At Al-Jazeera and inside The Clockwork Orange

I get between three and five hours of sleep at night. This is not because I am an alien but because I have sleep apnea.  Last week the hospital wired me up for a night to check heart rate breathing patterns pulse throat. I looked like someone out of a science fiction novel.  Ming the mongy man.

Paul Sapin a documentary film maker whose just finished the edit on  two documentaries with presenter Rageh Omar is in town. He’s a  New Yorker who lives in Manchester with his wife and  children in what, if you can imagine it,  is the English Equivalent of a Brooklyn Brown Stone. In his hallway there is  a beautiful picture of the iconic punk poster for God Save The Queen.In the kitchen, which is the hub of the home, on the wall is a map of the world.  It’s just such a grand statement of intent. “The world is your oyster and this house is the portal”.

It sets the parameters of any conversation. The world!  I must get a big map and frame it for our Kitchen.   He’s in town, Paul,  and we are pitching an idea to Al Jazeera at their brand spanking new London Base. 1, Knights bridge. Cool address huh.  As we enter the offices, a stones throw from Mohamed Al Fayeds Harrods I think to myself   “this is the company that was bombed in Iraq in the first attack by George “read my hips” Bush senior  – journalists of this company have died in their pursuit of truth.  It’s a hubbub of seriousness and quality. In the background I can see the presenters sat in front of their cameras reading news to the world. These offices were headline news across the world a couple of weeks ago – Al Jazeeras new office in London!   it is  light and airy and there are windows everywhere. There is a transparency about the process. it is clear.  Paul’s meeting meeting Emma Love.  Their names sound like a  Law firm in a John Grisham Novel      “Sapin and Love”.   I pitch an idea which me and Paul are working on and so a crucial step on our documentary idea is taken. Meanwhile he and Emma talk Turkey. No I am not going to tell about it our idea – but whether with Al Jazeera, whether today or in ten years, it will be made.  

We flip into Knightsbridge and it’s dark already.  And we walk to Piccadilly passing the Rodin exhibition. I take Paul into the RA courtyard to see Rodin’s Hells gate. We pass The Ritz and The Meridian and Hedges and Butler.  It’s a good walk and perfect after a two hour meeting. Paul flies off to meet a colleague and I work the rush hour tubes to Oval.

And I’m meeting Benji Reid the  director of The Clockwork orange which will be opening at The National and I have the pleasure of meeting the entire cast for drinks. Alex in Clockwork Orange is played by Sean Cernoe, a young and brilliant actor from Manchester. Sean was in a TV series called Buried written by and staring Lennie James.  Buried was about a prison.

Sean has had a past that would not be unusual for me to hear  from some of the young people that were in the children’s homes that I was in. I can’t tell you how mad this must have been but Sean was actually imprisoned when his television drama series about being in prison was on. Seven months. At some point in the evening   “I sometimes dream that I am still in care and I can’t get out, do you get the same about prison” He is nodding alot “Nearly every night”

He’s the first person I have ever told about this recurring dream I have. It’s the strangest thing. This dream. I’m in an assessment centre. I’m seventeen and I am thinking “They should be letting me out now”. The problem is that the paperwork has not been finished and I think again “I should be out of her”. I look at myself and realise I am a fully grown man. “Please just let me out – I should be out now”.  And in the dream I feel that I am somehow complicit. I am so institutionalised that I won’t go until they say I can.  I wake up with a start, heart racing. And I get up to get a glass of water. When turning the handle of the door I realise that it is locked. My bedroom is locked. I turn and look at my room to see that it is a dormitory in the assessment centre.  And there is noone in the building and the only light are the red night lights! It’s rare, now,  that I get this dream. But I get it.  “I get the dream every second night” he says “except I am the only one in prison and I try all the doors and they are locked”. 

There’s no better person to play Alex in Clockwork orange at the national theatre.  At 10pm I go home. Yes home. To my and my GFs home. A place I own. A room of ones own. When I lock my door. It is my key. My lock. My door.  And when it turns I remember how we as kids in the children’s homes knew that  a member of staff was coming. It wasn’t the footsteps on the linoleum floors, it was the rattling of keys attached to their waist.  I may not sleep well, but tonight I will

2 thoughts on “At Al-Jazeera and inside The Clockwork Orange

  1. Love your work and love the blog. Saw your poem up on the Southbank where my wife took me for my fortieth birthday- it was magical and had real meaning for us. You are clearly very talented and we would love to come and hear you read. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Ian. I shall be putting up my readings listings soon. This should help let you know when and where etc.
    All the best

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