Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Russell Tovey:
My Life In Tracey Emin's Column
Friday, 4 May 2007
The Independent UK Newspaper.
(Russell is writing this column while Tracey is on a break)

I'm lying on my living-room floor, trying to find the best position for me and my laptop. I have no desk. I spend the majority of typing time moving from one uncomfortable position to another. Now I have a pillow supporting my chin and I write with my hands stretched far out in front of me on the carpet.

I've acted since the age of 10, when I watched the film Dead Poets' Society. I just turned to my mum and said: "I wanna be an actor." I can't remember if this was because the film made the art of screen acting so compelling, or simply because Robin Williams' performance inspired this easily influenced boy. "Oh captain, my captain!"

"Oh yeah, I'm gonna take over the world, Mum!"

But now I'm going to try writing as well. Watching Dead Poets' Society again recently, it didn't seem as good as it was all those years ago. Why is that?

I've taken to revisiting my youth recently, since coming to terms with the fact that, at 25, I'm actually an adult. When a mother on the train says to her young daughter, "Ask that man to let you through," and you look and realise that you are "that man" she's referring to, it's cemented. I now feel I'm old enough to have had a childhood.

So, I watched all these cartoons that were incredible as a kid. ThunderCats has just had a series DVD release - never before have I been so excited by something I've spotted in HMV, although the novelty quickly receded. How many times would I actually watch it? Although it would become a proud addition to the ever-growing DVD shelf. I did feel happy, however, to see that the majority of people picking up the box-set and smiling were in their mid-twenties, like me, catching each other's eyes and riding the nostalgia wave.

Trap Door, I realised, was not as scary as it once seemed. Inspector Gadget? Not as inventive. Dogtanian? What a girl! He-Man, She-Ra, DangerMouse - watching all of them deflated me. Yes, I know, these are children's shows, aimed at children, so of course they won't be as good now I'm not a child anymore, but they meant so much to me then. However, one film that still gets played in the Tovey household on a regular basis is Labyrinth. Still brilliant, still amazing puppetry - and David Bowie is still as fascinating to me as he ever was...

So, I've started writing. I say started; I've actually done it for the past five years, but now I want to do it seriously. I want an alcove window in a high-ceilinged Victorian house, with a desk in it that I can look out from and see the world milling by. I've ripped off this idea from Alan Bennett's house. I'm lucky enough to be able to call Alan my mate, having worked on The History Boys at the National Theatre, on the film of the play and on a world tour for the past three years. Being a friend of Alan Bennett has amazing advantages for a would-be writer. Whatever I write, he reads and gives me his comments - something I always take for granted at the time, but feel immensely honoured by later. What a legend.

AB has a room in his house with a desk at the window, which he can see out of but no one can see in if the lights are down. This is where he witnessed Miss Shepherd, the "Lady in the Van", and it's where his other blockbuster hits were brought to life. He's recently moved home but keeps this house to write in. I'm sure if he could do away with the rest of the house but keep this room, with the desk in the window intact, he would. Every day he cycles from the new abode back to his old house to sit at this desk.

I want to borrow this desk at some point, look out of his same window and write. I'm sure he would let me. However, I'm banking on being buffed by his talent, which I know stretches far beyond this window in Camden Town, but maybe if I wait long enough, remnants would lightly dust off and settle onto my paper while I was sitting there.

So, I'm doing Tracey's column. She said to me: "Do you wanna do it? If it's shit, though, I'll tell you, Pokey!" (she always calls me Pokey because my ears stick out), to which I responded "Hell, yeah!"

Above drawing by Euan Mactavish of Scotland

I've known Tracey for nearly four years. I've been a fan since the Turner Prize days. The Bed excited me - the mono prints, the handwriting inspired many alcohol-induced, heated discussions. They say you should never consider religion and politics when you're drunk - I think contemporary art should be added to the list. I don't know of any other subject that sparks instant controversy in the intoxicated, especially Tracey's work. Which, although I may be biased, I always defend!

The first time I met Tracey was at a street party in Spitalfields for the Queen's Golden Jubilee - she was sweeping up the street and asked me to help. Another time we met in Brick Lane and then formed a kinship at the South Bank Show awards. Every time I'm with her it's a whole new experience, always ending with me in fits (of laughter, not convulsions). She's mad but I find her completely fascinating. Can't wait to be in Venice with her for the Biennale!

So maybe this is a start of a writing career, or maybe a harsh, abrupt end. But whatever happens now, I'm going to have to get a desk of my own, because my neck is killing me...

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