I’m really looking forward to Edinburgh!

Last year I went to the Edinburgh fringe with my show, Static, and lots of things happened simultaneously. I lost my passport on the first day, (I was due to fly to New York just a few weeks later), didn’t know where my accommodation was, and I had a show that depended on a lot of mime and movement and moments of silence, that was put in the corner of a noisy bar. I became very philosophical while I was there, but by the end of the run I was questioning everything and I was ready to consider giving up on spoken word. The usual fringe madness, then.
Last year was a learning experience. I went in softly with Static, an autobiographical piece which I’m still proud of. Indeed I performed the show one last time earlier this year. But on the whole the experience had been a negative one, and I wrote about it in a blog. 
This year, I feel completely different. I have a brand new show, Juicy, which is a completely different beast. Rather than set out with a story and an idea, I just opened up my mind and threw everything at it. The result is a show which has the potential to be different every day, with different poems and different linking material. It’s adaptable, loud and doesn’t rely so much on props and long quiet set pieces. It’s also, I hope, very funny.
But the other thing that’s different this year is that I know more. I know exactly where my accommodation is, I know how it works, I have the travel all sorted out, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to lose my passport. The other difference is that my venue is more suited to the kind of show I’ve written, and I’m really looking forward to performing at Banshees Labyrinth every day. Last year, I didn’t know what my venue was like until I arrived, late, breathless, straight off the plane. This year, I know everything about the venue, and I shall be there a day before.
A lot of people helped me over he last year get the new show together, too. At the end of the fringe last year I had a breakfast meeting with one of the top fringe performers, who was good enough to impart all of his wisdom, which I have used to make this show. In particular he told me the importance of music, and this is where my long time colleague Bryce Dumont comes in. He’s helped create a soundscape for me to perform against, and made me familiar with the technology to do this. There has also been support from Melanie Branton, Jackie Juno, Margoh Channing and the mysterious fringe performer, all of whom have offered advice and their own voices for the soundscape of the show.
But the biggest difference this year is that I will know more people there. More friends than ever will be up there with their shows and I aim to see all of them, perhaps several times!
So I’m looking forward to Edinburgh this year!

On new material 

So here I am in Exeter, and I’m early for a gig at the Phoenix Arts Centre, and I’m sitting outside with a Coca Cola while going through my set and practising everything in my head. The event is Taking the Mic, and I’ve been coming here for seven years or so. When I first started coming, Liv Torc was the host, and I was crap. Things have improved since, to the extent that i feel comfortable enough to try out new material at this monthly event.
But I’ve been spoiled, over the years, by good audiences. I’ve had fantastic audiences at different ends of the country, and there have been nights where the audience was so good that I just could not get to sleep afterwards, pumped up and enthused. The downside of this is that I have now become very choosy when preparing for monthly gigs where people have seen me countless times before.
I write a lot and I try to write new material every day. It varies in quality, of course. And the pressure to come up with a good set, and good material at nights such as this, is almost all-consuming. The memory of all those wonderful gigs means that I’m eager to maintain the quality, and feed off of the audience reaction. And if it doesn’t work, or if it doesn’t feel right, then that can be quite depressing indeed.
As a result of this ruthlessness I now have countless poems and pieces which have never made the grade. They sit in my poetry book and I just know that some of them will never get performed. Some of them have been worked over several times, such as the one I’ve been prodding today about a doomed relationship, or the one about having a sofa phobia, which I’ve been working on, on and off, for about six years. I have no idea what I’m going to do with these poems.
I know I should take a risk. I know I should do some of the material that I’m not totally at ease with, the audience will show me whether I should continue hiding such works away, but a part of me doesn’t want to take risks. So as I sit here underneath an umbrella in the rain at the arts centre, I’m going through the set again, just making sure that I’m totally at ease with it. I spent last night rehearsing the new poem and I’m pretty sure it’s ready to roll. But there’s only one way to find out. I shall know the answer in a couple of hours time!

On having a ‘costume’ when performing 

I’m a spoken word artist. I’m a performance poet. But right at this moment, as I write this, I’m just Robert Garnham. And the reason I’m just Robert Garnham at the moment is that I’m not wearing my performance clothes. I’m not in my uniform, I’m not in my costume.
When I first started performing I made a conscious effort to wear a kind of uniform for the purposes of standing on stage being whimsical. I have no idea why. I should really have taken the time to create a character, perhaps give myself a different name while on stage, too. But it’s too late now. I’m still Robert Garnham whether I’m on stage or not.
I thought that every spoken word artist had a uniform, a certain look to which they adhered. And perhaps they do, but it seems that my self-imposed uniform is more blatant than most. Every gig now begins with he ceremony of putting on the shirt, tie, jacket, chinos, converse all stars and glasses, then spiking up the old Barnet. And then I travel out to wherever the gig might be.
These are not my everyday clothes. I’m much more casual in ‘real life’, and I’m starting to wish I’d left room for a bit more flexibility when performing. This weekend, for example, I’m at a festival with two performance slots, and it’s going to be outdoors and hot, and yet I feel obliged to wear the usual uniform. The young, trendier poets will be in tshirts and shorts and they’ll quickly jump from non performance to performance with nary a blink of the eye. It takes me about fifteen minutes to get into character as Robert Garnham, Poet.
So. Would it make any difference if I didn’t dress up? Probably not. The word I’m looking for here is authenticity. I’ve seen so many wonderful poets wearing their everyday clothes, being absolutely marvellous at the Mic, an impression heightened by the authenticity of their words and their look. They don’t need to pretend to be someone else.
Which leads me to wonder if everything I’ve done has lacked authenticity because it’s been done from the perspective of an invented persona. Possibly. But as a performance artist, I’ve always attached a lot of importance to the visual as well as the audible. Or perhaps I’m at my most authentic when I’m wearing my performance clothes, and that I’d be strangely inauthentic if I were to start slowing around in what I wear on a normal day. Tshirt, shorts, hoodie, hair all over the place, different glasses. Or maybe still, those who like my work – Robheads, as I call them – wouldn’t accept anything delivered without a certain touch of aesthetic effort.
Or maybe none of this is particularly important at all.
So I’m doing this music festival tomorrow, and you know what? I’m just going to wear something sensible.

Fun at the Barnstaple TheatreFest Fringe

It’s been a couple of years since I was last at the Barnstaple Fringe and I’d always had good memories of it, in particular it’s manageable nature and the camaraderie of the other performers. Coming back this year, I can see that it has grown, and this just adds to its excitement and the variety of shows on offer. 
This is my first time here with my own show. I don’t mind admitting that the whole process has been nerve wracking and I was incredibly jittery on the train here the other day, that crazy single line track between Exeter and Barnstaple which seems more like a throwback to the 1950s. This is the first show that I’ve invested a lot in, from rehearsing almost every night to having friends and professionals help out with voice, music and movement. Yet I still had no idea how it would go.
The technicians and the people running the fringe have been very helpful indeed and my mind was put to rest after the technical rehearsal in which it appeared that the technology I was using actually worked! Indeed, the technicians were also pleased because they said that i was, and I quote, ‘low maintenance ‘.
And then the fringe craziness kicks in, the familiar faces you see around town and at other gigs, performers and friends from the local and national circuit all coming together in this small town, this Devonian Edinburgh. And my shows had an audience! Last nights was a classic, for example. On the spur of the moment the technicians suggested using the smoke machine, which certainly added a layer of mystique to the performance and perhaps further adding to the ridiculousness of it.
Bizarrely, the show was reviewed and the reviewer praised my dancing!
Last night I stayed in a venue. By which I mean, Bryony Chave Cox had been performing a production in a hotel room, which she then hired out to me for the night. It was certainly a very strange sensation, having an audience in your hotel room and having to wait for them to leave before getting a good night’s sleep. 
So I’ve got one more show to do, and I’m going to try and get out and see as much as possible. I’d really like to thank the organisers of this whole festival, it’s been homely and artistic and everything that a fringe should be. I really hope they let me come back again next year!

What is Juicy? An interview with Robert Garnham

What’s the theme of your show?: Juicy is a scatalogical mishmash of comedy poetry, spoken word shenanigans, serious and deep explorations of loneliness, LGBT rights, songs and a comedy monologue about lust at an airport departure lounge. I suppose if it has a theme, then that would be finding love. Different characters throughout the show find love, or dream of finding love.

What’s new or unique about the show?: Juicy is a free form entity, different every night, with no definitive order. It’s upbeat and funny one moment, contemplative the next. It looks at some serious issues, too, behind the fun and the hilarity, such as gay rights in places such as Uganda and Russia, loneliness, isolation, longing.
How did the show come into being?: the show just kind of evolved outwards from several different places simultaneously, somehow, in a kind of spoken word osmosis, meeting in the middle. It started with a few ideas, which were improvised, then these ideas led to other ideas.
Describe one of your rehearsals.: The show is in three parts so rehearsals were conducted in fifteen minute sessions in a shed at the back of my parents garage in Brixham, Devon. This is real home grown stuff! There’s a big mirror along one wall where I can watch myself practising. I play around a lot with word order and tone and movement and hey presto, the show started to come into being.
How is the show developing?: One of the important aspects was the adoption of music. I worked with some talented musicians and sound artists, which really helps with the tone and the delivery. And then I was privileged enough to work with Margoh Channing, one of the funniest cabaret drag artists of the New York scene, and she recorded some words for the end. I just knew that the end would have to fit in with her words!
How has the writer been involved?: The writer has been involved since the start. I’m the writer. I’ve been there for every rehearsal.
How have you experimented?: As I say, the music was the key to the show. I’ve performed all over the UK and New York for years, but never used music before. Most of my experimentations were actually with the technology necessary to get the music backing just right. I’ve also never done a long monologue before, so this was kind of scary. I was influenced by another New York friend of mine, the storyteller Dandy Darkly.
Where do your ideas come from?: I wish I knew! They just seem to arrive. Like being hit in the face by a kipper. You can be in a sauna or swimming pool or on a bus about to get off and suddenly, oh yeah! A badger that wants to be in EastEnders!
How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?: I watch other performers and see how they do it. And then I try to be as good as them. I’m really influenced by cabaret artists, even though I’m a spoken word artist. The sense of fun and naughtiness is irresistible. 
What are your future plans for the show ?: Juicy will be going to GlasDenbury Festival near Newton Abbot, the Guildford Fringe, and then the Edinburgh Fringe, where I’ll be at Banshees Lanyrinth.
What are your favourite shows, and why?: Margoh Channing’s Tipsy, for the humour and the pathos. Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth. Paul Cree, Ken Do. All these people invent characters and invest them with humour, and take you to new places almost effortlessly. I’ve seen them all at various fringes. Also Melanie Branton’s new Edinburgh Show, she’s such a good writer and performer.
Show dates, times and booking info: 29 June at 5pm, 1st June at 650pm, 2nd June at 330pm, all at the Golden Lion in Barnstaple, tickets available on the Barnstaple TheatreFest website.
Then the Keep pub, 9 July at 730pm, Guildford Free Fringe, tickets available, again, from their website.
And finally at Banshees Labyritnth, every day at 1230pm, 13th to the 19th August, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Ant – A solemn investigation 

It has been apparent for some time that a solemn investigation were needed into the effects, physical and psychological, of an ant crawling on someone’s hat. Seeing it as upon myself, (the theme, not the ant), I set out, in a somewhat grave manner, and yet bravely, into such an investigation. 
The manner this investigation took soon revealed itself to be poetical in nature, and within a couple of hours I had completed a poem based on the theme of having an ant crawl on someone’s hat. Yet this did not fully satisfy me, and a further poem was written.
At this time, I was bitten by the bug, (again, not the ant), and more poems began to arrive. The theme of an ant on a persons hat soon took over my life and all of my creative output, until such a time arrived that I could think of little else. Indeed, the poems began to resemble a Groundhog Day syndrome, the same repeated themes, the same story with different outcomes, different languages and tones, until within a month I had thirty such poems.
The good people at Mardy Shark publishing soon recognised their worth and a pamphlet was soon produced, titled, simply, Ant.
Ant stands as the zenith of my creativity, a full flow measure of poetic and literary sensibility, all inspired by the horror and the bizarre situation of having an ant crawl on ones hat.
You can download the Kindle version of Ant herehttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Ant-Robert-Garnham-ebook/dp/B071JDZJ7X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497201234&sr=8-1&keywords=Robert+Garnham+Ant
Or you can send off for the physical version here http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-garnham/ant/paperback/product-23218401.html

The Most Signficant Full Stop (Part Thirteen) and a general description of my current eye problems.

I’ve spent most of the last few months looking at full stops and insignificant moments. In an attempt to prove that nothing is truly insignificant, (especially where it is imbued with more significance than it should otherwise have), I have been focussing on full stops and magnifying them until they take up most of the sight.
A couple of weeks ago I woke up with reduced vision in one eye which meant that the very centre of my vision in my left eye was similar in proportion and design to the very full stops that I’d been magnifying. Needless to say it was a spooky coincidence, and it put me off the Significant Full Stop project for a while, because it seemed too weird to be looking at the fuzzy images of full stops through fuzzy vision, therefore adding further fuzziness to the project.
I have since undergone various tests and appointments during which the doctors and hospital have concluded that the condition is temporary. It’s called Central Serous Retinopathy, and it affects white males between the ages of 30 and 50, of which I am. It’s caused by too many steroids in the system, which the body produces naturally to counter stress. I’ve not been aware of being under any stress, but hey ho, if that’s what they reckon then I’ll go along with it.
The bad news is that it might last half a year.
So now I’m looking at insignificant things through different eyes, literally. I’m imbuing everything with a Significance than they should otherwise have, because for a while I was afraid that I would never see again. There were paint splattered dots on the floor of the eye clinic waiting room. The nurse had given me eye drops which had unfocused my eyes but I could still see the dots, only just. They reminded me of the floor of Manchester Airport. I was conscious that they were there, but my mind was filling in the details. The dots might not even have existed at all. But my brain told me so.
Part of the condition, apparently, or at least with macular degeneration, is that the eye will, every now and then, hallucinate and see things which aren’t really there. The eye will half see something and the brain will fill in the gaps. I will be seeing things that aren’t even there. Of course, I still have one functioning eye, so this will probably not happen, which is a shame. I’m rather looking forward to the hallucinations.
So for now the exact details of the original full stop exist in memory more than anything else, because even looking at it properly will not give a true representation of its real state. For some reason this is far more exciting than any of the experiments in magnification, because it exists far more vibrantly and explicitly in my imagination than it ever did on the page.

The Most Signficant Full Stop (Part Twelve)

For the last couple of months I’ve had a bit of a thing with full stops. You might have noticed. I’ve been obsessed with small events and how they have incredibly significance for only a very short period of time. A full stop on a piece of prose can be likened to walking through a town and scratching one’s arm, brushing a strand of hair from ones face. At that exact moment in time, which only lasts for less than a second, they are the most pressing concerns imaginable, only to be forgotten less than a second later.
For the purposes of this project, therefore, I have been giving full stops far more significance than they ever had, and expanding them to cover the entire screen.
It is therefore somewhat ironic that yesterday I woke from a normal nights sleep to find that I’d lost some vision in my left eye, and that everything I look at has a perfect round circle, very much like a full stop, right in the centre of my vision. The fact that this perfect circle resembles some of the art work that I have been creating is somewhat ironic.
Indeed, ever the optimist, I see the large circle in my vision as a piece of permanent conceptual art which is now with me all the time, (unless the hospital can sort it out for me). Which then led to other thoughts: what if it were possible to beam artwork directly into the vision of the viewer, that they might have it automatically plastered over their vision? A Jackson Pollock migraine, a Rothko headache.
I have attempted to recreate some of the variations of the circle theme that I have been seeing below. And if you look back at some of my previous posts about the Most Significant Full Stop, they do seem freakily similar.




The Most Significant Full Stop. (Part Eleven).

Yesterday I extrapolated a full stop from a text of writing, and then using screenshots, managed to magnify it to such an extent that it took up nearly the whole screen.

In doing so I was imbuing the full stop with far more significance than it might otherwise have. The next step was to print off the full stop on to some A4 paper, and affix it to an ordinary wall on the back of a shop, down an alleyway, in Paignton, Devon.

The full stop was certainly striking and again this imbued it with far more significance than it should have had. After all, this was just an ordinary full stop taken from some text, typed with no idea that it would be such a statement of intent, typed merely to aid the comprehension of the text.
Kafka’s father said that he was ‘morbidly preoccupied with the insignificant’ and I believe I understand what Otto Kafka was alluding to in the sudden elevation of this full stop.
The next part of the project was to reassign the full stop with its original intent, that of aiding in the comprehension of text. By taking photographs of the full stop as it hung on the back of a shop in an alleyway in Paignton, I was able to stand further away and keep on taking photographs, until the full stop was just a dot again.


Using poster making software, I coloured in the photograph with the exception of the full stop.

 I then added the full stop back into some random text, where it once again functions as a full stop, and not as a statement of insignificance. Can you spot it?

The Most Significant Full Stop (Part Ten)

The ability of anybody with word processing equipment, smart phones, tablets, computers, laptops and anything else which types, to create grammar of their own concoction, grammar of their own conception, means that there are more full stops now in the world than at any one time. One of the reasons for this is the short attention span of people used to sound bites and social media updates, Twitter accounts, website addresses, snippets of news and information. Sentences are now shorter. Like this one. This means that there are more full stops than ever before, less semicolons and commas, less brackets, except when using text speech.
This never used to happen in the days of Marcel Proust.
The paragraph at the start of this passage contains five full stops. Of those five full stops, one of them means a lot to me and idolise it. Can you guess which one it is?
As an experiment I have screensaved this page and magnified the full stop to its fullest extent. In the normal run of things, it would have been completely missed, a psychological notification, almost subconscious as they eye scans over it, picks up the necessary information. The next stage of this project will be that I print off the full stop and post it somewhere in the town in which I live, (Paignton, Devon). How many people will then see it?
This might very well prove to be a very exciting line of inquiry.