The Unbearable Lightness Of Robert Garnham Series Two

Well I’ve had great fun this year working on some silly video diaries. I’ve been releasing one a week for the last seven weeks.

They really don’t take themselves too seriously.

You can watch all of them here at this link. And I hope you enjoy them!

Here’s a trailer, and the link to see the playlist is below.

Filming ‘Beard Envy’ with John Tomkins.

In 2013 I wrote a poem about being envious of beards. It soon became a staple of my spoken word set and I have performed it hundreds of times around the U.K. and even in New York. It might even be considered the poem I am most well known for, such is it’s reception.

Last year I made a short film with filmmaker John Tomkins based on my poem Professor in the Bathroom and we had a great deal of fun filming if over one day in the cramped confines of his actual bathroom. I was even given a bit of a cameo at the end. John suggested that we do another poem, and I didn’t really think anything more of it until he contacted me with the idea of filming Beard Envy.

But this would be a much more ambitious project. The first stage was for me to come around and record the poem as a basis for the film shoot. As I did this, amusingly, the microphone started falling down, and the actual take that we used was the one where I was crouching down, desperately trying to follow the mic as it slid to the floor.

He then employed a script writer to take my poem and turn it into a proper shooting script. Tom Eastwood is a very talented professional with a BA in Television, and he took my faithful old poem and turned it into a workable script that John might use. The next stage was for John to draw up a rough outline of the camera angles and locations that he would employ. It was at this stage, as we had one of our meetings, that I saw how ambitious his vision would be for Beard Envy.

My part in the production was now done, just as things were starting to get interesting. First of all John went to Exeter to film a Lee Rawlings, who’d previously starred as the Professor in Professor in the Bathroom, this time as the Beard Tamer. For this, Lee borrowed the ringmaster outfit that will be my costume for my new Edinburgh show, In The Glare of the Neon Yak.

John next hired a lead actor for the role of the man who is envious of beards, and for this he found a young actor from Plymouth university, Jack Allum. John was very excited when he told me about Jack who, he assured me, looked very much like a younger version of myself! Naturally I can see no resemblance, though I’m worried that if Jack reads this, he will look at me and see a chilling warning of things to come.

John let me come along to the next day of filming, and this was one of the most bizarre days of my spoken word career. In the confines of a cabaret club in my home town of Paignton, John, Jack, cameramen, sound people and photographers mingled with members of the South West Beard Association to film the key Beard Competition scenes. And what a wonderful group of people they Were! Cheerful and accommodating, we shared stories of beard shenanigans and they all enjoyed themselves immensely. Jack, too, was excellent, professional and enthusiastic for what is, by all accounts, his first film role. And me? I hung around, likening myself to Larry David on the set of Seinfeld, lurking the other side of the camera and somehow responsible for all this madness.

I hate to use the cliche ‘surreal’, but that’s the only word I can find to describe seeing a whole project born out of my own imagination come to life. I really kept having to remind myself that I was responsible, and I kept telling people, ‘All I did was write a poem!’

It was an amazing day and I’ve never had so much fun on a Sunday afternoon in Paignton before.

Two more filming days followed, and John showed me the rushes, the film looks absolutely amazing and the performances spot on. John did film me doing a very brief cameo to go at the start of the film, as a silent era movie star.

I really must thank John Tomkins for his skill not only in realising his artistic vision, but also in drawing together diverse people and artists to create something truly special. The finished product will look amazing, and having seen a lot of the scenes, albeit in the wrong order, I really cannot wait for other people to see it too!

Find out about the film here


The Unbearable Lightness of Robert Garnham

I’ve been busy writing a lot during the last twelve months and the upshot of this is that I have a lot of material which doesn’t fit in with the any of the projects I’ve been working on. The idea came after a conversation with film maker John Tomkins to make a short mini web series.

The hardest part was coming up with a title, and after exhausting Plop, Whimsy, or just Series, and every other one word idea, I came up with the Unbearable Lightness of Brian. Humorous as this was, the main problem was that my name is not Brian. So I settled on the rather less colourful, but rather more meaningful, The Unbearable Lightness of Robert Garnham.

It was a joy to make the series and we’ve optimistically called it Season One.

And here’s the first one! There’ll be one a week now for the next seven weeks.

An Interview with Saskia Tomlinson

Saskia Tomlinson is one of my favourite Devon-based performance poets. Such is the breadth of her subject matter, the beauty and virtuosity of her writing, the ease of her performance style and her engaging personality, she could well become one of the most accomplished performance poets in the country.

I have only known Saskia for a couple of years, having first seen her at the Exeter Poetry Slam, and then booking her to perform at Poetry Island which I used to host at the time. Since then she has gone on to win slams and appear at festivals, while her art and animations go from strength to strength.

At the same time I detect a certain eccentricity beneath the surface, which only endears me to her, and her to her audiences, even more. Who else would give away free organic vegetables at a poetry slam? Who else would walk all the way across Barnstaple to make sure that a restaurant had recycled a plastic bottle? And most touchingly of all, who else would give me a present of a pink zebra-patterned roll of gaffer tape? I treasure it to this day.

As a result, Saskia gives the impression of being a fully rounded individual with a sly sense of humour and a clear sense of who she is and her place in the world.

A couple of months ago I decided to try and interview some of the local performers who make the South Devon scene so exciting, and who better to start with than the performer who might well become one of the finest on the national circuit?

– Hello Saskia. You recently performed a poem that you’d written at an early age. When, and why did you start writing and performing poetry?

“Yes I have been writing from an early age. At school I always loved the creative writing we had to do, and would happily stand up in front of the class to speak them. It’s amazing how children have so much confidence. I started preforming in front of people by singing songs I had written. Then I realised that I couldn’t really sing or play the guitar so speaking my words came much easier to me.”

– Who or what are your influences as a poet / performer?

“I used to be obsessed with TS Elliott’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, even thought I really had no idea what it was about. The imagery really stood out to me. I used to completely nick lines from the poem and put them into mine. But over the last few years I have been going to spoken word events and been inspired by so many performers, and started the find my own voice in that crowd I think.

-Do you rehearse? And if so, how long does it take to become familiar with a poem?
“No I don’t really rehearse, sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to do until I get to the venue. I find it terrifying to read a poem on stage. So I memories my poems by going over them before I fall asleep at night.”

– As well as performance poetry, you also excel in art, animation and film making. Which of these interests you the most? Which are you most proud of?
“I do want to be an animator. I have found that animation and poetry go perfectly well together because they both work with images that are constantly evolving, and this can be really interesting”.

– Do you get nervous before a performance?
“Yes I get very nervous, and sometimes waffle on a bit when I am introducing a poem.”

– Your performance style seems closely related to your personality. Do you adopt or exaggerate certain aspects of your personality in performance? Do you perform a ‘version’ of yourself?
“I think everybody does that when they preform. Don’t they? It is important to stay true to your personality. I think in South Devon we have such a range of personalities in the performance poetry world, and thats why its such a vibrent scene.

Thank you very much, Saskia Tomlinson!