Boy meets world

The more patient among you may remember that I've never been a fan of contemporary dance (previous opinions here and here).

But that was before I entered the world of Punchdrunk's Faust (based on Goethe's story), a cocktail of dance, drama, song, acrobatics, superstition and sheer balls-out eroticism.

The production puts the audience at the heart of events, offering the chance to follow any of the 20 or so characters throughout five labyrinthine storeys of a disused warehouse doubling as a small 1950s town in the southern United States. Occasionally, if lucky, individuals in the audience get drawn into the story, given the chance to interact with the cast, if only for a moment, as Faust wends his way inevitably towards Hell.

It's an incredible piece of theatre. Yet for one who delights in words, it's the relative lack of dialogue (at least in the way of English) that is one of the most captivating elements of the production.

Most of the communication between characters plays out in the form of body language and contemporary dance and, within this new context, I suddenly found myself appreciating the art form. I could see why people cared.

But that's not where it ends.

It's once having seen the show that its real magic begins - having been laid in the audience member's mind, Faust's offspring nests and grows, making it truly difficult to think of anything else for days afterwards. The sounds, the sights, the darkness, they're all fixtures in one's consciousness.

It isn't just theatre - it's total immersion in a world of debauchery and sorcery, and one that plays on the innate appetite for voyeurism. My words can't do it justice.

Once isn't enough, yet repeat trips just seem to increase the dependency. It's performance as narcotic. My second trip only served to make the desire stronger (little matter that I'd fallen deeply in lust with a cast member or two).

But on Saturday the show's six-month run (itself an extension of the original six weeks) comes to an end, just a couple of weeks after I'd been introduced to it.

So now I'm sad, because I'll never get to visit that world again. Not just because of the sense of mystery it brings, not even because it's the most sexually-charged environment I've been in for much longer than I care to admit.

It's mostly because it both sates and sparks a desire for real creativity in which I feel ordinary life is so lacking, and I don't know when I'll find that again.


Pedantry corner

Few things annoy me more than seeing a good, engaging piece of writing betrayed by a sloppy mistake born of inadequate research or bad education.

And I really don't expect any quality drama the BBC has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on to be getting the English language wrong.

But before us stands this line from the accused: Party Animals: Episode 6, BBC2, Wednesday 14 March

Danny (angrily addressing his colleague Kirsty): He pretty much inferred to me that you’d get the researcher’s job in exchange for fucking him.

Can you see the problem here? For those who can't, he used the wrong word. Danny meant implied. Which allows me to label someone a big, old fuckwit.

The Oxford Compact English Dictionary explains the difference like this:

The words imply and infer do not mean the same thing. Imply is used with a speaker as its subject, as in He implied that the General had been a traitor, and indicates that the speaker is suggesting something though not making an explicit statement. Infer is used in sentences such as We inferred from his words that the General had been a traitor, and indicates that something in the speaker’s words enabled the listeners to deduce that the man was a traitor.

In other words: You say something open to interpretation. What I infer may be different from what you have implied.

Too often now, the word infer is being used to mean imply. And it's just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Yet it crops up in drama, in news reports, in debates, all over the place.

And it all comes down to the same basic problem: people using words they don't understand just to make themselves sound clever.

We all do it, admittedly, and it's forgivable of some - but not of those who write for a living, those who pride themselves on their command of a language. If in doubt either check your word or find another. A large vocabulary is only worth something as long as one has the ability to use it correctly.

Assuming it was the writer who first used the word inferred in the script, how could this aberration have got past the rest of the cast or crew?

And using the argument that Danny was speaking the sentence in a heated moment doesn't wash: this is a Parliamentary researcher we're talking about, presumably well educated, and one with enough confidence in his facility with English to fancy himself as an MP's speech writer. There's no way he'd have said, "He inferred to me." Just wouldn't happen.

It pains me to dump on Party Animals because I have enjoyed it immensely, and I also find it very hard to find fault with anyone who would involve the always beguiling Raquel Cassidy. So I won't even mention the far worse sin of the erroneous apostrophe visiting the word "says" in a mocked-up newspaper headline.

By the way, for all those wishing to know the score on sleeping one's way to the top, the following episode revealed that Kirsty put out but failed to land the job. At least that's what I inferred.


Ad victorem spolias

Whenever people who doubt my authenticity as a football fan ask why I (a man born in the south west of England) support Newcastle United (a team based about as far away from my own town without actually crossing a country's border), I've always been safe in the knowledge that I couldn't be accused of being a glory-hunter.

"They haven't won a single trophy in my life," I've proclaimed with a perverse kind of pride.

So does this pose me with a problem?

No. It might be the first new thing the St James' Park cleaner has had to polish in a generation, but I don't believe outlasting a bunch of European also-rans earns us the right to call ourselves victors.

The purpose of entering the Intertoto Cup is to get into the Uefa Cup, and we still have teams to beat in that particular competition. Saying we're better than Zurich Grasshoppers and Ethnikos Achna is worth nothing when the likes of Benfica, Rangers, Tottenham and a dozen other teams are all still gunning for the same prize as us.

So please, someone wake me up when we've won something real.