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.

On memorising.

So lately I’ve been trying to memorise my new Edinburgh show, Juicy. This would be quite an undertaking for me, as I’ve never successfully memorised anything I’ve ever written, and to be jones I probably won’t manage it. I can memorise whole Bob Dylan songs, all fourteen minutes of Desire, but I’m quite hopeless at anything I myself have written.
I did a scratch performance of Juicy at the Bike ashes Theatre in May. It was a daunting experience because I was surrounded by theatrical types, and to be honest I think they were looking at what I was doing more in the context of a theatrical piece than a set of poems. The feedback afterwards unanimously suggested that I should learn the whole thing, because this is what theatre is. Some of the feedback suggested I move around more. Which was quite funny on two counts, firstly because some of the feedback also said how nice it was to see someone who doesn’t move sound all the time, and also because the director I used for my last show told me to stand dead straight for the whole hour. And he was a theatrical director.
So I’ve set to work trying to learn Juicy, and after two months I’ve managed to learn six pages of it. Out of thirty. Now this may not seem like much, but for me, this is a small triumph. I’ve never managed to learn anything before, so six pages of Juicy is the ultimate achievement.
Last week I went to a gig in Totnes and I spoke to a fellow performer who I have lots of respect for. I told her about learning my show and she replied, ‘Why?’
And that got me thinking, why indeed? Ok, so if you’ve learned your lines you can move around more and have a deeper connection with the audience. But on the other hand I’ve always performed with a book, and it is a part of my whole repertoire. I look up from the book, glare at the audience, look at them all in turn. Which should be quite easy at the Edinburgh Fringe. In fact, I know the words, I just can never remember in which order the verses fall.
Make no mistake, it’s good to learn poetry and adds to the performance. And the fact that I’ve memorised six pages of the show means that now I can apply this to the three minute poems, and hopefully grow my performance. But I think I shall just relax on the memorising at the moment and concentrate just on the performance. That’s the main thing. It’s performance poetry, after all! 

Edinburgh Fringe Blog Part Eight 

So that’s it, then. I’ve done the fringe at Edinburgh with my first solo show. And I managed to combine it with a holiday, my first for a year or so. I think it was only in the last day when I thought, OK, better work at this. And wowzers, I spent four hours flyering. I flyerered in the Royal Mile. I flyerered in Cowgate. I went to other people’s shows and flyerered on the way out. I flyerered by mistake when I went in a shop to get some water and left my flyers on the counter. I flyerered like a machine which has been built just to flyer. And if all paid off, seven people came to the last show and they gave me money even when I did my ‘don’t worry, there won’t be a bucket speech’ speech.
Last night I had a feature slot at Boomerang Club. I’d been feeling a bit weird all day before that, what with all the flyering, and I even thought, hmmm, what if this is my last ever performance? I mean, last ever. What if I called it a day after this, after the Boomerang Club? It was only a fleeting thought, and it kind of mixed up with the knowledge that I would be going home, to make me feel unusually emotional. Plus if you’ve read my blog you’ll know that I’ve been having vision problems, which makes life difficult at times and has affected my ability to perform and read at the same time. So I did a set of all my favourite poems and finished off with my most favourite of all, ‘Plop’, which seems a good summing up of my performance career. But I also started the set with a brand new piece, which I call ‘Introduction’, a piece I wrote after my meeting the other day with a top fringe performer who really inspired me. And I thought, ‘If this is to be my last ever performance, ever, then why a, I writing new material?’ As I say, it was only a fleeting thought!
So here I am at Edinburgh Waverley station. I’m in Starbucks. And I’m feeling chipper about the future. Static is done and dusted but I’ve started rewriting it and I have a very clear idea of how it will evolve. It might still be Static, or it might be something entirely different, but it will be a different beast, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of rewriting it, rehearsing it, learning it.

This has been the most incredible week and a huge learning experience. I’ve had so many adventures along the way and seen so much good stuff, and I’ve felt younger than I have in years, and also older than I’ve ever felt. I’ve got one or two projects on the horizon that I can’t wait to work on, performance art pieces and a multi-disciplinary piece which I’ve written and is very funny indeed, the music project, the novel, there’s so much on the go at the moment! It all makes me wonder what the next year will bring till I’m back here again.
And I remembered. Yes, I remembered. Do you recall my first blog, the one I wrote on the way to Edinburgh? I remembered the lad who came and sat with me, all those days ago, who charged his phone and we chatted. I thought I’d forget all about him, but I remember. I hope he’s had a good week, too. 

Edinburgh Fringe Blog Part Seven

https://youtu.be/ZoRytcasNrc
So the good thing about the fringe is that you see all kinds of different acts and the potential for being inspired is heightened. I’ve seen so much while here that I’ve got a very clear idea of where I need to be and how the show can be massively improved with just a few small tweaks. Yesterday I was very privileged to have breakfast and a long chat with one of my favourite performers, (who wishes to remain anonymous because of the trade secrets that he divulged thereat). We met at a coffee shop in the new town area and he took me through every aspect of putting on a show, from the logistical detail of publicity and accommodation, to the more fundamental aspects of rehearsal, writing, learning the damn thing. It was the most enlightening couple of hours I’ve spent in a long time, as he imparted information which an artist might ordinarily have to cough up a lot of money for. I bought him toast and coffee to say thank you. In fact, I was so inspired that I went away and did a little bit of writing right then and there.

Now, obviously I should have been flyering. And I did a lot of flyering yesterday, both in the Royal Mile and Cowgate. I flyered like you wouldn’t believe. And while I was flyering I was thinking, I shouldn’t be doing this. But it’s a necessary evil. Spoken word show? Hello madam, I’ve got a show today at three. Spoken word show? Spoken word show? 

It’s a lonely business, flyering, even though you’re surrounded by people. You’re surrounded by all the other flyerers. And they’ve all got various degrees of annoyance, like the pushy ones, or the cheeky ones, or the ones who are just plain rude, and even those who insult anyone who doesn’t take a flyer. What’s that all about?

So I did all this flyering, and what do you think happened? No audience. I could only be philosophical about it, of course. I’m at the fringe, yes, but really I’m not that well known in the slightest. My show is on directly after Harry Baker, and he’s a world slam champion. And I’m also a slam winner. Well, second at the Swindon slam, anyway. Later on in the day I watched Gecko’s excellent show and he did a song about the painting that shares the room with the Mona Lisa and I thought, hmm, I know exactly how it feels!
But it’s all a great experience and a valuable learning opportunity. I’ve seen so much that has inspired me that I know exactly the manner and tone that I shall be adopting in my writing. And yes, I’m probably the oldest performer on the spoken word scene up here by quite some margin, but I feel all new and eager to get on with it.

Edinburgh Fringe Blog Part Six

Some of my performance colleagues here have been in Edinburgh for the whole three weeks and the fatigue is starting to show. There’s a certain numbness to them, as if they are kind of ever so dissociated from the world around them, a weariness, and most amusing of all, a slight loathing of anyone who’s just arrived. Last night I went to see AF Harrold at Hammer and Tomgue. AF is one of my favourite performers and a jolly decent chap too. He’d just arrived in Edinburgh and he was sharp, articulate, funny, alert. You could sense the hatred in the room.
I’ve only been here a week, of course, but a fatigue of sorts is finally starting to manifest itself. Having said that, I’ve finally got the art of flyering down to a tee. I spent the first few days oblivious to the fact that you have to make an impression and sell your show in about 2 and a half seconds. I’d spend the first two seconds of that time by saying hello. By which time they’d walked on. But now I just blurt out, ‘Free poetry show? Free poetry show? Free poetry show?’ And then act very relieved when someone takes a flier.
My legs ache like anything, I’ve been up and down that sodding hill so many times. I found a short cut the other day, it cuts a minute off the journey, and it was like the best thing that has ever happened. I’m starting to feel like a local. I see people making fundamental navigation errors and I’m thinking, Pffft, tourists! I’ve also built up this witty repartee with the man in the newsagents near my accommodation where each morning he pretends not to recognise me from the day before. Oh, how we laugh.
So there are two more Statics to go. But already I’m thinking of new projects, ambitious ideas gleaned from watching so many wonderful shows. I haven’t seen much poetry: the spoken word shows are storytelling in the main part, and very funny at that. However, I’ve found poetry in the best of places, such as Dandy Darkly’s fantastic Myth Mouth, which I really, really recommend. It’s perhaps been the most inspirational show I’ve seen while in Edinburgh, and the one that has really spoken to me.
It was misty and cool yesterday and I felt right at home. Today it is hot and sunny and I’m not looking forward to it. 
I still haven’t seen any of my flat mates and the same packet of pasta has been in the fridge now for five days.

Due to the sloping floor, stay away from the Edinburgh Fridge! (Four years of festival accommodation)

I’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe four times now. Each time was great and I’ve made a lot of friends. The first two times I went was merely to watch stuff, and the last two times was as a performer. The city and the whole event are maddeningly beautiful, insanely vibrant, the people are nice, the weather is mostly bearable. But the highlights each time for me have been the various places I’ve stayed. Year One. 

I went up with friends. There were six of us. We decided to flat share and we managed to find the most magnificent flat in a converted school down by the Water of Leith not far from the book festival site. We each had our own bedroom and the place had obviously just been converted into flats, the whole place felt new. Admittedly, it was a bit of a stroll to get to the old town.
But the most interesting thing about the place was the upstairs door. There were six bedrooms, one bathroom, but eight doors. One day I decided to see what was behind this door and I was intrigued to find a staircase going down. The staircase was carpeted and decorated and seemed to go on, down and down, twisting and turning throughout the bowels of the old school. Finally I came to the very last turn and the staircase just stopped. There was a wall. The staircase went absolutely nowhere.
Year Two

The second year was a cracker. I went up with the same people and again we hired a flat. This time it was in the new town area, a fantastic tenement building looking out over the street to a church.
For a start, again we all had a bedroom. Yet the place had seen better days. The floor in every room sloped down so that all the furniture was at an angle, and the fridge freezer looked like it might topple over at any moment. I was too afraid to use my wardrobe. It had a beautiful internal staircase which wound around the outside walls, the kind of staircase that one could easily make a good entrance on in an old black and white film. And most intriguingly of all, the seventy year old landlady turned up on the first day so that she could show us her wedding dress.
Which was somewhat bizarre. No towels, but we saw her wedding dress.
She warned us not to open the door upstairs at the back, and that it was off bounds. With that, she took her wedding dress and left us at it.
Naturally, the moment she had gone we opened the forbidden door only to discover that the room inside, which had once been another bedroom, had no roof. No ceiling, no roof. Just the leaden grey Edinburgh sky.
Year Three

Oh dear. My first visit to Edinburgh as a performer was with a colleague and we decided it would be much cheaper to camp. We found a lovely campsite at Morton Hall to the south of the city, about forty minutes by bus. Yet this was my first camping trip since 1984 when I was ten. 
We arrived at ten in the evening after a twelve hour train ride and then a fraught taxi, only to have to put up the tent. I remember feeling very miserable but willing to make light of the matter, only for me to accidentally break the zip of the tent once it was up. You can imagine how bad this made me feel. And then to be woken at two in the morning by the intense cold, a cold unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, all the time wondering if that room with the missing roof was still vacant.
When I told all my friends, they laughed heartily.
Year Four

And so to this year. Once again I decided to flat share, yet this time it was with a website who paired me with four other people in student accommodation. Thankfully, the building was brand new and right in the city centre on the Meadows, and everything was shiny and modern, clean, efficient. We had a room each as well as a lovely living room and kitchen which looked as if they were sets from Star Trek. 

  

Only . . . there was only me there. Or at least, that’s how it felt. I never saw another person, and if they had snuck in, then they were very quiet. I had six rooms all to myself, in the middle of Edinburgh, during festival season!
But were there other people? There were subtle clues. One day, I found a Sainsbury’s carrier bag in the fridge. And another day, a floater in the toilet. Neither of them were mine. Ostensibly, I was alone in my own flat.
Or was I the mystery one, who my flat mates never saw, and pondered over?
So yes, Edinburgh is a place full of memories for me, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of accommodation I have next year! 

Post Edinburgh Musings

It’s been a week now since I returned from Edinburgh. A week of being back in the daily grind of work and things. In fact I have work for the next eleven days now, so Edinburgh, and all of those shenanigans, seems such a long way away.

But it’s been a week of developing ideas and concentrating on other poetic projects, and getting ready for the next Poetry Island, and performing in Totnes, and revelling in the freedom of performing other poems. You know. Not the ones that I did in Edinburgh, day after day.

Edinburgh was a kind of exquisite madness. It’s kind of the performance poetry equivalent of being in the army. Everything was so structured and so far removed from every day life that it was an incredible relief, almost, when we did the last show. By the end of the week the audiences were large and enthusiastic. In fact there were two wonderful highlights on the last day: one chap in the audience told us that we were the best thing he’d seen at the Fringe. And then the next day I was contacted on Twitter by someone who said that they could have watched us for hours!

It’s all a far cry from the day when we had two leave before the end, a man who kept yawning, and a Chinese lady who fell asleep at the back of the room.

So now I’m filled with ideas for next year, and a one man show that I’ve been developing. I spoke to a colleague the other day who’s possibly going to be doing some original music for it. And I have very clear ideas on the tone of the project. How exciting is that!

The weirdest thing about coming back early is the thought that a lot of my poetry friends are still there, still pumping away at it. They keep putting pictures on Facebook. So I come home from work and immediately I’m right there. I’m with them.

There’s one thing that I wont miss and that’s the camping. I’ve not been camping for 30 years. I’d quite forgotten how hard and how cold and how cramped it is. Standing up becomes such an exquisite joy. Sitting down becomes heavenly, especially in a chair. Night attacks of cramp and of being so cold that you use anything at hand to keep out the cold. I bought a hoodie on the second day. It became my most treasured item because it kept me warm. I was sleeping with the hood up. This is for my art, I kept telling myself. That, and the strange looks people gave me in the communal bathrooms the next morning while I was spiking my hair. Campers. Miserable lot.

I’ve got loads to get on with. New poems, for example. For some reason I have this annoying habit of working on several poems simultaneously. And a couple of projects which I can’t tell you about at the moment, but will become apparent very soon.

But for now, I’m fully integrated back into normal society.

Here’s a new poem for you:

Poem

20140808-073325-27205347.jpg

It’s official.

There’s no-one in Taunton named Jeff.

And I’ve checked.

I counted all the Jeffs in Taunton and

There were none.

I thought I found one but she

Was actually called Beth,

Not Jeff.

I checked both spellings,

Jeff with a J

And Geoff with a G

And there were neither of each.

I checked the floor tile warehouse

And every burger van

And I couldn’t find a single Jeff anywhere.

My notebook entry says

‘Number of Jeffs in Taunton, one.’

And the one is crossed out and amended to zero

Because as I say I accidentally counted Beth.

Edinburgh Fringe, days three and four

Well I’m starting to get into the swing of it now. The rhythm. Leaflet and smile. Leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, madam? Leaflet and smile. And then go to someone else’s venue and leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, sir? And then get to your own venue and hope they damn well turn up.

‘Yes. Sounds great. I’m busy today but I will definitely come along tomorrow’. That’s what they say. But then they hear that there’s an act at the same time involving tightrope walking badgers. How can poetry possibly compete against tightrope walking badgers?

We had our best audiences over the last two days, six at a time. Yesterday was weird, though. Two of them left before the end, and one of them fell asleep. That’s never a good sign, is it? Mind you, she looked absolutely pooped. And I know how she feels. Festival fatigue set in yesterday and I just had to go to a book shop for a bit and pretend I was elsewhere. Just for a bit.

I’ve seen some really good comedy, though. Ever since last year I’d wanted to watch John Kearns, and sure enough he was brilliant, funny, inventive, harmless and likeable, and I was very glad that I went even though everywhere I go I have to lug around a big cardboard envelope containing the shows props. You have to stow it, you see. Stow it in the corner whenever you get to someone else’s show.

But the funniest thing I’ve seen is a comedy motivational show by Ken Do. Hilarious stuff, physical, character driven comedy which made me laugh like nothing else I’d seen for months. I wanted it to go on for much longer than it did even when Ken invited me up to help him illustrate some of his confidence building measures.

Everyone should go and watch this show, it’s at Pivo at seven each day.

Been performing elsewhere, too, at an event called Jibba Jabba. The audience is generally bigger than ours. It’s a confidence thing, you see.

There’s something weird happening, too. I mean, weirder than walking round in a tshirt which has a picture of your own face on it. People keep saying, ‘I’ve seen you before, were you here last year?’ And someone asked me if I was married to Sarah Millican. I’m not. I did a Google picture search on ‘Sarah Millican’s husband’. It was scary. Try it.

One day to go, now. I feel for my fellow poets who are here for the month. Jack Dean, Rob Auton, Tina Sederholm, Dominic Berry, it must be so, so tiring and emotionally draining. On the plus side, they’re probably not staying in a tent. Forty year old and I’m camping. Never again!

Home tomorrow. I’m typing this at a picnic bench on a campsite at seven in the morning. How I long for simple comforts, like doors and a roof!

20140808-073325-27205347.jpg

Edinburgh Fringe, Days one and two

And so into battle every day, against thousands of other shows, leafleting in the Mile, leafleting outside our venue, leafleting outside other peoples shows and venues, and talking to people about the show and summing it up in three words (‘ Poetry death match’), and leafleting and leafleting some more, and then one person turns up on the first day.

And worse than that, she hadn’t even come to watch us. She had expected something else to be on. We invited her down into the basement of the Royal Oak to our performance space and we performed just for her. But then she said she had to leave at half past to see something else, so we stopped the show halfway through and reminded her that she needed to go. She didn’t clap much.

The second day we had a fifty percent increase in viewers, and they both stayed to the end. One if them was Tina Sederholm. The other was an Australian we met earlier.

But it’s so much more than just our show. I went to see one of my heroes, Rob Auton, he was brilliant and honest and human and everything that’s good about the human spirit was exemplified in him. We chatted afterwards, and I helped him pack up. As a fellow performer, you see, the importance of getting the venue ready for the next performer is paramount. And another poetry hero was also there, Byron Vincent.

Then I went off to see a drag artist, Mzz Kimberley. She was fantastic and belted out some classics to an audience of eight blokes. She sang to me. I could have watched all night. And when I left, I saw Eddie Izzard crossing the street. He stumbled on the cobbles in his high heels and bumped into me. Oh. These chance encounters!

A poet gave me his flyer. It must have been his last one, as he had written his set list on the back, I wanted to go and find him. It was probably important!

So it’s a cattle market here, of shows and flyers and leaflets and slow walking tourists. But I’m getting the hang of what’s required, hence this blog. Getting the word out there, you see!

20140805-214927-78567625.jpg

Camaraderie at the Barnstaple Fringe

Its been the most amazing week or so and the last few day’s have been weird yet strangely life affirming.

I’ve been in Barnstaple now for three days participating in both Spectacular Vernacular and Poetry Ping Pong.  The weather has been amazing which has helped make me feel good,  but most of all it’s the camaraderie of the performers and those who run the event.

Day one 
Spectacular Vernacular overran a tad.  I amused every one by repeatedly saying Macbeth in the theatre.  Not everyone laughed. Previous to this I’d had to mend my cardboard zebra with gaffer tape. On the way home the sump guard fell off Tim s car.  We had to use the gaffer tape yo fix it.

Day Two
Spectacular Vernacular and Poetry Ping Pong.
The first Poetry Ping Pong was at Barnstaple Library. It went ok. The audience were appreciative. The second show was less well attended.  In fact it was only Tim and Saskia.  So Dan and I did all new material.
Spectacular Vernacular went better and didn’t overrun though there was a mini outcry when I dropped Camp Cat from my set.

Day Three
Poetry Ping Pong and Spectacular Vernacular.

Had two brilliant shows at the theatre. The audience was amazing and responsive. Previous to this Dan and I did an impromptu interview on local radio, and a marketing seminar.

For me the abiding feeling is of the attitude and support of the organisers and those in other shows. Everyone supports and promotes each other and sees as many shows as possible. For example I just watched Purgatory Passengers and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in years!

One day to go and three more shows to do. No sign yet if fatigue.  Though I do have work on Monday morning!

image

image