Thoughts Before A Work in progress in York

I work a lot because I know I am lazy. I am adept at doing nothing, so I must always make sure I am doing too much. This is why I sometimes do four of my own shows a day during the Edinburgh fringe, I’ll only waste the time milling about and pondering other people’s judgement on me in some soup cafe, why not be certain of other people’s judgement by standing in front of them hour after hour and talking at them?
I am fascinated and horrified by the audience’s possible perception of my shows, and how I feel they went. Sometimes I stand there jumping up and down and re-enacting particle behaviour with my inner monologue (it’s not a monologue, there’s a few people in there) saying, “this is not working, these people dream of the hour of exit”. Afterwards, people come up to me and effusively share their reactions to the show, and describe it in very different ways to my presumption of their thoughts. I think as my shows have increased the amount of factual content, there is a point where the audience are almost punch drunk. Of course, sometimes I am just a bit rubbish and I realise that my delivery was off, my confidence murky. Some nights I fear there is some showbiz spark in my eye that is not glinting, as if the audience start to think that it isn’t real, the connection between audience and performer is broken, there is a fuzz on the line.
I believe my current tour is the best show I’ve ever done. It is not perfect, I realised that someone with my sort of mind is wasting time seeking perfection, it’s not in my reach, enthusiasm and good intentions remain. In a year or so, when my mind has deleted most of the show and a loose memory of structure like a bombed a cathedral is all that remains, the mistakes will be glaring, I’ll wonder why I did not see them before. Hopefully, I will be sure my new show is better, and a year on from that, I’ll see the fractures and dropped catches, and so on and so on. I am now at the the odd time where I most like the show I am touring and most terrified of what the next one may be. All the problems and arguments I had with the show are now forgotten, this show is a keeper and I am certain I cannot replicate it. Of course, I felt the same about the show before that two days before I took The Importance of Being Interested to Belfast for its first full on outing.
Yesterday, as I panicked and prepared notes for a work in progress, I was astonished to find scribbles from the beginning of February that went on to make the show I have now toured for 8 months. I know that as I looked at those notes with sweating eyes and hands before I walked on stage at Old Rope or some other new material night, I was cursing myself for imagining these ideas must be said aloud, why wasn’t I happy touring the same show for another five years? I recall standing in a subterranean club explaining why an apple was the fruit of science and the banana the fruit of charlatans to confusion and silence, but I went out and did it again, and again, and now I stand proudly night after night explaining why Newton watching a banana fall would have led to a world without gravity.
I am now backstage in York, it is night number 2 of my work in progress, or rather works, as I am attempting to put together seven shows for next year. One about the human mind, one general scream against western civilisation as it loses grip of the civilised side, a collaboration of spoken word and songs about scientists with Grace Petrie, a Dirty Book Club of newly disinterred filth from seaside charity shops, you get the idea. I look at the notes in front of me now –

Serge Gainsbourg Stuck in a loop
Where are our memories?
Photos steal your soul
Imhotep and coprotherapy
A breast obscured by a baby’s skull
“Apollonian form imposed on a Dionysian frenzy” (technically not my note but Nietzsche’s and he never got around to playing the Hyena Comedy club, York)

and 120 more phrases or sentences scribbled on postcards, each one with the hope that it may become something worth repeating as the stare of a crowd forces me to make it into an idea. I have never really been able to write a show properly, it is only by placing my idea in the state of jeopardy that occurs by saying them aloud that I am able to make them into a show.

I have one more month where, for most of the time, I can walk on stage and know what I am doing. I allow myself 6 months a year of this luxury, and then a few months of terror and self analysis. How many times do you try out an idea and hear it fail before you toss it away? Three, five, fifty five? Or do you try and face it out each night, until that one time that it snaps into shape, through timing, a new metaphor, a turn of phrase that turns a stodgy sentence into a thing of collective joy.
Right, time to go on… check tweets for further details

My Importance of Being Interested tour continues in Totton, Windsor, London, Kings Lynn, Cirencester and Kings Lynn before being laid to rest, then it’s two weeks of December shows with Brian Cox, Alexei Sayle, Josie Long and many others – details HERE

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