Dennis Villelmi: Can you give some examples where psychogeography truly influenced your work?
Rob Goodman: As an actor it is essential to have a sense of place. To have an idea of what a place feels like. If you are on stage and you are playing Hamlet in a small theatre in a small town in rural England, or in a quiet area outside of Ohio, then you are going to need to know what it’s like to be in Denmark a few hundred years ago. You are on a small wooden stage, but you must take the audience to the ramparts of a castle. If you don’t believe this then an audience wont: why should they? They are being short changed by the actor who couldn’t be bothered to do the research and discover a great Danish castle in his own being. When you are at home you are in, and understand your own personal space. Such is the case with Hamlet. If you are playing Hamlet or Ophelia, then you should at least know where they live!!.. and then put this place inside of you. If you believe then the audience will. What is the weather/temperature like in this place. How will this affect you as a character? Etc etc What do the characters of a play understand about the place they are in, and how does this affect them emotionally on a day to day basis?
DV: What areas both within and outside of Britain have you felt a particularly strong connection with and why? Does a place make the people, or do people make the place?
RG: I suspect it’s the former. There are many factors, but to address your question out of all the places I have been lucky enough to have traveled to across the world I must say I do love good old Britain. England’s green an pleasant land and all that. Perhaps it’s because I was born here, and it’s my own place, but there is something indefinable about this beautiful land and its history, and people, and culture. Again it is about resonating with a place,, and I guess this place sits comfortably with me. That’s not to say I haven’t fallen in love with other places as well, because I have. Transylvania, Romania, Prague, Hungry, all have a special magical feeling to them, that spoke to parts of my being that only these places could have done. They have a spirit unlike anywhere else, a very ancient spirit that whispers to the soul, but keeps its secrets.
I love the good old U.S of A for its Native originality, its future potentials, and the diverse population.
DV: Acting and psychogeography aside, you’re also known as an authority on the paranormal and magick, of which you’ve written a good many articles. How did this interest develop and did you have mentors in this field?
RG: I have always been interested in magic, the paranormal, and ghosties, and goulies and long leggerty beasties, and things that go bump in the night! It always struck me even as a very young child that magic was/is a state of mind. I would make up stories and then set about whatever needed to be done to make the stories come true. This was an act of creativity, and I very soon realised that creativity, and magic are inextricably linked They are one and the same thing.. All art has its roots in magic and ritual, from shamanic shadow dancing by firelight to the mummers plays. You create something in your mind, you then ‘speak’ it into being, and you then give it a name which manifests it into reality. Shakespeare in ‘A Midsummer Night’s dream’, has Theseus say, “..the poets eye in a fine frenzy rolling doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poets pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name”. In tarot the major card of the magician is often called Art. Could I just make it absolutely clear at this stage that when I talk about magic, I am not talking Pen and teller, or Dynamo. This is Stage magic: Parlour tricks: no, I am talking real magick. Then there are the stage magicians, the ‘magical wanna be’s’, who clearly display an attitude that says, ‘I’m a real cool dude with special abilities.
Picture the scene.
You’re in a restaurant. You’ve just finished the main course, which was prepared, and cooked to perfection, and the pudding has just been served. You’re having a great chat, and you’re really enjoying the company of your dinning partner. Things are going well: When up he comes to your table with his inane grin, and his loathsome rather loud shirt.
‘Pick a card’ he spurts out, or they wave their hands in front of their face while fixing you with a stare which they obviously think is darkly mysterious.
Now, what you are perhaps somewhat uncharitably thinking is, SOD OFF. But what you actually are forced to say on account of not being a total git is, ‘Oh, how nice, thank you’, and you pick one of his bloody cards, or you hand him your Omega watch, which he proceeds to apparently wrap in a napkin, and smash against the table, later producing it from the trifle on the sweet trolley.
Oh God! You think as you begin to lose the will to live. “Please just GO AWAY!”.
Standing back, and looking very pleased with himself, he winks at you, and says something like, ‘It must be magic’.
At this point you are ready to transform into a deranged killer, but just in the nick of time the blight on the evening turns on his heels and heads off towards a group of worried looking diners at the next table. You exchange glances, and a sympathetic shrug with them.
Go to any magic/joke shop in the country, (and there are loads of them), and say that you want to buy the Watch in the Trifle trick, or the one where you make a glass raise from the table, and float in the air, or the one where you pull flowers out of a top hat or some such other pointless load of old tosh.
The shop keeper, almost certainly himself versed in the art of deception, will be only too happy to sell the trick to you, and if you’re not careful will want to demonstrate the entire stock of his emporium to you. The pack you buy will contain any apparatus that you will need, together with not only a full set of instructions, but also a full performance routine!
Take this new precious purchase promising to reveal the mysteries of ancient Egypt, and study for a full ten minutes. Then show it to some poor unsuspecting passerby. Repeat this process a few times over the course a couple of days, and you are ready to launch your career as a Stage magician. Hey presto! Simple as that.
In their own defense the fraudsters will bleat as if teaching you some nugget of ancient learning, “Ah, but it’s not ‘what’ you do, but it is the ‘way’ that you do it”.
Well Congratulations! You got that right.
And this being the case then why not do some real stage magic that will be a true Tour de Force?
How about this:
Walk on to the stage. (Forget the Sequined shoes, the offensive tie, the mysterious stare etc)
Sit at a table. (Say nothing; in fact make no connection with the audience what so ever).
Pour some cornflakes into a bowl.
Pour milk over the cornflakes.
Sprinkle a little sugar maybe.
Eat the cornflakes.
Stand. Say nothing. DO NOT BOW.
Leave the stage.
What do you Reckon?
After all, remember, it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it, isn’t it?
So why doesn’t ‘The Great Marvo’, or whatever he wants to call himself do this then?
Imagine Marlon Brando, or Jack Nicholson, or Eli Wallach walking onto a stage, and going through the above little scene.
It would be compelling, truly magical. You would not be able to take you eyes off of them. You would be transfixed. Mesmerized. These are genuinely creative magicians. Their work is real, and it is powerfully interesting. You could happily watch any of these men walk across a dessert.
This is real stage magic, and cannot be learnt by buying a silly little piece of tomfoolery with a set of instructions from some bloke in a Trick shop, entertaining though it may be to some.(Nothing wrong with that). I guess my mentors in the field of magic have been the great creators: Dylan Thomas, Canaletto, Shakespeare, to name but three.
These people are creative magicians, the only sort of magic there really is. Their work changes our awareness. Their magic helps us to understand ourselves a little more, because it speaks to our soul. We should all put a little more magic into our creativity and a little more creativeness into our magic. This is not a form of Low causal magic: goats heads, pentagram’s, and paint your bedroom black. NO, not this. This is a higher form of magic where the aim of the magician is to go on a journey of self discovery, as we move closer to GOD, WHATEVER you conceive that to be. This should be the aim of all magic.
May the force be with you!
Disclaimer: Some stage magicians are quite entertaining.
DV: Something else you’re credited with is your collaboration with another Northampton boy, the graphic novelist -and fellow magician- Alan Moore. How and when did this collaboration begin, and are you two currently working on a project?
RG: Yes, Me and Alan have been friends for many years now, and we have worked on a few projects together over this time. We always shared an interest in storytelling, magic, writing, literature, and our hometown of Northampton. Alan is a mad genius, and one of the most influential graphic novelists the world has seen. He is a very kind, and giving man who is always happy to share his wonderful insights, and listen to others. He would read to me his work in progress, and I would listen, and respond. He was I believe genuinely interested in what I had to say. I did a small amount of research for him, for ‘From Hell’ which he kindly credited me for in the original serialised publications. Around this time Alan, along with his friend, and I would say mentor, Steve Moore, (No relation, and sadly no longer with us), formed the elusive and exclusive, pretend magical group which they called, ‘The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian theatre of Marvels’. This was to be, (and is), a kind of non existent group which produces live and recorded performances art, magic, and wonder. I of course was drawn to this like a duck to water. Alan wrote, and I contributed a small amount of research material to a few great live presentations which Alan did on themes of magic, psychogeography, history, art, and much more. Some of these, (although rare), are available on CD if you can find them. I loved to format that Alan had created to tell these stories, and I wanted to do one of my own which was inspired by Alan about the ancient Greek view of the Daemon. A kind of inner spirit which we all have within us. Our inner voice, our instinct.
Our Natal daemon is assigned to us at birth. It is our thinking, our feeling, our sensory organism, our higher self: Our spirit that protects us, making it impossible for the fool to undo himself beyond all redemption. You just have to listen! Let your daemon speak to you. Get out of your own way.
Our daemon is The feu sacre of our creativity: The driver of the machine: The inner force: Our art: The author of our dreams, and the architect of our magic:
The show I wrote and subsequently performed in theatres in and around London I called, ‘A Journey with your Daemon’. In which whilst on a psychogeograhical journey through the underbelly of London, I hopefully introduced through the use of language each individual member of a usually full house audience to their own daemon. I am happy to say that judging by the fantastic response I got I was more than moderately successful in this, no small thanks to Alan’s encouragement throughout.
I then did an in depth interview with Alan for Paranormal magazine. In which he discussed his work, his magic, his following of the ancient snake God Gylycon, Northampton, and much more.
More recently Alan has made moves into putting his work on film. Now it is well known that Alan has been less than pleased with some of the film adaption’s of his work, but this is different in that he himself is in control of how and where his scripts are shot, who is cast, who directs etc. He is also in total control of his own script.
There are three short films all sharing a theme, and all connected in their storylines. These are kind of prequels to a feature film after which TV series is planned. We have so far shot the three shorts which are available on DVD and are together called ‘Showpieces’.
Alan has cast himself and plays a character called Frank Metterton, and I play a character called Nicky Matchbright. The two of us are a couple of worn out Radio comedians who in the 40s and 50s had a double act. We have now become bitter and twisted, but are still together running a working mens club in Northampton, (Where else), in a tempestuous relationship. All of this with the slight difference that we are actually dead, as is everyone else in the club.
We recently finished a short which has been likened to Peter Scott and Dudley Moores, Derick and Clive Live, entitled ‘Frank and Nick make you Sick’.
The feature film is in pre production. The feature will be called ‘The Show’.
So that in a nutshell pretty much brings us to the now, and to my latest work with Alan.
DV: You’ve stated that you’re writing a book the premise of which is that art and magic are but two sides of the same coin. A fascinating concept! Please, elaborate on this for us. Does the book have a title yet?
RG: The title of the book is ‘The Magic of Acting’, which makes sense since the book is about much of what I’ve talked about already, and how actors can bring all of this to their work. I believe that an actor needs to work from his/her original authentic self. In acting there must be truth and honesty present at all times: the work should be real, and not some pretence or estimation of truth. Actors spend a lot of time and money studying the various methodologies, and ‘systems’, of acting which without the bedrock, and understanding of the self are at best clinical. It is ‘Paint by Numbers’, but with an understanding of the self, the bedrock on which we as actors can build our studies of the methodologies, then this is when the work becomes magical, and real, and special. This understanding of self IS the ‘magic’ that becomes the art when applied to a creative endevour. It is the ‘process’, without thought of the result that is important. The result takes care of itself.
DV: So, who are you then?
RG: Well as I have talked about earlier,
It is my contention that we each have within us an infinite potential that can be tapped into instantly. It is an aspect of us that is all knowing, and is never wrong. In any situation we only have to listen and trust.
Of course it takes a little practise to distinguish ‘it’ from general mind chatter.
Known by the ancient Greeks as ‘The daemon’, it is the architect of our being, and of our personalities: It is our sensory awareness.
Because we experience the world through our senses, and through our personalities, then there can be no mistakes if we allow the daemon to sit in the driving seat. We only have to get out of our own way.
It is our link to the divine and is unconditional:
If we can put THIS in charge of our creativity, or in the case of my book, our acting, then the way we engage with our studies of the techniques become so much more effective.
BUT, here’s the thing: If we can do this, then we wont even need the methodologies because in putting ourselves in the driving seat we have achieved the very thing that the methodologies seek to achieve, but can never do, because without ‘US’ in the driving seat, the systems as I have said are merely clinical.
This is of course my opinion, but it’s what the books hopes to explain.
One of the oldest religious texts in the world is the TAO TE CHING. Tao, pronounced ‘Dow’ means ‘The way’, and the very first line of this text as translated from the ancient Chinese is:
‘The Tao that can be explained is not the Tao’
So any attempt for me to now do so would be futile. It is something that is beyond understanding, but must rather be experienced as something that is inside of us as part of the very fabric of our beings: it is not only in our physical DNA, but is in our very souls, whatever you understand that to mean. It is the essence 0f all that exists within everything.
I believe the true nature of creativity to be like the Tao which is the essence of all things, and that which cannot be explained, but I do hope to help you experience for yourself what creativity, acting and indeed magic is. To help you experience the Tao of acting: the magic of creativity.
DV: In the industry today, and that’s with regard to film, music, writing, etc, it’s become increasingly common for creative output to fall prey to the teeth and talons of the critics. Is this because artists, or so-called artists, are generally ignorant of that relationship between magic and art?
RG: How should we remedy this. Well, as I have said, I think that it would be good to put a little more magic into our art, and a little more art into our magic, and I don’t think that it matters what the critics say. Whatever they say is their stuff. Oscar Wilde said that “What a person thinks about my work is nothing to do with me”. I agree with him. It is all the opinion of one person. If they are negative about what we do then so what. It makes no difference to our own integrity. Oh, and by the way, if they are very Positive about our work then the same must apply: So what: it makes no difference. We must guard against the ego getting in our way. So, just do what you do with love for the work, with no expectation of set results, concentrating only on the process, and the rest will follow.
DV: Of course, the first role I ever saw you in was as the brutish, black-bearded English soldier in Luc Besson’s “The Messenger: The True Story of Joan of Arc.” (1999) That particular scene where you sexually assault and kill (though, not necessarily in that order) young Joan’s older sister was inarguably unsettling and powerful; a testament to your belief in the kinship of art and magic. Going back to that scene’s production, what did you draw on within yourself to make it register in the way that it did?
RG: I guess it was just that: the drawing on something within the self that is this magic we speak of. Look, this is not a thing to become overly embroiled with: Art/Magic, Magic/Art. This just IS, and we can put it inside, and not have to think about it on a conscious level
Now I have never of course behaved in a way that the character you refer to in Jean d’arc behaved. So as an actor what to do then? How can I find it within myself to do that, and try and make it real, and believable. Well the thing is to believe in the given circumstances of where you are in the scene. To be in that moment, and to have an agenda. My character, known as ‘Blackbeard’, would have had an intention when he rode into the village with the English soldiers. The thing is in spite of the fact that this charater was nasty, he himself had justification for his actions. Perhaps this was revenge as he saw it on the French. So, in my own life I have harbored thoughts of revenge, not on the French or in the same way that Blackbeard did, but I know that feeling inside of me: what it is to want revenge. It is a case of recalling this feeling using emotional memory. These are simple techniques used by actors to arrive at a truthful performance, but if more than this we can just pull back, not consciously try to achieve this result, get out of our own way, and simply allow it to happen, then that is when acting magic happens spontaneously. So once again, when I say magic, I mean artistic truth. This IS the magic.
DV: What other examples from your filmography would you point to as a demonstration of that principle?
RG: I try to bring truth to every role I do, and if one works from the original authentic self , and allows this self to be in the driving seat, without interference from the superficial egotistical self, then this truth will be achieved every time. All of this applies by the way to all creative pursuits, not only acting. The principal is applicable across the board. We can only ever be ourselves, everyone else is taken. Be YOU uncompromisingly, unapologetically, and without censorship! Bring this to your work, and it will be real and honest.
DV: What other projects are you working on presently?
RG: I recently went for a screen test for a Western Movie called ‘The Sisters Brothers’, so I am keeping my fingers crossed on that one. I am also writing for an acting magazine on acting. (What else), and have just finished a movie called ‘My Name is Lenny’, about the British bare fist knuckle fighter Lenny McClean. The subject of his own autobiog called ‘The Guv’nor’.
DV: In the way of unfinished business, is there an acting role, or some other aspiration, that you’re committed to realizing?
RG: I would love to play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. I reckon I could really bring something to this character. I want to be in, and will be, a Spaghetti Western… And… here goe’s…I want to play Dr Who!!! I would make him dark, and scary, but he would still be the good guy, (90% of the time). He would have an unpredictable edge, and if you cross him then you’d better watch out!
DV: In one episode of 2017’s “Genius” (National Geographic), you portray Albert Einstein. Naturally, we here at the “The Bees Are Dead” have a special reverence for Albert, as his prediction about the end of civilization in the wake of apian extinction is the namesake of our publication. What was it like playing Einstein, and why just the one episode? (Geoffrey Rush portrays Albert Einstein throughout the rest of the series.) Did you come away from the role with greater appreciation for him?
Yes, absolutely: Geoffrey Rush plays Einstein in this series. My role was a minimal role playing an actor who was in turn auditioning to play Einstein. There were three of us in all, but Geoffrey played the real Einstein. All great fun though, and the series is going to be excellent because it tells to story of a great man, who was not at first taken seriously, but went on to achieve greatness. I always liked something that Einstein once said, “Where a man stands, this for him is the centre of the Universe”. This of course is actually true, but also true on a personal level. The Universe actually does revolve around you.
DV: In a hypothetical apocalyptic event, what would be your final bit of magick?
RG: To discard all worldly things, all thought, all existence as I see it, and present what is left, (The original me), back to God. If you were to ask me What God is, then I don’t think I am able to tell you. “The Tao that can be explained is not the Tao”. God is whatever you conceive God to be. (Perhaps)
DV: Without sounding morbid, when the journey has come to its end, what would you have your epitaph say?
RG: He came, he went. The bits in between were alright.
DV: Any last advice for us struggling artists/magicians?
RG: Relax. Be yourselves, work from your own madness, keep it real, go easy on yourself, get your intentions sorted out, even if thats to have no intention: this in its self is an intention, and remember the words of another magician Oscar Wilde, “Another person’s opinion of my work is nothing to do with me”.
DV: Rob, we’ll definitely have to have you return for another chat with B.A.D.! This has really been a rare pleasure for us. Please, come back sometime.
RG: Den, The pleasure is all mine. I have enjoyed thinking about the answers to your excellent questions. I would love to come back again, and maybe pick up on specific points or just elaborate further on anything that is of interest.