A progress report on In the Glare of the Neon Yak and how it’s going.

Or, ‘On being a submarine commander.’

Not long ago I watched a TV documentary about the making of the sitcom Seinfeld, during which Jerry Seinfeld, who was writing, producing and starring in the show, said that a season of it was like being a ‘submarine commander’, in that everything else became excluded from his life and he just concentrated on the show for months on end. It was an interesting description, and I’m starting to see what he means with my new one hour show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak.

I started writing it a few days after returning from the Edinburgh fringe last year. I came up with the title first, and then I bought a circus ringmaster costume, and I tried to think of a way of combining the two. In October I had a week off from work and I sat down and wrote the whole show in five days. This surprised even me, but I was really happy with the outcome and eager to get started on rehearsing it. However, at the time I was still working on Juicy, as it had a couple of dates left.

At the end of the year I did something either brave, or stupid. I reduced the number of hours I do in my day job, in retail management. This meant there was less money coming in, of course, but it also meant I had more time to spend on Yak, and making a career out of spoken word. Little did I know that the show was about to take over my life.

Now, it must be admitted that I have always had trouble learning anything from memory. Previous to the end of the year, I couldn’t even memorise a simple three minute poem. I was asked to appear at a theatre event in Hackney and they stipulated that I had to perform a five minute poem from memory. I set about learning it and, I must say, did a damn fine job doing so. This gave me the confidence to learn something slightly longer. So what did I do? I decided to learn the whole hour show from memory!

So since the end of January, when I did my last performance of Juicy, I have been solidly lining the script for Yak. I do it every day. I do it before work, and after work. I do it on my day off, I do it at the gym while on the exercise bike, and in the sauna. I do it whenever I’m on the bus, the train, or just walking. The whole show has been completely taking up my mind all the time except for when I’m at work. And when I’m not memorising the play, I’m designing the poster, dealing with photographers for the poster, speaking to venues, filling in fringe application forms, writing blurbs, buying props and costumes, rewriting sections, working on the backing music, it really is neverending. When it snowed and I got snowed in while visiting my parents, I rehearsed while looking out the window at the snow falling. When my work colleagues left and I was alone, I rehearsed in the store room of the shop. Every spare moment has been spent on the show.

Has my normal spoken word work suffered? Possibly. I have still been writing, but not rehearsing new material with quite the same zest. I’m still promoting two spoken word nights. I’m doing feature sets around the country.

Soon I’ll be working with a director for the next couple of months. It’s an exciting chance to get someone else involved and I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks. She’s very enthusiastic about the project.

So now I know exactly what Jerry Seinfeld meant. Today, for example, I rehearsed for an hour, got the train to work while running over lines in my head, then again at lunch time, then on the train home. This evening I’ve been working on publicity material for the show, and prewriting some Tweets for a venue.

I’m having an amazing time, and I can’t wait for people to see what I’ve been up to. It’s a departure from my normal style. According to my diary, however, my first free week off from Yak will be in early September. And that’s when the submarine will be docking for the next time!

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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