347 Branding

Marco was playing the an electronic piano — a swirling combination of lunchtime tv gameshow tunes and psychotic jazz. Tom was winding the show up — it had been pretty dense, starting with Tabore’s Pistols of Paris movie (which I actually really liked), and then there was Acting International’s take on Sarah Kane, and a string of readers (I forget who), and probably something else alongside. The venue was packed — 347 was a fair sized theatre, but there must have a good four hundred people there — in all the seating and up and down the stairs too. By this point it was uncomfortably hot, and getting a little restless. People were thinking about cool green bottles, and the tiles above the urinals that they’d be staring at as they pissed. So Tom was saying, ‘And if you enjoyed the show, and would like to support the project, there are different ways. You can buy a magazine, for example. Or you can just give us money. But Mr. Jeremy Mercer is here to describe a new line of KMZ products — Mr. Jeremy Mercer.’

There is potted sceptical applause as Jeremy comes on stage, wearing this gold waistcoat on a white shirt, and starts describing the idealistic principles of the project: KMZ is produced with no advertising or corporate sponsorship etc., but how in our rapaciously commercial times, we recognise the need for saleable services, and how tonight we are launching KMZ branding. ‘Is there a taker out there? Is anyone ready to be our first brandee — for only five euros — that’s right for five euros — we will brand anybody who steps up on stage with us now.’

So Tom sidles over with his five euro bill. ‘Yes sir, I will take the brand,’ says Tom. ‘What can you offer me?’ Adrian at table at the back has got the four brands available, which are of course the four card suits. Cressida – our lovely assistant in tank top and boots — is there to help out as Tom signs his branding contract, and Marco’s playing gets louder and more twisted. Tom choses the spade, which Adrian then starts heating with the blow torch.

A chair is brought on, as is a table with a strap, and Tom sits down and has his arm is cinched tight. The brand is glowing pretty bright already, but Jeremy brings the lights down, then out altogether, and we hold up the brand. There is the white outline of a spade in all that darkness. The piano music now is sommersaulting, and tripping, and throwing its face against a concrete floor. Jeremy brings the brand up close to Tom’s arm, there’s a brief inhalation, then presses it against the flesh. The smell of burnt meat is almost instantaneous — slightly sweet, slightly nauseating, but somehow good.

The lights come up again — the music is gameshow winner — and Jeremy spins the brand in the air to ask who might be the next happy customer — ‘Going once going twice gone! Thank you ladies and gentlemen! Refreshment is at the bar.’ We wrapped that section of the show up right there. Everyone got a drink, then came back in for the open mic. Everyone wanted to know how we did it.