Friday, 28 August 2015

I Belong To A Troupe

Just after Easter, 2013, Jay Walker, Deadbeat Poet and I were driving from Church Stretton to the world famous Wenlock Poetry Festival when Jay announced she'd booked a free venue for the Edinburgh Fringe but didn't yet have an act.

"I'll come," I said.  I didn't have an act either.  "Deadbeat," I asked"why don't you join us?"  I'd heard his amazing poem about dinosaurs.  "Okay, mum," he said.  That's how I became Someone's Mum.  By the end of the day, we were Threesome.  It seemed a hilarious choice of name, to us in the not know.

Three months later, Deadbeat (showing the wisdom of the very young) had left us for fresh pastures, and we'd been joined by Ms Beeton.  Ms B had a baking act - this was a novelty to add to two sets of dramatised poetry.  We met for the first time the day before our show opened in a long-suffering cafe and rehearsed madly all that afternoon.

By the end of those first four shows, we'd become a troupe.  I'm not sure exactly when that happened - maybe it was the moment Ms B was down to her smalls whisking cake batter when an intoxicated man lurched in off Leith Walk hoping to get a closer look, which he got, along with a marvellous Beetonesque ticking off.  Perhaps it was the first time Jay recited her poems to all us the way through, and we heard the strength of her voice and the depth of her experience.  Perhaps it was when I introduced Roy, the floppy lion with a heart of gentle resignation, to play the role of my son in my act, The Seven Rages of Woman.

Being part of a troupe has meant warmth, laughter, multiple microwaved chocolate sponge cakes and growing understanding and friendship.  It has meant shrieking together with joy and surprise when getting 2 x four star (out of five) reviews.  It has meant rushing out to buy last minute butter or cocoa, making up lines, having our minds expanded, trusting each other to show up each time.

Over the past two years, Threesome has appeared twice in Coventry, at the Fifth International Dietetics Conference in Manchester and twice in Shrewsbury - a total of 13 lucky shows, the last five of which benefited hugely from the input of our director, Carol Caffrey, and her suggestion of the title Sweet Thunder.  For me it's been the experience of a lifetime, and I am deeply grateful to Jay and Ms B for every last morsel of it.

We went back to Edinburgh for another four night run last week. We didn't know it'd be our last.  In fact, we've had two enquiries for further bookings. We didn't know on our opening night, when we added to the range of our experiences the joy of performing to twenty teenagers who got everything we have been trying to do straight off, that we were counting down to our finale.  But that decision has been reached like all the others - spontaneously, with love, laughs, cake mix, and hope for our solo careers.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I Steal A Book

I am in Edinburgh at various festivals.  The main, official one to see (so far) Juliette Binoche in Antigone (superb script and use of wind machine), Max Richter in Recomposed (a wonderfully playful reinterpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons); the Fringe to see (so far) Robert Harper in To Kill a Machine (scarily good at a scary part in a wonderful production), Carol Caffrey in Music for Dogs (go see her if you're here and you  haven't), Adams' Writers Group in Adams' and Eves (I nearly died from pride), some random comedy in a pub on the Royal Mile (a necessary Fringe experience); and the Book Festival to see (so far) Andrew McMillan read in the dark (totally awesome) and Jonathan Edwards read in the light (more on this now).

My Family and Other Superheroes is Jonathan's wonderful first poetry collection.  It's an unas-suming over-suming book.  I mean it name drops like crazy - Evel Knievel, Gregory Peck,  Ian Rush and Sophia Loren jostle with the Edwardses in understated, perfectly pitched narratives.  Like that's normal in Wales.  I have admired this book, but I didn't mean to steal it.

I've never stolen anything, except 50 pence from my brother when I was nine and desperate for sweets.  I took it from his moneybox.  Two days later, sick from Spangles, I withdrew 50 pence from my Post Office Savings account and placed the coins on the floor under his bed, so, though he'd missed the money, with any luck he'd think it was an accidental spillage rather than a crime.  So, I've never stolen anything really, if you overlook beer mats and Biros, until Friday last week.

At the end of poetry readings, there are often book signings.  I already have Jonathan's book, but I wanted a signed copy.  So I decided to buy another.  The system was: get the book signed, then queue separately to pay for it.

I probably don't need to tell you that I was so star-struck after Jonathan and I had chatted and he'd signed my book (I sneaked a look straightaway) with 'lots of love' that I walked out of the bookshop without paying for it.  Interacting with talent always sends me a little high.  That's what I would have told Them, if it had come to that - my plea: momentary detachment from my prosaic senses.

It didn't come to that.  A blast of Edinburgh evening air, the patter of coins at the bar I was passing, the parental voice which won't quite leave my head: something jolted me into a gasp.  I rushed back to the paying queue.  Paid up.  Tried to pay too much.  Slunk out, relieved to have paid for what is worth paying for - the cost of producing pages which speak truth, good humour, warmth and the courage of a writer.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

I Commute By Tube

For the past three weeks, my eldest son has been travelling to his work experience placement in Spitalfields from Stockwell and I started him off on this adventure by travelling with him for the first couple of days.

I'd forgotten what a full-on sensory experience travelling on the London underground at 8am is, something I did every day as a schoolgirl.  Back then, my life began when I came across TS Eliot's The Wasteland.  I met a poet (whatever you think of him otherwise) who understood the reality of my daily encounters with the hordes in this unreal city,  Until then, I'd felt very much alone with my discomfort.

On these journeys, what I've found most noticeable is not the famous lack of conversation and eye contact (this I remembered), not even the proximity, in the morning or early evening crush, of alien armpits and buttocks, nor the noise of the trains and escalators, but my re-connection with the fug of bodily and metallic heat.

Each change from the Northern to Central lines at Bank has felt like a premature menopausal episode:  I've endured whorls of heavy warmth, the descent of particles of dirt into every pore, red-faced sweat and the overwhelming desire to return to base for another shower.

The London underground is an amazing feat of public transport, and after twenty or more years in Shropshire, I always enjoy looking around at the diversity of people who use it.  Coming back on the Northern line this afternoon, after treating my son to lunch, a group of eight or so children were in the same carriage, swinging from the bars, dancing to their own music in the aisles, unconcerned about the usual rules of subdued dress code, absolutely no talking or smiling, about the looks of disdain from other passengers.  I thought them wonderful to be so free, so far underground, and I told them so.

I'm glad the tube is no longer part of my daily commute.  There's a madness about it - the multiple streams of people, the ubiquity these days of tiny headphones, and the peculiar need for tall people to bend slightly to fit the shape of the train if they're wedged in too close to the doors.