I’ve been back a week from the Fringe now, and I thought it might be polite to mention all the monkey business I got up to.
Let’s get the self-congratulatory stuff out the way first – yes, Death Drive went well, cheers. It becomes slightly surreal, saying the same hour’s worth of words at the same time every day, in the same place, for 22 days straight, but fortunately most of the time it was really enjoyable. All my previews meant I had the script down pat so it was just a case of trying to deliver it as well as possible. I didn’t make any big mistakes or get stage fright, so on that front I’m dead chuffed. It could certainly have gone a lot worse. Here are some things that people thought about the show:
‘heartfelt and wildly entertaining’ **** – The List
‘deliciously, darkly funny… an hour in his company simply zips by’ **** – MusicOMH
‘the most compelling solo show on the Fringe this year’ ***** – WhatsOnStage
‘an expert meshing of poetry and stand-up, intimate and energetic’ – The Stage
‘sublime… has audiences hooting in recognition’ – The Guardian
‘funny and very clever… lovingly crafted and profound’ – Fest
I shall definitely be doing more dates of Death Drive around the UK over the next twelve months – check my ‘Gigs’ section for updates.
As far as I’m concerned, doing the Poetry Takeaway was just as much fun as doing the show. In case you don’t know, we set up a stall on the Royal Mile every third day and, come rain or shine, offered anyone passing by a free poem on a subject of their choice in 10 mins or less. Based on how much paper we went through, we produced over 100 bespoke poems over the course of the Fringe. Clients included a street sweeper, two magicians, a policeman, a man who bred Madagascan hissing cockroaches, a little girl about to start school, foreign tourists, street vendors, members of the Fringe team, actors, students, and many more. Commissions included ‘write a poem for us to read out at our wedding’, ‘write a poem to comemorate Sammy, my dead cockatiel’, ‘write a poem for our dad’s birthday tomorrow – he likes structural engineering’, ‘write a poem about the boy I fancy, and about how crap my ex-boyfriend is’, ‘write a poem containing an elephant, marmalade, and an air of sarcasm’, and so on and so forth. We did it for free, but one customer insisted on tipping me with the homeopathic hangover remedy pictured above, enticingly labelled ‘Nux Vomica’.
Getting to speak to so many different people was a unique and really lovely experience. Often, when presented with the opportunity to have a poem written for them about ‘anything’, people get a bit dazzled by all the possibilities, so you end up sitting them down and saying, ‘Well, let’s start with your name. And what have you been up to this week?’ And they talk about their lives and the stuff they like and what they don’t like and their relationships and their plans for the future, and sometimes it feels like a mini therapy session or non-mystical tarot reading. Also, even though I stuck mainly to doggerel throughout, and not especially good doggerel at that, most people seemed to genuinely love the poems we wrote for them. There were gasps and hugs and heads thrown back in laughter. I guess the trick is, people tell you exactly what they want to hear in a poem. All you have to do is listen.
Anyway, I fully plan to run the Poetry Takeaway again. It was a fantastic success and I want to say a big, heartfelt thank you to all the poets and ‘customers’ who made it so memorable. Cheers. If you’re running an event that you reckon the Poetry Takeaway would work well alongside, do drop me a line.
This Thursday, I’m going to be performing 20 mins of a new piece I’ve been commissioned to write called ‘How To Be A Leader’. Most of what comes out of my mouth will have never been tried out on stage before, so it might be dreadful, but it will definitely be fresh. It’s at the Kings Place festival, 9:45pm, and it costs £4.50 to get in, to see me and one other performer. Ugh. Fingers crossed, eh?
I guess it might be appropriate to finish the post with a poem? This is one I wrote on the train back from the Fringe. The light across the fields was kind of beautiful, and I suppose I was feeling a little sentimental.
Today I will get drunk enough
To feel nostalgic for a dog I never owned:
Cyril, a lab-wolfhound crossbreed,
Snap-gobbling the heads off weasels,
Dropping each decapitated carcass at my feet
Like a rolled up tool belt
Or the Sunday paper.
We give him a French accent
Then forget why, scandalise guests
With a story about the time
He dug a used sanitary napkin out the pedal bin,
Then loped into our bedroom
Picket-fence fangs bared in a grin
A grot of menstrual blood glistening
On his wet, blueberry-black nose.
This brandy will go out like the tide.
When it no longer reaches the label
I’ll remember bed linen
Bundled in my arms
Like an enormous damp lotus,
Recall negotiating the big step
Down into the utility room,
Bluebell conditioner flooding my nostrils
And my first glimpse of his body
On the concrete floor.
He looks like a big eyebrow.
The tumble dryer kicks in.
A turbine thrums mournfully
And the air between us
Begins to vibrate.