In the Glare of the Neon Yak- A progress report

I’m writing this in a shelter on the platform at Whimple Station in Devon. It’s not raining. In fact, it’s a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m here because I’m waiting for the next train home, having spent the large part of the day working on my new one hour show with my director.

What’s that, I hear you ask? Director? Show? Indeed. The diagnosis is positive. Things are getting serious. I now have a show. It has tour dates. It has a poster for which I went on a photo shoot. It has a script and the script has a start, a middle and an end. Things are getting very real.

The show is called In the Glare of the Neon Yak. I wanted to have a title that would make it stand out from other shows. My last two were called Static and Juicy, but this time I didn’t want any frame of reference and thought that a title which wasn’t one word would be the ideal way to go. The title has had some very good feedback from some of the places where the show will be staged. It seems that fringes, festivals and theatres like quirky titles.

So this is all new for me, this professionalism. My last two shows were intended to showcase my poems but this is a more immersive beast, a performance from start to finish. And that’s what gives me the willies. Every single component of this show is brand new and untested, and I have no idea what the audience reaction will be. My director is very keen on maximising every opportunity for audiences to respond which should make that less scary. Unless the audiences don’t respond!

So here I am at Whimple, thinking, wow, from this tiny Devon village shall grow a piece that will take me right round the UK. My head is full of enthusiasm, but more than anything, the joy of knowing, for the first time in my performance career, that someone else other than me is raking what I do seriously. And that is an amazing feeling!

I can’t wait for people to see this thing.


An Interview with Paul Cree

When I was in Edinburgh this year I shared a venue with Paul Cree. When my two audience members left, his crowd would come in, and a couple of times I stayed too and watched his show. It was fantastic, one of the best and most original slices of poetic life, suburban grit, humour and truth that I’d seen in a long while. And Paul was incredibly supportive too, we’d help each other leaflet the street outside and on a day when it looked like I’d have no audience, he rustled up six people to come and watch.

Anyway, I thought I’d send him some questions and see what makes him tick as an artist and performer, particularly as it’s good to hear from a fellow Surrey spoken word artist!

– How much of your material is based on real life? The characters in particular seem well drawn and remarkably believable.
Lots of the material is based on real life, by default I always draw from my own experiences, mainly because I don’t really know a lot else. I haven’t travelled much or lived outside the south east of England, however, within that small limited range that is my little life and surroundings I find many things which to me are poetic and inspiring. I have a minor obsession with moterway service stations for instance. Large up Fleet Services on the M3, looking like the forest moon of Endoor in Return of the Jedi. Often with the characters I’ve written, one person might be an amalgamation of two or three different people whom I’ve known or encountered. It’s bit like those miselaniois bits of Lego I’d use to make spaceships when I was a nipper
– You find humour in every day situations. Do you store things away for future use?
Yes i do sometimes store things, write little notes etc. I’m naturally a worrier and an observer, as well as being quite silly but I often worry that if I find something that really amuses me or interests me, if I don’t write it down il forget it. Through years of working a bunch of jobs I didn’t like, offices and call centres etc, I was able to condense ideas into short sentences, like a mental zip file, via a quick trip to the carzy, though I couldn’t do it to often as this would arouse suspicion about my toilet habits. Upon getting home, I could later unravel the sentence and expand on what I was thinking. It’s was worth running the risk of the office gossips thinking I had a bowel problem for the sake a good idea. 
– How do you go shout putting a show together? How long does it take?
I don’t have a particular process for putting a show together. It really depends what the show is. I try and find the process as it goes along. With my first show, A Tale From The Bedsit, that was really just one long, linear, monologue but I had a very specific idea about the staging of it, so spent i spent (including the writing) probably over two years writing that then working with Stef O Driscol putting it all together. With CD Borderline it was a lot faster as my idea for the format of the show was very simple and I already had a lot of the material written. The rest was just putting it on its feet and trying out deferent combinations and finding out what worked best.
– Who are your artistic inspirations?

People, places, my own intravertness, rain drops on windowpanes . Rappers, comedians, motorway service stations (fleet services is my favourite) boredom.
– How does the real Paul Cree differ to the stage Paul Cree?
Not too far removed as most of the material is based on my own experiences. 

What is Static?

I’ve been developing Static for almost a year now. During that time it has metamorphosed into something completely different from its origins, and the discovery process has been both fun and rewarding from an artistic point of view. Along the way, I have had to learn a lot of new things and come to terms with concepts which is not known anything about, such as ‘scratch nights’, ‘blocking’, ‘mind maps’. It’s all been a little bit scary.
‘Static’ the show sprang from a short performance art piece which I’ve performed here and there, also called ‘Static’. Indeed, the show ends with this piece, which people have often described as thought provoking, sad and subdued, which isn’t my normal style at all! During the piece I would examine issues of movement and geography, expectations and identity, all during a five minute ‘poem without words’.

When it came to thinking of ideas for a one hour show, I thought back to this piece and I decided that I could expand it, make it autobiographical, and yet encompass much else, focussing more explicitly on issues of identity. This forced me to look at my own life and upbringing, my own desires and motivations, my own life. Born and raised in Surrey, there was always this sense of movement, which is something I touch on in the show.
The writing process has been fun. I started out with a loose narrative and some old poems which I’d performed all over the UK, but I soon realised that I should write new material for it. And because the show is autobiographical, the poems are more introspective than normal, with one or two of the usual comedy ones thrown in for relief. Four of them are brand new and will be heard when the show is performed for the first time. Two of them have wriggled free of the show, and I have performed them for the last couple of months: ‘Jamie’, and ‘The Doors’.
The show also incorporates some prop work which I have been developing, including a theremin, and a large hadron collider.
So I’m looking forward now to the challenge of learning the show, working on it and perfecting it. I’ve been working with Ziggy Abd El Malak, a fantastic director who has completely changed the way that I perform and approach both performance and rehearsal.
The show will be performed at the Artizan Gallery in Torquay for the first time on 29th May, then at the Guildford Fringe, before a run at the Edinbrugh Fringe in August.