Literature: Bus trip to never-ever land
Saturday 08 August 1998
Kesey was a nice, wholesome football and wrestling champ from Oregon when he went to California in the late Fifties to take up a scholarship at Stanford on the Creative Writing Programme. Being a socially-minded chap, he was only too happy to play the guinea-pig in some governmental drug experiments. Kesey developed a taste for the drug being tested - LSD - and took it upon himself to share the good news with his fellow countrymen.
First he wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the epic Sometimes a Great Notion. But then he started to conduct his own impromptu experiments with LSD. A rickety school bus, christened "Furthur", was painted up in outrageously psychedelic colours, and rigged out with sound systems, cans of laughing gas, cameras, lights and a bumper-sticker saying "Caution: Weird Load". Picking up Beatnik icon Neal Cassady on the road, Kesey and his Merry Pranksters set out on an evangelising trip across America, immortalised in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test.
Tapes of the Acid Test mayhem have now been dug out for CD release on the new spoken-word label, King Mob. Featuring the usual US cult offerings, such as Up Against the Wall, a recording of a Black Panthers rally, King Mob also sneaks in a few contemporary English writers in the shape of Iain Sinclair and Stewart Home.
None of these would have become set texts, I fear, for Miss Brodie's young proteges at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. Fiona Shaw talks about her current title role in the play version of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the latest CelebriTea event at the National Theatre. Pose your questions over a cream tea - and no slipping LSD into the scones!
Ken Kesey & Ken Babbs: Barbican Theatre, Silk St, EC2 (0171-638 8891), 14 & 15 Aug 8.30pm pounds 10- pounds 15
Fiona Shaw CelebriTea: National Theatre Terrace Cafe, SE1 (0171-452 3000) 14 Aug 2.30pm, pounds 7
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