improvised theatre

October 27, 2003

Turning James Aylett into a dog

Alas, it is over. Out Of Your Mind is now but another show of the past, to be fondly remembered and eagerly talked about by those who saw it, but never experienced by those who didn't. Like Gielgud's Hamlet, Anthony Sher's Richard III and David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour, all that exists to testify to its brilliance are a few photographs, some memories, and rather a lot of words. Like these ones.

Since the whole thing purported to be an investigation into the workings of the mind, it is gratifying that I did actually discover something about my own mind during the final week of performances. I experienced a distinctly pavlovian association which caused a lot of problems for James Aylett.

Pavlov, if you didn't already know, experimented with dogs. My own response was also very much of canine orientation. Myself and Aylett (felt by many to be a Coren and Toksvig for the under 30s) were engaged in a perfectly simple scene involving firemen. Camp firemen. Two of them. So far, so brilliant.

Then James' camp fireman made the perfectly reasonable observation that some people had been trapped down a mineshaft. So they had - that was the story. James can not be blamed for making the observation.

But the pavlovian nodule in my brain was thinking along these lines: "Trapped down a mineshaft? That's a cliche from Lassie, the dog who was forever rescuing people who were trapped down a mineshaft."

And my mouth was, as a result, replying to James with the words "Trapped down a mineshaft? Good dog!"

So James' camp fireman was instantly turned into a bizarre upright-standing, fire-engine-driving, talking dog, able only to demonstrate his dogginess by panting occasionally. A challenge which James rose to admirably, but which he really shouldn't have had to but for the workings of my brain.

A useful lesson indeed.

Posted by James Lark at October 27, 2003 03:49 PM