The door gently creaked; he rushed into the dark and hit the light switch with an accurate whip of his right arm and in doing so the studio gently flickered into life. Slowly revealing the remains of his last visit, the walls seemed to speak with a calm reasoned tone as they reminded him of the work he had undertaken and the work still to do. The switch clicked on the kettle as he quickly started to prepare a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle hoarsely burbled away he picked up a pen and quickly noted down the list of tasks that he’d set for himself over the next two days. He turned on the music and half-smiled to himself as David Bowie’s “Who Can I Be Now?” burst forth from the speakers. His inward amusement came from the thought that he was now preparing to be someone else again, another mask, another character, who can I be now, he mentally toyed with those five words for a moment as the smile inside gave way to something deeper and more troubling…who can I be now? SWITCH The intense heat from the bath rose and he felt the temperature increase on the bottom of his foot as he dangled a leg ungainly above the water surface. He was home, it had been a long day in the studio and the stabbing pain in his shoulder was a reminder of just how productive the day had been. The first test film was complete and he now had to inspect and evaluate the footage. Before that though he needed to soak away the bruises that he had gained during the performance tests. Gently lowering himself into the bath he noticed a bruise on his forearm that seemed tenderer than he had expected. His head ached too; he’d misjudged one of the falls and had connected full on with the stone pillar at the side of the stage. At the time he thought it would look good on film but then realised that these were tests and rehearsals and wouldn’t see the light of day anyway. Nonetheless it had been a useful few hours at the BMI today and he settled into the red-hot bath with a calmness that came from the knowledge that the work was truly up and running now. SWITCH “I’m the one who apparently receives the bruises…the secret is in landing limp and breaking the fall with a foot or a hand. It’s a knack. Several times I’d have been killed if I hadn’t been able to land like a cat.” Buster Keaton SWITCH The house stood silent now, everyone was asleep but he couldn’t settle so he decided to watch ‘The General’ (1926). Even at this blurry hour it was in the simple things that he delighted and as fatigue gently took over and he slipped slowly into unconsciousness he thought about the way Keaton moved and the incredible timing that he employed in this performance. At some point in the early hours he stirred and realised that the television was still on. He forced himself up and turned it off before slumping back into his sleep. The last semi-conscious thought he had was of Johnnie Gray sitting on the coupling rod of a locomotive train undulating with a deadpan expression on his face…he drifted into slumber but the thought would not be wasted. SWITCH The door to the studio issued a familiar creak; he rushed into the dark and turned the light on, by now he was sure that even in the darkness he could make out the outline of the switch on the wall. As the light sputtered into the room, the walls once more offered a reminder of what had been done during the last visit. The switch clicked on the kettle and the routine cup of tea began. He reached for a pen and quickly noted down the list of tasks that he’d set for himself over the next two days. He turned on the music; Jimmy Cliff’s “Struggling Man” album resonated around the studio. SWITCH He looked in the mirror…suddenly he couldn’t see whether the make up was there anymore…he didn’t see himself, he didn’t see Charlie, Buster or Jerry either…his thick, heavy eyelashes seemed lighter all of a sudden, those dark eyelashes that had been the cause of so much good and so much bad in his life…who am I now? Who am I now? The pain in his shoulder and elbow reminded him this was all a performance…all an idea…just like the ideas he’d had before…he’d seen those through and he would see this one through the same, after all…it’s what he did. SWITCH “It’s the slippage between identities that’s interesting.” Rina commented as she gently manoeuvred the pages of the sketchbook through her fingers, “yes…the slippage.” SWITCH The studio door creaked open, the light switch flicked with familiar accuracy, the studio woke up as the light blinked into the space. He took the hat out from his bag and gently placed it on his head before moving over to the kettle. There was no list in mind today, with filming scheduled for the morning he only had one thing in his thoughts…getting used to this hat. He pressed shuffle on the play list and Poly Styrene’s voice echoed around the room…”When you look in the mirror - Do you see yourself - Do you see yourself - On the T.V. screen - Do you see yourself?” SWITCH He deftly removed the hat from his head as the camera shutter clicked repetitively. It was important that he could position the hat properly and also crucial for him to see if the hat did the job he wanted it to when building the character. Returning to the mirror he placed the hat on his desk and looked at the reflection before picking up a wipe and scrubbing vigorously at his face…he looked again and scrubbed again…he couldn’t see where the make-up was and where it wasn’t, he leaned closer and scrubbed again. SWITCH The sign at the end of the platform shone with an autumn morning fuzziness, the time was something-past-early and he waited in the damp for the train. He had arranged to meet Jack and Sev early at the BMI and had booked the John Lee theatre for the filming. He felt ready. SWITCH He staggered and fell to one knee as the impact of the pillar settled in his bones, he knew how to fall, he knew how to land without causing any damage…the decision he’d made though to actually connect properly with the pillar and experience pain as part of the performance was now starting to resonate in his body. Jack had been filming for over an hour now whilst Sev operated the spotlight, as the performance ended Sev rushed from the control room, “Are you ok? I couldn’t look anymore…you must have hurt yourself?” He smiled to himself at the response. Jack looked up from the monitor, “I’m happy with that. I think we’ve got it” SWITCH Watching the draft edits through for the first time had been an interesting process. Initially he had thought that the performance in the first version had been far superior but the overall look and feel of the second version seemed better. He moved a finger along his jawline as he watched the figure on screen…he still didn’t recognise himself. The face of the man staring back at him from the screen was someone he knew from his sketches, from his thoughts, not Charlie, not Buster, nor Jerry…he pondered for a moment over his struggle at recognition…that’s a good thing isn’t it? Remember what Rina said, it’s in the slippage. Jack had forwarded these two rough versions as something to consider before they started the task of editing proper, he had now watched them over and over and had gone blind to the subtleties and nuances that may or may not inform his decision on which version to work with. Sighing with frustration he called over to Alice, “Alice, sorry to bother you but could I ask you to look this over?” Alice was a fellow artist, he trusted her eyes and he trusted her instincts. After watching them through intently she responded, “It’s definitely the first version…yes it’s definitely that one.” His sketchbook lay open on the desk and at the top of the page he noticed a note he’d made next to the ‘backstage’ stills…NOT CHARLIE - NOT BUSTER - NOT JERRY.