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Marky, Dee Dee, Johnny and Joey Ramone: the best actors in the world?

Marky, Dee Dee, Johnny and Joey Ramone: the best actors in the world?

That’s right, the Ramones. Of course there are actors I think rule the school – Brando, Jeffrey Wright, Gene Wilder, Simon Vincent…  But there’s no point in trying to mimic them – Brando was a unique expressive force, Wright is the best actor in the world, Wilder has a profound sadness that punctuates his comedy, Vincent works with a focus so white-hot and centred that it would throw lesser actors off-balance (um, hi Simon; you can quote that to directors if you want). So if there’s no point stealing from the best actors, where to look for a template of performance? I choose those ‘snotty’, ‘dumb’, ‘punk pioneers’ from the class of ’76.

1. Energy and Focus Will Get You Further Than Talent and Smarts

Listen to ‘It’s Alive’, the phenomenal live record of the late 70s Ramones. They’re a group at the peak of their powers, and practically everything starts with that ‘1-2-3-4’ chant. Hey ho let’s go indeed. It’s ignition, focus, commitment, drive and passion. And it’s impossible for any audience to ignore it. Performance should never be saying ‘take it or leave it’ to an audience, it should ALWAYS be saying ‘here it is, you can’t deny this’. A song like ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ or ‘Today Your Love Tomorrow The World’ is impossible to turn down. Even the lesser songs on that collection are delivered with a verve and spark that kicks apathy in the teeth. Speed and power chords and crashing drums and great melodies. Theatre should feel like that.

2. Trust the Writer.

If you’re working from a script, most of your work is done before you get in that rehearsal room. Listen to the Ramones covering ‘California Sun’ or ‘Chinese Rocks’ or ‘I Don’t Wana Grow Up’ or even the crap on ‘Acid Eaters’. They are simple songs, and the band doesn’t mess with them. Bringing vitality and passion to them is enough. Job’s done. Sing the notes in the right order, remember the words. That’s pretty much all you have to do. My favourite lines to deliver are the ones when I don’t really have to do anything. The words are in the right order, there is a natural music to them. “I’m goin’ out west out on the coast/ Where the California girls are really the most..”

3. Let The Haircut Do The Acting

That’s paraphrased from an interview with Javier Bardem, talking about that ‘do he sported in ‘No Country For Old Men’. They say it’s modelled on a guy in a bar in a period photo, but I see a lot of Johnny Ramone in it… Anyway, what I mean by this is that some physical elements naturally and unavoidably endow a character with certain attributes. The Ramones wore leather jackets, t-shirts, jeans and Chuck Taylors (see how much sense this makes?) and people thought they were a gang of street toughs. Johnny Ramone was a Reaganite who gave a shout-out to George W. Bush when the band was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Joey Ramone was an ectomorph with OCD. Only Deedee really had true violent dumbfuck credibility, but head over to YouTube and search for Dee Dee King. If you’ve got the right costume on, and your hair’s out of your eyes and you’ve got a rought idea of how it looks, then you’re well on the way. Has anyone ever seen a picture of a Ramone with a beard? No? That leads to my next point…

4. Commit To The Bit

A lot went wrong during the Ramones’ two-decade career, but the group stayed together and didn’t fuck with the formula. They never tried to become a new wave group, they didn’t overtly connect themselves with grunge, and when it came time to split, they played a final show and that was that. They went through a bunch of drummers, and even replaced Dee Dee at one point, but they were always the same group. There was no spiritual difference between Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy and Joey, Johnny, CJ and Marky. And they all used that same last name. Interesting to think about this in terms of the Bacchanals. What is the real difference between the Smith/ Middleton/ Stewart era and where we find ourselves now?

(A side note: Ramones shows were always about the here and now, and as Chicago Sun Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis tells us, nostalgia is the enemy of rock and roll. It is also the enemy of rock and roll theatre, which is what I reckon this sort of theatre should be. Please understand that when I say ‘rock and roll theatre’ I’m not talking about ‘Hair’ or ‘Jesus Christ Superpussy’ or even David’s production of ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’.)

5. Nobody Gives A Fuck How You Feel.

They only care about how you can make them feel.

Coming soon, maybs: What we can learn from the god-like genius of Iggy Pop, Jonathan Richman and John Darnielle.




… is about to turn ten. I think this should be marked with a celebration of some sort. For a refresher on the Manifesto, click where it says Manifesto. I just figured that out. David and I are going to win at Internet. Yes, I still spell it with a capital ‘I’. BUT David writes ‘site for website. Because it’s a contraction. I guess that’s why anyway. I would ‘txt’ to ask him, but my ‘phone was run over by a ‘bus.

Also, I want to alert y’all to ViennaVerona, on at BATS Theatre next week. A double bill of Measure for Measure (Bacchanals did it already!) at 7pm and Romeo and Juliet (Bacchanals did it already!) at 9pm. It runs from 5-15 August, and I wouldn’t be telling you if it didn’t feature the talents of Allan Henry and Ralph Upton, and me in a friar frock. I’m Jonny. They wouldn’t let me have that username. Also, there’s an opening party for VV at the Welsh Dragon (will Welshie be there? Who knows) on Friday night. There will be drinking and dancing and rock and/or roll and dice games and mixed flatting and everything.

It occurs to me that H6 is the third play I have been in with Allan this year and the only time we’ve ever actually acted in a scene together was when he played that English guy bringing Exeter the map to look over from the bridge in H5. Oh well.

Up and atom, Bacchanals!

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