This blog is in a state of suspended animation

I am much more active on twitter (@mark_haddon) and on instagram (@mjphaddon)


some of my favourite paintings happen by accident. these are a few of the boards i use to protect the floor of my workroom, to clean brushes, test colours... as soon as i start thinking of them as pictures and consciously adding to the design they no longer work. but as long as i can see them only out of the corner of my eye...



I’ve written very little here over the past few weeks because most my energy has been taken up by polar bears and the forthcoming art exhibition (of which more later).

it seems odd to mention polar bears without saying how amazing the director, Jamie Lloyd, and the cast are, and how working with them has been of the most instructive and enjoyable experiences of my writing life. but it’s also slightly emetic. so, enough.

some things I’ve learnt over the past few weeks:

there is a mysterious link between the utter triviality of theatre – it’s just people dressing up and pretending to be different people – and the utter seriousness with which good actors and a good director and a really good theatre go about making it work. there is something terribly important about this link, about serious playing, something that runs against the current of pretty much everything we do in a society that runs on money and status and quanitifiable achievement. brain eno once said (and I’m quoting from unreliable memory here), culture is everything we don’t have to do, which includes both opera and old people’s homes. that’s almost it...

theatre has a reputation for being exclusive and elitist when compared to film and tv. I think this reputation should be taken round the back of the barn and shot in the head. film and tv are industries. sometimes I think they’re industries which just happen to produce films and programmes as a kind of waste product. most films and tv programmes cost vast amounts of money. most of them involve huge numbers of people and demand tonnes of equipment. theatre doesn’t have to cost anything. you can do hedda gabler at the national theatre, or in your living room, or in a prison, or in a school. films and tv programmes are products. theatre is a communal experience. increasingly, I’ve come to think of theatre as the down-sized, community-oriented, low carbon-footprint answer to mass-produced entertainment.

you will never have your work edited as well as it gets edited in rehearsals. partly because it is acutely painful to watch people trying to act writing which doesn’t work. and partly  because the director and the actors have their arses on the line. if your words don’t work then they’re going to take the flak (Jamie and I cut about 20% of the original script during rehearsals). however brilliant a literary agent or a publisher or an editor, they are never going to put this kind of effort in, because they are not going to suffer nightly in front of 250 people if you’re writing isn’t up to scratch.

older audiences are good, too, but younger audiences are fantastic. they come to the theatre with fewer expectations and fewer preconceptions. they are louder and more outgoing and less embarrassed about reacting spontaneously to what they see and hear on stage. and they very rarely fall asleep.

there is always someone who falls asleep in any show. invariably they will have bought tickets near the front of the stalls so that they are visible to the actors. you’d think, if you were prone to doing this you might choose a seat at the back of the circle or off to one side, but there seems to some ancient and immutable law at work. 

i recently did an interview with the poet paul farley. it's in the guardian this weekend. i really do think you should read it and then go the nearest good bookshop and buy a volume or two of his poetry.

actually, i think you should buy more poetry of all kinds. i think we should all buy more poetry of all kinds. i've been commuting to rehearsals of polar bears recently and it's struck me, once again, that i have never seen anyone reading poetry on the train or the tube, even though it seems the perfect form of literature for the kind of life in which there are brief moments of respite between long stretches of busyness. it really is the only way you can experience a masterpiece in its entirety between baker street and southwark.


it seems odd not to have written anything about polar bears over the last two week. the reason is that i've been in rehearsals, which has a been a fantastic experience, but also a tiring and time-consuming one. here's an interview from today's observer. i dislike doing interviews (it's hard having a pleasant, relaxed conversation whilst not forgetting that you're also simultaneously talking to ten thousand strangers). i don't much like reading them either. but a copying link to this is easier than writing something new.

(despite appearances that's not a photo of me in the stairwell of a victorian urinal but in the jerwood rehearsal space)

a couple of the cast have given interviews, too. but they're not much keener on them than i am, and we're trying hard not to give away too much in advance of the press night on 6th april, so i'll leave you to track them down yourself if you're feeling obsessive.

this is rather fantastic. popular science magazine is now archived online. 137 years of it. the interface is ugly and the google reader clumsy but the content is fascinating and funny and addictive and edifying. from articles by darwin and pasteur to, well, stuff like this...

here come the painbirds... sad, sad news. mark linkous of sparklehorse committed suicide at the weekend. he was a genius. i've played vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, good morning spider and it's a wonderful life over and over and i have never, ever grown tired of them. exquisite melancholy tunes that burnt little tracks inside my head and lyrics that always seemed to have been plucked straight out of some weird faerie darkness. we used a couple of his songs on the soundtrack for coming down the mountain and people who didn't know his work always wanted to know what it was and where they could get hold of it.

a wonderful exhibition at the wellcome collection. 8 rooms about 8 lives (samuel pepys, the groundbreaking transexual april ashley, the artist claude cahun, the scientist francis galton, fiona shaw...) each of them examining the question of who we are from a variety of different perspectives and all of them a revelation in some way (i'd never seen fiona shaw's astonishing performance of the wasteland; i'd never considered what it might be like to be one of a pair of identical twins, born three years apart as a result of ivf). the most moving story was that of clive wearing, the subject of a famous bbc documentay some years ago (sections of which are available to watch on the website below) who believes repeatedly that he has just come round / woken up after 6 or 7 years of amnesia. his diary is an obsessive, repetitive list of entries recording his delight at suddenly getting his memory back, each one separated by several minutes. he has lost many essential abilities and is cared for by his devoted wife, deborah. however, he used to be a gifted musician and choirmaster and when given a keyboard and a baton and a group of singers these skills come flooding back and he can play and conducted exactly as he once did. most movingly - and it was this that made me cry, while standing in front a glass case in a museum to boot - was his continuing and overwhelming love for his wife, so that every time he saw her he felt as if he was seeing her for the first time after a long absence and was filled was joy. 


identity @ the wellcome collection

clive wearing @ the wellcome collection

there is also a very good book accompanying the exhibition from black dog

identity & identification @ black dog

i have a solo show of artwork (painting, prints, photographs and sculptures) at the sarah wiseman gallery in oxford from 29 april to 22 may. of which, doubtless, much more later.