don’t wanna shave,” he said. “Just dress smart and confuse your enemies.” 

When we got to the border between Essex and Middlesex – just a few miles from Barking – Lord Sugar confessed that he had a phobia about crossing lines. He felt that if he did so he would lose control of his central nervous system and run about. I suggested that he should buy a house near a small airfield from which he could fly his Cirrus four seater into London.

I stayed with Lord Sugar for several weeks in a fantastic bungalow. One day the oracle made from Ari and the Black Dog was there. As its lips moved I heard barking. I realised how foolish I had been. It was just the way it spoke. I didn’t have to go anywhere. But I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want to slip up again.


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #18

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 3: PC#18

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had enlisted the help of Lady Gaga to help me determine whether my unconscious had been turned off. The results were inconclusive. The situation was complicated by the fact that I had somehow become Kevin Spacey, who had played me in Alan Parker’s film ‘The Life of David Gale’.

I had always wanted to programme a major London Theatre. It would enable me to revolutionise the constipated bourgeois rituals which constitute mainstream performance in this country. My position on these matters was clear:  No more dallying with forms, artists should be like victims burnt at the stake, signaling  through the flames!

Strictly speaking, this was a quote by Antonin Artaud. But I really agreed with him. Artaud, the author of ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’, died in 1948, after five years of electroshock treatment in the asylum at Rodez, in the south of France. When I was at Film School in the 60s I directed a version of Artaud’s 8 page long ‘Spurt of Blood’.

The cast featured, among others, a Wet Nurse with Giant Breasts of Gruyere Cheese.   Her stage directions read: ‘a multitude of scorpions come out from underneath her skirts and begin to swarm around her sex which in turn begins to swell and splits, becoming vitreous and shining like a sun.” No photographic documentation is available.

We built a pair of exploding knickers for the actress, consisting of a pubic hair wig which was torn off to uncover a pouch containing a meteorological  balloon and six white mice. The balloon was attached to a compressed air line which led off stage and was activated by a student called Ross. When the cue came

the balloon swelled up and in under two seconds achieved an eight foot diameter. The mice clung eagerly to its surface. The actress wore a ring with a pin on it. She burst the balloon, which was filled with talcum powder. After the bang, as the clouds cleared,  the mice had been blown all over the stage. I realise this is not clever and I now regret it.

I was proud of the fact that famous Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, translator of the play, had sent me a signed letter giving me permission to use his text. At the time of making  the play, 1967, I was deeply immersed in alternative culture, into which I had initially been led by a passionate fascination with the Beats.

Over the years I’ve collected any books on the Beats that I could pick up second-hand but I’ve never really wanted to read them. This changed last week when I suddenly had an urge to examine Ann Charters’ biography of Jack Kerouac, called ‘Kerouac’. The ultimate Beat hero turns out to be a fretful, melancholy figure engrossed in wistful dreams of a lost youth and a lost America.

I was aware that my programming at the Old Vic had been the subject of a degree of disappointment and scepticism. The Board were polite enough but the honeymoon was over. I told them I had the answer to their problems. I would both write and direct an extravaganza that would pack in the punters and achieve great critical acclaim.

On the first night of ‘Hello Wasted Lives of Southern Riverine Banks with your Ghosts and Spectral Shrouds, your Sacrificial Buttons and your Golden Night-time Tumours that Haunt the Squeezing Alleyways of Old Misty Cockney Cock Shitting the Meat out of my Ears in Tightened Shirts of Brazened Pecuniary Death Star Steel Apocalypse’

an actor from ‘Brideshead Revisited’ was so incensed that he stood up and pissed on Helen Mirren’s neck. Helen, because of her mid-career roles as a policewoman, is actually quite handy in a ruck. She spun round and nutted the guy and he dropped between the seats like a pair of used shorts. That’s all very well, but not the sort of thing

you can do discreetly in a crowded theatre. Michael Caine, who was seated in front of Helen, rose to his feet and was about to punch her in the mouth when she grabbed his forearm and snapped it like a twig. She had calculated that due to his advanced years Michael was probably suffering from brittle bones.

Former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella was pissed off. She had always respected Caine and wasn’t about to let some ex-Royal Shakespeare Company slag fuck him over. Ripping off her shoe she started to hammer the stiletto heel into Mirren’s head. Mirren gave Kinsella a forearm chop that took three of her teeth out.

The whole place kicked off. Ray Winstone, alas, proved as handy as you’d expect but what got the thing totally fucked were the blood-curdling screams from the centre stalls. It was the Redgraves! Vanessa, 73, and Lynn, 67, accompanied by Joely and her cousin Jemma, came pounding down the aisle to support Helen. It was mayhem!

I spotted the Brideshead guy, the one who’d pissed on Helen. He was being held down by some of the kids from ‘Billy Elliott’ while right next to him, Bob Hoskins – I think it was him – was taking down his trousers so he could shit in the guy’s mouth. It struck me that this was probably a step too far. The Board would not be amused.

Motorists were surprised to see Kevin Spacey with his thumb out and in consequence I got a lot of rides. I was sad to leave the Old Vic but I was clearly out of my depth there. I needed to find David and sort out this whole who-was-who thing. I wondered if he was still hanging out with Gaga. The problem was I had no idea where they might be.

So I put Kevin on the train and he waved and I waved and it clickety-clack drew away across to Abberley | Abbey Wood | Abbots Bromley | Abbots Langley | Abbots Leigh | Abbots Ripton | Abbotsbury | Aberaeron | Aberargie | Abercastle | Abercraf | Aberdare | Aberdaron | Aberdeen | Aberdour | Aberdovey | Aberfeldy | clickety-clack

There was a little alley in San Francisco back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they’ll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed

and it’s all a sea, I swim out of it in afternoons of sun hot meditation in my jeans with head on handkerchief on brakeman’s lantern or on books, I look up at blue sky of perfect lostpurity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me and have insane conversations with Negroes in several-story windows above and everything is pouring in

And Gaga says Hey, what, no, I don’t know no David, I don’t know you, I don’t want this, I don’t want people’s dreams. My name is Stefani, I do a job. You stand over there. I stand over here. I go home. I go home. Do you not have a home? Where do you go when you go?  Do you talk in your sleep? Do you walk through the streets?


David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites #17

20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.

Season 3: PC#17

Previously on Peachy Coochy I had discovered that my unconscious had been scrubbed clean and this explained why my dreams were exactly like events from my everyday life. I knew that I had to go through my life all over again and rebuild my unconscious. Eventually I would have enough stuff in there to be a person again.

I would start with my earliest memories. Some of these were as vivid as if they’d happened yesterday. Many of them came from when I went to America with my parents in 1951. I was standing in the doorway of a restaurant in a fishing town in California. The light was soft and phosphorescent.

It’s not a memory of an event. Nothing happened. Just an atmosphere. But the closer I get to it the less I can see it. Now I can’t see it at all. What a waste. I wanted to go inside the memory. But it was just a picture. I can’t even see the picture now. It was near the sea but the sea wasn’t in it.

Yup. I was wasting my time. I hadn’t thought it through. If my unconscious had somehow been erased then indeed only pictures would be left. But they wouldn’t actually link to anything. How could I fill myself up? How could I lay down layers when the whole point was you had to start from the bottom up?

I was like a sort of drawing of a person and the drawing is trying to draw the person who drew it. I was trapped on the surface of a sketch book. I no longer had dreams. I no longer  felt part of anything. Perhaps I was free. If I was free then I could have whatever experiences I wanted and they would start to go down as layers inside me.

I found myself increasingly drawn to Lady Gaga. It occurred to me that if I joined up with her I would have a lot of exciting experiences and these would be laid down in layers inside me and could become the basis of my new being. I understood that because I had lost my unconscious my new being would be nothing like my old being.

“Hi, Stefani, this is David here. Shall we join up?” “Nobody calls me Stefani apart from my parents. Who is this?” “I’m sorry, Gaga, it’s David Gale.” “Do I know you?” “I’m the curator of David Gale’s Peachy Coochy Nites, in London.” “Oh yeah. I heard of that. What is it you want to do?”

“Just, you know, join up. Have some experiences together.” “Okay. I have a boyfriend, you know.” “You’re back with Rob?” “Fuck, no. There’s a new guy.” “Shall I come over then?” “Why not?” Gaga was staying with friends in Stevenage. I jumped on a First Capital Connect train at King’s Cross.

For several days Gaga and I rode through woodlands together. She found the countryside restful after her hectic touring and seemed keen to learn about the ways of people in British rural habitats. At night we gathered the horses into a circle and slept within their warmth. We bought a bag of oats that we could share with them.

One morning we found ourselves passing a small cottage. There was smoke coming from the chimney and Gaga said “That’s so neat! Shall we see who’s in?” I realised that this was precisely the sort of experience that I needed to build myself up. Gaga was a full of beans sort of person who was game for anything.

The door opened and we were surprised to see that it was Kevin Spacey. “David! Son of a gun! What are you doing out here?”  “Do you know him?” Gaga said to me. “Well, yes. We worked together. Kevin Spacey, this is Lady Gaga.”  “I’d know you anywhere!” said Kevin to Gaga. “Come in, both of you!”

I could see Gaga was puzzled. She didn’t see me as the kind of person who would be friends with Hollywood film stars. I asked Kevin to explain. He told her that the British director, Alan Parker, who was well known for films like ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Fame’, had asked him, in 2003, to do a film about capital punishment.

The film, co-starring Kate Winslet, was based on my work in campaigns against the death penalty. I was very flattered to have Kevin playing me because I happen to think he’s a fabulous actor. The way he works, in fact, requires him practically to become the character he’s playing. I have to say, because of that, it was very odd talking to Kevin on the set.

Gaga took to Kevin – he’s very easy to like – and we started to hang out as a threesome. At times, particularly during a long conversation, Kevin would start to pick up some of my mannerisms, as though he had to go into the studio the next day. It would be corny to say it was like looking in a mirror but it was certainly pretty peculiar.

One day we got talking about Gaga’s early career and she mentioned her nose job. Typically, Kevin pretended he didn’t know about it. I asked her if she was sad to lose something that had been so much a part of herself for twenty years. She said not really, when the nose went all its history went with it. She didn’t miss it for a moment.

Kevin told us the sad news about Kate Winslet’s marriage. Kate, of course, had played my girlfriend, the journalist Bitsey Bloom, in the movie. Kate is a gorgeously attractive woman and when we met on set there was a certain amount of electricity between us. I was very discreet about it, not wanting to compromise Kevin’s intense professional relationship with her.

Gaga  had gone rather quiet and I wondered if she resented the obvious warmth that Kate and I and, by extension, Kevin, had shared. Of course there was nothing between Gaga and myself. We simply enjoyed each other’s company. But there was no getting away from the fact that, through Kevin, I had been very close to Kate.

Kevin and I grew closer and closer and Gaga  never left our side. It was clear she found Kevin very attractive and, of course, as Kevin became more and more like me, Gaga and I found more of interest in each other. The only thing that worried me was Kate. I didn’t like the idea of her being on her own.

Kevin took us to Leo DiCaprio’s place near Baldock. Imagine my surprise when Leo came to the door with Kate! She hugged Kevin and, to my further astonishment, called him ‘David’! Then she turned to me and said “Kevin, you rascal! How did you know?” I had to get back to the Old Vic so I left David and Gaga with Kate and Leo and got  the coach to Victoria.

I think about David from time to time. He’s likeable enough but he seems quite undecided. He’s very adaptable but I wonder if that’s necessarily a good thing. If I were him I would stick at something, lay down some roots. You can’t be a leaf in the breeze. You have to have something you can come back to. There’s no rest otherwise.