Misty

Misty

She was walking up the stone steps of the ruined castle. A low mist was rolling in. Well, there had to be a low mist, didn’t there? Everything else was utterly unique, why not throw some mist into the mix? The steps were steep and she wondered if the people who’d lived and worked there all those centuries ago had ever complained about how steep the steps were, the castle itself built on the side of a vast, rocky granite crag of a hill. She knew there had to be an element of function and fortification, but she wondered why they hadn’t made at least a few concessions. It would be all so different if the place had been built these days.
‘Martin?’
Martin was ahead of her. She couldn’t see him. The mist was starting to make everything damp. She didn’t want to hurry, lest she slip, and that would really be the icing on the cake.
‘Martin?’
A voice came back from ahead.
‘What?’
‘It’s misty’.
‘Hi, Misty!’
‘Funny’.
Her name wasn’t Misty. It was Vanessa. She wasn’t laughing, either.
‘Can you just stop for a moment and let me catch up?’
The steps looked treacherous in the wet. But she’d heard rumours of a tea shack at the top and it didn’t look like it would be very busy today, what with the weather and the mist and the fact that the car park had been almost empty. She had already decided that the tea shack would be the ideal place to decide, at least for herself, if Martin were the man for her. But he’d already gone scampering off into the gloom leaving her at it. The signs weren’t good.
‘Martin? Where are you?’
‘There’s lots of lichen, up here’, came a voice from the swirling fog.
‘Seen any wizards?’
She was alluding to a joke they’d made in the car on the way here. The joke had been about wizards. They’d both laughed.
‘Wizards? Why would I see any wizards?’
‘Remember? What we were saying? In the car?’
‘What’s that?’
‘Honestly, you’ve got a memory like a sieve!’
She stood aside to let a couple of hikers pass who were coming down from the castle. Both of them had two Alpine walking sticks each, as well as boots, waterproof jackets, backpacks. She smiled as they passed and fought the temptation to jokingly tell them that they’d lost their skis. They smiled and nodded, and then disappeared into the gloom. Damn, she thought. She should have asked them about the tea shop.
‘You were saying about wizards, remember? And how they’d had to carry around these wands, you know, tools of the trade, and how phallic the wand actually is when you think about it, when you look an ancient folklore . . ‘.
No response.
‘Phallic. You know, substituting a long wand for the fact that they’ve probably got very small penises. Good morning’.
Another hiker with two Alpine walking sticks passed her, going down. Jeez, that was embarrassing.
‘Martin?’
The bastard’s gone on without me, she thought. And she continued climbing the steep, damp steps, feeling a pull on the back of her thighs.
The mist was getting denser.
This validates everything, she told herself. They weren’t compatible. Sure, it’s good not to spend so much time in each other’s company, but to leave her completely alone on the treacherous steps on the side of a ruined medieval castle, which loomed like a giant tree stump in the mist, showed that he didn’t even consider their relationship to be anything other than two individuals whose paths became occasionally diverged.
At last, she came to the top of the steps and an area where slabs of granite poked out between the tall grass, the world beyond the immediate vicinity a formless void of mist and damp, the castle walls looming.
Martin was nowhere to be seen. And she could see no tea shop.
A hiker with a pair of Alpine walking sticks emerged from the fog and passed her.
‘Misty, isn’t it?’
‘No, it’s Vanessa’.

The Yay! Diaries

Yay! show diaries

4.5.20

Write down themes of poems due to go into the Yay collection and decide that most of them are about the sea or wildlife. Conscious that the theme has to be happiness. Decide to make it a love story on a trawler possibly breaking the fourth wall every now and then. Decide to include Seaside Serenade in the collection as it would fit well at the start of the show. Write out very rough approximation of the storyline. A quest to understand what happiness is. Decide against the love aspect.

5.5.20

Working on a possible poem to go at the end of the show, provisionally titled Often I Don’t Realise I’m Happy or Oh! Actually It Turns Out I’m Happy!
Read some Vanessa Kisuule and Shagufta Iqbal for inspiration but then decided it needed ‘Liv Torcing up a bit’. First draft of poem completed.

6.5.20

Finished and fiddled with Oh! It Turns Out I’m Happy! Had a tentative go at writing the first paragraph of the show. Also made a new version of the Yay book manuscript. Now wondering whether to include Seaside Soul as it fits nicely after Seaside Serenade.

7.5.20

Worked on the linking material before Seaside Soul, and between Seaside Soul and Sideburns. Pondered on adding The Lad on the Bus Watching Porn on his phone to the show. Seaside Soul is now a part of the show.

11.5.20

Worked on the linking material and the material for the trawler section. Added the Homecoming poem to the show. Also worked on the dead aunt section.

12.5.20

Continued working on linking material. Swapped running order of the poems in the middle.

13.5.20

Typed up the first few pages, changing and editing sentences, then worked on the Giant Octopus section hoping to make it a stand alone segment.

14.5.20

Typed up the rest of the existing material and rewrote the giant octopus scene.

16.5.20

Worked on coffee shop scene and linking material, worried that the show may be too long, also worried that it should end at the end of the Trawler section.

17.5.20

Completely scrapped yesterday’s writing and rewrote the end of the show keeping the action on the trawler. Ended the show with a sudden idea to incorporate the gay pride boat ride.

18.5.20

Typed up the new material and made a few cosmetic changes and loosened up some of the language. First draft of the show now complete. Put aside for a few days.

1.6.20

In preparation listened to Tina Sederholm’a podcast about writing shows. Pondered on removing Seaside Serenade as it shares too many similarities with other poems, and replacing it as the first poem with I See Me in the Future, which is only half written. Then rewrote and wrote new linking material for the first few minutes, setting the start of the show in Surrey instead of Devon. Then turned attention to Shakka Lakka Boom and thought of alternative words to make it more my own poem, including Plipperty Plopperty Ploom.

2.6.20

More work on the new beginning of the show and writing the new linking material. Added a couple of jokes, then typed up and worked on I See Me in the Future.

3.6.20

Put all of the show together and had a full read through, comes to 57 minutes but it’s over 8000 words. Made lots of notes. Rewrote the first verse of Shakka Lakka Boom. Decided to remove the Lighthouse poem and the lighthousekeeper section to free up time, and this would let me put Seaside Serenade back at the start. Started rewriting I See Me in the Future just on the off chance. Feel that Seaside Serenade would be a better opening poem.

4.6.20

Rewrote the script. Took out I see Me in the Future and added Seaside Serenade. Removed Lighthousekeeper and that whole section. Also removed I want to be a Submariner as it had the same themes as three other poems, wrote a new one based on a poem originally rejected for Spout, Dunker Dumper, which gives background to Stinky Pete’s malaise. Interestingly this poem was written in the Wetherspoons in Barnstaple during the Fringe there. Added Brandon to the end of the show. Rewrote the opening linking material to add more jokes and attitude. Word count now just over 7400.

5.6.20

Updated Yay collection to include new poems for the show, and new Shakka Lakka Boom.

10.6.20

Rewrote the Surrey linking material and also went through the show, reducing the word count and editing. Word count now 7300.

13.6.20

Rewrote the opening speech after Seaside Serenade, including some jokes that came to me and getting rid of the awkward book plug.

14.6.20

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Rewrote the end of the Skipper’s octopus story, adding a joke. After lunch did a full read through. Comes to just under 53 minutes now. Decided to lighten the poetry towards the end and looked at replacing the poem Yay, perhaps with I want to be a Submariner, or even a sequence of short silly poems from a pretend poetry workshop on board the vessel.

15.6.20

Started rewrite of the ‘poetry workshop’ section with a view to replacing the ‘Yay’ poem. Wrote rough notes and selected some previously written short, sharp poems for this section with punchlines.

16.6.20

Rewrote the poetry workshop section and put it in the script. Removed the Yay poem and the linking material leading to it. Net result, about a hundred words less. Current word count now just over 7100. Currently toying with the idea of the Dunker Dumper song being played on a mobile phone as a pretend voicemail message.

24.6.20

Rewriting odd bits of the script to add in more jokes (but not puns). Made Becky be on the rescue boat at the end. Rewrote the opening paragraph. Spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos about writing solo shows.

25.6.20

More work on adding humour to the script. Looked also at various aspects of the show, even the title. And should I perform the whole thing while ironing? And then struggling to put the ironing board away? Approaching it with a ‘nothing is sacred ‘ mentality!

26.6.20

Did some more micro-rewrites, trying to make individual sentences punchier and funnier. Then did a full table read of the show as it is now, it comes to 52 minutes. Made some notes. The idea persists of using an ironing board, it could be used as numerous props: boat, gangplank, a person, a surfboard, an ironing board, a table. Something to ponder on. Do I really need to lug an ironing board around? Spoke to Ian Beech about using one of his photos for the poster for the show and the cover for the book, and the idea had his blessing though he was worried that Burning Eye would alter his image. After dinner, started working on some different ‘workshop’ poems , the latest idea being to get audience members to read them out.

27.6.20

Finished rewriting the ‘poetry workshop’ short poems.

1.7.20

Chatting with Tina Sederholm about hiring her to do dramaturg work on the show script.

17.7.20

Printed off the script for Yay and put it in the same ring binder as used for Juicy, Yak, Spout, etc.

21.7.20

Re-begin line learning Seaside Serenade. Amazed at how much I remember.

8.9.20

Official announcement of the Yay show and book on the Burning Eye Twitter and social media account and on other various social media platforms.

15.9.20

Official announcement of the title of the book and show on the Burning Eye Twitter account and in various social media platforms.

1.11.20

Brixham: Full ‘table read’ of show and notes written. Current length 54 minutes. Is Queer Express necessary?

2.11.20

Spent the afternoon on rewrites based on yesterday’s table read. Replaced Queer Express with I Want to be a Submariner.

3.11.20

Spent the afternoon and evening on rewrites. Word count now under 7000. Pondering music for the poems, and a different voice for the mobile phone song in the middle. Just to give me a rest!

4.11.20

No election result. Started rehearsing, amazed to find I still knew most of Seaside Serenade. Went through the introduction and linking material.

5.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and learned lines for the following linking material. Slight rewrites to first introduction.

6.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and the following linking material. First seven minutes of the show now committed to memory. Decided against music.

9.11.20

Rehearsed the first seven minutes and began to rehearse Sideburns. Mark was bored so he came down and watched the first seven minutes.

10.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

11.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

12.11.20

Applied to PBH Free Fringe for the show for 2021. Line learning for Sideburns and re-run of first seven minutes.

13.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

14.11.20

Sideburns line learning during torrential rain storm.

15.11.20

More Sideburns line learning. More torrential rain, thunderstorm, hail. Started also on the linking material after Sideburns.

16.11.20

Rehearsing linking material.

17.11.20

Rehearsing linking material and Seaside Soul.

18.11.20

Seaside Soul line learning.

19.11.20

Did the first fifteen minutes or so of Yay and more Seaside Soul line learning.

20.11.20

A run through of Sideburns and Seaside Soul a few times to make sure they’d stuck.

24.11.20

Started work memorising linking material after Seaside Soul.

25.11.20

More work on memorising linking material. Ran through all the show so far from the beginning. Also pondering on light rewrites. A Brixham trawler sank over the weekend with two lives lost. I was asked to provide some words for the local news website. Decided that the script would need some revisions to make it less trawlercentric, in honour to the fishermen, one of whom is a friend of a friend, and the sacrifices those in the fishing industry make. Pondered on changing the location to a factory fishing ship.

26.11.20

Up early for rewrites. Research into factory fishing ships and had several ideas for jokes and funny lines. Rewrote two lots of linking material and made cosmetic changes to wording, very pleased with the results. Current word count 7043.

27.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

28.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

29.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

30.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

2.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

3.12.20

More line learning Instructions for my Funeral, followed by a complete run-through of everything learned so far. Memorised twenty minutes of material since the start of November. Therefore thinking logically that it will take two more months to memorise the rest of the show, though I wont have as much free time.

6.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral and then started learning the rehearsing the following linking material. Printed the updated script and put it in the folder. Rewrote the linking material as I went along. As I was rehearsing, (having moved the table and chairs from the bay window to create a stage), I saw a little aircraft spluttering, popping and banging as it flew over. Hopefully not an omen!

8.12.20

Line learning linking material.

9.12.20

Line learning linking material.

13.12.20

Complete run-through of the show so far. Then started the process of committing ‘Homecoming’ to memory.

14.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

15.12.20

Debuted Seaside Soul at Big Poetry Goes Viral on Zoom. Accidentally missed out a verse.

16.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and rehearsing Seaside Soul, as I’ll be performing it tomorrow night at the Palace Theatre as part of an evening of culture in celebration of the theatre. They asked for a poem about Paignton. Funny you should ask, I replied, I’ve been working on one!

17.12.20

Debuted some linking material and Seaside Soul at Palace Avenue Theatre as part of their evening of culture.

18.12.20

Line learning Homecoming (while at work alone on the shop floor in the first, slow hour of the day).

19.12.20

Went for a walk in the bright sunshine down across Paignton Green to the harbour, line learning Homecoming. Stood on the concrete breakwater and recited the poem a few times. Later on, went through the show so far (excluding Seaside Serenade) just to make sure I could remember the poems.

21.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and the linking material which comes afterwards.

22.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

23.12.20

Line learning linking material. Also went through all of the linking material of the show so far, (saying ‘fast forward’ once I’d got one verse into the actual poems).

26.12.20

In Brixham. Line learning linking material. Begun the process of learning Poet In Residence on a Fish Factory Ship. Rewrote the second verse using the old typewriter to type up the revisions. Only one of the crew will henceforth be known as ‘stinky’.

27.12.20

To the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio in Brixham to work on the Poet In Residence poem. Great progress rehearsing and line learning.

29.12.20

Line learning Poet In Residence. Also did a run-through of the first twenty five minutes of the show, completely error free for the first time. Felt like a big step!

1.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

2.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

3.1.21

Went to the sea front, prom and beach in bitterly cold winds and recorded myself underneath the pier performing Seaside Soul, to publicise the show and book. Spent the afternoon editing and re-dubbing the footage, shared to social media channels.

5.1.21

Another lockdown begins. Line learning Poet In Residence.

6.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence and experimenting with an intro played on the melodica.

7.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence. Then undertook a run-through of the show so far, 27 minutes. Followed this with line learning linking material.

8.1.21

Applied to Norwich Fringe and to the Guildford Fringe for 2021. Afternoon, line learning linking material and Shakka Lakka Boom.

9.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

10.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

11.1.21

Email from Guildford Fringe saying they’ll be in touch about dates for Yay. Spoke with Melanie Branton about providing a song via answer phone message for the ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’ section. Sang a version of it and sent it to her along with the lyrics. Line learning linking material. Also, performed Seaside Soul on the weekly Forsaking the Mic Zoom meeting and chatted about the show. Ran through the show so far for Mark.

12.1.21

Ran through the show so far again. 34 minutes. Pondering on what to remove if the running time is too long.

13.1.21

Did a ‘table read’ of the rest of the show to work out timings. Decided to remove two poems, ‘Moby Dick’, (which I stayed up late last night re-writing), and I Want To Be A Submariner. The Submariner poem needs rewrites in any case but I’ve never been totally happy with it and it seems superfluous to the plot. Moby Dick feels better now it’s rewritten, but it’s also superfluous to the plot. As a replacement I took the Sunrise poem from Squidbox and rewrote it, adding a final verse. This is a more contemplative piece and fits the mood nicely. This new poem will also be inserted into the Yay book in place of I Want to Be A Submariner. Hopefully, the running time will be around 55 minutes now.

15.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

16.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

18.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Went for a walk in the rain and dark to go over the lines in my head, the sea monster section).

19.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

21.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

22.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

23.1.21

Decided to carry on the Yay show into 2022 as well as 2021 and to make it as ‘robust’ as possible to last the distance. Had a great rehearsal, going through the whole of the learned show so far and concentrating on movement, and incorporating a chair, which may be the only piece of furniture or prop (except the phone). Then used voice changing software to record the poem / song ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’, adding some dialogue at the start and the end. Edited it all together to be used in the shows. Very happy with the progress today.

24.1.21

Line learning linking material.

25.1.21

Line learning linking material. Considering some music at the start of the show. Last night recorded some vocal ideas. Today pondered using a verse from the poem Happy.

26.1.21

In a light rain shower I went to the woods down the road and filmed myself performing Instructions for my Funeral. Then home and edited the footage. Ran through the linking material and the ‘Muffin’ / ‘Sea Monster’ sections, then rehearsed ‘Nathan went for a walk in the Rain’. Finally, rewrote linking material between ‘Nathan . .’, and ‘Sunrise’.

28.1.21

Line learning ‘Sunrise’.

29.1.21

Line learning Sunrise.

30.1.21

Line learning Sunrise. Made a video for the ‘Happy’ poem.

31.1.21

Ran through all of the memorised show so far, 45 minutes. Had a minor panic when I thought the timer said 55 minutes! Did some work with the chair just to play around during the show. Then spent some time line learning Sunrise.

1.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

2.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

3.2.21

Line learning linking material.

5.2.21

Line learning linking material. Also worked on the ‘poetry workshop’ scene and explored options of hearing or showcasing the poems. Thought about an audio section much like the ‘You Dunked Your Muffin . .’ Section where I say that I recorded the fishermen on my mobile phone. Decided to write the poems on paper and keep them folded in my pocket, (cleverly with the before and after lines written on the paper too!), thereby whizzing through a whole page of the script.

8.2.21

Rehearsed and went over last third of the show. Did a ‘table read’ of the final piece of long linking material, then re-wrote to shift the focus away from the Robert character ‘coming out’, and more to a confession of his love in keeping with the tone of the show. Tidied up and tightened the rest of the linking material which comes after the Sunrise poem.

9.2.21

Line learning linking material.

10.2.21

Chatted to film director John Tomkins about performing the show in Paignton to a select socially-distanced audience and him filming it and editing it professionally for streaming services and online fringe festivals. Also, line learning linking material.

11.2.21

Went out this morning in freezing wind with Mark to try and take some publicity photos for the show. Edited them. Spent the afternoon rehearsing and line learning. Just a couple of paragraphs to go!

12.2.21

Line learning linking material.

13.2.21

Line learning linking material.

14.2.21

Ran through almost the entire show from memory, with the exception of the last couple of minutes. Running time 55 minutes. Decided on a couple of ‘light’ rewrites.

15.2.21

Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material and more line learning.

16.2.21

Contacted Emily Appleton about taking some publicity photos for the show poster and to publicise the show and the book. Arranged for Sunday morning, weather permitting. Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material yet again! Line learning linking material.

17.2.21

Line learning Happy.

19.2.21

Line learning Happy.

20.2.21

Line learning Happy.

21.2.21

Looked at the end of the show, rewrote the last paragraph of linking material again. PThen looked at the last poem, wrote a new poem, ‘I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy’, and decided to make a medley with ‘Happy’ for the last words of the show, more fitting with the tone. The idea being I might put this poem on a postcard as an extra / bookmark for anyone who buys the book. Ran through sections of the show. Then off to Victoria Park skateboard ramps for a photo shoot with Emily Appleton for the show promotional material. Home, and re-worked the ‘You Dumped a Muffin in your Cuppa’ song, making it almost a minute shorter. Long day!

22.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy.

23.2.21

Full show run through from memory, for the first time! 54 minutes. Decided to end the show after the final linking material but then carry on with I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy afterwards. This gives the option of substituting another poem.

25.2.21

More subtle rewrites to the end of the final linking material to make it sound more like an ending.

27.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy.

28.2.21

Practising random parts of the show.

1.3.21

Full show run through, 53 minutes.

2.3.21

First real rehearsal session rather than line learning, played around with using a chair as a prop, marked up the scripts at moments where the chair will feature.

3.3.21

Exchanged emails with Paignton Palace Theatre about the possibility of using their black box space to film the Yay show without an audience for online fringe purposes. They emailed back to say yes, and free of charge!! (Well, they want some work off me in exchange).

4.3.21

Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about arrangements to film the show without an audience at the Palace Theatre and agreed terms, then chatted about the logistics. Next got in touch with the Palace Theatre and they said they could offer the actual theatre auditorium for filming purposes and let us use their sound / lighting engineer.

5.3.21

Worked on the publicity images sent by Emily Appleton to choose two or three as possible poster images for the show and images to send out with press releases. Then chatted to John Tomkins about the film version before listening to various bits of music as opening and closing music for the film version of the show. Had another rehearsal with the chair as a prop and also tried some choreography for the last poem, I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy. Finally pondered on the idea of signing the ‘Becky’ poem myself and ran through it a couple of times.

6.3.21

Full run-through of the show singing the You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa song rather than playing the audio, and doing the whole show with movement, choreography and using the chair as a prop. Also chatted to Bryce Dumont about the possibility of using Croydon Tourist Office music for the start and end of the filmed version.

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

3.7.21

Full rehearsal at Sunrise, Brixham.

5.7.21

Full rehearsal at Paignton, Polsham Park.

10.7.21

Full rehearsal at Sunrise, Brixham.

13.7.21

First performance of show in front of audience, The Keep, Guildford Fringe. Pleased at reception though wondered about the last poem, Be Yourself. Back to hotel in Woking and worked on ideas for a possible replacement for Be Yourself, wondering whether to have a proper ‘banger’/ Garnhamesque poem as the last one.

14.7.21

Worked on a couple of possible replacements in Woking first at hotel, then at the Wetherspoons. Sat on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal and worked on a poem, ‘Happiness Is . . .’.

15.7.21

Paignton. Worked on Be Yourself replacement, Happiness Is . .

16.7.21

Worked on Happiness Is . .

17.7.21

To Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton, for a studio livestream, performed fifteen minutes from the show. Later performed in the Taunton Live Festival and included Be Yourself in the set. The reception to the poem was positive enough to think about leaving it in the show.

28.7.21

Yay show recording now made public on the PBH Edinburgh Free Fringe website for streaming. It’s on the first page of their website with a virtual venue of Banshee Labyrinth. Also uploaded to the Gumroad website but not yet made public.

29.7.21

Contract signed to perform Yay show at the Exeter Fringe in October.

10.8.21

Worked on publicity for Exeter Fringe. Then to Exeter Phoenix for a Scratch Night, did fifteen minutes of the show from Shakka Lakka Boom to Nathan, and it was received well.

1.9.21

Pictures and critique sheets back from the Exeter scratch night. Great advice and feedback from the audience. Though one person thought there was too much serious content and one thought there was too much comedy!

2.9.21

Show announced as part of the Exeter Fringe 2021.

8.9.21

Working on press for the Exeter Fringe show. Press release / photos to various local news outlets.

9.9.21

Worked on designing posters for Exeter Fringe.

15.9.21

Yay posters and flyers have arrived. I will be doing five minutes of the show in Exeter tonight where I’ll give out the flyers and distribute the posters.

18.9.21

Had a radio interview on BBC Radio Devon with Sarah Gosling to publicise the Yay show at the Exeter Fringe. Performed Seaside Soul and High Tea.

Be Yourself

BE YOURSELF

For many years, I didn’t know
I had to guess, time moved so slow,
The aching that I felt from deep within.

Only now in retrospect, the truth is out,
I did suspect,
I really don’t know where I should begin!

I feel so great, I feel so free!
If someone stole my identity
They’d probably take one look and give it back.

Be yourself, be who you are,
Your obvious truth, you’ve come so far
To show the world the things that it has lacked.

There is no pain, there is no doubt,
I know my place and my place is out,
It’s really not an issue any more.

If life’s a drag, then drag along,
And strut your stuff and sing a song
And give it large and dance on life’s dance floor.

Embrace yourself, do so with glee,
Approach each day so merrily
And don’t let anything negative get in your way.

Be yourself, not someone other
Don’t hide away there undercover
And when you do just smile and then say, ‘yay!’.

Spontaneous Human Combustion at the Funhouse

This story was originally published in the Wonderzoo Anthology.

Spontaneous Human Combustion at the Funhouse

I think I’m going to burst into flames. It’s not a feeling I’ve ever had before. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about, except that one time. I was on a train, and the train manager came over the loudspeaker and said, ‘Take care as you alight’. Oh, I thought, I didn’t know that was a possibility. But right now, right at this moment, I think I’m going to burst into flames.

I was reading this story the other day about some man who burst into flames. There he was, just minding his own business, when, woof! A dog came in. And then he burst into flames. Ironically, his name was Ash.

He’d called his next door neighbour for help but his next door neighbour had said, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire!’

‘And the rest of me, too!’, Ash had replied.

And after that, he was quite dead indeed.

It’s quite disconcerting knowing that you might go up at any minute. I phoned my ex and I said, ‘I’m worried that I’m about to go up!’

‘First time for everything, he sighed.

So much for rekindling old flames.

The thing about spontaneous human combustion is that I expect it’s the sort of thing you can only do once. I’d spent most of the afternoon in the shower. My friend Beth has always said that I have a warm personality. You don’t know the half of it, I thought of replying. ‘Let’s go to the funfair’, I suggested, ‘and pretend that it’s not about to happen. And by the way, I think I’ve got heart burn’.
‘OK’, Beth said.
‘OK what?’, I asked.
‘OK, let’s go to the funfair’.

I don’t think Beth believed me when I said that I was going to burst into flames. She said it was like one of those stories you read where the lead character is also the narrator, and it’s obvious that whatever troubles they faced they had survived, because it was a first hand account. She then told me that she didn’t entirely believe in spontaneous human combustion, but that her uncle had once seen spontaneous goat combustion, and for the rest of the day he had had a strange hankering for a lamb roast.

But she didn’t believe me, I’m sure of it. On the other hand I’d hate it if my last words were to be, ‘see! I told you!’

A friend of mine is a fireman and I phoned him up and I asked him for some advice.
‘Well’, he said, ‘you can always fight fire with fire’.
‘But that’s no bleeding good!’, I said. ‘In fact, I reckon it would be counter productive.’
‘If you want me to rush round with my big hose’, he said, ‘then you’ve got another thing coming’.
We met at a house warming party. As I say, he’s a fireman.
Ironically, his name is Bern.

Beth and I arrived at the funfair on a glorious evening. The funfair was on the village green next to the pub and the main road. The setting sun had made the sky all red and the neon and fluorescent lights of the fair contrasted and complemented the glory of the clouds. The world seemed lit with promise as if in competition with the mystique and the firmament of space in its eternal and ethereal wonder, lighting the angular facade of Wetherspoons.
‘You haven’t dried your hair after your shower’, Beth said.
‘It’s true, I am somewhat moist, but it’s all on account of the spontaneous human combustion’.
‘Just plan to do it at nine o clock’, she said. ‘Say to yourself, nine o clock is when I’ll go up in flames’.
‘Why?’, I asked.
‘Because then it won’t be very spontaneous, will it?”
‘It doesn’t work like that’, I pointed out.
‘How would you know, if you’ve never done it?’, she replied.
The funfair had all of the usual accoutrements such as stalls and a dodgems and a couple of rides, but in the middle was a circus tent with a barker standing out the front. And by this I don’t mean a dog, but a man dressed as a circus ringmaster. He seemed very excited about the tent behind him, which was decorated in large fluorescent lettering and the word, FUNHOUSE.
Beth and I stood in front of him for a little bit.
‘Roll up!, he said, through his loudspeaker. ‘Roll up! Gaze in wonder at our Funhouse! Never before in human history has more fun been crammed into one small space! See the amazing Bearded Man! Marvel at the badger who thinks he’s on EastEnders! We have relics from the sinking of the titanic, including some of the original ice! We have a horse! And a very large rug which needs putting away! Roll up, ladies and gentlemen, roll up!’
‘This might take my mind off the spontaneous human combustion’, I pointed out, ‘and if it doesn’t, they might at least have fire extinguishers’.
‘Don’t be so blase’, Beth replied.
We went inside. Beth didn’t seem very impressed. The first place we went was the Hall of Mirrors. The skinny mirror made me look thin, the wavy mirror made me look wavy, the fat mirror made me look more or less the same. The ghost train was inoperative and instead there was a rail replacement bus. The tunnel of love was just boring.
Beth seemed to be wavering in her appreciation of the Funhouse, yet I, with my lurking inevitable internal combustion, saw the fortune teller sitting on a pouffe in the corner, puffing away on a crafty fag, and thought, hmm, she might know what my future has in store. As I approached she stubbed out her ciggie in the foil casing of a half consumed Bakewell tart, and I was glad that she didn’t immediately reach for a fire extinguisher. She had an expression on her face like a ferret with gout. Her chin looked like it was about to leave her and go and join a much more successful face.
By way of greeting she said, as is customary, ‘Hello’.
Her voice was gruff, like that if a trawlerman called Pete. She waved her hands at the lingering smoke.
‘Got told off yesterday, didn’t I?’, she said, ‘I was having a gasper. Didn’t realise it was against company rules’.
‘You didn’t see that one coming?’, I asked.
‘I’m a fortune teller, love. For other people. Don’t work on meself, does it? I deal in the mystical workings of the universe, not company health and safety regulations. Now, tell me, love. Have you been to a soothsayer before?’
‘Yes, I have’.
‘And what did they say?”
‘Sooth’, I replied.
She didn’t laugh.
‘Now, listen’, she said. ‘Some bastard has nicked me tarot cards. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to use a pack of HeMan Top Trumps’.
She opened the lack and laid them on the table between us. Skeletor, was the first card, then came Castle Greyskull. The next card was Skeletor again, followed by another Skeletor. Then Groundskeeper Willie.
‘Sorry, love, don’t know how that got in there’.
Then came another Skeletor. She looked up at me.
‘Let me guess’, I said. ‘The Skeletor card isn’t necessarily an omen of death?’
‘Let’s put it this way’, she replied. ‘You’ll be saving on winter heating bills’.
Beth and I went and had another mooch around the Funhouse and we both decided to leave. The petting zoo in the corner only had chickens and I’d never wanted to pet a chicken. There were also a couple of cocks, but that’s a different matter. I had a go on the Test Your Strength machine but I couldn’t even lift the hammer. We were just about to leave when there was a sudden blinding flash of fire and warmth.
‘Oh my god!’, Beth screamed, ‘He’s gone up!’
As luck would have it, it was only a fire eater, which I was glad about because I’d been wearing my best shirt. With great panache he spewed tongues of fire, momentarily lighting up the Funhouse and scaring the chickens. Ever the snowman, he pranced and danced, his flaming torch raised to his lips followed by a blinding flash, a sharded explosion whose warmth and brilliance seared into the night throwing shadows as if making us cavemen once more, solitary beasts in search of warmth, or an inhabitant of Milton Keynes.
I’d seen fire eaters before. On holiday at the coast one year, I’d been mesmerised by Marvello and his mastery of flame. The next year, The Great Splendido was similarly exuberant, scorcher to the stars. And now here at the Funhouse, this, apparently, was Ben.
He was an interesting character. His face was angular and defined, almost cubist, like a tescos carrier bag full of chisels.
Beth and I stood and watched, entranced by Bens mastery of putting fire in his gob, and when he finished we both clapped.
‘Ah, thanks for that’, he said, in a strange high and squeaky voice. ‘Just doing my job’.
‘You were so good at it!’, I said, ‘you were literally on fire!’
‘Thanks, mister!’
‘What I’m really interested in is how you protect your insides from burning up’, I said.
‘To be honest’, he said, ‘you do get a bit of blowback, that’s how I lost my eyebrows. But as for my insides, yes, there have been one or two occasions where my lunch has been reheated. And I once belched at my Aunt’s flat and accidentally roasted her budgie. You know what, though? The best advice I could give is just to relax and not even think about it. So that’s what I do. I just get on and live my life. Oh, and when I’m practising at home, I’m always careful to turn off the smoke alarm’.
The whole time we were chatting I noticed that his bow tie was smouldering.
‘How did you get in to this?’, I asked.
‘Curry’, he replied.
He was quite cute, was Ben. I might even say, hot. I could imagine living with him, and how handy it would be. He’d have a steak and kidney pie cooked in no time. But I knew that it wouldn’t last, the two of us. I’d just had the ceiling of my flat repainted. I licked my fingertips and squeezed his bow tie, putting out the tiny flames with a slight hiss.
‘I’d better go’, he said. ‘And get my indigestion tablets’.
‘Bye’, I whispered.
‘Bye’.
At that moment the fortune teller ran over, and said rather breathlessly, ‘You will fall in love with a mysterious . . .’.
‘You’re too late’, I said.
‘Damn!’
Beth and I went outside. The sun was starting to set and the funfair was coming alive. On one side, the rides and the stalls, the lights, the neon, the music and the noise. On the other, a demonstration of dogs herding up some geese. The world seemed perfectly normal.
‘That’s the best advice’, Beth said. ‘Don’t worry. Don’t panic, don’t prevaricate. Be free to live your life without pondering on something that might not happen. If we let fate dictate our actions, then a fear of the unknown will take over, and we will never be free to enjoy ourselves. Now matter how far fetched our private fears, we mustn’t let them ruin the good times.’. She took hold of my hands. ‘Let’s go home’, she said, ‘It’s starting to get a bit chilly’.
I smiled at her and gave her hand a squeeze.
‘Yes’, I whispered.
And then, all of a sudden, woof!

Yay Show Diaries 2020-2021

Yay! show diaries

4.5.20

Write down themes of poems due to go into the Yay collection and decide that most of them are about the sea or wildlife. Conscious that the theme has to be happiness. Decide to make it a love story on a trawler possibly breaking the fourth wall every now and then. Decide to include Seaside Serenade in the collection as it would fit well at the start of the show. Write out very rough approximation of the storyline. A quest to understand what happiness is. Decide against the love aspect.

5.5.20

Working on a possible poem to go at the end of the show, provisionally titled Often I Don’t Realise I’m Happy or Oh! Actually It Turns Out I’m Happy!
Read some Vanessa Kisuule and Shagufta Iqbal for inspiration but then decided it needed ‘Liv Torcing up a bit’. First draft of poem completed.

6.5.20

Finished and fiddled with Oh! It Turns Out I’m Happy! Had a tentative go at writing the first paragraph of the show. Also made a new version of the Yay book manuscript. Now wondering whether to include Seaside Soul as it fits nicely after Seaside Serenade.

7.5.20

Worked on the linking material before Seaside Soul, and between Seaside Soul and Sideburns. Pondered on adding The Lad on the Bus Watching Porn on his phone to the show. Seaside Soul is now a part of the show.

11.5.20

Worked on the linking material and the material for the trawler section. Added the Homecoming poem to the show. Also worked on the dead aunt section.

12.5.20

Continued working on linking material. Swapped running order of the poems in the middle.

13.5.20

Typed up the first few pages, changing and editing sentences, then worked on the Giant Octopus section hoping to make it a stand alone segment.

14.5.20

Typed up the rest of the existing material and rewrote the giant octopus scene.

16.5.20

Worked on coffee shop scene and linking material, worried that the show may be too long, also worried that it should end at the end of the Trawler section.

17.5.20

Completely scrapped yesterday’s writing and rewrote the end of the show keeping the action on the trawler. Ended the show with a sudden idea to incorporate the gay pride boat ride.

18.5.20

Typed up the new material and made a few cosmetic changes and loosened up some of the language. First draft of the show now complete. Put aside for a few days.

1.6.20

In preparation listened to Tina Sederholm’a podcast about writing shows. Pondered on removing Seaside Serenade as it shares too many similarities with other poems, and replacing it as the first poem with I See Me in the Future, which is only half written. Then rewrote and wrote new linking material for the first few minutes, setting the start of the show in Surrey instead of Devon. Then turned attention to Shakka Lakka Boom and thought of alternative words to make it more my own poem, including Plipperty Plopperty Ploom.

2.6.20

More work on the new beginning of the show and writing the new linking material. Added a couple of jokes, then typed up and worked on I See Me in the Future.

3.6.20

Put all of the show together and had a full read through, comes to 57 minutes but it’s over 8000 words. Made lots of notes. Rewrote the first verse of Shakka Lakka Boom. Decided to remove the Lighthouse poem and the lighthousekeeper section to free up time, and this would let me put Seaside Serenade back at the start. Started rewriting I See Me in the Future just on the off chance. Feel that Seaside Serenade would be a better opening poem.

4.6.20

Rewrote the script. Took out I see Me in the Future and added Seaside Serenade. Removed Lighthousekeeper and that whole section. Also removed I want to be a Submariner as it had the same themes as three other poems, wrote a new one based on a poem originally rejected for Spout, Dunker Dumper, which gives background to Stinky Pete’s malaise. Interestingly this poem was written in the Wetherspoons in Barnstaple during the Fringe there. Added Brandon to the end of the show. Rewrote the opening linking material to add more jokes and attitude. Word count now just over 7400.

5.6.20

Updated Yay collection to include new poems for the show, and new Shakka Lakka Boom.

10.6.20

Rewrote the Surrey linking material and also went through the show, reducing the word count and editing. Word count now 7300.

13.6.20

Rewrote the opening speech after Seaside Serenade, including some jokes that came to me and getting rid of the awkward book plug.

14.6.20

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Rewrote the end of the Skipper’s octopus story, adding a joke. After lunch did a full read through. Comes to just under 53 minutes now. Decided to lighten the poetry towards the end and looked at replacing the poem Yay, perhaps with I want to be a Submariner, or even a sequence of short silly poems from a pretend poetry workshop on board the vessel.

15.6.20

Started rewrite of the ‘poetry workshop’ section with a view to replacing the ‘Yay’ poem. Wrote rough notes and selected some previously written short, sharp poems for this section with punchlines.

16.6.20

Rewrote the poetry workshop section and put it in the script. Removed the Yay poem and the linking material leading to it. Net result, about a hundred words less. Current word count now just over 7100. Currently toying with the idea of the Dunker Dumper song being played on a mobile phone as a pretend voicemail message.

24.6.20

Rewriting odd bits of the script to add in more jokes (but not puns). Made Becky be on the rescue boat at the end. Rewrote the opening paragraph. Spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos about writing solo shows.

25.6.20

More work on adding humour to the script. Looked also at various aspects of the show, even the title. And should I perform the whole thing while ironing? And then struggling to put the ironing board away? Approaching it with a ‘nothing is sacred ‘ mentality!

26.6.20

Did some more micro-rewrites, trying to make individual sentences punchier and funnier. Then did a full table read of the show as it is now, it comes to 52 minutes. Made some notes. The idea persists of using an ironing board, it could be used as numerous props: boat, gangplank, a person, a surfboard, an ironing board, a table. Something to ponder on. Do I really need to lug an ironing board around? Spoke to Ian Beech about using one of his photos for the poster for the show and the cover for the book, and the idea had his blessing though he was worried that Burning Eye would alter his image. After dinner, started working on some different ‘workshop’ poems , the latest idea being to get audience members to read them out.

27.6.20

Finished rewriting the ‘poetry workshop’ short poems.

1.7.20

Chatting with Tina Sederholm about hiring her to do dramaturg work on the show script.

17.7.20

Printed off the script for Yay and put it in the same ring binder as used for Juicy, Yak, Spout, etc.

21.7.20

Re-begin line learning Seaside Serenade. Amazed at how much I remember.

8.9.20

Official announcement of the Yay show and book on the Burning Eye Twitter and social media account and on other various social media platforms.

15.9.20

Official announcement of the title of the book and show on the Burning Eye Twitter account and in various social media platforms.

1.11.20

Brixham: Full ‘table read’ of show and notes written. Current length 54 minutes. Is Queer Express necessary?

2.11.20

Spent the afternoon on rewrites based on yesterday’s table read. Replaced Queer Express with I Want to be a Submariner.

3.11.20

Spent the afternoon and evening on rewrites. Word count now under 7000. Pondering music for the poems, and a different voice for the mobile phone song in the middle. Just to give me a rest!

4.11.20

No election result. Started rehearsing, amazed to find I still knew most of Seaside Serenade. Went through the introduction and linking material.

5.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and learned lines for the following linking material. Slight rewrites to first introduction.

6.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and the following linking material. First seven minutes of the show now committed to memory. Decided against music.

9.11.20

Rehearsed the first seven minutes and began to rehearse Sideburns. Mark was bored so he came down and watched the first seven minutes.

10.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

11.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

12.11.20

Applied to PBH Free Fringe for the show for 2021. Line learning for Sideburns and re-run of first seven minutes.

13.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

14.11.20

Sideburns line learning during torrential rain storm.

15.11.20

More Sideburns line learning. More torrential rain, thunderstorm, hail. Started also on the linking material after Sideburns.

16.11.20

Rehearsing linking material.

17.11.20

Rehearsing linking material and Seaside Soul.

18.11.20

Seaside Soul line learning.

19.11.20

Did the first fifteen minutes or so of Yay and more Seaside Soul line learning.

20.11.20

A run through of Sideburns and Seaside Soul a few times to make sure they’d stuck.

24.11.20

Started work memorising linking material after Seaside Soul.

25.11.20

More work on memorising linking material. Ran through all the show so far from the beginning. Also pondering on light rewrites. A Brixham trawler sank over the weekend with two lives lost. I was asked to provide some words for the local news website. Decided that the script would need some revisions to make it less trawlercentric, in honour to the fishermen, one of whom is a friend of a friend, and the sacrifices those in the fishing industry make. Pondered on changing the location to a factory fishing ship.

26.11.20

Up early for rewrites. Research into factory fishing ships and had several ideas for jokes and funny lines. Rewrote two lots of linking material and made cosmetic changes to wording, very pleased with the results. Current word count 7043.

27.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

28.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

29.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

30.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

2.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

3.12.20

More line learning Instructions for my Funeral, followed by a complete run-through of everything learned so far. Memorised twenty minutes of material since the start of November. Therefore thinking logically that it will take two more months to memorise the rest of the show, though I wont have as much free time.

6.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral and then started learning the rehearsing the following linking material. Printed the updated script and put it in the folder. Rewrote the linking material as I went along. As I was rehearsing, (having moved the table and chairs from the bay window to create a stage), I saw a little aircraft spluttering, popping and banging as it flew over. Hopefully not an omen!

8.12.20

Line learning linking material.

9.12.20

Line learning linking material.

13.12.20

Complete run-through of the show so far. Then started the process of committing ‘Homecoming’ to memory.

14.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

15.12.20

Debuted Seaside Soul at Big Poetry Goes Viral on Zoom. Accidentally missed out a verse.

16.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and rehearsing Seaside Soul, as I’ll be performing it tomorrow night at the Palace Theatre as part of an evening of culture in celebration of the theatre. They asked for a poem about Paignton. Funny you should ask, I replied, I’ve been working on one!

17.12.20

Debuted some linking material and Seaside Soul at Palace Avenue Theatre as part of their evening of culture.

18.12.20

Line learning Homecoming (while at work alone on the shop floor in the first, slow hour of the day).

19.12.20

Went for a walk in the bright sunshine down across Paignton Green to the harbour, line learning Homecoming. Stood on the concrete breakwater and recited the poem a few times. Later on, went through the show so far (excluding Seaside Serenade) just to make sure I could remember the poems.

21.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and the linking material which comes afterwards.

22.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

23.12.20

Line learning linking material. Also went through all of the linking material of the show so far, (saying ‘fast forward’ once I’d got one verse into the actual poems).

26.12.20

In Brixham. Line learning linking material. Begun the process of learning Poet In Residence on a Fish Factory Ship. Rewrote the second verse using the old typewriter to type up the revisions. Only one of the crew will henceforth be known as ‘stinky’.

27.12.20

To the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio in Brixham to work on the Poet In Residence poem. Great progress rehearsing and line learning.

29.12.20

Line learning Poet In Residence. Also did a run-through of the first twenty five minutes of the show, completely error free for the first time. Felt like a big step!

1.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

2.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

3.1.21

Went to the sea front, prom and beach in bitterly cold winds and recorded myself underneath the pier performing Seaside Soul, to publicise the show and book. Spent the afternoon editing and re-dubbing the footage, shared to social media channels.

5.1.21

Another lockdown begins. Line learning Poet In Residence.

6.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence and experimenting with an intro played on the melodica.

7.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence. Then undertook a run-through of the show so far, 27 minutes. Followed this with line learning linking material.

8.1.21

Applied to Norwich Fringe and to the Guildford Fringe for 2021. Afternoon, line learning linking material and Shakka Lakka Boom.

9.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

10.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

11.1.21

Email from Guildford Fringe saying they’ll be in touch about dates for Yay. Spoke with Melanie Branton about providing a song via answer phone message for the ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’ section. Sang a version of it and sent it to her along with the lyrics. Line learning linking material. Also, performed Seaside Soul on the weekly Forsaking the Mic Zoom meeting and chatted about the show. Ran through the show so far for Mark.

12.1.21

Ran through the show so far again. 34 minutes. Pondering on what to remove if the running time is too long.

13.1.21

Did a ‘table read’ of the rest of the show to work out timings. Decided to remove two poems, ‘Moby Dick’, (which I stayed up late last night re-writing), and I Want To Be A Submariner. The Submariner poem needs rewrites in any case but I’ve never been totally happy with it and it seems superfluous to the plot. Moby Dick feels better now it’s rewritten, but it’s also superfluous to the plot. As a replacement I took the Sunrise poem from Squidbox and rewrote it, adding a final verse. This is a more contemplative piece and fits the mood nicely. This new poem will also be inserted into the Yay book in place of I Want to Be A Submariner. Hopefully, the running time will be around 55 minutes now.

15.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

16.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

18.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Went for a walk in the rain and dark to go over the lines in my head, the sea monster section).

19.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

21.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

22.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

23.1.21

Decided to carry on the Yay show into 2022 as well as 2021 and to make it as ‘robust’ as possible to last the distance. Had a great rehearsal, going through the whole of the learned show so far and concentrating on movement, and incorporating a chair, which may be the only piece of furniture or prop (except the phone). Then used voice changing software to record the poem / song ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’, adding some dialogue at the start and the end. Edited it all together to be used in the shows. Very happy with the progress today.

24.1.21

Line learning linking material.

25.1.21

Line learning linking material. Considering some music at the start of the show. Last night recorded some vocal ideas. Today pondered using a verse from the poem Happy.

26.1.21

In a light rain shower I went to the woods down the road and filmed myself performing Instructions for my Funeral. Then home and edited the footage. Ran through the linking material and the ‘Muffin’ / ‘Sea Monster’ sections, then rehearsed ‘Nathan went for a walk in the Rain’. Finally, rewrote linking material between ‘Nathan . .’, and ‘Sunrise’.

28.1.21

Line learning ‘Sunrise’.

29.1.21

Line learning Sunrise.

30.1.21

Line learning Sunrise. Made a video for the ‘Happy’ poem.

31.1.21

Ran through all of the memorised show so far, 45 minutes. Had a minor panic when I thought the timer said 55 minutes! Did some work with the chair just to play around during the show. Then spent some time line learning Sunrise.

1.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

2.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

3.2.21

Line learning linking material.

5.2.21

Line learning linking material. Also worked on the ‘poetry workshop’ scene and explored options of hearing or showcasing the poems. Thought about an audio section much like the ‘You Dunked Your Muffin . .’ Section where I say that I recorded the fishermen on my mobile phone. Decided to write the poems on paper and keep them folded in my pocket, (cleverly with the before and after lines written on the paper too!), thereby whizzing through a whole page of the script.

8.2.21

Rehearsed and went over last third of the show. Did a ‘table read’ of the final piece of long linking material, then re-wrote to shift the focus away from the Robert character ‘coming out’, and more to a confession of his love in keeping with the tone of the show. Tidied up and tightened the rest of the linking material which comes after the Sunrise poem.

9.2.21

Line learning linking material.

10.2.21

Chatted to film director John Tomkins about performing the show in Paignton to a select socially-distanced audience and him filming it and editing it professionally for streaming services and online fringe festivals. Also, line learning linking material.

11.2.21

Went out this morning in freezing wind with Mark to try and take some publicity photos for the show. Edited them. Spent the afternoon rehearsing and line learning. Just a couple of paragraphs to go!

12.2.21

Line learning linking material.

13.2.21

Line learning linking material.

14.2.21

Ran through almost the entire show from memory, with the exception of the last couple of minutes. Running time 55 minutes. Decided on a couple of ‘light’ rewrites.

15.2.21

Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material and more line learning.

16.2.21

Contacted Emily Appleton about taking some publicity photos for the show poster and to publicise the show and the book. Arranged for Sunday morning, weather permitting. Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material yet again! Line learning linking material.

17.2.21

Line learning Happy.

19.2.21

Line learning Happy.

20.2.21

Line learning Happy.

21.2.21

Looked at the end of the show, rewrote the last paragraph of linking material again. PThen looked at the last poem, wrote a new poem, ‘I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy’, and decided to make a medley with ‘Happy’ for the last words of the show, more fitting with the tone. The idea being I might put this poem on a postcard as an extra / bookmark for anyone who buys the book. Ran through sections of the show. Then off to Victoria Park skateboard ramps for a photo shoot with Emily Appleton for the show promotional material. Home, and re-worked the ‘You Dumped a Muffin in your Cuppa’ song, making it almost a minute shorter. Long day!

22.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy.

23.2.21

Full show run through from memory, for the first time! 54 minutes. Decided to end the show after the final linking material but then carry on with I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy afterwards. This gives the option of substituting another poem.

25.2.21

More subtle rewrites to the end of the final linking material to make it sound more like an ending.

27.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy.

28.2.21

Practising random parts of the show.

1.3.21

Full show run through, 53 minutes.

2.3.21

First real rehearsal session rather than line learning, played around with using a chair as a prop, marked up the scripts at moments where the chair will feature.

3.3.21

Exchanged emails with Paignton Palace Theatre about the possibility of using their black box space to film the Yay show without an audience for online fringe purposes. They emailed back to say yes, and free of charge!! (Well, they want some work off me in exchange).

4.3.21

Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about arrangements to film the show without an audience at the Palace Theatre and agreed terms, then chatted about the logistics. Next got in touch with the Palace Theatre and they said they could offer the actual theatre auditorium for filming purposes and let us use their sound / lighting engineer.

5.3.21

Worked on the publicity images sent by Emily Appleton to choose two or three as possible poster images for the show and images to send out with press releases. Then chatted to John Tomkins about the film version before listening to various bits of music as opening and closing music for the film version of the show. Had another rehearsal with the chair as a prop and also tried some choreography for the last poem, I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy. Finally pondered on the idea of signing the ‘Becky’ poem myself and ran through it a couple of times.

6.3.21

Full run-through of the show singing the You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa song rather than playing the audio, and doing the whole show with movement, choreography and using the chair as a prop. Also chatted to Bryce Dumont about the possibility of using Croydon Tourist Office music for the start and end of the filmed version.

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

Yay! show diaries 7.3.21 – 2.5.21

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

Yay! The Search for Happiness

Robert is a poet. And he’s happy. Or is he? After the death of a favourite aunt, he decides to find out exactly what it means to be happy. He ends up as a poet-in-residence on a fish factory ship in a search for contentment on the high seas. What could possibly go wrong? Comedy and poetry collide head on in this new show from the Professor of Whimsy’.

Interview

Comedy performance poet Robert Garnham has been writing a show about happiness. It’s a project he started back in 2018.
‘It seemed to me that there was a lot of negativity around at the time’, he explains. ‘And let’s be honest, the news was always really depressing. It’s hard to be upbeat at times but I thought it would be nice to at least try. Of course, then things started getting even worse’.
During this time he was also preparing his third collection, ‘Yay!’, due to be published by Burning Eye Books in May 2021.
‘The agreement was that I would write and perform a show which I could tour in support of the book. Mind you, this agreement came about before the global pandemic and the various lockdowns’.
‘I started work on the show in April 2020. At the back of my mind was the cheerful thought that maybe by the end of the year, everything would be back to normal. Ha! But I kept writing, and then in September 2020 I started the process of learning the script and rehearsing, all the time unsure when it would ever see the light of day’.
So what is the show about?
‘The show tells a story of the main character’s search for happiness. He’s happy enough, but when his Aunt dies he realises that he needs to get to the root of happiness. He asks himself, can we ever be truly happy if we’re only going to snuff it? He becomes a poet in residence on a ship and interacts with the crew, all the time looking for those moments of happiness. Of course, things don’t go to plan, but he learns what works for other people. Relationships? Humour? Alcohol? Being kind? A sense of belonging?’
‘The show touches on matters of mental health, identity, kindness, and learning to listen. But not in a preachy kind of way. It’s a comedy, but there are serious undertones’.
‘The show is interspersed by poems from the new collection. Also, I’d made a conscious decision at the start of the process not to have any props or sound effects. I’d spent most of the last ten years touring the UK, lugging a big box of props around, and seriously, I’m getting too old for that kind of thing! But I thought it would be an amazing challenge, just to stand there with the mic, the words, and nothing else.’
‘Naturally, the show does not solve any of the problems of modern society. I just hope audiences will enjoy it as an hour of amiable poetry and storytelling, a bit of silliness and wordplay, and perhaps think about what it is that makes them truly happy’.
Yay: The Search for Happiness will be appearing throughout the UK and also be available to stream online in 2021.

Autobiography of a performance poet

How the dickens did I get to become a performance poet? This is a question that many people have asked me. So I’ve written an essay in two parts which answers that exact question. And for you, gentle listener, I have managed to probe exactly what it means to be me, Robert Garnham.

A two part piece of autobiographical writing about my life and what led me to becoming a spoken word artist and performance poet.

This essay takes me from childhood in Surrey and my first attempts at writing, through school, college and my first jobs, and finally to discovering performance poetry in 2009.

I hope you enjoy it!

Part One

Part Two

A gig in New York

It’s a Friday night in October, 2016. The venue is a cabaret bar in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. For days the weather has been unseasonably hot, the sun a constant presence as it bounces back from the warm sidewalks. A Friday night, then, and I’ve never felt gayer. Well, obviously I have. I mean, the times I’ve been doing gay things, you know, the really gay things, but this was more symbolic. Because the gig was at the Duplex in Christopher Street, the gayest road in the world, quite possibly, next door to the Stonewall Inn itself and the gay rights memorial. And right outside the venue, with all of this gayness, was a poster with my face on it. And it’s been there for weeks!

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the sitcom Will and Grace, but it’s the venue where Jack performed his one man show. That’s how gay the place is.

But it also has a rich heritage as a comedy venue and most of the major names in US comedy have at one time performed at the Duplex.

I arrived and met up with Mark Wallis and his partner Bart Greenberg. I’d known Mark for a few years when he still lived in Cornwall, and even then he was performing as I Am Cereal Killer, a kind of camp punk spoken word artist with bright red hair and white and red face make up. His partner Bart is a playwright and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the New York cabaret and theatre scene. It’s a huge honour to be here headlining at their event, and I’m still not sure how it happened except that Mark is a fan of my work and I have always been a fan of his.

Also there are a couple of actors who Bart has hired to do a rehearsed reading of his new play, and then two very familiar and wonderfully flamboyant characters arrive. First is Margoh Channing, drag queen and cabaret artist with her giant hair, make-up and dress, her new show, Hung, about to be performed in New York, and then Dandy Darkly, the drag clown spoken word storyteller, with his pointed shoulder pads and sequinned one piece cat suit. I feel very plain in comparison.

We are shown upstairs to the green room, which is a fully functioning flat over the venue, and I fantasise about living here, and make small talk, and feel very nervous because I have no idea if there are any audience members yet. I go downstairs and do a mic test on stage with the actors, it all feels so professional and very real. And as always happens in these situations, a camaraderie emerges between the performers as we prepare ourselves in the apartment upstairs with its views down on to the small park where the gay rights statues attract tourists.

Everyone knows Margoh, she’s greeted warmly by the theatre staff. Dandy Darkly has other concerns, because the media has been full of stories about people dressing as clowns and scaring kids, he wonders if this might affect his act or the way that he is perceived. And I’m incredibly nervous, more so than I have been for a long time. I’d spent the days before in my hotel room on the Bowery, making subtle changes to my poems to take out references to English culture that then New Yorkers might not understand. Peter Andre, Top Gear, Richard Madeley.

We are ushered downstairs and given a table at the back of the room. I sit with Dandy and Margoh. The walls of the Duplex are filled with pictures of the famous people who have performed there, such as Bette Midler and Woody Allen. The audience is enthusiastic and warm and I start to relax. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better audience for my New York debut, and it felt a real privilege to headline with these acts. I’d seen Dandy before in Edinburgh and I have always been a huge fan, and I’d seen I Am Cereal Killer, but Margoh Channing was a revelation, hilarious and touching, tender, human and very funny. Nancy Stearns sang a fantastic song about being in love with a young gay man, and Bart’s wonderful play was about a gay relationship.

And then it was my turn. It all felt so normal, and once I started it just felt like a normal gig, the kind I’ve done countless times in the past. I think I purposefully downplayed my performance because there was no way I could compete with all of the others, but people were very kind and they laughed in all the right places, so much so that I had to change the set order on stage as I’d meant to do a couple of more serious poems. The audience was enthusiastic and seemed genuinely appreciative. They were up for laughter and a momentum had built up. The gig just flew past and then the show itself was finished.

I chatted afterwards with the audience. They were kind and generous and I sold out of the books that I’d brought with me. Some of them seemed genuinely surprised that my voice off stage also had an English accent, as if it had all been an act. ‘So you really are English’, a lovely lady said to me.

We went back to the green room apartment, where I felt guilty at just sitting on the sofa as the others showered and changed into their civilian clothes. But as I sat there I pondered on how amazing the gig had been. I chatted with Dandy, Mark, Bart and Margoh, feeling most relieved that my humour had translated well to an American audience, and that the crowd were very definitely on my side and intent on enjoying themselves.

But most of all it was the cabaret scene that affected me the most. It demonstrated that spoken word isn’t necessarily bound up with poetry, or that there are any barriers between a poetry gig, a comedy gig, a cabaret gig. Surrounded by actors, drag queens, cabaret acts, drag clowns and singers, I felt, for the first time, as the straight man in my shirt, tie and jacket, yet equally valid and comparable with the others. We were all doing our own thing.

And soon it was all over. We said our good byes and drifted off into the night. I walked with Mark and Bart to the subway and we went off on different lines, they went back to Queens, and myself the short distance to the Bowery, to the hotel where I was unable to sleep in the slightest.

It was only much later afterwards that I realised how amazing the night had been. It was spoken word that had got me there, and for a few brief minutes I’d been right at the epicentre of the international LGBT scene. My next gig after this night was a couple of weeks later, in Torquay, thousands of miles away and with a very different dynamic but equally exciting and with another great audience. Thanks to the marvel of social media, I’ve become friends with a lot of people that night, and personally inspired by them. The world may be getting smaller, but that’s no bad thing, we are all so very similar.

In the Glare of the Neon Yak

In the Glare of the Neon Yak is a riproaring piece of spoken word storytelling set on a sleeper service in the middle of winter. A train full of circus performers are being stalked by a mysterious entity which seems to mean more than just its eerie manifestation. A portent, an omen, the Neon Yak symbolises dark times. Will our hero find love? Will Jacques, the tight rope walker, get back together again with his ex, the circus clown? Does the secret of the Neon Yak lie in the hands of a randy old lady? Has the buffet car run out of sausage rolls? Will Tony the Train Manager find where they’ve put Carriage F? An hour show combining poetry, storytelling and music, In the Glare of the Neon Yak is the sparkling new show from spoken word artist, Robert Garnham.

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